The Maldives were never really on my bucket list, but having booked a busy month-long tour of Sri Lanka, it seemed ideal for beach time afterwards. An added bonus was an hour’s flight time from Colombo, and a direct flight back from Male to Heathrow.
Having got through immigration, instead of the usual car park with buses and taxis, we were greeted by vibrant turquoise water and private boats ready to transfer visitors to luxury resorts. Whilst some islands required a sea plane, we’d opted for the Coco Bodu Hithi, a mere 30-minute fast boat ride away.
Whilst the hotel had the iconic over the water villas, we opted for a beach villa for several reasons: they were larger in size, had more privacy and were much nearer to the restaurant, bars and reception. They also had the advantage of being cheaper.
The staff formed a welcome group on the deck, and we were introduced to our host, Kencho, who was our main point of contact during the stay. She suggested a WhatsApp group for us which allowed us to book restaurants via her or make any arrangements we wanted. She told us about ‘island time’ which was an hour ahead of Male.
Our beach villa was spectacular. Starting at the back of our room, we had a private pool (approx. 12 foot by 20 foot and 1.3m deep), outdoor shower and decking with a day bed surrounded by plants. There were also two comfortable chairs and a table, and we tended to use this area in the afternoon when it caught the late sun. Unfortunately the plants attracted mosquitoes despite the hotel spraying regularly.
Our king size bed looked out onto the pool. On the other side of the bed was the open plan bathroom with double sinks and a large circular bath built for two, which we never used apart from hanging wet swimwear over. There was a separate loo and shower off to the side and a good hairdryer and mirror combination.
We also had tea and coffee making facilities (Nespresso machine) and fully stocked mini bar, including some complimentary soft drinks for those on the all-inclusive package. We had the luxury of his and hers wardrobes, with a safe in a good position, robes, slippers, desk and chair.
Next, and down four steps, was an open plan lounge area with semi-circular seating, TV and coffee table: this was probably an underutilised area by us as we rarely watch TV on holiday. This area led through large double doors onto a huge, decked area with another day bed, two loungers and a foot shower: this didn’t get the sun and was our favourite place for post lunch snoozes.
A short path, through trees and bushes, led directly onto the beach, where we had two further sunbeds. The sea was never far from us and whilst turquoise and warm, had a few rough corals, particularly in the morning when the tide was out, and rubber shoes were essential. However, we could snorkel directly off the beach, and it was wonderful to swim with such an array of different coloured fish of varying sizes.
The evening turndown service replaced all towels, despite being told they’d only be changed if left in the laundry basket, drew all the curtains and left a continual supply of chocolates.
We had booked an all-inclusive package, although the hotel caters for various meal plans, and having seen the price of drinks and food, were pleased with our decision. However, it did limit our choice of food and drinks somewhat.
Latitude was the all-day bar, which served snacks. Here we had drinks before lunch and dinner, and at the beginning of our stay, had light lunches there. It also serviced the nearby infinity pool and terrace which was wonderful for catching the sunset. Here we found the service a little hit and miss.
The Air Restaurant was the main dining area with buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner when there were wonderful displays of everything you could think off. There was a dress code of no vests at dinner, although shorts were acceptable (despite the nightly information sheet saying that long trousers were required). Staff were active in enforcing this, and the wearing of masks whilst at the buffet.
There was some limited entertainment in the evening, but it was all pretty low key which suited us.
There were three speciality restaurants which could be booked as often as we wanted, and we tried them all.
Stars was located on the long-stilted walkway leading to the jetty with The Residences (the most upmarket water villas). On our first visit, after a pre-dinner cocktail watching the sun set, we enjoyed an amuse bouche, beef two ways, and crab ravioli followed by tuna steak and chorizo and cuttlefish risotto and several glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (all-inclusive is served by the glass). On our second visit, the staff were less welcoming and there was an issue about our all-inclusive package, so we returned to the buffet.
Aqua had eight tables each on a private jetty on stilts which were dotted around the open dining area. This restaurant concentrated on fish, and we enjoyed several dishes including yellow fin tuna tartare, ceviche of reef fish and huge prawns in garlic butter. Whilst we tried to book this for Valentine’s Day, there was a huge premium, so rather unromantically, we celebrated the date after when the meal was included in our package!
Having checked out the online menu for the Japanese restaurant Tsuki, we googled beforehand to familiarise ourselves with the likes of maki, sashimi and nigiri. All the fish was beautifully fresh, but the portion sizes very generous. On our second visit we arrived just after a family with two small children who were being entertained by cartoons on their mobiles (with sound). Bearing in mind there were only seven tables in the small restaurant, this was a major distraction and so we were moved into the air-conditioned Wine Loft. Once again, the food was excellent, and we were introduced to sushi covered in green small ‘bubbles’ that burst in your mouth which we discovered was tokibo fish roe flavoured with wasabi.
Water sports and other activities like sunset cruises and spa treatments were available but were all very expensive so we were happy to content ourselves with swimming, sunbathing and snorkelling.
On reflection, this was an interesting holiday, but I’m not sure I’ll be returning to the Maldives as there are places with similarly great beaches, but slightly more culture.