As the seatbelt sign illuminated to signal the end of my 10-hour flight from London, I glanced out the window below and realised this vast expanse of crystal blue sea punctuated by tiny islets was, in fact, an entire country.
The Maldives territory spans 90,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean, the vast majority of which is covered in water. It’s no wonder this geographical gem is one of the top destinations in the world for diving, snorkelling and anything related to water sports. Visitors from all nations are attracted to these beautiful shores, including many from Israel.
Interestingly, Israel was the first country to send an ambassador, Abraham Darome, after the UK relinquished control of the territory in the late 1950s. Subsequently, it was the first Muslim country to recognise the state of Israel and although there were no official relations between these two countries for 30 years from the 1970s, relations were again established in 2009.
Coming in to land, I notice the airport is literally a landing strip in the middle of the ocean, which is one of the 1,190 islands making up this unique state in the sea – and includes Male, which at just 6sq km, is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. Heading straight out of arrivals, we boarded a boat and were whisked off to our resort.
Kurumba (meaning coconut) is only 10 minutes away from the airport by boat and the iced towels and water served on this short transfer were a welcome contrast to the 30º temperature outside.
On arrival, the tone for the rest of the stay was set by our aptly-named welcome host, Joy. After personally escorting us to our deluxe bungalow and giving us a tour, he refused to take a tip, which epitomised the hospitality here.
Our accommodation lived up to its name, with all the extras you would expect from a five-star resort, including a split level bathroom with a second, outside shower and double doors that opened on to a private verandah just a few steps away from the stunning, white sandy beach.
Guests can choose from a variety of room options as opulent as they are unique, half of which have their own private pool.
The Royal Kurumba Residence has two pools and jacuzzis and is perfect for families who will also appreciate the use of their own exclusive butler. Away from the beautiful bedrooms, there is an array of activities, such as Maldivian cooking classes, wine tasting in the sea, yoga and coral gardening.
Flood-lit tennis, painting sessions with a local artist and cocktail mixology are also available if you can tear yourself away from your sun lounger. However, don’t be fooled in to thinking the Maldives is just for honeymooners and couples. Kurumba’s Majaa Kids’ Club operates daily until 6pm, where four to 12-year-olds can immerse in the local culture with coconut arts, marine biology, fish feeding and beach games. Under fours can also join in if they have an accompanying parent. Two dedicated children’s pools are great for the little ones to splash around in if they still have the energy. Another great activity is the Sunset and Dolphin Discovery Cruise.
This two-hour treat takes you across the ocean waves, where you can experience the dolphin population in their natural habitat. For more adventurous thrill seekers, getting under the surface opens up a whole different world. Kurumba Dive Centre, run in partnership with Euro Divers, offers a range of services and tours from discover diving trips to PADI open water certification.
There are also snorkelling lessons for novices, as well as a snorkelling safari which I decided to join. The colour and variety of fish was breathtaking.
Coloured coral of every hue kept my eyes darting around inside my mask, with something new constantly coming into vision. I had to do a double take when I saw a shark swim just feet beneath me. My initial reaction was to panic and swim for England but, when I realised I wasn’t about to be eaten, carried on gliding through the sea.
Our guide later told me this was a Black Tip Shark that don’t feed on humans. Thank goodness for that. Back on dry land, it was time to eat again and it’s not difficult to see why Kurumba has won the coveted accolade of being Trip Advisor’s best all inclusive world-wide resort for 2015.
There are eight wonderful eateries on the island, all providing a good choice of vegetarian dishes and include Indian at Mahal, pan Asian at East and the best pasta I’ve eaten anywhere south of Sorrento at Duo Italian.
Sitting on stilts above the sea, the Hamakaze restaurant served great vegetarian sushi and tasty teriyaki sea bass. Karumba’s signature dining experience, however, was in Thila.
Its nettle risotto with tuna sashimi was stunning. Relaxation is also the order of the day in the Maldives. The Veli Spa offers a wide array of therapies and treatments and I indulged in the ‘Akarakaraa they dhemun’ or ‘Spirit of the Maldives’ massage. Kurumba was the first resort in the Maldives to open with just 60 guests in 1972 – today, 14,000 are welcomed every year.
With exceptional service, breathtaking views and stunning sunsets, it’s easy to see why so many are attracted to these pearly-white shores.
Kuoni offers seven nights with breakfast at the 5-star Kurumba, Maldives, in a deluxe room, including flights with Sri Lankan Airlines from Heathrow and group transfers in resort. Prices for September 2016 are from £1,524 per person, based on two sharing. To book, quote tour ref: IO0021.
For more information, visit www.kurumba.com or call 01306 747008.