Moments after passing through immigration at the Male Airport I found myself preparing a fresh cup of espresso at the Four Seasons Maldives lounge. Frothy crema clung to the whiskers on my upper lip, a reminder that I hadn’t had the opportunity to trim my beard in India over the past two weeks. I sit down on a plush white couch and wiggle my toes only to be interrupted by the soft swish of an automatic door and a smiling gent who chirps, “Mr. Dobson the captain is ready for you.”
After a short stroll outside I soon discover the airport also doubles as a dock. I hop onto a spacious boat and spend the next thirty minutes splashing through jaw dropping turquoise sea. I’m on the hunt for perfect paradise, what honeymooners dream of…
The Maldives are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands which are grouped into 26 atolls, a territory that stretches an awesome 90,000 square kilometres, making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed. It is also the smallest country in Asia in both population and land area. With an average ground elevation of 1.5 metres above sea level, it is the planet’s lowest country. Future inundation of the Maldives due to rising sea levels is of great concern to its people and over the last few years the island nation has become the poster child for eco-warriors decrying the impacts of global warming.
The Maldives for the most part were unknown to tourists until the early 1970s. The Italians were the first to holiday here, which explains why so many of the resorts offer Italian inspired kitchens, an homage to real roots. Tan fans are largely drawn here by romantic, postcard-perfect white sandy beaches while crystal clear deep blue sea offers scuba aficionados awe inspiring underwater adventures.
So what exactly does a trip to the Maldives looks like? The Muslim nation is known for being rather strict and one can’t help but notice a long list of illegalities while filling out their immigration form: alcohol, pork, drugs, pornography, nudity, idol worship (really?), dogs (but they’re so cute!) and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands. Resorts however are allowed to exist in a bubble where almost anything goes.
So when someone asks you “how was your trip to the Maldives,” they’re really asking you “what resort in the Maldives did you stay and did you like it?” Who better to explore the remote paradise with than the world’s leader in luxury, Four Seasons Resorts?
I spend my first 24 hours at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, a lush private isle featuring an architectural design that gives visitors the feeling that they are walking through an authentic Maldivian village. The resorts 96 thatched beach and water accommodations were each constructed by local craftsmen using indigenous materials and techniques to reflect a true sense of the Maldives. Palm trees fringe the large lagoon and the island breezes carry the fragrance of bougainvillea, frangipani and hibiscus. A sweet smelling seduction.
I hit the ground running, spending my first hour holding my camera in one hand and resort map in the other. I first head to the islands southern tip which extends across the ocean as a sprawling network of overwater bungalows. I stroll along the deck, waving at staff who peddle past on bicycles en route to a pretty “dead end with a view.” Back on land I pop by adult only serenity pool, Surf Shack, Dive Centre and trilogy of restaurants before arriving at my out-of-this-world Sunset Beach Bungalow.
The bathroom is to die for: dreamy soak tub, marble-lined indoor shower and a stunning outdoor shower which stands amongst a lush private garden. My bedroom features a giant king sized bed which overlooks an open-air lounge where sheltered deck, plunge pool, beach bed, sun loungers and table for two makes exploring the public parts of the resort nonsensical. I spend the next hour unwinding in my own private petite paradise where traditional stuccoed walls, a roof made of Maldivian thatch, timber floors and on fleek teak furnishings make one feel they’ve died and gone to heaven.
Kuda Huraa’s Island Spa is the only spa in the Maldives located on its own private isle and is just a minute’s sail by dhoni across the resort’s turquoise lagoon. Lush gardens lead to seven over-water treatment pavilions – each designed for couples – featuring massage tables with sea-viewing portals, separate bathing area and private garden courtyard with open-air shower.
I’m greeted by a soft spoken therapist as soon as I arrive at the dock and after sipping a glass of spicy ginger tea I follow her across soft sandy beach. She spends the next hour performing the spa’s signature Kuda Huraa Massage which features a unique blend of specialized massage techniques from all over Asia including Thai pressure point, Filipino hilot and Malaysian urut. I fade in and out of consciousness, entertained by the fish I can see swarming below the glass floor as the sweet smell of virgin coconut oil splish-splashes across my back.
I waddled down the dock with a smug mug, soon puttering across the lagoon as crimson sun splashed across the horizon. At twilight the island takes on an entirely different character, an indigenous tropical vibe where flaming tiki lamps flicker along sand-swept paths. I arrive for dinner at the islands Italian inspired Reef Club which specializes in seafood, housemade pastas, wood-fired pizzas and grilled meat. Tucked away on the southern end of the island, beyond the buzz of the lobby and main pool area, the al fresco dinning room offers a romantic ambiance where guests can sip and nibble while watching baby black tip reef sharks swim a stones throw away in the shallow lagoon below.
A bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand splashes into my glass, signalling the beginning of a memorable meal. Mozarella Panzerotti offers flaky pastry and sweet tomato with a creamy oozing fromage centre while Pan Fritto Gamberetti features a plate of pretty prawns tossed in pancetta, pine nuts, wilted spinach and mushroom veal jus. After spending two weeks in spice filled India I was thrilled to plop a few buttery pappardelle noodles into my mouth, tossed in a cheesy medley featuring gorgonzola, provolone, pecorino and parmigiano cream. I opted for a surf meets turf finale which began with a locally caught seared tuna loin sautéed in tomato, kalamata, lemon and fava and finished with a plate of crispy breaded veal which cuddled a swirl of zucchini spaghetti and umami forward fried mushrooms. As I walked back to my villa rubbing my bloated belly I stared up at the night sky and thanked the lord for the glory of cream meets cheese.
The following morning I was up at the crack of dawn for a quick bite. Overlooking the resorts main pool, Cafe Huraa serves up an impressive breakfast buffet featuring freshly pressed juice bar, Asian noodle station, congee, fine French pastry, charcuterie and cured fish, spicy Indian specialities, dim sum and classic eggs, bacon and sausage. Overlooking the resorts infinity pool I sipped on a frothy latte and nibbled on flaky pain au chocolat as tropical birds chirped atop lush palms. A perfect way to wake up to the world.
I spent my final moment waist-deep on the beach with a friendly Tropicsurf Surf School instructor. There really is no better way to introduce yourself to the art of surfing than at Kuda Huraa’s quiet and calm lagoon. I spent an hour brushing up on my mediocre surf skills, managing to finally push off my board and glide across the ocean with ease before crashing into the blue below.
The Maldives is becoming a serious surf destination for seasoned pro’s. There are six quality breaks within a stones throw – with many more secret, uncrowded spots just a whisper away. Kuda Huraa also hosts the Surfing Champions Trophy, an annual boutique surf contest that pits six ex-world champions across three evolutionary disciplines. If the notion of riding your own wave in tropical paradise puts a smile on your face you’ll love luxury life on Kuda Huraa’s private isle.