Snuggled up on the sofa with our mugs of green tea we cuddled up under a blanket, radiator piping, watching a midweek movie after putting the kids to bed on another ordinarily drizzly British evening. The rain pitter pattered on the window, dinner dishes were piled up in the sink, all tummies full and finally the chance for some adults-only time after another hectic day. Free from the stresses of life and parenthood momentarily we laughed carelessly along to an uplifting comedy on TV. Life can be so loud, chaotic and fast-paced and I find myself craving peace, quiet and down-time, those meaningful and rare moments to feel at ease in each others company as a couple without even saying a word. As the vibrant adverts on TV lit up the cosy little lounge between breaks we began a light-hearted conversation about the cars, clothes and holidays on display that looked so incredibly tempting. Wouldn’t it be nice for us to get away!
I’ve always said that if I could go anywhere in the world for the holiday of my dreams then it would be a close call between exploring Thailand, doing yoga in Tibet or jetting off to a paradise island with pure white sands in a pretty little hut out over tropical blue water, a place honeymooners dream of, pure luxury and escapism. So what’s actually stopping us? Well, nothing apart from excuses. Having taken the children to Disneyland Paris just a few months ago I felt like I needed a holiday just to get over our holiday for how full-on and exhausting it was, and whilst I loved being away as a family it’s been years since I’ve had an adults only getaway to relax. There always seems to be a reason to not go – bills, childcare, pets, work or too many events in the calendar to ever set aside enough spare time and money to goy. Maybe there’s never an ideal time to get away, maybe the holiday of your dreams will only ever exist in your dreams if you’re too afraid to take the first step. Maybe, just maybe, our first holiday together as a couple will be the one that we talk about and cherish for the rest of forever? After all, if you’re going to do something then why not do it properly? All out, the full shebang!
So let’s go, let’s pack up our swimwear and coconut-scented suncream and just go to paradise, the two of us relaxing, tanning, eating well and working out on the beach at sunset. How blissfully perfect that would be to fall asleep to the soothing sound of the ocean and wake up to the golden glow of the sunrise over water. If life has taught me anything then it’s that time is so incredibly precious, you have to seize the day. Saying goodbye to three of our beloved pets this year, heartbreakingly watching my mother battle bowel cancer and finally finding love after turning thirty and spending the past six years as a single parent I think I’m well overdue the holiday of my dreams. And that’s how I realised I have no more excuses, no more what if’s, but’s or maybe’s. There is no better day than today.
And so we booked it, a week in paradise because life is too short not to. The furthest I’ve flown before is just a handful of hours across Europe – Greece, Italy, France, Barcelona, The Canary Islands and Amsterdam so the thought of a 13hr flight to the Indian Ocean is pretty adventurous and I’m taking some course material to read through in preparation for my nutrition exams once I’m home. I hope that in keeping a blog of our quest to find paradise that I may inspire and inform you to help you to do the same, go out and make your dreams a reality. So here I’ll keep a diary of everything we get up to, our exciting holiday preparations and all of the things I find out about it along the way. I’m an absolute newbie when it comes to the Maldives, I just always see these iconic pictures of beautiful huts out over the ocean and happy couples going on honeymoon and it makes me daydream about the thought of experiencing it myself one day. With one day now being… in three weeks time! Gosh, I have to start bikini shopping and sandal sourcing!
Seeing as we’re going in just 21 days time it means that I won’t have time to book in with my GP for holiday jabs. Unless you are flying from tropical Africa there are no requirements by law for vaccinations for the Maldives and as we’re going to a luxury 5-star location on a private island I feel safe in knowing that it will be clean and hygienic. It is recommended by the NHS that you cover against the main food and water borne diseases Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus when travelling abroad which should be done around 8 weeks before travelling.
We decided to book our flights, airport parking, resort and transfers separately to source the most direct, affordable and convenient travel and accommodation to suit our needs travelling from London Heathrow to Velana International Airport in the Maldives before transferring to our hotel. We chose the Kandima Maldives resort located in Dhaalu Atoll after searching through literally hundreds of hotels online. We wanted somewhere modern, well maintained and stylish yet relaxing and natural to escape and unwind – yes, we literally have opposing views! Whilst my boyfriend enjoys nightlife and modern luxuries I appreciate walking barefoot on the beach and enjoying nature so we decided on a villa out over the water rather than one of the villas or studio apartments on land. Dhaalu Atoll is a large natural lagoon with tropical island surroundings that is said to be breathtaking and has some pretty amazing reviews which we’re really looking forward to.
Kandima Maldives is one of the most stylish islands with ten restaurants, bars and multiple on-site activities to choose from. The website states: ‘Creatively designed to challenge the status quo based on the values of the umbrella brand Pulse Hotels & Resorts – smart, playful, rooted, responsible, human – Kandima Maldives is a place with soul, deeply rooted and respectful of our guests, colleagues, community, culture and surroundings. Here, it is all about genuine hospitality with a human touch and smart solutions that make use of the latest innovations – not to mention a playful spirit!’
They boast a 24/7 Den and games room offering a stylish setting to relax, meet, mingle or play. A spa with al fresco treatment areas, steam room, massage parlour and nail bar. A 24/7 urban activity jungle with state-of-the-art fitness facilities and personal trainers providing pilates, yoga, aqua fit, pound and boxing classes. A diving school with marine biology and watersports centre. A medical clinic complete with state-of-the-art medical technology, ultrasound, X-ray equipment and decompression chamber with European GP’s, dentist, nurses and a Diving Safety Officer. Scuba diving, jet-skiing, kite surfing, water-skiing, wakeboarding, kayaks, snorkelling, paddle-boarding. Aroma art studio for painting, coffee art, craft-making classes, photo studio, cookery and cocktail-making classes, massage, salsa, bike hire and volleyball. I’m so excited just writing this! Oh, and drinks in the restaurants and bars are pretty much the same as at home with a bottle of wine costing $35.00, cocktails $10.00, spirits $7.00, coffee $6.00 and soft drinks $5.00. It’s not our intention to be party animals and get drunk every night as we’re looking for a healthy relaxing break away but with all inclusive costing an extra £1,000.00 for the week we expect to spend less than this on drinks. The currency in the Maldives is USD dollars for which we can pay by credit card, Visa, American Express and MasterCard and all sockets are conveniently British.
Our holiday works out at just over £1,000.00 per day costing around £7,650/$10,000 in total for the week which equates to £4,841 for 6 days full board accommodation in an aqua villa with jacuzzi over the water. £50.00 Post office travel insurance for my single trip which was the most effective for high cover and low excess (my boyfriend has his insurance already included through his bank). £1,100 for two return adult flights with Qatar airlines, £100.00 petrol and parking at the airport, £540.00 transfers from the airport to and from the hotel and £1,000.00 spending money allowing £50.00 each per day for additional drinks / snacks / shops and £400.00 for extra activities. We’ll total it up when we get home and find out if we spend more or less than intended – it all depends on how hard we party and how healthy we stay as we’re currently recovering from a two-day hangover and have both vowed to never drink again! Hmm…
For Heathrow airport we have booked meet and greet parking for £80.00 which allows us to drive to the drop off point and hand over the car keys before heading into the airport to check-in. This is the more expensive option for airport parking as the other alternative is to park the car yourself at the airport carpark which is a 10-15min drive away and await a shuttle bus to bring you back to the airport which incurs waiting around, potentially getting lost and the added risk of delays on the motorway if you’re close to departure time. When we land back at Heathrow we simply call the carpark and they collect and drive the car back to the collection point for us so that we can grab our bags and get home as soon as possible. For the sake of £20.00 it makes arriving and departing far smoother and is around half the price we’d have had to pay for a taxi to and from the airport. My boyfriend conveniently has airport lounge access (that he pays £15.00 per month for through his bank) so that we can wait for our flight in comfort with complimentary drinks including alcohol, a hot buffet and quiet, comfortable seating away from the hustle and bustle of the main airport.
To get to Kandima we’ll meet the resorts ‘airport buddy’ in Male airport who will show us to a plane for a short 30min domestic flight followed by a 20min boat ride to the island. We aim to leave home at around 7pm on 19th April and check-in to our villa in the Maldives for around 4pm on 20th April, arriving back in Heathrow, England on 26th April at 8:25pm providing there are no delays. Our flights work out at around 13-14hrs each way and are timed so that we should hopefully be able to sleep as usual. The island is almost 3km long which gives us plenty of room to explore once we’re there, keep active and soak up as much paradise as possible and their 100m pool is the largest in the Maldives which I’m sure will delight our friends and family when we send sunbathing selfies to them back home in cheery old England. The temperature looks set to be a glorious 30 degrees for our entire stay which should be pretty comfortable with a sea breeze and I’m hoping I won’t get sunburnt or too bad a tanline considering our private villa has a deck which is perfect for topless sunbathing and has direct access to the ocean for snorkelling. There are also dolphins, turtles and fish in the house reef which is a 5min boat ride away. Snorkelling equipment hire costs $9.00 per day but is free of charge to all inclusive guests, seeing as I can’t swim this isn’t something that I found necessary for our holiday but it would be nice to give it a go for an afternoon perhaps if I can find my confidence in water first – I’ve got a few days to learn.
Dresscode for the resort is daytime beach casual and in the evening smart casual with no heels necessary as apparently they don’t mix with the gorgeous white sand very well. With 274 studios and villas on the island there is a buggy service that covers the resort day and night which you can hop onto to travel between restaurants, bars and pools but seeing as we’ll both be eating clean, keeping active, tanning and toning up I’m going to throw it out there now and say we won’t use it because we favour walking and hitting at least 11,000 steps per day if not 20,000 as we’ll be in the gym every morning after breakfast followed by my boyfriend teaching me to swim, exploring and sunbathing before dinner. I can literally imagine the calories we’ll burn already – this is absolutely every fitness bunny fashionistas dream holiday!
The resort suggests packing for warm tropical weather throughout the year with light cotton garments, linen wear, t-shirts, shorts, dresses, bikinis, sun-hats, flip-flops and sandals being essential. For water activities all equipment is available to hire and if we choose to visit local islands we’ll need to dress conservatively by covering shoulders and thighs to respect local culture and also covering hair inside mosques. Interestingly Kandima also cater for weddings and the renewal of vows – I’ve informed my boyfriend of this – and their sunset cruise, trips to local islands, hand-line fishing, dolphin experience, massage and cookery classes are said to be especially popular with couples. The resort is also suitable for children and the elderly as many families visit, but seeing as we have our own private villa I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to the school run and switching my regular morning routine for yoga at sunrise and lazy evenings in the jacuzzi with a bottle of wine.
UPDATE: 3 Days Until Departure
Finally I’ve packed and literally have enough clothes to live in the Maldives for a year! I really couldn’t decide on what to pack from my summer wardrobe so instead I’m taking the majority of it – several skirts, shorts, dresses, gym wear and trainers incase of footwear regulations in the gym, flip flops, suncream, jewellery, books, hair straighteners, toiletries, phone, cameras, laptop for work and my course material which I’m hoping will make the 26hr round trip flights pass a little quicker. I have around three outfits per day which allows for dressing for breakfast in casual clothes, changing into gym wear for a workout before lunch and then wearing something more formal for the evening.
The children have just gone back to school from their two week Easter holidays so I’m playing catchup with work, my diary and getting the house ready to pack up and leave. The next three days are insane and I won’t have a spare minute until we fly as I’ve got to film a TV show, get to the hairdressers, take my daughter to hospital and then dance class, attend a meeting the usual school runs, meals, chores and play catchup with work from having the children at home for the Easter holidays for two weeks just passed – it’s not easy being a single working parent but it’ll make our little break away all the more sweeter when I can fall asleep without interruption on a sun lounger in paradise!
In preparation for tanning, as I’m of Irish descent my skin is naturally pale and needs a gradual build-up to bronzing otherwise I burn, turn red, peel and then remain white. Yesterday I went to the tanning salon to spend 6mins on a sunbed which isn’t something I would usually do as I only ever sunbathe in my garden with a factor 20/30SPF cream but is essential for me prior to travel. Using a sunbed the week that I go away allows my skin to take the first step towards tanning in a controlled and small measure so that when I get into the 30 degree heat I’m less likely to burn. I have SPF20 and SPF30 suncream and aftersun which is essential and a sunhat and sunglasses for reading along with a shawl to put over my shoulders should we be required to cover up on the mainland or excursions.
Electrical’s are currently charging, passports are packed along with insurance documents and the last thing we have left to do is our online check-in for our flights tomorrow which is 48hrs before we go. As of yet we haven’t been given a meal option for our flight which we’re presuming we’ll be able to book upon check-in tomorrow. Seeing as I’m vegan there aren’t usually many food options for me on flights aside from nuts and crisps from the snack trolley which quickly sell out so as a precaution I’ll be taking some protein bars and cashews in my hand luggage to ensure that I don’t go all day without food.
A Holiday Of A Lifetime
Now that we’re home from what can only be described as the most amazing week of our lives I’ll try my best to recount and document what we got up to and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. Seeing as our flight was in the evening we set off an hour earlier than planned to allow for traffic on the motorway during rush hour as you can never be too sure how long queues and standstill traffic can take if there’s been an accident or roadworks. I’m also a bit of a worry-pot and like to be over prepared for a situation rather than winging it and missing the flight. As it happens we arrived just over three hours early for our flight and managed to hand over the car at Terminal 4 of Heathrow Airport for the meet and greet parking service which was on the upper level of the terminal and well signposted. We called the car service when we were 15mins away and then pulled into the collection and drop off point around a central island and they met us literally as we arrived.
Check-in at the airport ran very smoothly and surprisingly my giant suitcase was only 19kg in weight with a 30kg limit leaving space to bring back goodies. As it turns out I packed far too many clothes and didn’t wear half of them as it was so hot but you live and learn. Seeing as we had airport lounge access it meant that we could relax, eat and shower before our flight so we made the most of the open bar, hot buffet and phone chargers as we sank back into comfy chairs with a chilled vodka and delicious curry watching the planes ferrying for takeoff through the panoramic windows overlooking the runway. As my first experience of using an airport lounge I’m absolutely sold on it as it makes the entire process of travelling so much more comfortable and convenient.
Waiting around in airports has always been the bugbear of every holiday for me as I see killing time in departures as the equivalent of huddling into a bus stop on a cold rainy day versus the lounge being a cosy evening in at home on the sofa – there really is no comparison. There’s no screaming children, no scrambling for seats, walking miles to find the nearest toilet or shop for a snack; everything is at hand, clean, attentive, inclusive and luxurious and made a great start to our holiday.
Being my first long haul flight I didn’t know whether to get a neck support pillow from the airport or risk falling asleep sitting upright and slowly tumbling onto the person next to me. As it happens Qatar airlines have headrests that bend inwards like a child’s carseat which made sleeping very comfortable and isn’t always an option on budget airlines. We were greeted by a welcome pack onboard of a pillow, blanket, headphones, sleep mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and snacks and provided with food and drink throughout. I’d hoped that I might sleep for the majority of the flight to Doha where we connected to Male but I think the excitement of getting away and the fact that I was surrounded by commotion and people prevented me from getting a solid sleep as I’m rather particular about my cool calm and silent surroundings to sleep at night.
I did however manage to watch several films en route, including our second flight from Doha where we had around an hour to wait about until our connection which gave us a few minutes to browse the shops. The airport was spectacular, filled with gold and jewellery, cars and finery; it gave me my first taste of the East and I found myself falling in love with the opulence and richness of the culture which is in stark contrast to Europe and the modest airports within it. What immediately stood out for me was the respectfulness of Muslim culture and I found myself smiling at families, admiring fashionable travellers and being grateful for the patience and politeness of all around me as opposed to the stressful hustle and bustle of travelling in extremely busy spaces within London. Everybody took their time, there was no pushing, no rudeness, no urgency, just calm and collected, well behaved children and plenty of good manners – it was absolutely wonderful.
Landing in Male (pronounced mar-lay) we collected our luggage and directly after were greeted by our Kandima Buddy who was waiting for us in arrivals. He was dressed in turquoise linen shorts and a smart white shirt holding a Kandima sign which made him instantly recognisable and is the same uniform of all staff members at the resort. Shaking our hands with a big genuine smile he welcomed us to the island and led us to the check-in desk where he made arrangements for a domestic flight to take us to the port nearest to Kandima. Stepping out of the arrivals lounge the strong heat was instant and unfamiliarly moist so we were grateful to change out of our heavy casual wear into a light summer dress and shorts.
The weather forecast in Male was set to be cloudy and thunder for the entire week of our stay and we couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened when the beautiful blue sky quickly clouded over and turned to heavy wind and rain. Of all the times and all the places it seemed that we’d picked the worst week in the history of ever to come to the Maldives. Fortunately we couldn’t have been more wrong as either cloud and thunderstorms in the Maldive’s means the best English weather you’ve ever seen or whoever wrote the weather report must have had an off-day.
We had hoped that the weather report was general for the mainland and individual islands would therefore vary which thankfully seemed to be the case. For our entire stay it was nothing but glorious sunshine and blue skies throughout with a light scattering of fluffy white cloud here and there. We saw a grey raincloud once way out on the horizon when we were snorkelling from our balcony but aside from that it was as perfect as the most wonderful summers day back home – just far hotter and in absolute paradise of course!
Despite packing factor 30SPF suncream, aftersun and having a 6min sunbed to prepare my skin before setting off we both still managed to catch the sun and go to sleep at night a little red and tender. I only ever wear factor 20SPF suncream at home and in Europe but in hindsight a factor 50SPF would have been better to apply after catching the sun, as towards the end of the week we were reapplying our cream every couple of hours in order to stand the heat which averaged around 30-32 degrees but was recorded as feeling like 39 due to the lack of wind and humidity and needless to say even hotter with burnt skin. My boyfriend tans really easily and he still struggled to keep from burning despite the fact we didn’t just sit and sunbathe as we remained active for our entire holiday either swimming, walking or cycling rather than specifically trying to tan.
I’d also packed hair straighteners and plenty of makeup to glam up for dinner and drinks in the evening and never used it once, instead favouring my everyday natural look of a small flick of eyeliner and light foundation. I literally spent the entire week glowing from the heat, my hair was an absolute frizz-ball from humidity which I kept tied up in a ponytail at all times and lived in bikinis, shorts and minidresses even in the gym. This may sound like it was uncomfortably hot and hard to be outside because of the weather, but it wasn’t – we spent around three hours snorkelling on our second morning which caused our suncream to wash off and burn our backs and shoulders without realising which meant that we were tender for the rest of the week.
There were children of various ages at the resort who coped absolutely fine with the temperature, some with and others without a tan as there is a fabulous children’s club called KandiLand decorated with pretty paintings, coconuts and wind chimes and plenty of indoor air-conditioned areas and activities for those who want a break from the beach, pool bars and glorious sunshine. Being a keen fitness couple we spent the majority of our time outdoors exploring, exercising and experiencing everything that the resort had to offer and could have done far more if we’d have stayed longer. We didn’t come for a quiet sunbathing holiday, although we could have quite easily done so with our aqua villa sun loungers, terrace and jacuzzi as well as the huge white-sandy coastline of the island.
I packed a couple of books and my course material in the hope of killing time on the plane or sunbathing and reading whilst Freddy showered as I normally would on holiday but we didn’t stop once as our daily routine consisted of hitting the gym at sunrise each morning before breakfast, swimming and walking for a couple of hours followed by lunch and activities, and finally dinner and drinks with live evening entertainment. Throw into the mix showering, changing clothes throughout the day, returning equipment and making bookings for classes and events and that pretty much sums up all of our time. We did attempt to watch a movie in our room on our first night as we arrived in the evening and checked in when it was dark but we were so tired from travelling that we fell fast asleep instead which meant that we were up bright and early for sunrise on our first morning and made every day count. Flying from London to the Maldives with a four hour time difference (the Maldives is ahead) was a pretty easy adjustment to make after our first full nights sleep but returning home we were sleepy for two to three days as we struggled to readjust. It possibly didn’t help that the weather was just a few degrees, grey and raining upon our return either!
I’ve read reviews of people saying the Maldives can be too quiet with not enough things to do so you wouldn’t want to stay for an excessive period of time in any one place, but being the biggest island on the Maldives Kandima has absolutely everything you can think of and more. There is so much to see and do, it filled our entire week to the brim and in hindsight we would have loved to have stayed a second week. The nice thing about Kandima is that you can make your time as active or relaxing as you like because there’s something for everyone. Classes and excursions are split between Kandima HQ and Aquaholics for booking which are just a short stroll apart and can be contacted directly from the room’s telephone. We managed to tick off a fair few activities starting with bike hire, snorkelling on the reef, jet skiing, an art class, cookery class, volleyball tournament, darts, snooker, two live bands, aerial yoga, boxing, a couples massage at the spa, manicure, pedicure, hair and makeup as well as daily gym sessions and swimming all in one week.
Due to our limited time it meant that we had to prioritise our activities for what we really wanted to do versus what we’d like to try and then weigh up which was the most important for us both in order to avoid overlapping bookings which are held at various locations across the island all day everyday. Planning timings was also reliant on the bus service which runs every 12mins around the island. Before arriving we had hoped that we could walk around the island everyday and not use the bus to keep our activity levels as high as possible but due to time restraints we used the bus on a daily basis and found it very convenient. We wanted to book in for parasailing but there was an issue with the boat during our stay and so unfortunately we missed out. The dolphin quest involved looking for dolphins from a boat as opposed to actually swimming with them which we’d hoped we could do and the sunset cruise provided an evening drink whilst on the water but we much preferred sitting on the waterfront having a drink with our dinner and watching the sun set from the beautiful restaurants as we’d already been out on the water so much for snorkelling and jetskiing and therefore didn’t feel the need to go on a cruise.
We also had our eye on bracelet making and crab hunting as two other activities but upon trying to book them we were informed that they were for children and not adults which was pretty hilarious! As it happens we spent a morning walking to the far end of the island which was incredibly peaceful and romantic and returned a few days later, this time cycling to a collection of rocks overlooking the Forbidden Bar where we watched the sunset as the crabs climbed across the rocks and parrot fish, baby sharks and clown fish swam around us. The only time that we left the island was during our jetski session where the guide led us out into the ocean four islands away across the reef and wide open waters as we jumped waves and did doughnuts much to my boyfriends delight. We switched over half way, my boyfriend driving us out to the islands and me driving us back home as our guide rode a jetski several metres ahead pointing out landmarks and cruising through paradise. We both wore life jackets and felt entirely safe, free and alive on the water and it’s something that I highly recommend everyone should try at least once!
We were fortunate enough to have a personal cookery lesson with chef Akile of Azure Restaurant specialising in Mediterranean food. Being vegan I usually struggle to eat out in restaurants in England due to my restrictive dietary requirements of no meat, fish or dairy so it was pure heaven as a foodie to be welcomed into the restaurants kitchen to rustle up a hummus, zucchini and flatbread sharing plate for two to enjoy our lunch with a glass of prosecco over the waterfront. Chef Akile taught us about the importance of selecting high quality ingredients that are treated with respect to provide the best taste and flavour for the dishes in his restaurants. Virgin oils had been patiently infused with herbs, the finest cuts of meat and most flavoursome vegetables were marinaded with hand ground seasonings, fresh garlic and lemons and cooking processes involved combinations of chargrilling and oven baking order to create the perfect texture. He explained that whatever isn’t grown directly on the island has to be imported because Kandima is so remote, and they have a very strict selection process for food to ensure that only the finest quality ingredients are used.
Everything about the island is immaculate including the restaurants, no matter how busy they are. Staff are exceptionally attentive at refilling glasses, clearing plates and going above and beyond. The cleanliness of the resort is pristine with perfectly folded hand towels in every bathroom which are typically open air with individual cubicles and showers and despite my boyfriend quite possibly being the messiest pup on the planet we returned to our room after lunch each day to find the strewn clothes, used towels and holiday nic-nac’s perfectly aligned, clothes folded, bed made with precision and towels fresh and fluffy – I could do with some tips on how to be so fast and efficient at home!
Despite being fearful of water to start with we spent a couple of hours snorkelling from our balcony with a $5.00 hire of a snorkel mask and flippers each. After becoming accustomed to putting my head under the water, slowing down my breathing and accepting that the snorkel would keep me from drowning I relaxed into bobbing around over the rocks watching the fish who swim within the crystal clear water everyday and was amazed at the beauty and life found beyond the surface that isn’t apparent from walking past. We were pretty excited to go out on the boat to the reef on the snorkelling excursion which is provided free of charge to guests everyday at multiple times throughout the morning and afternoon. Taking a speedboat to the pontoon just a few minutes ride away we were greeted with cold water, sun umbrellas and an undisturbed view of the coral reef. Our instructor explained hand gestures, safety instructions and told us about what we could expect to see before we plopped backwards off of the boat and swam hand in hand beside him. It was breathtaking to see sea cucumbers, sting rays, a sea turtle and fish of every colour of the rainbow swimming so peacefully in wide open waters that were so deep we couldn’t see the bottom but felt completely safe and at peace as the snorkels and flippers kept up effortlessly floating on the surface and removed my fear of wide open spaces when not being able to put my feet down.
To capture the magic of having swam with a sea turtle we booked into the KULA Studio art class costing $25.00 each to learn how to paint onto canvas with acrylics. Overlooking a beautiful lagoon the art studio cafe serves delicious treats, cakes and coffee beneath a striking chandelier and entire glass wall opening onto the waterfront terrace with the adjoining classroom filled with stunning paintings of sealife, landscape and abstract art. The art teacher was incredibly creative, upbeat and informative in helping us to bring our ideas into fruition. I decided to paint a huge sea turtle surrounded by floating temple flowers which are found all over the island and Freddy chose to paint a baby turtle in an open palm with a beachy background. The teacher helped to correct our dimensions, bring balance, perspective and aspect to our art and taught us how to mix colours, create texture techniques and apply finishing touches to make our creations mantlepiece-worthy. We spent an hour at the class and loved every minute of it, when our paintings were dry they were peeled off of the frames, rolled up and taped so that they fit conveniently into our suitcases without creasing and now take pride of place framed on my lounge wall as a beautiful reminded of our holiday and a gloriously sunny afternoon spent learning to paint together – something neither of us had done before but thoroughly enjoyed.
On two of the nights that we stayed there were live bands, the first with a soulful reggae influence and the second more pop/techno – both absolutely incredible. Bringing alive Breeze bar with flashing lights, electric guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards we whiled away the balmy evenings sipping on cocktails tapping our feet to the contagious beat and watching the sunset across the cascading pool which spans 101metres and is the largest in the Maldives. I absolutely love that the bands took requests and literally had goosebumps and tears in my eyes as they sang my favourite song of all time Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. Live music is such an incredible experience, it fills the air with an atmosphere of power, passion and emotion that nothing can quite compare to and captivates the senses.
I thought the live band night couldn’t get anymore perfect until Freddy surprised me by jumping onto the stage and joining the band for a duet of First Cut Is The Deepest by Cat Stevens which brought the entire bar to a standstill and left butterflies in my stomach. It’s the first time I’ve heard him sing and I had no idea how good he was until that night. He went on to sing another song after to rapturous applause and later on in the week we visited the Forbidden Bar for a White Party (where attendees dressed in white as the theme) and returned for a karaoke night to join guests from all over the world singing their favourite songs. A group of ladies from Jamaica absolutely stole the show with the most incredible rendition of R.E.S.P.E.C.T complete with hair whipping, booty shaking, fist bumping and a floor slide!
We finished up our final couple of days perfectly with a couples massage at the spa with a choice of essential floral massage oils for which coconut suited our sunburn blissfully. Overlooking the ocean laying on crisp white linen we held hands whilst the masseuse worked the tension out of our back, shoulders, necks, legs and feet leaving us floating on air and blissfully relaxed. Seeing as I’d been a total frizz ball all holiday I couldn’t resist visiting the salon with a glass of prosecco to have my hair and makeup done in preparation for our last evening together and a perfect opportunity to take lots of holiday snaps and make memories. I loved the idea of strolling off of the beach into a cool and calm salon leaving as a graceful swan. Having my hair pinned up with a pretty temple flower and foundation, eyeshadow, mascara and lips slicked to perfection I felt so incredibly glamourous and date-worthy for a romantic evening meal. I also had a manicure and pedicure for which the nail technicians worked on my hands and feet at the same time, massaging, moisturising, buffing and polishing a beautiful shade of coral to my nails as I sipped another glass of prosecco before joining Freddy in the spa pool beneath an umbrella of foliage, flowers and a stunning blue sky. A final glass of prosecco left me smiling from ear to ear, blissfully content, bronzed, buffed and feeling a million dollars. We finished up our spa treatment with a tray of chilled green tea watching the sunset over the waterfront snuggled up talking about life, the future we hope to welcome together and our plans to return to the Maldives. It was the most wonderful evening that made my heart swell.
Seeing as we were on a full board package it meant that our breakfast, lunch and dinner were included at the Flavour and Zest restaurants which alternated daily but should we wish to dine elsewhere we could book a table and purchase from the menu. We visited the Sea Dragon Thai restaurant whilst at the Forbidden Bar and watched the lobsters, crabs and fish swimming in an illuminated water feature within the sleek contemporary dining area that allows guests to select their seafood which is caught daily by the fishermen in order to be prepared fresh. We found the chefs at Flavour and Zest extremely accommodating and knowledgable as they too prepared individual and specific dishes to suit our fancy each evening. From salad bars, Indian, Chinese, English, Italian and Mediterranean dishes, sauces, oils and desserts there was something for every taste and appetite. Freddy frequently enjoyed the custom made omelettes, pasta station which cooked his pasta al dente as he prefers, handmade naan stuffed with cauliflower and chicken which he’d never tried before and copious amounts of fresh tuna steaks, grilled meat skewers and delicate bite sized cakes, puddings, fruit and pastries from every corner of the globe.
On the other hand being vegan I have a major obsession with spice, pulses and grains and thrived on the mouthwatering curries, daal, popadoms, vegan naan, rice and side salads prepared by Sri Lankan and Indian chefs, often returning for seconds and thirds at each meal. With selections of roast vegetables, juicy fruits, several types of salad and potatoes, rice and bread cooked in every form imaginable I was in absolute food heaven and we both happily managed to polish off nine plates of food each day making each meal three courses each for breakfast, lunch and dinner – big appetites from plenty of activities and exploring the island. I love eating sweet potatoes in England but discovered the white and purple sweet potatoes in the Maldives are my new favourite obsession as they remind me of cassava with a creamy nutty taste that I added to my daily curries and salads. I also spoke in depth with the chef about his sago dish which was a chilled dessert I’d never heard of but very similar to rice pudding back home, only this is vegan friendly as it’s made with coconut milk and sugar and topped with raisins and crushed pistachio which he varied with fresh mangos later in the week. I’m drooling now just thinking about it!
Before our departure home we checked out of our room by returning our wristbands to the HQ, dropping off our bikes to the bike shack, returning our snorkels to Aquaholics and signing for our additional spending. During our stay we didn’t use any money at all, instead at the bars, cafes, restaurants and shops we gave our room number and signed a receipt which was totalled up at the end. It meant that we didn’t have to carry around any cash, fumble with bank cards or risk losing any valuables when out and about as we could simply leave our room without worrying about keys, phone or a purse with our wristbands taking care of it all which was very convenient. We had previously pre-authorised a $600.00 deposit on a bank card upon arrival for additional spending which we were told would be refunded upon our departure and would cover expenses such as the minibar, room service, excursions and additional food and drink that we chose to have.
Our total additional spend came to $750.00 which is around £550.00 and as previously mentioned covered everything – classes, cocktails, spa treatments, equipment hire and experiences. Before we set off for holiday we allowed for £1,000.00 spending money at the resort and are astounded that we only spent half of that despite eating, drinking and doing everything possible which takes our total holiday cost to £7,200.00 for the week from doorstep to balcony and back again. Kandima prides itself on being one of the most affordable, stylish and entertaining islands in the Maldives with a stunning 5* service and enthusiastic workforce who made our entire holiday something that we will cherish, love and remember forever. Coming home it feels hard to believe that this time last week we were there, in absolute paradise waking up to the sound of the ocean, watching the sunrise from our bedroom and swimming carelessly into the ocean to explore its timeless beauty. If ever there was a holiday that we wish would never end it would be this one and it’s certainly a resort that we will happily return to time and time again. The team behind Kandima have got everything just right, from ethos to experience, attention to detail, enthusiasm and entertainment – nobody could have done it better, made it more magical or captured our hearts more. Seeing as it’s another uneventful evening in England as I reminisce over our most spectacular adventure I can’t help but feel the familiar pang of longing for adventure in foreign lands beneath palm tress, sun cream and endless summer. A one way ticket back to Kandima perhaps?