Dreaming of a tropical escape, but not sure where to spoil the family this summer? Richard Holmes recommends you look no further than the paradise islands of the Maldives.
Slides & snorkels
You’re never too old for a waterslide. And when that slide curls from atop your luxury suite into a crystalline sea, so much the better. That’s the selling point of the over-water retreats at Soneva Fushi, but the resort is also one of the best places to snorkel with manta rays, with easy access to the Baa Atoll, the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. Snorkelling and scuba tours whisk guests to Hanifaru Bay, 20 minutes from the resort by speedboat, which has one of the world’s largest populations of manta rays.
It’ll only take one seaplane transfer for you to realise just why the Maldives is celebrated as the quintessential tropical paradise. As the pilot guns the engine and the floats lift out of the warm embrace of the Indian Ocean, the necklace of islands and atolls reveals itself in a dome of impossibly blue water. Islets of white coral sands, lush palms at their heart, lie surrounded by shallow seas and fringing coral reefs. Wooden walkways snake sinuously out into the ocean, sprouting generous over-water bungalows that offer the last word in luxury, privacy and tropical splendour, while between the atolls deep blue channels hint at the marine life that draws divers and fishers from around the globe.
Before you know it you’re descending again, the roar of the engine softened to a purr as the pilot dips the floats back onto welcoming waters to tie up at the wooden jetty. Your island holiday awaits and the Maldives is ready to impress.
But with hundreds of islands dotted across the turquoise sea, where do you begin? Whether it’s family fun or a dash of vinous adventure, let us point you in the right direction…
From skiing in the French Alps to kicking back on the beaches of Mauritius, Club Med has long been popular with South Africans, its large resorts offering a galaxy of activities and entertainment that ranges from spa serenity to action-packed kids’ clubs. The fact that it’s all-inclusive only sweetens the deal. Which makes Club Med Kani a fine option for those dipping their toes into the Maldives for the first time. Kani presents 246 rooms both on the island and in over-water villas, with a wide choice of activities led by qualified instructors. Four sea-view bars and three restaurants, including feet-in-the-sand beach dining, help make for a memorable family escape.
With some 1,200 islands across 200 atolls, the Maldives is nothing short of an underwater paradise for scuba divers, with warm waters, pristine reefs and endless visibility. Throw in the chance to dive with marine mega-fauna from manta rays to whale sharks and you’ll soon see why divers jet in from across the globe. Most resorts offer accredited dive centres, with certified instructors and dive masters on hand for guided dives and courses for beginners. You’ll enjoy incredible diving right across the archipelago, but a room at the refurbished LUX* South Ari Atoll allows easy access to some of the best dive sites in the Maldives for spotting whale sharks and manta rays.
Have a swing
In a nation made up largely of H20, it’s perhaps surprising to find a Maldivian resort offering the chance to putt for birdies. But in the Lhaviyani Atoll, 145km north of the capital city of Malé, Kuredu Resort lies on a fun six-hole par-three golf course that’s unique in the Maldives. Alongside the course you’ll find a full-size driving range and large putting greens. The fairways aren’t the only grass that counts though. The sea-grass that thrives in the shallow waters of the atoll enables Kuredu to host one of the largest populations of green sea turtles in the Maldives. Pack your goggles.
Cast a line
With its warm waters and castaway location in the Indian Ocean it’s no surprise the Maldives has some of the best deep-sea fishing on the planet. The star of the show is the hard-fighting giant trevally, which can be caught here year-round, both on the reefs and over the sand flats. Tuna is another mainstay, of both the local economy and for sport fishers flying in, and this is a great place to try your hand at traditional pole fishing. In the deeper waters look to hook anything from wahoo to sailfish and marlin. Kids can also try traditional hand-line fishing, with most resorts offering hour-long reef fishing excursions on traditional wooden dhonis.
You can fish throughout the year in the Maldives, but the best time is from November to March, when the north-east monsoon season brings calmer waters to the eastern atolls.
With a resort spread across islands dubbed ‘Play’ and ‘Chill’, you know you’ve come to the right spot for a fun-filled family break. On Niyama Private Islands, at the southern end of the Dhaalu Atoll, kids will be happiest on the island of ‘Play’, where the Explorers kids’ club delivers a memorable outdoor experience in the company of trained child-minders. An engaging programme ranges from discovering Maldivian culture to spotting dolphins in the waters offshore. And while the kids are happy, parents can head over to FLOAT, the world-class water sports centre with easy access to a private surf break.
Speaking of surfing, the Maldives has long had a reputation for some of the world’s finest surf breaks, centred on the North Malé and South Malé atolls. Surfing is best from April to October, when offshore winds clean up the southerly swells that wrap around the atolls to form perfect point breaks. Live-aboard surf charters are ideal for committed surfers who want long hours on and in the water, but for those balancing family with time on the backline, the likes of Ayada Maldives and Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma are ideal.
Sleep with the fishes
Won the lotto or spending the kids’ inheritance? Blow some of it on a night in The Muraka, the incredible underwater villa offshore of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort. Above water you’ll find two spacious suites, expansive living areas and a private infinity pool, but down below is where you’ll be truly blown away. The underwater master suite boasts a king-size bedroom beneath a curved acrylic dome sunk 5m below the surface. It’s yours for just $50,000 a night.
After the past year we could all do with a little R&R and whether that takes the form of a detox massage or having your chakras realigned, you’ve come to the right place. Our pick is Six Senses Laamu, the only resort on the remote southern Laamu Atoll. The focus here is holistic, with wellness experts on hand to fashion a programme that incorporates exercise, diet and rest, all woven seamlessly into a luxury escape. The ‘Sleep with Six Senses’ is exceptional, using bespoke bedding, room scents, acoustic inputs and wearable tech to help you learn to sleep better.
Pop the cork
Tropical holidays may make you think of piña coladas, but at Constance Halaveli you won’t have to leave your love for fine wine behind. Across the resort’s six restaurants and bars, guests have access to two remarkable wine cellars, with experienced sommeliers to lead tastings and tours for wine aficionados. The wine list extends to almost 100 pages, with an incredible cross-section of New World stars and Old World icons. The downside? Prices in US dollars aren’t cheap.