Dream Island: Heaven In The Maldives: Kuredu Island Resort & Spa
The Maldives has always enjoyed the reputation of being home to the most beautiful dream islands in the world and one of the top diving destinations for any underwater enthusiast. IX Magazine decided to fly out with Etihad Airways to Male, and the local seaplane company Trans Maldivian Airways to Kuredu and spend a couple of weeks exploring this hypnagogic destination.
Kuredu Island Resort and Spa is one of the largest islands in the Maldives and is found to the north of Male, in the Lhaviyani Atoll. Once at Male it is a short drive to the dock to catch the seaplane, a floatplane rather than flying boat, which has to be the most romantic mode of transport ever invented. It’s not just the use of floatplanes in Raiders of The Lost Ark that elevate this plane into the luxury travel hall of fame, but also the associated photographic and written history from the 20’s onwards. The seaplane port itself is an unspoiled low tech delight, exactly what you would hope for, multiple jetties jut out into the sea from the quay with numerous seaplanes bobbing about. The pilots and passengers embarking and disembarking on to the moving platforms with the look of expectant explorers commencing exciting journeys into hitherto unexplored territories.
We waited our turn in the comfortable lounge which came pretty swiftly as we had arrived early so they moved us to an earlier flight. We bounced happily along the wooden pontoon to our fiery red and white striped seaplane and clambered up the small steps to the cabin door, squeezing through into the 12 seater interior. The engines started up with a vibrational roar and we taxied out from the pier to the open sea and picked up speed, until with the gentlest of bumps we were airborne, spray streaming off the sides of the aircraft and gliding smoothly up into the vivid cerulean sky.
After 30 minutes we landed waterskiing style by a tiny planked raft in the middle of the Indian ocean where we dropped one of the passengers who was picked up by a boat to escort her to her island destination. The image of the seaplane lashed to this tiny raft will stay with me forever, a seaplane version of Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa undulating on the crystal waters with infinite azure waves fanning out in all directions.
We bumped along the water again until the little hop that signified breaking off from the water and sailed back up into the sunshine heading for Kuredu, gliding over the scores of islands, lilliputian flecks of yellow and green dotted in crescents along our path. The air is so clear with only the spinning blades of the craft between you and the unspoiled view of the atolls below that every palm tree and stretch of sand emerges pin sharp from the sea as you approach. Eventually with a ripple of excitement we spotted our island destination rolling towards us on a carpet of blue velvet. We circled Kuredu to approach into the wind from the opposite side and came in sharply to land with the softest thump and glide on the water, taxying smoothly to the large pier extending from the middle of the island. We disembarked to be greeted by the staff and management, our bags whisked away to the rooms, while we were escorted to the Akiri bar to enjoy a mint tea and warm hand towels that were most welcome after around 18 hours of travel from London.
The beach villas we had ordered on the southern side were perfect in every way, right on the beach and facing out to sea, each villa separate from the others and with its own terrace merely 20 metres from the crystal waters. Rarely did we ever see anyone else on the beach, at very most maybe 10 people on sands that could fit hundreds. The villas have everything you need, a lovely 4 poster bed with large screen tv and adjoining open air bathroom and shower. The night air is warm and insect free and it is lovely showering in a warm garden every evening.
The next day after a refreshing swim in the soft, clear Indian ocean we explored the island to see what it had to offer for our two week stay. The set up at Kuredu is pretty special. We were impressed at the range of facilities on offer – a huge plus for those who worry about being bored on a small island. There is a six hole golf course with full size driving range, gym, football pitch, spa, boutique shops, Pro Divers centre, Ocean Watersports, three swimming pools, four buffets, three a la carte restaurants and quite a few bars! Watching two Maldivian teams battle it out on the pitch in the first match of the tournament was a delight and the skills on display were formidable.
However the The Maldives is known less for its football and more as one of the greatest places to dive in the world and home to a Prodiver sports centre. Prodivers is one of the very best diving centres equipped with all the latest Scuba gear, Scooters, Nitrox, Hyperbaric chamber and even Rebreathers. This was heaven for me and you can read all about the incredible diving here in our extensive diving feature coming next.
Then there are the plethora of excursions to be experienced: island hopping, fishing, Atoll cruises, and the ultimate Robinson Crusoe and Dream Island trips. We were lucky enough to experience Dream Island, a stunning sandbank island a short speedboat ride away from Kuredu. You are whisked from the dock in a lovely white motorboat across the rippling glassy water to this island that is about 400 metres long and 30 metres wide with just a hut made of palm leaves. It is utterly Robinson Crusoe, only they also leave you with enormous luxury hampers filled with vast quantities of food and cold boxes with enough soft drinks, beer and wine to last a month, let alone the afternoon. They also leave you with a mobile phone in case you need anything else and will pop back for any request. Dream island is one for the bucket list, you must experience it, the sand bar curves in a crescent shape with the most vitreous, mellifluous crystal water rippling all around you. I don’t mean to go on, but the water there flows like a living thing, viscous and caressing, as you glide through it. It is a dream of heaven and I would gladly have stayed there for the entire trip. Sadly as the sun set the boat came to fetch us and take us back to Kuredu and we waved the island a fond farewell.
The staff on Kuredu are part of the island’s charm, with the island hosts, waiter and chefs reaching high levels of helpfulness and friendliness and they go out of their way to enhance your stay. You are assigned a waiter who looks after you for your entire stay which is like having your own concierge. Our waiter Alfans looked after us and quickly got to know what we liked, the three chefs also took great effort to offer us their best local cuisine and greet us warmly every time we came in for a meal. In particular I had been looking forward to the sushi restaurant Far East which sadly had burned down shortly before we arrived and when one of the chef’s Ibrahim found this out, he started cutting up a gigantic Tuna for me and then subsequently pre-prepared a lovely dish of sushi from the best catch of the day to present me with each day. This was excellent service above and beyond and I was extremely happy to be eating such fresh fish, all pole caught that morning in the sea only a few metres away. Fear not, the sushi restaurant is being rebuilt and stylishly improved so it should be done by the time you read this and great plans are afoot to make it even better than before.
The high standard, quality and variety of food is impressive, with the buffets constantly providing delicious feasts for us all. The a la carte restaurants: Carlo’s, and The beach go even further, with The beach providing an extremely high level of dining. We spent a delightful evening there, which as its name suggests is actually on the sand overlooking the south side of the island and the food and service are quite magnificent and to a very high standard. Add the skill of the chefs to the quality and freshness of the produce and you have a restaurant that compares with the best in London, Paris or New York. It is a wonderfully romantic setting with great food and most certainly worth a visit. Another experience that stands out is the Veli dinner, a five course menu paired with wine, which takes place on the beach in your own dining area made of sand, surrounded by flowing white muslin drapes, a must for romantic couples.
You can walk round Kuredu in 45 minutes to an hour depending on just how leisurely a pace you set, it is wonderful at sunset as you are treated to black tip reef sharks in one cove, sting rays in another and if you are lucky you will see dolphins playing out to sea. The flora and fauna are bounteous, with coconut palms, Banyan trees, tropical birds, black rabbits, every type of crab imaginable, giant fruit bats that swoop erratically from tree to tree and Sir Henry the resident Heron. You feel like Dr Doolittle on your own Sea-Star Island. You can peruse the different areas as you stroll round all with their own restaurant and bar, such as Sangu which is adults only, where the water villas can be found and the starry twinkling lights infinity pool. The O, which is for over 12’s only and is the newest part of the resort with a restaurant set out over the water. All the restaurant and bar interiors are well thought out with impressive nautical themes, with colossal Manta Rays and Conches hanging from the ceilings and lanterns shaped like vast jelly fish, brilliantly illuminated at night. The night time activities, if you wish to join in, range from Maldivian dancing to live music and white themed parties and were all well organised and a delight to watch.
It is the swimming and the sea for which the Maldives is rightly famous and as someone who is happy spending 8 hours a day or more in the sea it was heaven. The water as previously ecstatically mentioned is warm and clear and abundant with fish. The fish in the Maldives are very territorial and can almost always be found in the same place and it was a pleasure finding the same friends to play with each morning. They are very friendly and will come up and swim around you, darting around whilst feeding. This goes for the turtles too. There were a couple of Hawksbill turtles who were always just in front of our villa, about 5 metres out and you could swim with them every day and accompany them as they foraged for more of the undersea grasses they clearly enjoyed. Swimming with turtles every day was simply exceptional and hardly seems mentioned by the locals as it is such an every day experience, but it is wonderful diving down and floating up with them as they rise for air every so often. The turtles are used to people and very relaxed and will happily play as long as you don’t get too close or bother them. They will gently push you aside if you get in their way, but you should be very careful to respect their space and enjoy their presence without interfering with their leisurely dip. One of my favourite fish was the Yellowmargin Triggerfish which is a large beast with black and yellow markings and humongous pink lips. These lips look like the famous trout pout of a Los Angeles plastic surgeon gone wrong. They are magnificent, over a foot and half long and they will warn you if you get too near to their nest by darting at you from different directions. One interesting encounter saw me surrounded by two of them as they circled me, huge pink lips swinging around at great speed, until I moved away and they promptly forgot about me.
Kuredu is a wonderful introduction to the Maldives, its natural beauty is breathtaking, the range of activities on offer is extensive, and it caters for everyone, from the diver who will spend all the time in the incredible Indian Ocean and only needs a garden or beach bungalow to crash in at night, to the families in the beach villas, to the honeymoon couples in the adults only Sangu resort, and finally the ultimate Sultan villas with their own private pools for that extra taste of luxury. One fly in the ointment is the return journey. Make sure you get an early flight back as the seaplanes are not co ordinated with the return flights as much as they are with the arrivals. So for a later flight you risk being ushered to the airport 4 or 5 hours before your connection and wasting half a day sitting in the lounge, which when you have paid handsomely for your trip is a poor end to the holiday. Despite this we highly recommend the resort. The people, service, food, amenities, location and sheer natural beauty make this a perfect place to spend your holiday. Whilst not the height of luxury, neither are you being charged luxury prices and Kuredu gives you elements of luxury in stunning surroundings at great value.
Kuredu has one of the highest return rates for guests we have ever seen and in fact we met many people who had been coming for 10, 15, even 17 years, though the record stands at 33 times. Normally this is not something we would do, preferring to try new places each time, but with Kuredu we might make an exception.
For more lovely photographs of Kuredu Resort in the Maldives click here.