A clichéd combination of palm trees wrapped up with a ribbon of dazzling white sand is all we dream about after a day-long flight from New Zealand, followed by a seaplane trip and a speedboat ride. That’s the journey you make in the 21st century to escape the crowds and reach a tranquil paradise that is Kandolhu.
Tucked in the North Ari Atoll, 70km away from Male, this tiny resort hosts only 30 villas, each offering exceptional privacy. Our over-water bungalow with a personal access to iconic turquoise water is facing the colourful house reef, known as one of the best places for diving in the Maldives. As proof, we immediately spot a gorgeous sea turtle not further than five metres away from our terrace. There won’t be a better moment to make the most out of the complimentary GoPros and snorkeling gear! Kandolhu guests are also spoilt by a whole bag of beach necessities, yoga mats, iPad with access to every resort’s facility — everything left thoughtfully in your room.
Canadian Marc and Brit Laura, who’ve ruled the resort since its opening in 2014, place special emphasis on those touching details. They also personally greet all the visitors and are always keen for a cocktail chat at Vilu Bar, should you be seeking a company after a day of being one at one with the local lush nature. No formality though – Marc and Laura take the unofficial Maldivian logo “no news, no shoes” seriously. Every Friday there is also a small soiree with fresh coconuts by the diving centre.
Food and culinary experiences are the cornerstone at Kandolhu. They proudly hold the highest ratio of restaurants to number of guests in the country. Next to Vilu Bar is the spacious laid-back market, ideal for breakfasts and light lunch. Above it is the Mediterranean Olive, serving pasta for dinner. The beautiful Sea Grill behind is notorious for the walls, built out of the local corals. Totally illegal these days, but not when an old coral house at risk of being destroyed was re-used to perpetuate this part of Maldivian history.
We book dinner at Banzai, probably the main foodie gem of the resort. The exquisite Japanese restaurant serves dinner with a spectacular teppan show for only six people per night. If the Maldives are paradise on Earth, this vegetable teppanyaki must have been cooked by angels!
Though anything connected with food is pretty much our type of vacations, we did our best to squeeze some more activities in between savouring endless rows of exotic dishes. Sunset cruises, glass-bottom kayaks, stand-up paddle-boards, windsurfing — all water sports are free and non-motorized, nothing should spoil the serenity of this luxurious island.
Varu Spa is a place to unite your mind, body and soul. Located in the heart of the island, shielded by the greenery and designed in the form of the giant local canoe, this place makes us freeze in admiration. Two-story Varu Spa is imbued with the light and revitalizing aromas. We relax in a small pool and saunas before the couples’ Thai massage followed by tea and healthy snacks.
To extend the moment of pure bliss, we head to the library, located above the reception. Just like everything here, the library is airy and boasts magnificent views. It starts to rain and we share the cosy warm space with a grey heron, a residential local bird who made himself comfortable next to my bean bag. I soak in the moment, open the book and smile — I’m definitely in paradise!
Words: Kseniia Spodyneiko
Photos: Alex Spodyneiko