Maldives: Tiny Country, Big Thrills
by Marla Norman, Publisher
Way out in the middle of the Indian Ocean is the tiny island nation of Maldives — the smallest Asian country in both population and land mass. With an average ground level of barely 5 feet (1.5 meters), the country also accounts for some of the planet’s lowest land elevations. Moreover, given that the islands are spread out over 35,000 square miles, the Maldives are the most geographically dispersed nation on earth. It’s a unique place!
Directors of the Four Season resorts would also contend that the islands are some of the most astoundingly beautiful sites in existence and the ultimate destination for anyone interested in water sports. That’s why the Explorer, the only floating Four Seasons resort is located in the Maldives.
The Explorer is a 129-foot (39 meter) catamaran that accommodates a maximum of 22 guests, making the daily pursuit of scuba diving, windsurfing; snorkeling and other at-sea sports a top priority. With a crew that includes a marine biologist, dive guide, underwater videographer and spa therapist, the ship sails 3, 5 and 7-night excursions, from its home port Kuda Huraa, cruising the Maldives on either the Northern Passage (from Malé to Lhaviyani and Baa atolls) or the Southern Cross (from Malé to South Malé, Felidhoo and Ari atolls) depending on sea and weather conditions. Wherever they sail, guests are surrounded by the Maldives’ exquisite blue-hued waters and fully immersed in experiences that reflect a deep commitment to environmental conservation.
Watch this brief video to experience an underwater encounter with sea creatures in the Maldives. Film courtesy of the Four Seasons Maldives.
For non-divers there is an abundance of ocean life that can be enjoyed while snorkeling. There are also a number of dive courses available from Discover Scuba Diving (2-3 hours) for certified divers including: Padi Open Water Diver, Master Scuba Diver, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Digital Photography.
Each day on the Explorer begins with an array of breakfast choices. Lunch and dinner menus change daily — themed on regional creations from India, the Maldives, Asia and Europe. If you fish, the chef is more than happy to discuss preparation ideas for your catch of the day. An extensive wine list is available as well.
SURFING SCHOOL & MARINE DISCOVERY CENTRE AT KUDA HURAA
The Explorer is based out of the Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Huraa. Here too is the Kuda Huraa Surf School, run by professionals from Tropicsurf of Noosa, Australia. Guests aged-six and up can enjoy the pristine lagoon and some of the world’s most consistent and warmest swells. The resort also provides seaplanes, known as Seaplane Surfaris. These privately charted seaplanes allow guests to be flown directly to the best surfing conditions, guided by an expert.
Truly serious surfers can even compete in the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Championships, taking place August 26-September 2 at Kuda Huraa. Returning for its third successive year, the competion includes six ex-world champions in a $25,000 showdown. Also significant, is the Marine Discovery Centre at Kuda Huraa. Run by a team of marine biologists, the Centre hosts Shark and Marine Life Safaris, Dolphin Watching and Coral Reefscaping activities. Additionally, it’s the headquarters of the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Program that works to monitor, protect, rehabilitate and increase awareness of turtle conservation throughout the Maldives, as well as rear turtle hatchlings.
Guests on Kuda Huraa enjoy luxury beach bungalows. Three restaurants provide three distinct cuisines: Baraabaru offers traditional Indian specialties on a spectacular deck. The Reef Club serves classic Italian plates under a thatched pavilion or at tables on the beach. Kandu Grill presents seafood served on the oceanfront. All meals are complemented by a cellar of fine wines.
For the ultimate in pampering and relaxation, the Kuda Huraa Spa has seven over-water treatment pavilions. Facial treatments, massages and a unique night spa, with four unique lunar rituals tied to the new moon, waxing moon, full moon and waning moon.
MANTA WATCH AT LANDAA GIRAAVARU
Landaa Giraavaru is located in the Baa Atoll, one of 26 atolls in the Maldives — 463 square miles (1200 square kilometers) of some of the richest coral reef systems in the world, as well as an abundance of Manta Rays and other marine life. The Four Seasons Manta Watch offers guests an opportunity to snorkel with the manta. Guests may also opt to receive a mobile phone, so when the Manta are spotted, they will receive a call notifying them for viewing. Landaa Giraavaru also offers diving & snorkeling excursions, sunset cruises, tennis and a fitness center.
Updated thatched beach bungalows and water villas feature private plunge pools and generous outdoor living spaces at the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru Resort. Four different restaurants are available to guests: Blu serves contemporary Italian fare with homemade gelato. Al Barakat, named after a North African scholar who made Baa Atoll his home in the 12th Century, serves authentic Arabian cuisine. The restaurant is built over water, off the main jetty. A shisha bar is located on the ground level.
Cafe Landaa provides Asian and regional specialties from the tandoor and curry kitchen; in the evening, Japanese teppanyaki is served. Fuego Grill is located on the beach overlooking the eastern coast of the island. The restaurant offers fresh catch of the day as well as a wide selection of organic and prime cut meats.
The spa at Landaa Giraavaru has ten open-air treatment pavilions, including three dedicated to ayurveda — individually tailored exercise, diet and lifestyle modifications. Complimentary 30-minute Ayurvedic wellness consultations are offered to all Resort guests. Yoga, reconnection rituals, Tantric traditions, facials and salon services are all available to pamper and reenergize guests.
HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways and Emirates offer flights to the Maldives, flying from major hubs in the US to their respective hubs in Doha and Dubai. Flights to the Maldives arrive at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, a short boat-ride from Malé, the capital city. After arrival in the Maldives, a boat or sea-plane will take guests to the island resorts…and a chance to experience one of the world’s most remarkable places.