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A tiny island, no bigger than London’s Piccadilly Circus. Perfectly formed with white pillow-like sandy beaches, a warm lagoon and vibrant house reef. It’s 70km south west of the capital Male in the North Ari Atoll. With just 30 villas, this luxury 5 star property features a relaxed, laid back, shoes-off boutique atmosphere.
Direct beach access comes from the six 85sqm Jacuzzi Beach Villas, 5 150sqm Pool Villas and 8 150sqm Duplex Pool Villas. Over the Indian Ocean there are 4 80sqm Ocean Villas or our choice one of the 7 90sqm Ocean Pool Villa. Rooms are booked on a B&B, a la carte or Ultimate Inclusions package. The latter was the option we went for which included a la carte dining in all the restaurants, over 30 hand picked international wines and sparkling (including in your room wine fridge), international branded premium spirits, soft drinks, 10% discount on Spa treatments, complimentary snorkel equipment and either a one hour private reef snorkeling tour or one champagne and canape sunset cruise per person.
Arrival & Check In
After arriving at Male airport you’re met at arrivals by a host who organises your check in to the seaplane, where your bags are taken away and you jump on an executive mini bus to Kandolhu’s private lounge at the Seaplane terminal. With big whites sofas and chairs, complimentary refreshments and wifi and floor to ceiling windows watching seaplanes taxi and take off I’d have been happier to wait longer than the 40 minutes we spent there. Then it was a quick safety briefing before boarding the tiny sea plane, we’re given earplugs and can see the shoeless pilot at the controls as we enjoy incredible views of the atolls on the 25 minute seaplane ride. On landing at a seaplane platform in the middle of the ocean, we hopped on a private speedboat complete with cold towels and water for 10 minutes, getting our first views of this beautiful island.
We were met at the arrival jetty by managers Marc and Laura with a mango coconut smoothie welcome drink and cold scented towel. At no point did we have to even think about our bags as everything was taken care of and looked after by the Kandolhu team. We walked along sand through the island, past the reception and library, across another jetty for our in villa check in in our water villa, glistening in the sunshine atop of the bluest of blue oceans.
We stayed in one of the seven Ocean Pool Villas (room 210) and it was one of those rooms that instantly makes you say wow. It’s clear that attention to detail is second to none as the signature room scent hits our nostrils and our eyes widened with the limitless views from our bedroom across the reef and ocean.
These rooms give the best experience on the island with a king size bed, coupled by an unique oversized bathroom with glass walls allowing you to bathe on top of the ocean but still affording privacy. This is probably one of the best bathrooms in the world. Thoughtful design means that whether you’re in your private pool, on your deck, in the bathroom or going down your own steps into the reef it feels totally private and secluded.
The entrance lobby features a fully stocked wine fridge, espresso machine, medium sized bottles of premium alcohol, mini bar with waters, soft drinks, beers and snacks, and in the evening a nightly turn down homemade treat was placed here.
To the right is the main bedroom with fast wifi, a flat screen TV picking up plenty of channels plus on-demand movies, and a beach bag for you to use during your stay with fun touches such as a frisbee, bat & ball and water guns in it. An iPad complete with a hotel app featuring all the menus and information you could need, stargazing app, all fully loaded with playlists to hook up to the Bose speaker system. The bedroom has a chaise lounge, desk, a small table and with designer chairs and a large walk in wardrobe where you’ll find robes, slippers, yoga mats and umbrellas for tropical storms.
To the left is the incredible glass bathroom complete with huge sliding walls, an egg shaped tub and sinks, rainfall shower, Voya bathroom products and the most wonderful floor to ceiling views of the ocean.
If you can’t stretch to an Ocean Pool Villa for your whole stay it’s super easy to split your holiday across two rooms, where the hotel will magically transfer all your items from one to the other, giving you the best of the beach and the traditional picture book Maldives over-the-water villa.
With 4 restaurants for 30 villas Kandolhu has more restaurants per guest than any other island on the Maldives. Couple that with the quality, presentation and flavour of the food and this really is one of the their huge selling points.
A “no buffet” policy means everything is A La Carte, which is where the Unlimited Inclusions package comes in handy, meaning price is never an issue.
Breakfast and lunch always take place in The Market with beautiful views across the beach and ocean. The breakfast menu gave more than enough options, the banana french toast being especially wonderful. Touches such as a giant honeycomb of honey oozing into a pot and large granola and pastries options add to your choices.
The lunch menu is the same as the evening menu with a wide range of starters and mains ranging from fantastic curries to pizza, gourmet salads, Thai and Indonesian, sandwiches, fresh pasta and everything in between. With every single item we ordered during our time there matching that of some of London’s finest restaurants I genuinely wanted to stay longer just to keep going through the menu.
Above The Market is Olive, a Mediterranean fusion with reinterpretations of classics expertly cooked and beautifully presented.
Back downstairs 6 people per sitting can enjoyed Teppanyaki by dining in Banzai, complete with a bit of a show as the food is prepared in front of you.
Our favourite was the simple Sea Grill, where fresh fish and meats are grilled or tandoored to your specifications. Simple, mouth-watering and delicious. Especially when coupled with the huge wine and cocktail menu which puts a lot of London’s bars to shame.
One of the highlights for us was a private jetty meal one evening, under the twinkling milky way with the sound of the ocean below us. We consulted the day before with the chef, and gave simple instructions: do whatever you want. And what he did was create a sublime 7 course tasting menu which exploded with flavour in our mouths. Food is such an important part of a holiday for us and Kandolhu blew away every expectation and delivered a faultless food experience.
Activities & Facilities
Kandolhu is geared around total relaxation but that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to keep you occupied. There’s no main pool since most of the villas have private pools and the oceans is never more than a few feet away. The house reef offers some incredible snorkeling directly from your villa. There’s reef sharks, turtles, huge schools of colourful fish and even turtles lurking all around you.
For the more adventurous the dive centre can take you out to some of the world’s best diving spots or you can just have a go on the paddleboards and other watersports, thankfully there’s not a noisy jet ski in sight.
There’s a wonderful spa with a huge selection of treatments delivering exactly the sort of spa service you’d expect from a five star hotel. Kandolhu also own a beautiful wooden decked 20 meter sailing yacht on which you can charter for sandback trips or enjoy a private champagne and canape sunset cruise. We took advantage of this as part of the all inclusive package and the privacy and luxury afforded to us as we sailed the island and the golden sunset the sky on fire create a memory to cherish.
With staff that genuinely care about how you are and do everything to make sure you have the best time possible and a relaxed, laid back vibe this is five star luxury without any of the stuffiness that can go with it. Everything has been thought about from the food to the detailing of the room, the tranquil island is beautiful, the landscaping and architecture are wonderful, Kandolhu is simply paradise to which I can’t wait to return.
Costs & Booking
Kandolhu, Maldives www.kandolhu.com
Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights with breakfast at the 5-star Kandolhu, Maldives in a Jacuzzi Beach Villa, including flights with SriLankan Airlines from Heathrow and group transfers in resort. Prices for May 2017 are from £2,484 per person, based on two adults sharing.