The global pandemic halted travel for most of the world in 2020, but the island nation of the Maldives is currently one of just a handful of countries currently open to tourists. With no quarantine and in-resort PCR testing offered across the islands, FACT travelled to the small archipelagic state in South Asia to discover why the Maldives is the perfect travel destination during a time of uncertainty for the industry.
The Maldives is said to be the country in the world that is most reliant on tourism. While the Maldives was one of the first to re-open borders during the pandemic, it is also leading the way in offering visitors a smooth, safe travel experience, in the ultimate paradise setting. With each luxury resort set on its own private island, the Maldives offers guests not only a sense of unrestrained luxury but a holiday opportunity that revolves around privacy and self-imposed isolation. At a time when we want to be as far away from strangers as possible, the Maldives with its private villas and isolated beaches is seeing an influx of foreign visitors.
Armed with face masks, shields, sanitiser and gloves, we nervously wait to board a flight to Malé, the Maldives’ capital city. It has been almost two years since we last set foot on an aeroplane and to say we’re dubious would be a vast understatement! We needn’t have worried though as our four-hour flight from Dubai with Emirates felt safe and secure, with the crew taking all necessary precautions and the passengers socially distanced throughout the cabin.
With a negative PRC test result and a short medical questionnaire completed prior to departure, these are currently the only requirements for entering the Maldives and within thirty minutes of hitting the tarmac at Velana International Airport, we’re already jetting across turquoise blue waters on a speedboat headed to Grand Park Kodhipparu.
Situated just twenty minutes from the airport, Grand Park Kodhipparu is a haven away from the stresses of daily life. The one-island-one-resort destination features a collection of 120 idyllic beach-front pool villas, breathtaking overwater villas and spacious two-bedroom villas flanked by swaying palm trees, powder white sands and crystal clear waters.
On arrival to the Island, we received a warm welcome filled with music and lots of smiles from Grand Park Kodhipparu’s staff members. Following the required COVID-19 measures, our temperatures are checked before we’re led through a rainbow-coloured door made of driftwood. At this point we know we’ve arrived in paradise.
Imagine chic overwater villas with direct access to the silky white-sand blue lagoon and house reef, accessible via a long wooden boardwalk that snakes ceremoniously out to sea. The Reef Pool Villas at Grand Park Kodhipparu are the epitome of unrestrained luxury, where land and sea meet in a beautiful confluence of traditional decor with distinctly modern touches.
Postcards and Instagram posts of the Maldives have inundated us with images of bungalows hovering over crystal clear waters and bountiful coral reefs, so we were more than a little excited by the notion of residing in a one-bedroom Reef Pool Villa. Clocking in at a generous 92m2, our one-bedroom villa is an absolute dream and impresses thanks to an ability to blend the contemporary with the traditional. Decorated in neutral colours, the design predominantly features natural products such as timber and stone, providing the villa with a feeling of being at one with the island.
Contactless check-in is conducted within the comfort of the villa, and we’re immediately impressed with the direct lagoon access and the promise of stunning sunrise views. There’s too much to take in, but we were especially blown away by the open-air shower and the pool deck with private plunge pool and a net for lounging that hangs just above the waterline.
Simply furnished, the living area segues into an extremely comfortable bedroom with a king-sized bed positioned to ensure guests wake to a view of the ocean. The bedroom also features ample closet space and an LED television.
Bathrooms are beautifully appointed with a large freestanding tub, double sinks and both indoor and outdoor showers. An absolute bonus for those looking to embrace the ‘back to nature’ experience associated with life on a remote island. However, the standouts of this villa were in the little details. These included an array of high-tech toys and gourmet treats, as well as ornately carved wooden wardrobes and macrame curtains. A glass portion of flooring at the foot of the bed looks directly into the Indian ocean providing glimpses of colourful fish and an abundance of marine life.
Grand Park Kodhipparu offers three restaurants to select from that range from The Edge’s casual buffet fare to the upmarket and sophisticated cuisine served at Fire Door. No matter which restaurant you choose, one thing is for sure, the waterfront views are not to be missed.
Sitting above the crashing waves on the natural shoreline, The Edge is the resorts main restaurant and serves a variety of international cuisine, with both buffet and live cooking stations available. While resort policy dictates that mask-wearing is optional, buffets, shops, spas, and fitness centres are the exceptions – so make sure you come prepared! The spectacular beach-side breakfast buffet caters to all tastes with American, Asian Continental and local Maldivian specialities.
The tranquil Breeze Poolside Dining & Bar is the place to be for sundowners overlooking the large infinity pool. This laidback pool bar serves lunch and light bites throughout the day, showcasing contemporary interpretations of Asian and Mediterranean classics, as well as old favourites like burgers, pasta and salads. Breeze truly comes alive after dark and Mondays are Maldivian nights, where a selection of local delicacies are served to diners who sit amidst flickering candlelight with their toes in the sand. Due to the Maldives’ remote location, there is minimal light pollution, meaning as night falls, the sky fills with thousands of stars, providing the resort with an almost ethereal feel.
Fire Door, however, is the restaurant that captured our hearts. Situated above the lagoon, we can watch the chefs preparing dishes on the Josper grill in the open show kitchen, while reef sharks swim in the waters beneath. If a memorable dinner with an exceptional view is on the agenda, then Fire Door is not to be missed.
Recreation and Relaxation:
What lies beneath the surface? Venture deeper into the mysteries and secrets of the Indian Ocean by immersing yourself in the house reef with a snorkelling or diving excursion. Dotted around the sandy island’s perimeter is the dive centre where complimentary snorkelling equipment can be borrowed to navigate the crystal clear waters. We venture out straight from the steps of our villa, and within minutes we have witnessed sharks, a sea turtle and even an octopus! The Grand Park Kodhipparu is also haven for on-water activities. You name it and they have got it! The resort has an array of water sports: jet skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboards, kayaks and the option for PADI certification and excursions.
Located on a wooden boardwalk that seemingly hovers above the calm waters of the Indian Ocean that is alive with stingrays, lies The Spa. Overwater pavilions make for soothing treatment rooms for both individuals and couples and provide the ideal location to focus on wellbeing and self-renewal. The glass floors within the treatment rooms add a nice touch and the underwater world with its abundance of marine life makes for a serene visual to accompany massage rituals and beautifying body therapies.
Grand Park Kodhipparu lives up to its reputation for acute attention to detail, an intuitive and personalised service style and the ability to create unforgettable moments. Despite the global pandemic, we feel at ease throughout our stay. With social distancing in restaurants, QR code menus, rigorous sanitisation in all villas and public areas and a dedicated COVID-19 response team on call. The travel experience is less daunting than expected.
The Maldives is the ideal destination for travel during this difficult time. In the Maldives privacy and private accommodation options reign supreme, and the feeling of isolation and safety is abundant. After two days on a remote island in one of the world’s most in-demand luxury destinations, this sense of sanctuary is hard to shake and it’s no wonder the brilliant white shores and bright blue waters are drawing travellers from all over the world to these far-flung islands. For those searching for a luxury escape and to experience the sunny side of life, look no further than Grand Park Kodhipparu.