The biggest foot irritant has to be the “cost per square foot” (the gift and visitor can be greeted with is a low one). With the Room Type database getting quite “complete” now (73% complete on profile information and 46% complete on pictures), I can start doing some broader comparisons and analyses. I thought it would be interesting to see who had the best “cost per square foot” (or metre). Some resorts charge some expensive prices, but then they provide some extensive real estate to sprawl out in. Others are more value priced, but much more limited in space.
I had to break it out by star category to reflect the differences in services, amenities and often build quality that would simply make the lowest cost per square foot the cheapest overall resort (or close to it). Here’s how they panned out…
- UI Inn Deluxe Double Room (Hotel) – While I have focused on “Resorts” and have definitely steered clear of “Live Aboards” and “Guest Houses”, I do feature the prominent “Hotels” in the Maldives. The budget UI Inn on the new island of Hulhulmale, came in at lowest cost of $0.91 per square meter for a one night room charge ($60 for a 44 square meter room).
- Bathala Beach Villa (3 star) – Next in the ranking table was one of the overall value leader resorts, Bathala. It came in at $1.33 per square metre ($80 for 60 sq/m).
- Kurumba Deluxe Pool Villa (5 star) – Next in the rankings was another value leader, Kurumba (see floor plan above). Lori and I stayed in this recently revamped category in July and it is truly a spacious and commodious villa. $2.20 per square metre ($440 for 200 sq/m). Some of their measured square footage is exterior, but it is sumptuously furnished so it does seem like an extension of the room (but with extra sunshine).
- Kandooma Garden Villa (4 star) – Finally, 4th came the 4 star leader Kandooma. $2.52 per square metre ($249 for 99 sq/m).
All of these villas represent the “Garden Villa” category. Garden Villas are found off the beach front. Of course, the big ticket is the Water Villas completely over the water, and people typically want to at least be “by” the water for their holiday in tropical paradise. But, we’ve never been put off by the Garden Villa room type and have stayed in them on a number of occasions. If you are having trouble making ends meet on your budget, giving up how close your room is to the water always seemed like a good trade off to us. For starters, given the diminutive size of the islands, even the garden rooms are not that far from the shore. In any other country, they would probably be labelled beach front. Typically, they are a few dozen extra metres inland or simply have their ocean view impeded. Secondly, you simply don’t spend that much time in your room. You are there to enjoy the beauty and fun the place has to offer. You mostly retire to your room for a nap or sleep at night. And you don’t need great views when your eyes are closed anyways.
Magic coconuts in the Maldives news this week: “Police summon white magic practitioner to investigate possible cursed coconut” meant to influence yesterday’s long awaited elections. Everything seemed to go smoothly and peacefully which hopefully paves the way for the people’s voice to settle all of the political controversy of the past year and a half.
For some real coconut magic, though, Kandooma architecture is nuciferally inspired reassembling coconut husks.
These dramatic structures aren’t the only soaring design features of the resort which takes extensive advantage of vertical space with not just these massive vaulted ceilings (see photo below), but also tented canopies, a dramatic reception area and a unique tower even.
Luxury + Seaside = Lobster
Wherever you place luxury next to the seaside, at the top of the restaurant hierarchy will always be lobster. It pretty much defines the pinnacle of seafood cuisine. Today being Lobster Day, perhaps a few of you with be donning the plastic bib and wielding the nutcrackers and silver picks.
So no surprise that lobster dinners are pervasive throughout the Maldives. Especially since they do live in profusion just metres away and just about any diving or snorkelling excursion will stumble upon one or more hiding under a crevice. But if you don’t want to get wet checking out these crustaceans in their native environment, then check out Kandooma’s lobster pen. Set in the resort’s lagoon by their pier, they have set underwater fencing in an area about the size of a pretty ample swimming pool and they keep their lobsters there. No piles of lobsters crammed on top of each other in a restaurant lobby fish tank. Their final days awaiting their dining table fate is spent in a spacious and natural home environment.
It also means that you can get some pretty big boys into the pen. The specimen in the photo above is about as big as my thigh (and my thigh is not small). And the number to choose form is just as large as we counted several dozen when we sat observing them crawling about.
I’ve never found any variety of lobster to be as tender and sweet as the famous Maine Lobster from where I grew up, so I don’t splurge for these delicacies very often in the Maldives. The most tempting preparations are those dishes prepared with a bit of local and gourmet flair that bring something extra to this exquisite ingredient. Kandooma’s luxury restaurant specialises in lobster dishes offering a broad range as well as a very tempting Lobster Gourmand Menu. It also offers a number of lobster dishes as part of its ‘Fishermans Market’ event held every Wednesday.
Free range lobster!
For those who like to get close to the cooking in action, but without actually getting their hands dirty, the ‘Chef’s Table’ is an intimate way to savour the smells and action of a vibrant kitchen operation. Increasingly, top restaurants are exposing their kitchens rather than sequestering them out in some back room separated from diners with some swinging doors made for comedy collisions. Now, expansive set-up counters expose the chopping, a stirring and flame-fired cooking a short glance away from your table.
Kandooma has an actual proper Chef’s Table set in the kitchen itself. It’s not just a front-row, court-side seat, but the whole ambience of the meal changes. You are less of a spectator and more of a participant (but without the hustling and dirty work). The chef’s come over and chat and sometimes show or share something they are working on.
I didn’t get to do the Chef’s Table during our visit, but I did have the treat of one at Gordon Ramsay’s at Claridges Hotel a few years back and it was a whole different dining experience. Kandooma can seat up to 14 and like most chef’s table, the menu is quite customised to your particular interests.
There are all sorts of people distinctions. Dog people and cat people. Lake people and ocean people. Sail people and motorboat people. Beach people and pool people.
If you prefer a pool as expansive as Landaa’s beach, then Kandooma is the resort to head to. Now, like the many Maldives lagoons it sort of ressembles, much of the pool is quite shallow. As a result, it makes for an ideal play area for young children.
Kandooma’s pool comes in at 65 metres by 73 metres for a total area of 4,745 square metres. Kanuhura’s pool covers 120 metres by 67 metres, but in actually aquatic area, more than half of those distances are various sinuous twists and squirms rather than full water area.
Pool is so big that it has two of its own island with lounge chairs. With Kandooma’s signature giant beach towels, you could also say that Kandooma is the ‘Best for Paul Bunyan to Take a Dip.’
Kandooma has employed nature as its artist for their creative wood motif (starting with its Coconut Husk inspired reception and restaurant) for an artistic touch throughout the main area of the resort. Burl wood is a particular favourite material of mine (we have a burr wood piano, and doll cabinet) and it is used throughout the imparting a natural whimsy to the décor.
Totally gnarly, dude!
As for intimately close rocks, many islands are just a wade away from each other. Other resorts, companion resorts, deserted islands. But the closest island where Maldivian locals live and work is adjacent to Kandooma. The picture above shows me a few metres into a 50 metre swim to the local island Guraidhoo. The resort will arrange visits a taste of Maldivian life…probably the most convenient ‘local island excursion’ in the country.
While for many the downsides of big lagoons are their less dramatic snorkelling and more remote house reef, many resorts now are using Reefscaping to both enhance the snorkelling in the lagoons as well as the aquatic environment overall. In fact, Lori and I have our own frames presented to us by Four Seasons Kuda Huraa (#KH327) and by Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru (#LG729 – which we assembled together at their Marine Discovery Centre).
Now many resorts are getting in on coral reef regeneration – Constance Halaveli, Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu, Waldorf Astoria Maldives, Banyan Tree Madivaru, Baros. But Kandooma led the way and was the first project I covered.
They’ve added a touch with I think both personalises and incentivises this fine initiative – labelling the frames with the donor names (see photo above…’Su’ is no relation). I am involved with a number of charities and in fund raising (especially capital drives), the first question that you ask is ‘what are the naming opportunities?’ American Universities have this down to an art form where just about every light switch has a mini plaque honouring the gift of some patron. Yes, people are generous and do give just for the sake of the cause. But people also have a bit of pride and getting their name (or the name of a loved one) marked indelibly on a place or thing that means something special to them is a huge boost. I also think that the approach adds a certain personality to the Reefscaping project. You can see the diverse people, with names clearly from many different countries and cultures, who have all converged to contribute to making this place of earth even more of an aquatic treasure.
Maldives caters to all types of surfers from beginner to expert, from innovative to impatient. For the lattermost, yet another resort shines in the surfing haven, Kandooma, which offers the closest surf break.
Most surf breaks are a good distance from shore separated from the resort beach by the extensive lagoons prevalent in the Maldives especially on big plateaus where the longest reefs are creating the longest ‘surf breaks’. While such distance is great for creating a aquarium-like swimming haven on the beach, it means a bit of a swim/paddle for those keen to get to reef’s edge. Or a logistics intensive boat ride.
Kandooma’s house reef is far away, surfing is a mere 50 yards at most from beach on the east side. And the Beach Villas on that side are a water-hugging 20 yards from ocean. Especially with 2-story structures there, you can wake up and check out the surf (see photo above). If ‘surfs up’, then in minutes you can be riding the waves.
Kandooma has two surf instructors, Mark Quarrell and Richie Lindfield from Perfect Wave, who can provide gear and assistance for all levels. Their own website comments…
“With a surf break, Kandooma Right at your front door you will be able to surf awesome waves at your leisure. But with another 6 quality breaks between 5 and 45 minutes of the resort our resident surf guide will take you up to twice daily via Dhoni to these top spots.”
At first glance, one would expect that refreshing pina coladas and tropical coolers would be more the order of the day than a steaming mug of brew. Coffee and tea is more the craving for those colder, cloudier climes (like today which saw our first frost of the year at our home in England).
But for those visitors like myself who hail from those areas, our caffeine and other pet addictions don’t necessarily disappear despite the sunshine. I still love a satisfying latte in the morning or a cappuccino to top off a lovely meal. I find that one of the find things I have when I get back home is a fresh cup of home brewed coffee as one of the things that I miss during my trips to the Maldives. Relatively few resorts get this important beverage just right by the standards of the European and American cafe and Starbucks culture (though the rise and popularity of Nespresso machines have become de rigeur accessories for a 5-star room these days). Those that do don’t have anywhere near the decadent array of choice that we are also spoiled by. But Kandooma has introduced its Bokkuraa Coffee Club with a broad range of specialty coffees and teas served in an stylish outdoor cafe. It even has soy milk.