Famed for their crystal clear seas and white sandy beaches, Jennifer Ratcliff discovers why the 26 coral atols and hundreds of tiny islands of the Maldives have become known as paradise on earth
As we stepped out of Mali airport, itself situated right on the beach, we were instantly struck by the beautiful colour of the sea. It was the brightest turquoise I have ever seen – no filter required. But we weren’t stopping there, instead we were helped to a seaplane transfer, which was an amazing experience in itself offering fantastic views of the tiny islands and reefs. As I sat in awe, trying to capture photos to help me remember this forever, I understood why the Maldives have the reputation of being paradise on earth.
We reached Kandima Maldives on the beautiful island of Dhaalu Atoll 40 minutes later. We were dropped off at a small jetty where a speed boat met us to take us to shore. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much like royalty as a stepped onto the jetty and were escorted to the resort HQ.
Kandima describes itself as the first lifestyle resort in the Maldives, and as we were given a tour I understood what they meant. It is a 5 star resort and has all the luxuries that come with this, but they are delivered in a much less formal way than usual. The décor throughout the resort is very contemporary with a Scandinavian meets Ibiza chillout look. The resort feels cool but inclusive. It offers activities for everyone whether you’re looking for a romantic get away, an active break or a relaxing retreat. You can make your holiday whatever you want it to be. It’s easy to see why Kandima won Newcomer of the Year at the Maldives Travel Awards in 2017.
We were staying in a beach villa with pool. The spacious room matched the funky feel of the rest of the resort with bright pops of colour and clean, contemporary décor. What really took the villa to the next level were the outside spaces: an outdoor bathroom with a hot tub; and a private pool overlooking the beach. Within minutes of being shown to our villa I was relaxing in the pool with only the beautiful white beach and crystal clear sea between me the horizon. I was trying to think if there was anything that could make it more perfect – I could think of nothing.
The island is about 3km long and it’s easy to get around by either hiring bikes or getting a lift on a small golf buggy. However we chose to walk, as everything is accessible via lush plant lined paths or along the beach so it was great to take in the views and we smashed our 10,000 step target everyday. I particularly enjoyed the moonlit walk along the beach in the evenings.
Wellbeing is woven into every aspect of life on the island. If you are looking for an active break then the BURN Fitness centre is well worth a visit. There is a massive range of classes available or you can book a personal training session if you want some one-on-one attention. I particularly enjoyed the early morning pilates and yoga taster classes that run at 8.30 each morning. Situated on the pavilion overlooking the sea they are the perfect way to start the day. If you feel a little stuck in a rut as far as your fitness routine is concerned then the fitness menus could be for you, they are a range of tailored fitness plans which take the hard work out of deciding what to do as an expert has done it for you. They are a great way to try something you wouldn’t normally go for.
If relaxation is your thing then a visit to the esKape Spa is a must. Each treatment room opens on to the sea so you can hear the waves in the background as you are enjoying a massage. There were even dolphins swimming by as I arrived! I cannot think of a more relaxing setting. I tried the Sea Coconut secret, which is a 90-minute treatment which starts with a foot treatment, followed by an invigorating full body exfoliate finished with a massage.
There are 10 restaurants on the island so there is no risk of getting bored. The main two we visited were Zest and Flavour. They are both buffet restaurants serving a fantastic selection of global cuisine. In particular I was impressed by the range of seafood and currys which varied daily. I also have to give a shout out to the fresh sushi and sashimi. If you are planning a special evening during your stay book a table on the beach at Azure which is a mediterranian restaurant. The candlelit beach setting is perfect for a romantic evening.
The crystal clear waters are such a big part of the Maldives that you wont be able to resist exploring them. Whether it be a swim in the warm waters, a boat trip to see the dolphins, and snorkeling trip (you may even see turtles if you are lucky) there is something for everyone.
By the end of the trip I felt fully recharged and realised I had been unconsciously making healthier decisions. At meal times I was drawn to the fresh fish and bright salads instead of carb heavy and sugar laden options, as a result I felt less bloated and wasn’t being hit by the 3pm sugar crashes. I was exercising more (out of choice!) and walking more. Most importantly I had accidentally embraced mindfulness. The surroundings were so beautiful I became consumed by them, whatever I was doing I was concentrating on the sounds, smells and colours. I felt fully immersed in where I was and gave very little thought to real life. It was like I had been on a retreat disguised as a luxury holiday.
The Maldives are the most beautiful destination I have ever visited, a great place to escape reality and reset your mind in paradise.
3 must-do activities in the Maldives
Parasending a perfect way to see the island from a different perspective.
If you only try one class make it aerial yoga. Using hammocks suspended from the ceiling you are able to get yourself in stretches you didn’t think possible. Don’t worry if you don’t think you’ll be very good. I certainly wasn’t, but the instructor is on hand to help you out.
The sunsets at Kandiama are quite simply stunning, as the sun goes down the vibrant red sky is the perfect backdrop to sipping a cocktail and listening to the DJ at the Breeze Pool Bar.
A Sky Studio is from £145 per person, per night on a half-board basis. Kids under 12 stay and eat for free. With Select All Inclusive, you get free use of the gym, kayaks, snorkelling and windsurfing equipment plus a complimentary excursion.
Kandiland for the under 12s is free. All rates (not rooms) are subject to a 10% service charge, 12% TGST (the Maldivian equivalent to VAT) and a green tax of £4.54 per person per night.
Flights are from £500 return. Round trip domestic transfers from Male to Dhaalu Atoll where Kandima is located are £264 pp return or £400 for the seaplane.