The joke is that the entire Brexit campaign was primarily to get “Blue” passports for the Brits (the traditional colour for British passports until they joined the EU and the passports became burgundy coloured). Well then the British will love the alluringly azure blue “Experience Passport” by Kihaa Maldives.
I always appreciate when properties make something special out of the ordinary. Most resorts simply print out information sheets left in binders or folders in the room. These hard copy versions are increasingly being replaced by digital catalogues of info, Kihaa has developed a “hand-held” guide with a more retro inspiration. Like a proper passport, just the right size for a pocket. It includes:
- Map of the Island
- Floors plans for all the room types
- Index of services, with hours, etc.
- Restaurant pages
- And other information about the area and resort
KIHAA is simply one of the best resort *islands* in the Maldives. No wonder people have been flocking to it for decades. I have coveted a visit for years for this classic property. It started as a simple divers’ haven, grew into an Italian “Club Vacances” and some refurb a few years ago. But it still retains a classic Maldives resort feel.
KIHAA achieves the rare island trifecta (the closest comparison is Anantara Kihavah):
- House Reef – One of the best house reefs we have seen in recent years. CORAL! More than half of the reef was live coral (the “lumpy” coral varieties, eg. massives like favia or prorates, seem to be thriving better than the “branchy” varieties, eg. staghorn, fan, table). Dramatic topology. Easy access. Colourful schools of yellow striped convict tangs, sergeant major fish, Moorish idols. So good, that one of our Amilla dives came over to dive the Kihaa house reef.
- Beaches – Big, white, wrap around beach not seen since Kihavah. Flour soft sand especially by the water’s edge. An active beach duo is cleaning it constantly. Great for sunset circumambulations. Beach dining every night (partly due to low occupancy).
- Lagoon – Millpond calm lagoon with turquoise vistas and easy swimming (which was useful as the property’s pools were just being brought back on line after lockdown).
Furthermore, the island scale is pretty much as Goldilocks size – big enough to support good amount of infrastructure but small enough to walk around in under 20 minutes.
A resort like KIHAA demonstrates how difficult it is to pin a star-rating on a property. The island itself is a 5-star deluxe with its exceptional “trifecta” of beach, reef and lagoon. The resort also boasts exceptional sports facilities including two smart tennis courts and two first-rate squash courts as well as finely kitted out gym. The lodging is more the 4-star category with handsome styling (recently spruced up).
The operations are difficult to assess at this time given the COVID situation. After 10 months of mothballing, it is like re-opening a resort with lots of cleaning, maintenance, supplying, etc to get up and running. Like all Maldives resorts, the staff are scrambling to provide the best experience possible for the intrepid and anxious early post-lockdown guests, but they face intractable constraints on availability of personnel (who have to quarantine) and even supplies.
With the resurgent coral and the vintage villas, our visit very much felt like going back in time to our first magical visits to the Maldives years ago.
COVID PROTOCOLS – Take your temperature on arrival, all staff wear masks and sanitising stations are found throughout the island.
If you need a villa for your entire entourage, then Kihaa has introduced its Signature Residence with 10 bedrooms (nipping the previous highwater mark of 9 by Soneva Fushi’s Private Residence). Many reports have been billing the mansion sized “villa” as the “biggest” which I can’t confirm whether it is or not compared to Soneva’s 5540 sqm.