FAIRYTALE HOLIDAYS FOR EVERYONE
The Maldives is no longer just a fairytale destination for honeymooners and affluent travellers. New resorts and flights are making this Indian Ocean paradise more accessible than ever. The archipelago will welcome 40 resorts between now and the end of 2018 on top of the spate of openings in the past few years.
A wide range of accommodation – from affordable guesthouses, to mid-tier resorts and ultra-high-end resorts, as well as live-aboard cruises – has also spread the playing field to the outlying atolls.
Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation deputy director Rafil Mohamed says the number of Australians visiting the Maldives has risen in the past 12 months and there is huge potential for more.
“Numerous factors are contributing to the increase,” he says. “Among them, a greater propensity for Australians ... to explore far-off exotic locations, increasing disposable incomes, greater awareness and word-ofmouth recommendations by travellers (and) our 30-day free onarrival visa. The Maldives is (also) an attractive prospect for surfers, due to the pristine surfing conditions of the Maldives.” CELESTE MITCHELL Not since the Maldivian government gave the green light for tourists to stay in guesthouses has a stay in the Maldives been so affordable. This month, Mercure will open its first Maldives property in Gaafu Alifu Atoll. It may be budget friendly but it certainly won’t skimp on the expected luxuries, such as restaurants, pool with pool bar, spa, gym and dive centre. The 68 villas (including 43 overwater and 25 set along the beach) all come with outdoor showers and deep bathtubs. Meals are served overlooking the pool and that dreamy lagoon at Alita Restaurant, while VISTAS is set out over the water and serves a tapas-inspired menu. The resort is accessed by a 55-minute domestic flight from Male International Airport rather than private charter. When a resort has a famous supermodel “face”, you know it’s going to be glamorous. At the reopening of Kanuhura in late 2016, American Erin Wasson was appointed as the perfect embodiment of its new-found “gypset” style. Found in the Lhaviyani Atoll and accessed via seaplane transfer, here you can leave regular life behind and flit between your bungalow or overwater villa, the main pool and 10 restaurants and bars, including Drift grill on Jehunuhura, Kanuhura’s own exclusive private island. Book in for a treatment at Kokaa Spa and join in meditation and yoga classes in the hatha yoga studio. When you need a bit more action, snorkelling tours, big game fishing, watersports and sunset cruises are on the menu. It’s hard to adequately describe the feeling of riding a cruiser bike along the raised boardwalks of this resort in the remote Thaa Atoll. Or how a massage in the overwater spa can send you into a depth of relaxation you never knew possible. The food is a highlight with three restaurants and Taste of the Indian Ocean-themed buffet nights. Watch reef sharks and stingrays play in the shallows beyond your toes at Tai Japanese restaurant as the sun sets. Book surfing lessons or trips to nearby surf breaks, grab a paddle and stand-up paddleboard across the impossibly clear lagoon, go on a dolphin-spotting cruise or night snorkel, or swim over to a nearby private island and feel like a marooned castaway – at least for the day.