Leah Johnson,Travel Consultant at our Felixstowe travel agents, visited the Maldives on a trip of a lifetime. She tells us all about the luxurious accommodation available and how the entire trip was one big highlight.
Airline: Sri Lankan Airlines
(Hotel names/Ship name): Kurumba, Sandies Bathala, Diamonds Athuruga, Finolhu,Kuramathi, Velassaru
Duration: 8 nights
Overall I was really impressed with Sri Lankan Airlines. We flew in economy and I found the flights very comfortable. The seats all had adjustable headrests and footrests and thein-flight entertainment was sufficient.
I was most impressed with the catering on board; you are presented with a menu with three choices of main for each meal and are given metal cutlery, which is really unusual in economy. The quality of food was very high, and the service on board was efficient and friendly.
The cabin crew came around frequently with refreshments.
Kurumba made a great first impression. It's only a 10-minute speedboat from Male Airport and is av ery welcome change of pace after a long day traveling. I was really impressed with the spa facilities and it was clear to see that the staff were very knowledgeable.
Kurumba was the first ever resort to open in the Maldives, but it still feels incredibly modern. There is a range of dining options here and the food is really good. We sampled meals from a number of their restaurants and I especially enjoyed the Thai and Middle Eastern options.
The only drawback of this resort is the location. Being so close to the airport is ideal when traveling, however, it does mean that the views - whilst still incredible- are not quite as idyllic as from the more remote islands.
You can still see Male and the surrounding islands from Kurumba. If you only have limited time to experience the Maldives then it is a great choice. You do get a real taste of the destination within easy reach of the airport.
Sandies Bathala is a very new resort, having only opened in spring 2019. It is owned by the same company as the Diamonds resorts and has a few similarities, such as the signature white buildings.
The resort was notentirely complete at the time we visited, with small details such as pool tiles and in-room mirrors missing. These finishing touches will surely make a difference to the overall feel of the resort.
We stayed in the lead room type - a beach bungalow. I was massively impressed. It was very modern and minimalist and located directly on the beach. There is a definite small island feel to Sandies Bathala; the main focus is the snorkelling and the diving, as the house reef here is spectacular.
There is only one bar and one restaurant on the island, so variety is somewhat limited. They do put on evening entertainment, but it is fairly low key. The night that we were there they put on a music quiz which was good fun.
This resort is absolutely stunning. The room types are all beautiful and we were lucky enough to stay in a sunset water villa. Out of all of the resorts that we visited, I did think that Diamonds had the most impressive water villas. Not only do they look great, but they are also very spacious, with a large outdoor decking area complete with two sun beds, a table and chairs, and sofa area.
It's not just the room types which stand out at Diamonds Athuruga; the dining options are also fantastic. The buffet restaurant for lunch and dinner has a great range of options, including a number of live cooking stations. The beach views from the buffet are incredible. They often theme the buffet options at dinner time. The resort has a strong Italian influence, so there is always fresh pasta and pizza on offer.
There is also the overwater restaurant. Dining here is complimentary for Water Villa guests and at a supplement for guests staying in Beach Bungalows. This is a la carte for lunch and dinner. Once again, the views from here are spectacular.
The snorkelling is exceptional at this resort; they have an onsite marine biologist. She took us out on a guided snorkelling trip and, with her expert help, we saw so much more and had a much better understanding.
It may be seen as a disadvantage that the resort doesn't have a swimming pool, however, the beach is beautiful and the water is so warm and calm that it really doesn't feel like a sacrifice.
Finolhu has some key features which really make it stand out. It is quite a quirky resort with little touches that you won't see anywhere else, like the VW camper vans on the beach, milkshake bar, and a bubble tent, which is an overnight accommodation option.
Again there are brilliant dining options, with a buffet restaurant that has something for everyone, as well as a number of themed a la carte restaurants. The crab shackoffers great seafood with views to match.
Anyone looking for a really stand-out room type would be sure to find it at Finolhu. In all honesty,every one of the room types is impressive, with an overwater villa as the entry level room type. However, the higher levels of room, such as the two-bedroom pools villas and rock star suites, will leave you speechless.
There are some real VIP touches in these rooms, such as the in-room champagne phones. It's clear to see why this resort boasts such a long list of celebrity guests. There is quitean ‘Instagram appeal’ to the resort.
Kuramathi is considerably larger than the other islands, which has positive and negative impacts. The island is divided up into three sections, with a main buffetrestaurant in each, and all guests are assigned the closest restaurant to their room.
There are also nine a la carte restaurants, which are within the select all-inclusive package or can be booked subject to availability by other guests for a supplement. Food options are really diverse and the quality is fantastic. There is even an onsite Hydroponics Garden where the resort grows its own herbs and salads. If you area foodie then Kuramathi on a select all-inclusive basis is the way to go.
With the Island being so much larger, golf buggies are an essential form of transport. They come around very frequently and, whilst there are set bus stops, they will stop wherever they need to in order to collect guests. So everything is still made very easy for you.
It isn't really a walkable island, but the size does make room for many more facilities. There are three swimming pools on the island and six bars, meaning a change of scenery is always possible.
One big difference that the size of the island makes is the presence of more of a nightlife; the resident band perform a range of hits and also play requests. This attracts quite a crowd and there’s a nice sociable, yet still very relaxed, atmosphere.
Velassaru feels like the perfect compromise. It is a small enough island that you can walk around (although they do still have golf buggies), yet large enough to have all of the desired facilities.
The overall atmosphere at Velassaru is very relaxed and the attention to detail throughout the resort is remarkable. The food is of a very high standard and the bar areas are really nice and, again, very chilled out.
The spa is award-winning and it's easy to see why. The individual over-the-water treatment rooms are something very special.
There is only one downside to Velassaru and I had heard about it before we visited. There is a ‘dump island’ not far from the resort, which can be seen in the distance. I was expecting this to be more of an eyesore than it was. It can be noticed in certain parts of the resort, mainly around the spa and water villas, but I definitely wouldn't be put off by it. The majority of the views around the island are stunning and those that do feature a distant dump island are still pretty special.
At all of the resorts, the staff were exceedingly helpful and friendly, with customer service levels consistently being very high and surpassing expectations. Nothing was ever too much to ask.
What Was Included?
There were a number of guided snorkelling trips included. These were at Sandies Bathala, Diamonds Athuruga and Kuramathi. I think this is a great way to experience snorkelling if you've not done it before, as the experts can help with any issues that may arise from not having used the equipment previously. I do also think it would be worth doing if you’re a more experienced snorkeler, just to get the insider tips on the best spots on the islands.
Also at Kuramathi, I got to experience the sunset cruise. This trip is offered as a part of their all-inclusive package. You are taken on a cruise away from Kuramathi and towards the setting sun. It was a fantastic experience and the real highlight was that we got to see dolphins swimming and jumping around really close to the boat. There were a huge number of them - around 50 or so - which was absolutely incredible to watch.
On our final night at Velassaru, we had an extra special dining experience, as we ate our meal on a candlelit table right on the beach. Both the food and the setting were perfect; the chocolate fondant for dessert was an absolute dream.
The sunsets were incredible every evening. We would often make a point of sitting to watch whilst the colours changed between various shades of blue, orange and pink. The daytime views were just as remarkable – photographs can't do justice to the colours of the water.
The Idyllic surroundings at all times are such a highlight, the beaches are all stunning and you're never far from the crystal clear waters. You can often see marine life while just walking around close to the ocean. It's not unusual to spot all kinds of exotic fish and even reef sharks just hugging the shore line.
But the snorkelling takes this experience to another level. We saw countless fish, turtles, reef sharks and manta rays and got so close to them all. I've never experienced anything like it and I can't recommend snorkelling in this area strongly enough.We didn't get the chance to experience the diving but, based on what we had seen, I can only imagine how wonderful this must also be.
Spending time at the Water Villa at Diamonds Athuruga was another incredible part of the trip, just because the room itself and the surroundings were so stunning and tranquil.
My final highlight would have to be the sunset cruise at Kuramathi. I was hopeful that we might spot a dolphin but I really wasn't prepared for the experience we had. It just was a trip filled with highlights.
I would very strongly recommend visiting the Maldives. It's easy to tell why it is such a popular honeymoon destination.
I definitely recommend staying on an all-inclusive basis. You are going to be on the same island for all of your meals and drinks, so it makes more sense to have them included from the outset.
The drinks prices are fairly high, as everything has to be imported. So, I do feel that all-inclusive option generally offers the best value.
Something that did surprise me was how many of the resorts we visited had excellent children's facilities. Kuramathi, Finolhu and Kurumba all stood out for having brilliant kids clubs with key features such as play areas, painting classes and movie nights. The Maldives isn't often considered a top family holiday destination -but it really does have a lot to offer.
Must see? The views over other islands on a seaplane transfer
Must do? A boat trip out of the island
Must try? Snorkelling in the incredible reefs
If you would like to experience a luxury holiday in the Maldives, like the one that Leah enjoyed,contact your nearest branch today. Maybe it’s the ideal wedding and honeymoon destination for you? We have travel agents in Bournemouth, Westbourne, Lymington, Dorchester, Christchurch and across East Anglia.