For many years I had the goal of visiting the Maldives and experience first hand its beauty, its sparkling clear ocean and pure white sand. However as it’s a remote destination it can be expensive, hence why it was always far down my bucket list. So a spontaneous decision to head there for Christmas was filled with much excitement and disbelief. We knew it was going to be a little pricey but for a family of five that’s always going to be the case wherever we travel.
This was our family’s first resort vacation. We are famous for running our kids around the world sightseeing North America, Europe and Australasia in all sorts of temperate conditions. So the idea of us sitting still and confined to an island for a week was something rather foreign. So how did we do? I am happy to report we did amazingly well. We nailed the lazy poolside dwellers, the first day sunburn, sleeping all morning, staying up late and meandering slow bike rides around the island. The kids roamed the island on bikes and enjoyed their newfound freedom and enjoying the well-scheduled kids club activities. Having an all-inclusive package meant my husband and I enjoyed the poolside activities – the cocktail list permanently by our side and never pulling out the wallet.
How to get to the Maldives
The Maldives is situated in the Indian Ocean just off the west coast of Sri Lanka, and actually consists of of around 1,192 coral islands and sand bars so you need to take seaplanes or boats to get to any of the islands. If you’re a person with a fear of flying cramming into a 15-seater seaplane will quite possibly not be your thing. They are extremely noisy and a little claustrophobic but totally exhilarating if you’re in to adventure. There is nothing more exciting than reading the pilot’s navigational display from your seat – it feels so close you could touch them. Flying across the many islands you just can’t believe how clear and stunning the water is! There are no adjectives nor photographs to do it justice – you just have to see it for yourself.
The Maldives has the unique title of being the lowest country in the world rising only 2.5 metres above sea level. As you can image it was heavily affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami that devastated much of the coastlines from Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka in December 2004. Six islands were destroyed and 102 locals killed. As a result the government is very active about climate change and are buying land in far away countries as an alternative to re-housing their population. This idea means they won't be refugees when rising sea levels start lapping up their lands. I think it’s fair to charge tourists premium rates to ensure a future for the beautiful warm and friendly Maldivian people.
Where we stayed
We stayed at Atmosphere Kanifushi a 40-minute seaplane ride from the capital Male. On our arrival we were warmly welcomed at the pier and traditional drummer lead us to check-in where a cool glass of bubbles was waiting for us and fresh coconuts for the kids. We had a tour of the island and all its offerings, even though we were weary travellers from a 2am start, we were bursting to get out and experience it all. As it was my husband’s birthday the room was beautifully decorated with a birthday cake and wine and if we had managed to keep our eyes open and stay up past 8pm – there was something else planned at dinner.
The best villa to stay in for a family
We stayed in a Sunset Family Villa, which according to Atmosphere Kanifushi are some of the larger family villas in the Maldives. We had connecting villas so the kids had their own space with a bathroom and we had ours. The beautiful bathrooms have no ceiling and it felt like a zen Japanese rock garden with frangipanis trees, a huge walk in shower and double sized spa bath. There was nothing better than having a bath staring at the sky and listening to the birds and the ocean. At night, the house staff would light mosquito coils to keep the bathrooms bug free and there were also the resident geckos to collect the rest of any bugs. But if you have a bug phobia rest assured you will not see that many creatures.
This type of villa was much more agreeable than having all five of us cramped into one room but if you’re a smaller family there are a range of detached villas and suites with different options. The villas are all very secluded and private facing out to the ocean so every morning when you open your eyes you wake up with a smile as you take in the beautiful sea view
The location of our villa was ideal for our family as it was close to the main resort. This meant, the Spa (across from our villa), the Kids Club, restaurants and pool bar, and the dive centre and jetty were all short walks away. Being more central was also great for our kids to come and go as they pleased. If you want to be away from it all, there are some beautiful Sunset Pool Villas up the very end of the Island. Getting around the island is easy – buggies are roaming around regularly but we preferred hiring the bikes ($1 USD a day) or walking.
What activities are there at the Atmosphere Kanifushi?
It seemed like everyday there was always something happening – from sunrise yoga (never got there I have to admit), henna and kids club treasure hunts, scuba diving and boat trips to the neighoubouring islands. The first couple of days we did nothing except try lots of cocktails by the pool and eat our body weight in fresh food. There was an event happening every night after dinner from kids disco, bingo and quiz nights. One night they held a crab race which bought everyone together and raised money for some of the local islands. On Christmas eve there was a amazing banquet dinner with a great selection of food, entertainment and amazing deserts. While my kids (11, 8 and 7) were leaning towards the “too old” spectrum of the kids club, they really enjoyed hanging out with the lovely staff and enjoyed activities like decorating the Christmas tree and the gingerbread house. Of course they were rather impressed with Santa's daring visit on a jet ski dropping off gifts to the kids, which made their day! The Recreation Club next to the kids club had tennis, table tennis some board games and xbox or playstation for the older kids. The staff became good friends with my daughter as she roped them into play pool with her all day! They were so patient and kind. While the kids were kept busy all day my husband and I snuck off for a couples massage at the Spa which was heavenly.
What diving activities are there in the Maldives?
There are a number of daily boat trips, snorkelling, diving or sightseeing neighbouring Islands, but make sure to sign up early as we found they booked out fast. We managed to get a snorkelling trip with the turtles – an additional cost for me ($80 USD) but a freebie for my daughter who won it at a quiz night. It was well worth it and a magnificent experience. My 11 year old who hadn’t snorkelled before was in awe of the fish and the reef, which would drop off in the dark deep blue. We managed to spot a number of huge turtles swimming around us, which was magical. For those who love the water, the sea temperature in December is perfect. The water is incredibly salty, which adds to your buoyancy making it easy to snorkel. Even if you’re not confident in the water, there are life jackets that some people were snorkelling in. While the selection of fish and the reef in the Maldives are awash with vivid colours, in my opinion nothing compares to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The best food in the Maldives
When the sun finished showing off its magnificent sunset in the evening, the choice of where to eat was the hardest thing to decide on. There was the nightly mouth watering buffet at The Spice restaurant, which catered to a wide range of delicacies. My favourite dinning experience was the cool beach shack, Ceylon Bliss, serving Sri Lankan street food while sitting under the trees on the edge of the ocean. It was great to be perched at the counter chatting to the chef as he made different items for your thali tray. Just Veg, as the name suggests, is a vegetarians delight dedicated entirely to fresh vegetarian food from the Mediterranean, Arabic, and Indian cuisines. Hidden down the far end of the Island was a little teppanyaki restaurant, (which we missed out on getting to unfortunately) which I heard only good things about from friends who had been. Something also hidden away down the other end of the island is a kids free swimming pool and bar which was a great escape for my husband and I, as well as people who weren’t interested in sharing a pool with kids doing bomb dives and babies in nappies!
The best staff
The staff at Atmosphere Kanifushi really made the place so special. Nothing was too hard for them. All the staff gave 100% everyday and were personable and genuinely friendly. You couldn’t have felt more welcomed and loved! The staff seemed to always remember you wherever you roamed on the Island. They ranged from people of all nationalities from all around the world and were always smiling (who wouldn't working there)!
How to book for the Maldives
We took a package holiday through Alpha Maldives and they are THE champions to sort out your trip. We gave them dates and a rough budget and they put together a number of options for us. It was the all-inclusive package that really sold us, as we didn’t have to keep shelling our cash. I think for a family of five that it worked out in our favour but once again it's still a pricy destination. From fast and friendly online communications, to meeting us at Male airport and getting us to our seaplane transfers Alpha Maldives were faultless and we felt well looked after. We loved the place so much and were so utterly relaxed we didn’t want to leave so extended our stay – right in the middle of the busy Christmas period. Alpha Maldives coordinated with the resort, got us a good deal and rearranged the transfer back to Male. It was so easy my husbands pulse didn’t flinch at all when the bill came in when we left! Some things are life is just meant to be. Spending at least a week is the best way to get your full-on Island mojo happening. Anything less and you’ll leave crying and wanting more.
How to get to the Maldives
Getting to the Maldives can be a hike for some. Thankfully for us the flight was only a four-hour trip from Dubai as Emirates fly direct to Male. Many airlines from Europe, like Turkish Airlines, Air France, Austrian and Lufthansa fly direct or stop over in the Middle East. I spied Aeroflot and British Airways on the tarmac in Male and there were many Russians and English around the resort obviously avoiding the dark cold winter back home. Maldivian Airlines connects around the region to China, India and Thailand, plus Sri Lankan Airlines, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific fly in from other parts of Asia. As we know airlines come and go and code sharing changes regular so shop around for the best way to get to the Maldives. As someone who has travelled extensively around the world, nothing has made me smile as much and speak so animatedly as I do when people ask me about the Maldives! It is well worth the visit! And I can ‘t recommend it enough.
Alpha Maldives - for your bookings
Atmosphere Kanifushi - for your pleasure
These are all my free opinions - I wasn't paid by any of the companies mentioned. Unfortunately.