When it comes to the frontiers of luxury hospitality, one is wont to find it in the remote corners of the earth. And very few geographical domains are as committed to its perfection as the Maldives. Since its independence from the British in 1965, the tiny island nation has relied heavily on tourism as its main industry and luxury resorts soon flourished across its 28 atolls with many top hotel chains jostling for a presence in one of its tropical island havens even today. Over a dozen bona fide 5 stars resorts have and will open in 2018 and the coming year. Such a scene is definitely not lost on the radar of crazy rich Asians who are also crazy rich divers and island hoppers.
Water villas at Four Seasons Landaa Giravaaru
Many divers descend upon Maldives to seek out its most stupendous dive sites and whilst luxury resorts do not hold exclusive rights to these spots, only a few players can offer highly enhanced experiences best described as high life on the high sea. While liveaboard options abound in the Maldives, few can present itineraries that match the grand expectations of highly affluent divers like the Four Seasons in Maldives. Before one starts to imagine garrulous scenes where dive weights are substituted with gold bars and pearl power are served at breakfast, a luxurious diving trip is rather more about fabulously designed board and dive plans expertly executed by skilled crews.
Black tip sharks and prey at Landaa Giravaaru
Here are some of the highlights of a luxury diving odyssey most attuned to the imperial expectations of crazy rich divers as afforded by the Four Seasons establishments in Maldives.
The Four Seasons operates 2 fantastic resort islands in the Maldives, with Kuda Huraa at the North Male atoll and Landaa Giraavaru within Baa atoll. The latter is a UNESCO world biosphere reserve and harbours some of the most fascinating scenes within its deep blues, including seasonal Mantas congregations in large numbers. A seafaring adventure would typically start with an over-nighter at Kuda Huraa followed by a 4 days diving odyssey aboard the Four Seasons Explore before the catamaran yacht anchors for final stop at Landaa Giraavaru.
A butler drawn bath at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
Relishing grand service
Purportedly a gift from billionaire hotelier Ong Beng Seng to his fashion mogul wife Christina Ong, the Four Season Explorer is one of the most luxurious board and dive options Maldives. Spanning 3 decks with 10 state rooms and 1 explorer suite, a crew of 25 including personal chefs, diving instructors, underwater videographers, marine biologists and a massage therapist are constantly at the beck and call of guests, whether 1 or 22, as the catamaran, reputedly the nation’s fastest, sails through the shimmering channels of the island nation.
Tailoring to extremely high expectations tied to the 4 Seasons branding, the anticipatory spirit steering the Explorer is highly laudable. Seafaring does come with all sorts of unexpected conditions and having a thinking staff that is always 5 steps ahead is deeply comforting. Whilst diving is the prime activity for all guests aboard, this is also a veritable pleasure cruise that takes one from the deep blue to pristine white shores where one can indulge in massages, picnics and sumptuous BBQ dinners under sun and stars. Other activities include deep sea fishing and dolphin chasing.
The Four Seasons Explorer
Exploring the deep blue
Over a three nights itinerary a guest can expect to clock between 2-3 dives a day across the rich seascapes that include gorgeous spots within the UNESCO listed biosphere of Baa Atoll renowned for colourful coral gardens and abundant sea life. Frequently spotted within this atoll are manta rays that return to feed every year from July till November. On clear days of full sunshine, the stunning array of of forms and colours, from tiny cleaner shrimps and nudibranchs to schools of eagle rays and black tip reef sharks, will entrance all in attendance, crazy rich or not.
Diving in the Maldives open the eyes to fascinating coral ecologies
Reveling in island luxuries
With two world class resorts augmenting the odyssey at the beginning and the end, there will be pampering moments on terra firma to look forward to before and after the liveaboard experience. Kuda Huraa boasts some recently renovated over-water pool villas with plush outdoor spaces pointing towards magnificent sunrises and sunsets. There are a few restaurants on this island serving international, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine and we fondly remember the idyllic lunches comprising hearty pastas and deep-fried calamari at the Reef Club overlooking the water villas and accompanied by a resident heron. Over-water treatment suites at the spa offer pampering massages amidst calming marine elements.
Over at the larger island of Landaa Giravaaru, Mediterranean styled beach villas with 12 meters long private pools offer cloistered seclusion just steps away from sandy white beaches and the shimmering sea. A selection of dining experiences ranging from zesty grills to spirited Italian satiate the epicurean senses and a range of activities from snorkeling to motorised water sports complement the island experience. A splendid spa where an Ayurvedic doctor is available for consultation also provide excellent massages based on the ancient Indian system of holistic wellness. There are also new age treatments involving warm poultices and singing bowls aimed to restore balance in one. Nightly shark feeding at Sea Bar can be an enjoyable moment if the crowd that has converged is none too large.
A day at the beach at Four Seasons Landaa Giravaaru
Supporting marine conservation
The Four Seasons resort is one of the most committed activists of marine conservation in Maldives, with the establishment of marine conservation centres with turtle rescue and rehabilitation facilities manned by professional marine biologists at both resorts. They have also initiated a ‘Flying Turtles’ program where handicapped turtles (fins typically lost due to web entanglement) are rescued and adopted by aquariums all around the world. Since the horrifying bleaching effects of El Nino in 2016, conservation efforts have also been redoubled on both islands with the active planting of coral bells to speed up recovery.
Nightly shark feeding at the Sea Bar of Four Seasons Landaa Giravaaru
Ultimate luxury isolation
With the opening of Four Seasons Voavah in late 2016, this pristine island remains the only private hideaway set within an UNESCO listed biosphere site. Approximately 15 mins by speedboat from Landaa Giravaaru, Voavah is a 7 bedroom property replete with fully-manned kitchens, plush bedrooms, enticing bathrooms and plenty of decadently decked open spaces perfect for throwing the sort of soirees that would gratiate the CRA sets. When we visited, the island was being majorly prepped for the birthday weekend of the young daughter of an India tycoon. The event planner seemed to have her head entangled in a web of party streamers whilst a battalion of 28 staff calmly and expertly went about setting paradise in motion.
Private spa at the Four Seasons Voavah Private Island