My first visit to the Maldives was in the 90’s and more recently I have returned every year since 2013. A total of five visits.
The Maldives is a special place for me. It has a completely unique environment and I thoroughly relax and I enjoy chilling out in this peaceful and beautiful space.
With a rich culture, gorgeous vistas and spectacular marine life, it’s one of my favourite destinations. I quickly adopt a ‘life is good’ attitude. One of total relaxation and enjoying being away from our usual routines. It draws me back year-after-year. I can truly say that the Maldives is a brilliant holiday destination – one of the best.
With 1,190 islands, land is still the scarcest resource in the country, making up less than 1% of its surface area and one of the lowest lying countries in the world (average height of only 1.5 metres).
My hotel of choice for the last four years has been the Centara Grand. Being a former hotelier I know there’s nothing like the personal touch. Staying in the resort as a recognised regular guest, it’s extra special. You get a sense of being part of a family. It’s something quite unique and this is absolutely synonymous with the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa.
Getting to the Maldives could not be easier. Travelling from Bangkok with my partner Pichai, we boarded a direct flight to the International Airport in Malé, the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. With Bangkok Airways it’s just 4 hours 15 mins from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Over the years, I have become a member of their frequent FlyerBonus club and take advantage of 10 kg extra baggage as a result, which is handy but not really necessary for this trip.
You don’t need that much luggage in the Maldives. Staying at a beach resort, you spend much of the time in shorts and T-shirt and as the title suggests – barefoot. Just perfect.
After Malé we take a seaplane, from the terminal next door to the main airport, for a 25 minute hop to the resort. Arriving at the Centara Grand, aboard a twin engined De Havilland Sea Otter, is very special. I just love sea planes. An experience not to be missed. It’s a great way to arrive, stylish and fun.
There is no dress code in the resort. For the restaurants, however, swim wear is not allowed. In the evenings for dinner, smart casual is the order of the day. Most guests we saw tended to wear something loose fitting, partly due to the warm temperature and partly for comfort. Cotton seems to work best.
So to summarise you do not need very heavy luggage. Travel light.
Spending much of the day outdoors and in bright sunshine don’t forget to bring a high factor suncream. The resort provides free SPF 20, replenished daily as a bathroom amenity. I recommended however using SPF 50 to 70 for your neck and face, especially at the beginning of your holiday.
Bring lots of reading material (there is a library if you forget or run out) and your headphones (if you like to listen and relax to music).
The resort has many daily activities which include excursions by boat to nearby islands for sightseeing and shopping; sunset cruises with dolphin watching and fishing trips.
Over the years it has been interesting to watch the development of the resort. The Centara is no stranger to change. Improvements evolve, without ever loosing the resort’s original design concept. It has improved organically – with care. The inclusion of 20 Sunset Ocean Pool Villas has been so successful they are often sold out. They incorporate a small horizonless plunge pool in the Villas and it’s a perfect place to soak and relax especially at sunset with the fabulous colours above the turquoise sea.
The colour of the sea a perfect contrast against the red, orange and yellow hues of the setting sun. The low lying landscape provides some of the most brilliant sunsets you will ever see. And the best way to view this is with a cocktail in your hand – perfect!
Dining at the Centara is a delight. The resort is family friendly so there is a wide choice of dining options.
We particularly enjoyed eating at the Island Club. A fine dining restaurant with a great kitchen. It’s elegant and special. The menu changes daily for lunch and dinner. The service is faultless.
Being a Thai owned resort, it comes as no surprise that the resort caters for lovers of Thai cuisine. Arguably the fastest growing global culinary ‘flavour’. Thai cuisine is a huge phenomenon.
The resort’s Suan Bua (lotus pond) is a wonderful Thai restaurant with an exceptional Chef – Khun Ning. We regularly ate here during our two week vacation. Alternating between Azzura Italian Restaurant and Reef, the International Buffet Restaurant with its popular Teppanyaki Counter.
The resort is all-inclusive, which at first, 4 years ago, worried me (would it be cheap and cheerful, with heaps of French fries and burgers? Fast high-fat / high-carb meals?) But I needn’t have worried. At the Centara Grand it’s a great concept with great food.
You can completely forget about taking your wallet anywhere in the resort. You never need to figure out your spending – it’s all included – going to bars and restaurants is trouble free and most importantly, stress free.
The island is packed with water sports. With snorkelling; para gliding; banana boats; mini water slides; a supervised kids club and a scuba club. On top of this, are daily activities including spa treatments; kids fish feeding; shark/stingray feeding and a new recently introduced yoga programme with the extraordinary Dr Raj.
You can learn to scuba dive at the resort, starting with an intro course that is included in the resort package. Also included free are the shopping, fishing and sunset cruises with dolphin watching.
There are regular diving trips, for the more experienced diver, which are chargeable.
For me the top activity is swimming with Whale Sharks. They are called sharks but actually they are the world’s largest fish, plankton eaters.
The trip consists of a 45 minute boat ride to the area where the whale sharks might be feeding and once spotted, snorkelling 30 to 45 minutes in the general area. Growing up to 9m long, these majestic creatures gently swim along, giant mouths open, they feed and we watch in awe at their immense power and beauty.
This is probably on my list of top 10 things to do in the world, such a unique and extraordinary experience.
What else to do….? Well for me quite often, nothing.
(How often can you do that?)
You are you in charge of your own time, you’re on holiday so relax. Lay back and soak up the good karma, which is so easy to do as there is so little that causes you stress. You adapt to a slower island pace.
The staff are fantastic and always on hand to offer help and advise. They work together as one big happy team. It all flows so well. Service is effortless and seamless.
The resort has a very extensive library, and for parents with kids there are no worries about cuts and scrapes, with a full-time medical professional and clinic, help is on hand.
About the author: Andrew J. Wood is a travel writer and a regular university guest lecturer. A long-time resident of Thailand, Andrew is a former hotel General Manager and Immediate Past President of Skal International Thailand. Both Andrew and Pichai Visutriratana (right) are Directors of Worldwide Destinations Asia Co Ltd in Bangkok. Andrew is the Thailand Ambassador for eTurboNews and often contributes articles to eTN.