Luxury, Family Maldives from Supreme Value to Blow the Budget Perfection
It seems as if travel has almost become an impossible dream. Fading further and further away into the distance. As lockdown follows lockdown; borders open, then close, new strains of covid appear. It’s been miserable to say the least. One luxury destination has managed to weather the storm of the global pandemic much better than some others, by virtue of its geology. The Maldives, made up of more than 200 islands, many of which are home to a single hotel or resort, has dealt admirably with a disease that could have wiped out their economy almost totally. For tourism is what they absolutely rely on.
I managed to visit two resorts during this time. Two top, family picks, for when international travel is permitted again. One brilliant, top value, super-affordable, five star and the other a once in a lifetime (or return every year if you can afford it!), fairytale, heaven on earth.
As a preface, I’d like to say that at both, I felt safer than visiting my local supermarket. At the time we visited, for tourists, negative PCR tests were obligatory but quarantine was not. This applied not just for arrival into the Maldives but to move from resort to resort. For staff as-well as guests. With staff, however, being expected to quarantine when arriving on to their respective islands and now vaccines being rolled out fast.
Attitude and execution of safety and precautionary measures were exemplary. All staff wearing masks, properly, may I add – not hanging down under their noses. It is due to these things that incidents were and remain contained on the mainland in Male, the capital, which is not really a tourist destination in itself. Upon arrival at the airport, masks obligatory on the plane and on land, most tourists take a boat or a seaplane directly from opposite the arrivals terminal to their chosen resort. It’s not until you arrive on your chosen island that you can remove your mask. You are then free! The Maldives is all about outdoor living, something which already reduces risk of infection significantly.
What of flying, you may ask? We may soon experience vaccine-only travel, for some airlines. Everyone makes their own choices and decides on their level of comfort. I for one feel that HEPA filters in planes, where air is circulated as it would be in an operating theatre, along with sanitising and correct use of masks has proven to be relatively safe. Especially, given the need for negative tests before travel, both ways at present. This of course isn’t a guarantee but it certainly lowers the risk.
So, you’re looking for sea bluer than a cloudless sky, sand whiter than the best Hollywood smile. So many choices but where to go? Let’s start with the ultra affordable, all-inclusive option, Kurumba. You can call it a five star, mass-market resort, as this is where the resort pitches itself. Don’t attach any negative connotations to the tag though, as you couldn’t be further from the truth. This little island resort is situated just ten minutes from the airport by speedboat, so perfect for families looking for fast transfers. It is the best you will get in its category by far. From staff and service to facilities and food. Multi-award winning, year after year, started from humble beginnings in 1972, the first resort in the Maldives has gone from strength to strength but remains true to its Maldivian roots.
Met at the airport after a long journey, tired but excited, we arrived at the jetty, to huge swaying palm trees, traditional pavilions and a serene, open air reception. Water, bluer than you could ever imagine and the whitest, softest sand. Small enough to walk around, the island feels like a village. Bungalows and villas are spaced out in tropical gardens around the beach, each one with jaw-dropping views, of which you never tire. The wide, manicured, sandy paths snake through the interior, flanked by palm trees that ring with the sound of birds. The orchid garden, gorgeous spa, the tennis and multi sports courts, vast kids club, play area, recreation centre, cinema, photo studio and 24 hour gym are all to be found ‘inland’. Buggies are available to drive you if needed, but it’s a pleasure to walk barefoot to your destination; whether it be to the dive centre at the arrival jetty or the main pool and bar that look out to Male, just across the water.
The appeal of Kurumba also lies in a broad selection of accommodation options, to suit every type of guest and none that will disappoint. Designed to compliment and highlight the tropical setting from the outside but modern, arty and luxurious internally. There are the dual-level family pool villas; bedroom upstairs, living area below, to deluxe bungalows, the category with the most rooms, 78 of them in total, to the cheapest superior rooms, that still feature gorgeous, outdoor showers and the ocean on your doorstep.
As a family of four, with two young, energetic boys, our home for the week was a deluxe pool villa. Set back in the verdant gardens but still steps away from the dazzling beach, this is the accomodation for you, if you have water babies. We loved the sizable, covered veranda out front, perfect for relaxing with a drink before dinner, or with a book or a snooze during the day. Beyond the front door, reassuringly sealed upon arrival after meticulous covid cleaning, lies a modern, yet stylish, open plan space. First, the sitting room, where both sofas had been perfectly made up into wide, comfortable beds for the children, all the mod cons; flat screen tv, then moving through to the bedroom and one of the comfiest beds that I have ever slept in. Looking out to and opening into our own, totally private, walled back garden, built around a swimming pool, water feature, covered pergola and outdoor shower. Life doesn’t get much better than this! What really elevates the accommodation at Kurumba though are those extras, from the smaller ones – fantastic storage, fridge, Nespresso machine, luxury toiletries, to the stunning and very generous, partially open-air bathroom, complete with its own internal garden, huge, deep tub and walk-in shower. For a resort of this calibre, the bathrooms are truly exceptional. Bathing under the stars is not an option at home but a daily occurrence here.
There are those who already get it and others who ask the question, ‘what is there to actually do in the Maldives?’ Having unpacked and settled in. We headed straight to the Majaa Recreation Centre. Here is where Kurumba really starts to excel. As you walk in, you are greeted on one side by a large, separate indoor Maja Kids Club area. Huge glass windows for any overzealous parents to check up on their little ones enjoying themselves in the indoor area. Lots of arts and crafts, toys and games and a really welcoming staff. The Kids Club caters to ages 4-13 and they truly go out of their way to keep the each age group happy with a dazzling array of activities both inside and in the open air, making full use of the island and beyond. There’s house reef snorkelling with the divemaster, eco-garden tours, table tennis, impressive playground, an on-site splash park and children’s pool to name but a few. My two boys were straight onto the multi sports courts for basketball and football. Both felt like they had made friends with the recreation staff and it was difficult prying them away to do other things! One day, I returned a little late to find them learning to count in Divehi, the national language, another they were being shown the local sea-life with the staff from the snorkelling centre, where they were given the opportunity to (very carefully) hold a tiny turtle. The activities at Kurumba are exhaustive. Teens are also very well catered for with watersports, excursions, Playstation pods, Wii games area, and cinema, along with plenty of activities from zumba to air hockey, yoga to tai chi and plenty more. Again, offering something for everyone is a big advantage.
Swim out from the soft white sand and calm turquoise sea, the Kurumba lagoon is surrounded by wavebreakers and a healthy, vibrant house reef, teeming with marine life. This means less waves and currents and perfect swimming and snorkelling conditions. With complimentary snorkelling lessons and gear, plus guided day and night tours arranged by the super-friendly team at the recreation centre, we all experienced what the Indian ocean has to offer. Even our five year old became proficient in spotting rays and sharks. There are 6 distinct snorkelling sites around the island and absolutely no time to get bored.
The watersports and Euro Divers centres are, as you might expect, crowning glories here. From specific kids motorised and non-motorised sports, to jet skiing, wake and knee boarding, catamarans or parasailing, you name it, they offer it. We spent a truly memorable late afternoon on a glass-bottomed boat tour, the boat itself resembling a futuristic space vehicle, we sat around a huge glass dome oohing and aahing at the shoals of colourful fish. Staff here really do make the experiences special. They are each experts in their fields, first and foremost but the hospitality is what really counts and elevates each and every activity. The children were truly spoilt, helping to steer our boat, sitting with the crew, given lots of individual attention.
In between the activities, we managed to find some time to relax on the beach and of course eat exquisite meals, feet in the sand or at the water’s edge either at one of the thirteen options available to those on half or full board. Kosher food is available upon prior request at an extra charge and the atmosphere varies from uber romantic with plenty of twinkling lights to modern, light and airy, vibrant and fun with live entertainment from dancers to dj’s. Nothing too noisy and exhausting, however just enough to create that special feel.
Many people want to go to the Maldives to experience overwater living. There’s nothing quite like a private, overwater villa and where better than the Indian Ocean? It’s something totally unique, very special and extremely romantic to sleep surrounded by the ocean. Kurumba has a sister resort that offers both overwater and villas with private pools. Kuramathi, is the perfect complement to Kurumba and offers the ultimate, two centre, great value holiday in the Maldives. A 90 minute boat, or 20 minute, scenic seaplane transfer from Male takes you to the much more remote Rasdhoo Atoll, where divers, especially, will be richly rewarded. In fact, the island boasts two dive centres. Infinity pools set on a spectacular, mile-long, white sandy beach, complete with hidden coves, relaxed, laid-back luxurious living, a fantastic kids club and plenty of space to bliss out and take in the surroundings. If you are going looking for the ultimate Maldives, whether in a group, a family or as a couple and you want the biggest bang for your buck, then look no further.
Join me in my next column for my review of Gili Lankanfushi; my blow-the-budget, blow your mind, Maldives destination.
As a family, we flew with Qatar, from Heathrow. Meet and Greet parking was booked through Holidayextras. It’s often cheaper and less aggravating to take your own car. Simply drive up, drop off your keys and call upon landing to have it ready to meet you just steps from arrivals. Holidayextras
For pre-departure PCR testing we used Collinson. They are the UK’s leading Covid-19 travel testing provider and government approved for mandatory and test to release PCR tests. This makes a huge difference, as they work with a large network of labs, they’re able to process at scale. They have testing centres at Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5, Stansted, City, Luton , Manchester and East Midlands airports, as well as APH Gatwick and the 02 Arena. PCR tests take between 24-48 hours to process and the rules at this moment ask for a valid test within 72 hours of travel. Although we flew from Heathrow, we drove the 15 minutes up the M1 to the Luton Airport drive through. The process was quick and easy and we didn’t even need to leave our car. We received our result via email ready to show at the airport. These guys are consummate professionals and I highly recommend them. Collinson also offers the full gamut of other Covid-19 tests including same day test to release LAMP tests (before midnight for appointments up to 4pm), Antigen and Antibody too.
Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk 08000924444) offers 7 nights at Kuramathi Maldives in a Garden Villa on Full Board, with flights with Qatar Airways departing from London Gatwick, from £1599 per person.
(applies to selected departures in July 2021), this offer includes 1 bonus night.
Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk 08000924444) offers 7 nights at Kurumba Maldives in a Superior Room on Bed and Breakfast, with flights with Qatar Airways departing from London Gatwick, from £1499 per person
(applies to selected departures in July 2021) and includes a saving of up to 45%
By Caron Bluestone, Contributing Editor
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