In December I was lucky enough to head out to the Maldives to review some of the hotels we already feature and to explore some new ones. The Maldives is one of my favourite spots on earth: incredible luxury resorts, stunning scenery and of course, world-class diving. It is everything that 'Dive in Style' is about and more. Here is an overview of the places I visited.
North Male Atoll
The first stop on my trip was the North Male Atoll visiting Angsana Ihuru, which is just a short 20 minute boat ride from Male. The island is perfectly rounded just as you imagine a small Maldivian Island to be and I was completely blown away by the house reef. In 45 minutes I managed to snorkel the whole way round the island and was ecstatic about the fields upon fields of pristine coral, large schools of fish dancing between the staghorn coral and reef sharks patrolling the reefs. I could have spent hours or even days on this reef and it was one of the very best I have ever experienced.
The Ari Atoll is divided into the North and South and is home to some of the best resorts and diving throughout the archipelago. All year round, whale sharks can be seen on the southern tip of the South Ari Atoll and most of the resorts do at least weekly visits to the whale sharks with a great success rate of seeing them. As well as whale sharks, mantas are also seen regularly and particularly between December and April on the western side of the atoll. When it comes to resorts, I had a couple of favourites. Constance Halaveli has some of the very best water villas I have seen in the Maldives, whilst its sister island Constance Moofushi is one of the highest quality All-Inclusives in the Maldives. With a lovely atmosphere and excellent dive centre, it is hard to go wrong and we recommend going for the Senior Water villas that have direct access to the house reef. Lux* Maldives is the closest resort for the whale sharks and is a fantastic resort for families (ice cream bar anyone?) and Conrad Rangali being close to the manta cleaning station as well as the resident manta who visits the bridge between the two islands at night. And then there was Lily Beach, rivalling Moofushi in the highest quality All-Inclusives in the Maldives which is a wonderful resort for families, a brilliant house reef and a great range of dining options.
I then went on to the remote Noonu Atoll to visit the impeccable Cheval Blanc Randheli. If you like detail, then you will love this island. The enormous villas are designed so beautifully that not a single detail has been left out: perfect colour schemes, an iPad that controls every feature in the room (doors, lights, blinds, room service...), endless deliciously smelling products….they have left no stone unturned. Wallowing in your giant 12m private pool overlooking bright turquoise waters contemplating what culinary delights to embark on in the evening, it does not get much better than this. The diving is here is run by Dive Butler International who are extremely professional and ensure the most personalised experience. They took me to 'Shark Point' located around 40 minutes boat ride from the resort and is up there with the best dive sites in the Maldives. When the conditions are perfect you can see grey reef sharks in large numbers patrolling the reef as well as huge tuna darting back and forth; a truly memorable dive.
Baa Atoll has been a strong favourite of mine for many years being home to the wonderful Soneva Fushi and one of the best spots on earth for seeing manta rays between June and October. On this trip I visited some different resorts, which I completely fell in love with and as a result, Baa continues to be one of my favourite atolls. The first was Anantara Kihavah which is a really unique island. The villas are almost colonial in style, very private and have access to the most wonderful white sandy beach. One of my favourite things about this island was the food. Sea.Fire.Salt.Sky is their quartet of overwater restaurants. Fire was particularly good where fresh sushi and wagyu beef teppanyaki were speedily prepared in front of me and some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten! Not to mention the lobster and champagne night on the beach. The other resort was Four Seasons Landaa Giravaaru which I was completely blown away by. The highlight for me was the Italian restaurant 'Blu' on one end of the island with its sand bar which you can walk all the way along at low tide.
Whilst we are on the topic of the Four Seasons, I also experienced Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and spent a few days on the Four Seasons Explorer. It is hard to beat the Four Seasons 'trio' but more on this in my next blog!