Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef, Maldives
We’d normally go skiing with a week’s holiday in February, but due to an alcohol-induced dancefloor-sustained lunging injury, that wasn’t going to be an option this year. With a month to go Darling Man declared himself capable of little more than lying around, so our dreams of snowy white pistes and mulled wine turned into visions of sandy white beaches and mojitos.
We pored over various websites before deciding to go with Kuoni: the prices seemed competitive, what we could expect from the package was transparent and we’ve always had great experiences with their customer service and attention to finer details. Our criteria were less straightforward- we wanted a resort small enough to feel intimate but with enough facilities to keep it interesting. We were concerned about feeling trapped on a small island, yet wanted it to feel exclusive. We wanted high quality à la carte dining, but from an all inclusive package. Oh, and we wanted a water bungalow. This was to be our one and only visit to the Maldives- of course it had to be the iconic water bungalow!
We talked about how much to spend. Then we had a look at what was available online. You probably won’t be surprised to hear we then renegotiated our budget. Statements such as “we’ll only visit the Maldives once, so we may as well do it properly” and “we were going to spend this amount anyway, it’s only a little bit extra” were bandied around. In fact, seven nights all-inclusive at Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef fell into the middle ground of Maldives prices: eye watering, but not wholly obscene. Whilst it is the most I’ve ever spent on a holiday, I was fairly confident I wouldn’t regret it- and I was right.
We arrived at our small island retreat in the North Malé Atoll by private boat transfer from the airport- all part of the hotel service, with refreshing juice and cold towels to reinvigorate us after our long flight. The overnight travelling had taken it out of us but approaching the resort I was bolstered by a fresh surge of excitement and anticipation (read: became a giddy schoolgirl) as I took in the sight before me. Remember that old desktop background photo of a paradise island that looks like all the colours are enhanced, or the motivational poster with the corny slogan about dreams becoming reality? That’s how it looked: unreal. I would have no problems finding my inner peace here.
So far, so good- and so on for a week. I don’t want to sicken you with the fabulousness of it, so I’ll try and be brief. Our room was heavenly- yes, we could get straight out of bed and step off the deck into the turquoise lagoon. Yes, the bathtub was the size of a small swimming pool and the rain shower had a view of the sea. Yes, we made good use of the all-inclusive cocktail menu and enjoyed scrumptious meals in all three restaurants including the pop-up Thai on the beach.
Actually, on the subject of all-inclusive- if you have been put off by resorts that offer a very limited choice of food and more importantly drinks in their AI package then fear not: the hotel offers an extensive wine and cocktail menu (including Cava and Prosecco), with supplements only for certain speciality choices (such as lobster) and dining in the beach BBQ or pop-up restaurant. So no need to feel guilty about that extra glass of fizz!
Whilst I am more than content to spend a week lazing on a lounger with a good book and an occasional dip in the sea, DM requires a little more diversion and I was concerned that even paradise wouldn’t keep him quiet occupied for a week. A walk around the island took 15 minutes stopping for photos along the way, so we ticked that off most days. We also participated gladly in hotel-run freebies like a sunset boat trip and cocktail-making lessons (a subtle disguise for cocktail-drinking sessions) by the pool. But the hands-down winner was the snorkelling. Stepping straight out from our water bungalow (did I mention that?) we could explore the resort’s private reef full of colourful underwater activity. On a guided snorkelling tour around the island, outside the confines of the lagoon but still within a short swim, we saw where the reef drops away into deep blue nothingness; truly awesome. We encountered turtles, reef sharks, octopedes* and stingrays, as well as a kaleidoscope of jazzy fish all a few short splashes away from our hotel room. (*Yes, I had to look up the plural of octopus).
Though thrilled with the local offerings, DM was on a quest for manta rays and signed up for a morning’s diving with the in-house dive centre. I don’t quite have the diving bug yet, but I went along with my book and my sunscreen to enjoy the views from the boat. He surfaced from his first dive forlorn: despite being in one of the best sites in the world, no mantas. The dive guide suggested I jump in for a swim so between dives we donned masks and snorkels and went exploring. Lo and behold- the mantas came, shortly followed, to my utter disbelief, by dolphins. Was this really happening- a pod of wild dolphins swimming all around me? We can’t have been very interesting to them, as they dived away after about thirty seconds, but those thirty seconds alone were worth every penny of the holiday!
Seven days in paradise was enough, I think, to keep the memories magical and the bank balance intact. I’d been worried, perhaps, about a Maldives holiday feeling a little bland- artificial, or devoid of culture. Clearly, I’d underestimated the impact of Mother Nature in a place like this, as well as the value of some purely indulgent and relaxing time together. I’d jump at the chance to go back- but equally, there are so many places left to explore so sadly I think we’ll be leaving this one as the once-in-a-lifetime experience that we planned. If you’ve not been though, and are looking for a thoroughly relaxing and somewhat decadent escape, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
We stayed at Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef
We booked with Kuoni
We flew from Glasgow to Male via Dubai with Emirates