Maldives Tour 2010 – Day 2: Kuda Huraa Four Seasons

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa villa

Kuda Huraa is an inspiration of regeneration.

Kuda’s environment has imposed some challenges, and Kuda has both worked around them and in the process enhanced the environment itself.

Ironically, Kuda Huraa was the first island I was told not to visit in the Maldives a decade ago…wow have things changed. I was told that the beach was coarse…now it is flush with soft white sand. I was told it was stuffy…my visit encountered nothing but the most charming and down to earth people.

But the biggest transformation has been the snorkelling. Kuda Hura’s geography means there is no real ‘house reef drop off’ accessible from the beach (though snorkelling excursions can be arranged easily enough for a reef snorkelling experience). And the waters close to the island are actually too shallow to snorkel in many places. In response, Kuda Huraa (in concert with its sister resort Landaa Giraavaru), have invested heavily in Reefscaping (also known as ‘Reef Rehabilitation’).

One of the things that make the Maldives unique is its snorkelling. Maldives’ uniquely shallow expanses coupled with extensive reef development make it one of the tops in the world. Snorkelling is certainly a must-do activity in the Maldives, but many visitors have various concerns about it. Younger children need supervision and support, seniors are concerned about exertion and safety, people unfamiliar or uncomfortable with water need a calm and easy place to swim, handicapped people have their own special support needs. Lagoons can be great, calm, shallow places to try snorkelling, but unfortunately, a bit drab. Not much besides boring expanses of lifeless white sand and the occasional fish and rock.

But Kuda Huraa is an ideal choice for any of these beginner or tentative snorkellers. The Kuda Huraa lagoon is protected and yet, thanks to the extensive coral regeneration ‘Reefscaping’ initiative (300 frames installed to date), the Kuda Huraa lagoon is becoming a real underwater treat. It has the equivalent of a ‘Coral Garden’ that is being cultivated as carefully and successfully as an English country manor home’s floral borders. As a result, Kuda Huraa’s marine and coral biologists are creating a coral sanctuary that provides both a delightful haven for blossoming snorkellers and blooming coral alike.

And as a veteran snorkeller, who has explored countless sites of all types, my snorkel off Kuda Huraa was one of my most inspiring. I have been on a number of outings where much coral has died back sue to El Nino. However, the decay presents shades of what could happen with warming and acidifying seas. These past excursions were very depressing, like touring stark, coral graveyards. But Kuda Huraa inspired new hope. Every single Reefscaped frame was rife with intense new growth coral. Crisp and bright in countless branches. As I swam by frame after frame, it illustrated the potential that the world still has to bring back this underwater richness.

Four Seasons did not disappoint in delivering trademark luxury with its attention to detail, impeccable service, and no weaknesses. There are no shortcuts, no faded edges, nor neglected areas. In my brief stay, I identified 9 ‘Best of the Maldives’ distinctions for Kuda Huraa (stay tuned for special posts to come). A lot of resorts are dubbing themselves ‘5 stars’ these days, but I’m not sure how true to form some of these really are. Four Seasons Kuda Huraa delivers 5-star luxury in the true classic sense.

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa pool bed

Best of the Maldives: Nature Conservation – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

EC3 Seed Award

I’ve been running a series of posts of the range of eco-friendly approaches various Maldive resorts are taking as the Maldives asserts itself as the most carbon progression nation on the planet. It’s not just about using the planet’s resources wisely, which many carbon reduction and intelligent design approaches have concentrated on, but it can also be about restoring, renewing and replenishing the environment.

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru received the EC3 Global annual ‘Seed Award’ for its efforts to restore the reefs around the island during and after the construction. The EC3 site includes a great video on the various efforts undertaken.

  • “Banyan Tree’s in-house Marine Lab at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru celebrated its fifth anniversary in January 2009, making it the longest running resort-based marine research facility in the Maldives. In the past five years, the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab has been involved in major projects such as tsunami recovery efforts, working with endangered and threatened marine species, planting coral gardens, mentoring at-risk children, and sharing sustainable livelihood methods with local communities. The successes of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab have shown that private resorts can enable stewardship and understanding of their own reefs, as well as that of the whole Maldives archipelago, protecting against phenomena such as beach erosion and coral bleaching due to climate change.”

Maldives Kurumba Visit – Day 3: Stormy weather

Male weather forecast

One of my greatest fears when visiting the Maldives in past years was not sharks in the ocean, or travel complications, but the weather going sour. It was all so perfect that you just wondered whether it just might turn some day. We have generally visited in February which is the absolute best/dryest month for ensuring the best whether, but we have also visited in June and October. Out of 6 weeks of visits, we have encountered only a single afternoon rain shower that lasted about 20 minutes. In fact, it was so unusual, and we were already wet from snorkelling, that the rain was somewhat of a curious novelty that didn’t hurt the holiday one bit.

Still, each day when we woke up, the room was always dark from the shades being pulled and being so dark I wondered if when I pulled the shades, I would reveal a dreary, grey day for once. Well, every single time, I opened the windows to a sparkling sunny morning with bright blue skies. It seemed just uncanny how regularly bright and sunny the days were.

So you can imagine my trepidation when I looked at the weather for this weeks stay and every single day of the week forecast “Scattered T-Storms” (see graphic above with its ominous dark cloud and lightning bolt!). We are officially at the end of the May to November ‘monsoon’ or ‘rainy’ season. But having visited during this period before without seeing a drop of rain, I wasn’t overly apprehensive. Plus, it was ‘at the end’ so statistically any raininess would in my logical mind be tapering off if anything.

Well, we arrived to scattered clouds some of which turned into a torrential downpour for about half an hour. That was interesting, but then it stopped and the rest of the day was cloudy, but very warm (30 degree Fahrenheit) and it was thoroughly pleasant. In fact, the rain seemed to perk up the many flowers and soften the landscape. Then yesterday started with a mostly cloudy skies, but plenty of inspiring blue and all and all a very pleasant weather. As it happens, another 30 minute downpour came down in the late afternoon, but it was while we were napping after our afternoon dive and we didn’t even know it had rained until we emerged for Pina Colada time by which time things had settled nicely.

Today should have been my worst fear. I woke up early, pulled the curtains back and there was a steady rain outside. Mind you, it’s not as nice as waking up to sparkling sunshine, but it was not as bad as it could be. Somehow the day is brighter than when it rains in England. The sky is white with cloud, not grey. The rain is warm, not chilling. Not bad for a periodic change of pace, but if a lot of the week was going to be like this, then I would start to miss the dazzling sunshine certainly.

There certainly are downsides to the clouds and rain. Less eating outside (more windy and wet), less lovely ocean sunsets (though a little bit of cloud is ideal to create the best sunsets), less sunbathing (not my thing).

Actually, when it stopped, it made you appreciate the good weather more (‘yay, the rain stopped’). Another bonus of the still cloudy skies was the perfect temperature, perfect lighting for reading outside. Interesting that the rain and cloudy days haven’t ‘ruined’ the Maldives, but just sort of muted it. Sort of like a delicious meal that needs salt and pepper. Maldives without sunshine is like a savory stew of paradisaical delights that just needs that dash of spice for perfection. Maldives without the sparkle, but still the glow.

Nonetheless, despite being the absolutely worst day of weather we had ever experienced, it turned out to be one of the best days I had spent here (great dive in morning, perfect outdoor reading conditions midday, superb snorkel with the family around the house reef in the afternoon). There is an old bumper sticker which says ‘A bad day sailing/golfing/etc. is better than a good day at the office.’ It just goes to show you that ‘A bad day in Maldives is still better than a good day just about anywhere else.’