The idea of holidaying on secluded islands with the family never really appealed, but now I see the light reflecting off the white sands and turquoise waters
Two years of limited travel has prompted many a dream of distant shores and the ability to roam with abandon once more. I’ve always believed that change is as good as a rest and have often opted for busier breaks rather than an escape to a beach destination.
The opportunity though to visit the Maldives, after a stressful couple of years for us all as a family, was embraced and it was one of the best holiday decisions we’ve made, altering our perceptions of what it could be like to experience this unique destination.
First impressions from the air on our flight from Dubai, of course, inspired some awe. The ocean here is almost transparent and its turquoise hue is as much a signature of the Maldives as its pure white sands. This excitement helps to dull any frustrations at the airport, which is busy and poorly developed for the number of visitors arriving on the dedicated island assigned to it.
Connections from the capital, Malé, are either by boat or seaplane and transit times are fluid depending on the number of passengers travelling to any given island. We were fortunate to not have a long wait, which was around one and a half hours, but it is a factor for consideration if you were to think of a long weekend from the UAE as it makes the short-haul hop a little more long-haul in overall travel time.
The journey though is part of the experience, and the seaplane flight is thrilling with most passengers documenting the best part of it on their mobile phones. Unsurprisingly, this was my wife Jozina’s first holiday post on Instagram as the plane skids threw up a white froth and the spectacular island resort came into sharper focus.
Reflecting on it now, I’m not sure that any other place we’ve visited has inspired quite so many idyllic snaps.
Our first home in the Maldives was Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa and our hosts made us immediately welcome as we stepped onto the jetty. Open since late last year, we found this to be a fabulous resort and despite it enjoying very high occupancy during our stay, the beaches, facilities and outlets seemed quiet, and privacy was possible almost everywhere.
Before coming to the Maldives, I was concerned that it would be full of honeymooners and bereft of children. Le Méridien, though, has a truly exceptional children’s club and my eight-year-old son, Oscar, was asking to go each day, almost to the point where we were discouraging him, so he could spend more time with us.
We were on an all-inclusive package and were thankful for that as almost all produce is imported specially to the country and then to specific islands. Understandably, this hikes prices quite dramatically from what you’d be paying at home and may prompt you to think twice before ordering that extra Mai Tai. We had no such qualms.
We chose to stay in a beach cottage with a private pool rather than in an overwater villa considering we were travelling with Oscar. This also worked out very well and we delighted in our walks along the beach between our accommodation and various outlets, spotting a multitude of hermit crabs that had adopted shells of all shapes and sizes as homes.
Typically, we don’t plan ahead and spontaneously take up (or not take up) activities on any given day. This time though, we were aware of the resort being busy and had an established itinerary of activities each day, along with advance bookings at popular restaurants we’d read about online. We found this to be refreshing and it gave us something to look forward to as a family, with us ending up doing a lot more and really enjoying it.
We did the staple dolphin tour and snorkelling trip, which were as spectacular as you’d expect, but the highlights were perhaps less predictable. Our family lunch at Greenhouse was one, which is a unique project at the hotel where homegrown vegetables are nurtured and served to the tables of various outlets on the island. We were hosted by Executive Chef Brett Muller, who prepared and garnished our freshly picked salads and oversaw our freshly grilled prawns and steak prepared in Korean style with immense bursts of flavour.
Following a tour through the vegetable garden and a fascinating explanation of how the greenhouse is managed, Oscar tired over the course of our lunch and the staff were quick to prepare him a makeshift resting place as we enjoyed the remainder of our indulgent yet healthy and fresh meal.
On our third day at the hotel, we made a short trip to a private island belonging to the resort, just 10 minutes away by speedboat. We felt like true castaways with just ourselves and hotel staff for company who had prepared a wonderful picnic basket and a shaded area for us to relax and play in the sand with Oscar.
The manicured beaches of the Maldives are exactly as you would expect, and it clearly takes a lot of work to keep them so pristine with the world literally against them with tides of plastic arriving on their shores throughout the year. None of this is seen though by guests as a frontline of workers busy their days on clean-up operations, removing debris as well as footprints from the shoreline, keeping them in picture-perfect form. We had great appreciation for the staff who not only worked under the sunlight but always shared a warm smile and greeting with guests.
Indulgence is a word that came up a lot when discussing the Maldives with Jozina during our stay. My goodness did we eat! But what surprised us is the adventurous nature of Oscar’s eating habits on our trip. He was so inspired on a visit to Tabemasu Japanese Teppanyaki that he had a feast like never before.
Ronando is the teppanyaki chef and he put on an Oscar-winning performance. He really pulled off some magic as our son followed the entertaining food preparation by fully immersing himself in a meal of scallops with caviar in teriyaki reduction; flaming hibachi sushi topped with foie gras; seared tuna steaks and a bowl of garlic, onion and vegetable fried rice; king prawns; and then Wagyu steaks; finally topped off with a chocolate brownie and coconut ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so impressed and was in true awe of his eight-year-old palate.
We stayed at Le Méridien for four glorious days. They felt long for all the right reasons, and we looked forward to each meal and activity with each exceeding our expectations. We dined at all the outlets and enjoyed sitting with our feet in the sand at most of them, from the relaxed Waves Café to the fine dining venue, Velaa Bar & Grill, on the beach.
A standout of our experience was the quality and consistency present throughout the resort. The pre-opening members of the hotel team, led by General Manager Nilesh Singh, have carried over into operations and the passion for hospitality and attentiveness to guests married perfectly into the outstanding facilities and accommodation on the island.
Plan the perfect trip
Most international airlines offer direct or connecting flights to Velana International Airport. UAE-based carrier Emirates operates daily direct four-hour flights from Dubai to Malé.
TransfersSeaplane transfers from Velana International Airport to Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa will be arranged with your reservation.
Take your pick from 11 accommodation categories at the resort, including beach bungalows and villas in a variety of configurations as well as overwater villas with sunrise or sunset views.
Sample world flavours at the resort
- Turquoise: International all-day dining
- Tabemasu: Japanese cuisine
- Waves Café: Light bites
- Velaa Bar + Grill: Light bites by day, grilled dishes for dinner
- Riviera: Seafood
- :atitude: Coffee house
Explore Spa, open from 9am until 9pm, offers massages and body treatments that revive the senses, while Waves Fitness Centre offers weekly fitness classes, including morning yoga sessions with views of the Indian Ocean.
Why the white sand? This is pulverised coral and a good deal of it comes from parrot fish, with each one contributing as much as 100 kilograms of it a year from its consumption of coral that goes along with the vegetation attached to it, as it grazes its way along the reefs.
To discover more about the resort: lemeridien-maldives.com