Paradise found

Why Four Seasons’ resorts in the Maldives is the perfect stress buster for execs from the Middle East.
Paradise found
By Sarah Bullock
Thu 22 Jul 2010 09:46 AM

Arriving at the Four Seasons resort at Kuda Huraa by private speedboat is always going to be special but when the welcoming committee includes a party of dolphins leaping and twisting out of the sea you get the impression this is definitely no ordinary place.

The Kuda Huraa resort is the smaller of Four Seasons’ two resorts in the Maldives and is every bit as personal and intimate as you would expect. Staff at the resort make a point of knowing and remembering who you are and greet you by name at every opportunity. There is a relaxed and informal atmosphere where time seems to pass by in a lazy fashion leaving you in holiday spirit almost from the minute you enter your accommodation.

We stayed in a beach villa which as the name suggests is just a few short steps away from the magnificent white and powdery sands of the private beach and the truly stunning crystal clear waters of the atoll. Comfy sun loungers with parasols are regularly attended with complimentary sun cream, soft drinks, fruits and ice-creams throughout the day courtesy of some of the ‘smiliest’ staff you could ever wish to meet. Many of them are local to the islands themselves under an apprenticeship scheme run by Four Seasons and a Government programme similar to Emiratisation in the UAE. With all this service on hand and a plunge pool back at your villa just seconds away it would be easy to never leave the beach.

But a stay at Four Seasons is about much more than just a beach holiday – a bewildering array of activities awaits the water enthusiast - from complimentary non motorised sports such as snorkelling, kayaking and surfing to trips, organised activities and of course, diving. The Maldives is well regarded as one of the world’s best diving sites and as novice snorkellers once we had had the opportunity to see the life under the sea I could see why it is so appealing.

A truly breathtaking array of multi coloured fish and corals await you and we even had the opportunity to swim close to reef sharks – certainly one of those to tick off the ‘to do in life’ list moments. The knowledgeable instructors and marine biologists take time to ensure that you see as much as possible under the sea in your 45 minute snorkel and once back on the boat you are greeted with fluffy towels, hot tea and home-made brownies and cookies - it is all about making sure you feel looked after.

And if pampering in the truest sense is your thing then the jewel in the crown for Kuda Huraa is the award winning Island Spa. The spa is set on its own island - reached by a short Dhoni boat ride from the main resort. The thatched treatment rooms are all set over water with viewing panels cut in the floor for those having a massage to enjoy the aquatic show below. However I must say it does present the dilemma of whether to struggle to keep your eyes open and watch this nature show or just give in to the deep and soothing touch of an Asian ritual massage that leaves you longing to sleep. The whole ambience is a real oasis of calm and harmony with the use of marine enriched products based on the healing power of the sea with all natural ingredients.

And Four Seasons has certainly learned how to make the best of the natural beauty that the Maldives offers, with its bars and restaurants placed strategically to see the stunning sunsets. As you would expect the choice and standard of cuisine on offer is second to none from Italian to Indian and everything in between. You can sit and look out to the horizon, enjoying the catch of day fresh from the sea that morning and watch the colourful sea planes pass by – which is the mode of transport for reaching Four Seasons second resort at Landaa Giraavaru.
The difference between the two resorts is immediately noticeable as you approach this island – not just in terms of size – but it is much more tropical with lush green plantations and an almost jungle like feel to the complex.

At this resort we stayed in an over water beach bungalow where a double lined wooden jetty of thatched units offers residents a choice of sunset or sunrise side to ensure that they capture at least one of the marvellous colour and light shows that the Maldives has to offer each day. Some bungalows offer a plunge pool but all have low decking platforms which enable you to dive straight into the sea.

Despite its larger size, the personal touch is still very much in evidence at Landaa Giraavaru, from chefs preparing you a bespoke fruit salad at breakfast to housekeepers who will come to make up your room at a specified time to suit your schedule for the day.

Even more activities and recreational sports await holidaymakers to Landaa Giraavaru with fishing trips, night snorkels and even visits to other inhabited - and uninhabited for the very brave – islands. The resort makes much of its isolated position and even offers a true Robinson Crusoe experience where people can be left on a nearby island with provisions and just a mobile phone to call when they would like to be picked up - a true getting away from it all experience.

And the Retreat Spa at Landaa Giraavaru also offers a different kind of getting away from it all experience with its ancient Indian Ayurvedic treatments set in the very heart of the island in its own gardens where herbs, fruit and plants are grown especially for use in the individually designed treatments for guests – this is an experience not to be missed, and I say that as a seasoned spa user.

Dinners are largely casual affairs and a night at the fantastic Fuego Grill which is perched on the edge of the resort – with two tables actually set on individual podiums in the ocean is a must there is even the chance of spotting a shark or two patrolling the edge of the reef looking for any stray titbits that guests may have left from their dinner – I have a feeling they must be disappointed most nights!

One of the nicest things about both Four Seasons resorts is their ability to make you feel at home and the casual and relaxed approach to staying there. It makes even a short trip feel very special. It certainly leaves you with the feeling that you really must go back.

It takes a very slick operation to make sure that everyone is made to feel so special so it is little wonder that film stars, celebrities and even GCC royalty have been known to make Four Seasons their accommodation of choice in the Maldives and further endorsement, if needed, can come no higher than the knowledge that Prince Al Waleed bin Talal is a major shareholder - and you just sense that he knows quality when he sees it.

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