Monday 28 December – Saturday 1 January
Pretty uneventful, but long journey via Helsinki and Singapore – we arrived in Male at about 11pm. By the time we arrived in Singapore Roger was no longer standing out or inviting incredulous looks from the flight crews, which he certainly had when he showed up at the airport in Rovaniemi in shorts, t’shirt and jandals when the temperature outside was -6’C and dropping.
After a very short sleep it was a 4 am start at the Hulhule Hotel. We left our main bags in the hotel storage. We definitely won’t need boots and cold gear for the next few days. We arrived at the terminal for the flying boat check in at 5am; from there we were bused to a flash lounge where we sat for less than 5 mins before being bused to another lounge. Outside are a number jetties with a dozen or so Trans Maldives Airways float planes alongside. Soon we are on board taxiing out into the sea for take-off. It is as we get airborne I appreciate how busy this island airport is. Last night after we disembarked and were waiting for our baggage there were another three Boeing 777s that stacked alongside the one we had arrived in. From the air we can now see dozens of private jets stacked away alongside the runway plus six or so large jets alongside the terminal.
We flew southwest for about 25 mins before the pilot put us into a steep dive (I almost had to check that the pilots weren’t wearing white head bands with the rising sun on them). We pulled up alongside a raft from which we were boated to Safari Island. All the other passengers were staying there. Another boat soon arrived to transport us 10 mins NE to Kandolhu Island, also situated in the Alifu Alifu Atoll.
We are greeted by Laura, the office manager, and escorted to our bungalow by Ruby. It is situated on the north end of a row of bungalows set on piles in the sea. This place is stunning with service like one would only imagine. There are 30 bungalows and around 125 staff most of whom you seldom see.
A ten minute walk takes you right around the island, which is thick with pristine jungle which all the buildings blend into. There are four restaurants, a bar, gym, dive shop, library and of course a spa.
We spend our time here relaxing, snorkelling, eating and enjoying the well-stocked bars. We even have a full wine-fridge in our room! We also made good use of the spa.
The snorkelling is good with a large variety of fish including black and white-tip reef sharks and turtles. The coral is quite diverse but not as colourful as in some areas. Unfortunately the weather is not ideal with strong winds most of the time meaning the water is a little murky but we enjoy ourselves anyway. There are four channels from the island and we can snorkel to one straight off the deck on our bungalow. The channels take you over the reef to the drop off – it gets very deep very quickly. At one point when we snorkel past the end of one of the jetties there are large schools of bait fish.
One evening we take a sunset cruise on an 85ft boat with four other guests. We sip champagne and watch a glorious sunset as we circle a deserted atoll about 45 minutes from Kandolhu.
We tried each of the restaurants. All of the food was fantastic – fresh and beautifully presented. The Market is the main area where breakfast and lunch are served, right next to the bar. On the first night we ate at Sea-Grill, where they had a display of all the fresh fish they had caught that day as we arrived with a variety of cooking methods available. On night two we ate at Olive, an Italian restaurant upstairs from the Market and last night we ate at Banzai, a Japanese teppanyaki-style place that takes only six guests at a time – the only place where bookings are required. We enjoyed a delicious meal there with four other guests, a Portugese couple currently living in Switzerland and an Austrian couple. Tonight there is a gala New Year’s Eve 8-course degustation meal, which will be served on the beach if the weather behaves.