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From Sea to Shore
Beth Weitzman | Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives | April 25, 2014
With two private islands and a floating resort, the Four Seasons Resorts Maldives take exotic to extremes.
The coddling continues the next morning for the breakfast buffet at Café Huraa, where two alfresco pavilions serve up priceless views of the pool and ocean. A white-stone floor and high thatched roofs set a breezy setting for the almost endless breakfast options, including made-to-order eggs, waffles, Asian specialties, breads, sweet treats and a juice bar. But these indulgences are just the beginning. The only freestanding island spa in the Maldives awaits, and getting there for my zone-out Kuda Huraa massage—one on a long list of available services—entails a zippy dhoni boat ride. Entering through the intimate, open-air reception area, which doubles as a spa boutique, I’m given a cup of tea, then escorted to the treatment room; partially exposed to the elements, it sets the perfect scene for the relaxed Asian therapy that combines Thai pressure point, Filipino hilot and Malaysian urut with the healing benefits of virgin coconut oil. (Quite uniquely, lunar-inspired treatments are offered from 10pm to 1am.)
Lunch back at Café Huraa consists of delicious grilled fish tacos, before we’re due at the Marine Discovery Centre, a research and education facility that regales us with an introduction to the resort’s impressive conservation programs focused on turtles, coral reefs, sharks and dolphins. Particularly important is the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme, a series of projects across Four Seasons Resorts Maldives that serve to protect, monitor, relocate, release, rear and rehabilitate the animals. We also learn about the Reefscapers program, a regeneration initiative running concurrently at Kuda Huraa and sister property Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. One of the most successful of its kind, the program involves attaching coral fragments onto specially designed coral frames, which helps existing reef habitats grow and facilitates new ones.
Later, we’re introduced to the far more familiar, surfing, via a class with on-site Tropicsurf, followed by some sunset fishing. There’s no shortage of available activities on offer: nature walks, windsurfing, waterskiing, fishing, paddleboarding, guided reef snorkeling, kayaking, cooking classes, and half- and full-day guided excursions for island-hopping, dolphin-watching and island picnics. With an on-site dive team and more than 30 dive sites within a 10- to 45-minute boat ride from the resort, diving is among the most popular pursuits, with vibrant reef and aquatic life ranking among the world’s best. Although I don’t dive, I live vicariously through the tales of others who do, and they’re raving about the experience.
Dinner on this beautiful night is at Baraabaru, beneath grand Keralan columns amid flaming tiki torches. We’re here for the special Ghar Ka Khana, or “homestyle cooking” in Hindi, buffet, featuring classic dishes from across the Indian subcontinent—from curries and kebabs, breads and biryanis, chutneys and salads to more than 10 desserts. Situated right on the water, the resto offers views of both the ocean and chefs cooking in the open kitchen and tandoori bar.
On the last morning at Kuda Huraa, I seriously consider sunrise yoga, but am instead swayed by a leisurely breakfast at Café Huraa, then some sun on one of the chaise lounges lining the beach. Here, in true Four Seasons style, staff occasionally waltz by with chilled water, fruit sticks, mini ice creams and smoothies. There’s even someone to clean your sunglasses!
While we are sad to leave this oasis, the fact that we’re due for an afternoon and evening on the Four Seasons Explorer—our stylish transport to the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru—eases the blow, particularly because the legendary Four Seasons service doesn’t stop at the shoreline. Our journey is quick, only a day, but standard itineraries span three, four or seven nights. The luxurious, three-deck liveaboard catamaran is home to 10 spacious, well-appointed staterooms and one splurgeworthy Explorer Suite, with a maximum of 22 guests per marine adventure. Combined with an air-conditioned indoor and outdoor restaurant, two bars, a PADI five-star dive center and a marine biologist aboard, the Explorer is a water aficionado’s dream. All-inclusive itineraries feature a minimum of three dives daily via an accompanying dhoni in some of the Maldives’ most coveted locales: untouched reefs, vibrant thilas, channels and wrecks, prime sunrise and night sites, and seasonal hot spots for manta ray and whale sharks. Many other activities such as snorkeling, waterskiing, fishing, kayaking, visits to cloistered islands and relaxing with onboard massages will delight all, even nondivers. And when darkness falls, dining on superfresh seafood under the stars is simply unforgettable.