Unpaid Advertisement | Disclaimer: Kandolhu invited me for a complimentary 3-night all-inclusive stay and also covered my Maldives trip cost by seaplane – thank you!
I know last year I complained ad nauseam that I hadn’t had a holiday in years and why couldn’t I afford a holiday and how it was so unfair that everyone was having holidays but me. I also know how this must have looked like from the outside because while I may not have had a holiday per se, I have had amazing trips with some incredible experiences most people probably won’t get to do in a lifetime. I get that wining about the definition of the word holiday makes me sound really ungrateful.
Things I wish I had known before Gorilla Trekking, Uganda.
The story of the Headless Goat – Kok Boru in Kyrgyzstan.
Live from a Liveaboard – Scuba Diving in Raja Ampat.
In my defense, I think I just felt stressed and started to realize that I didn’t enjoy some of my trips as I should, that a lot of times when I was in a paradisiacal location I was still tied to my laptop, and that I came to the conclusion that waking up grabbing your phone is not a healthy thing to do.
And then there was another slightly more embarrassing matter. Whenever someone asked me what my ideal vacation would look like, I would reply: beach, sun, books, great food, wine, diving. Which was swiftly followed by incredulous looks because surely as a travel blogger I should desire to do something a little cooler or more adventurous than just lie on a beach during my holidays. There was an expectation of my holiday plans by others and I was too embarrassed to rub it into people’s faces: the truth is, I am fortunate enough to get to do cool shit all the time and call it work. When I think of having holidays, I just want to chill.
At the end of last year, I decided to finally make it happen and to not only have a holiday but a holiday as I envisioned it. When I got invited to stay at a few Maldives beach resorts, I took that as a sign – I was going to turn a work trip into my Maldives holidays 2018. While I had arranged my work schedule in advance to make sure all pressing things were taken care of, I underestimated the amount of work that goes into working with a resort. Again, I am not complaining but when you get to stay and write about a beautiful Maldives beach resort it doesn’t actually mean I get to chill on said Maldives beach that comes with the resort. It means I get to do and try all activities a given hotel offers, meet and dine with the managers and take pictures of everything which tends to take a lot longer when you are not traveling with an #instagramhusband who knows what he is doing.
It is definitely fun if you call it work but it ain’t a holiday. Lucky for me after 4 nights I arrived at Kandolhu and that’s when it all changed…
My Maldives vacation at Kandolhu
I arrived with one of the Maldivian airlines that offer Seaplanes, Trans Maldivian Airways, still quite sad to be leaving Soneva. This feeling changed quickly because not only did Kandolhu put me up in one of their all-inclusive overwater bungalows but I could just feel my mood shift as soon as I set foot onto the jetty – I felt relaxed. You may think this is the case with all the Maldives hotels on water but trust me, it isn’t. For starters: with only 30 villas divided into 5 different categories Kandolhu is a lot smaller than most Maldives all-inclusive resorts. You can surround the entire island in a few minutes and chances are you are not going to see another single person while you do.
Most of their guests are return customers, always a good sign, and tend to stay quite long, also not a given as many people like to do a bit of island & resort hopping during their Maldives vacation. Some guests even stay a couple of months!
I secretly believe Kandolhu puts something in their water to make you relax and the word that describes this feeling best ist ‘entschleunigt’ – a beautiful German phrase meaning ‘slowed down’. They offer all the activities you may want from your Maldives vacation including dive excursions as they have their own dive center, snorkeling, and various boat trips. They also have a gym, a spa, and a small library but chances are you will just want to do absolutely nothing but enjoy the sun, the ocean, and the baby sharks (or is that just me??).
After getting a quick tour around the property I was shown to my bungalow and was incredibly excited to realize that it was overlooking the ocean and getting back to my room after dinner and wine might be a tricky affair thanks to a jetty with no railing leading to my bungalow. I did ask them if anyone ever managed to fall in the water but my question was met with discreet silence – I take that as a yes. Still, if you are staying at one of the overwater bungalow resorts in the Maldives, it is a risk worth taking.
The inside was sleek and modern, each room coming with a beach bag with towels, beach ball and water bottle as well as a GoPro for you to use while you are at Kandolhu. The hotel will even email you your pictures afterward. In addition, every guest gets 2 bottles of water each day which to my delight were refillable glass bottles and my request for only sparkling water was promptly fulfilled. Instead of boring old chocolate on your pillow, you get macarons or cake pops as a ‘sweet dreams’ – these are the times when I am happy to travel on my own as there were always two of each all for me!
I also had my own deck with ocean access as well as a huge bathtub in front of panoramic windows. Maybe a better travel blogger would have staged a photo shoot in the tub but I for once hate taking baths, wouldn’t like to waste water on a fake bath, and honestly forgot because within a couple of hours at Kandolhu I was in full on Maldives vacation mode.
As I mentioned before – my ideal holiday includes some great food and wine and unfortunately, that’s when a lot of all-inclusive resorts fall flat for me. The food is either not that amazing or you end up having to pay extra for all the truly good stuff. Oh, and you tend to eat a lot more than you usually would but I guess that part of being on holidays and not something I would complain about.
The food at Kandolhu is nothing like the all-inclusive resort food I have ever experienced. With that said, yes, I ate way too much and didn’t even mind one bit. Guests can choose between 3 different meal plans – one which includes just breakfast, one which includes breakfast as well as à la carte for lunch and dinner at any of their restaurants, and one which even includes wines and certain spirits. I was on the second meal plan including soft drinks but was happy to realize that alcoholic beverages are very well priced here compared to a lot of other Maldives resorts of this caliber.
For such a small resort, Kandolhu sure has a lot of food options that are as far from your run of the mill buffet dining as you can get. Even the breakfast buffet is quite small but that is because you can also order from the menu which offers dishes from around the world including ramen and huevos rancheros. My favorite spot for lunch was their newly opened Ata Roa which serves only tacos and ceviche on a beach bar best enjoyed with an ice cold Corona and yes, you guessed it, some baby sharks below you.
And then there is dinner, oh my… Banzai is a tiny Japenese restaurant that offers sushi (try the scallops!) and Teppanyaki with thankfully just a short cooking show from the chef (personally, I hate chefs that flip your food around in front of you and expect a round of applause after). The Sea Grill offers as the name implies a variety of fish, seafood, and meats either prepared on the grill or in the tandoor oven. And then there was my favorite, Olive, their fine dining restaurant. Now maybe you can call me a food snob and sometimes I complain about things that others (definitely most English people wouldn’t) would ignore but I dare say, I know a little bit about good food. With that said, I have learned to keep my expectations low at times to avoid disappointment. So when I was told that Olive was basically their fine dining restaurant I took it with a pinch of salt. I shouldn’t have because in layman’s terms – this place rocks. Portions are small so you should definitely order the whole 5-course degustation dinner (and maybe add the pasta Aglio e Olio vs Chèvre). Then just sit back, enjoy the view over the beach and the ocean and what is on your plate.
So yes, I spent much of my Maldives vacation at Kandolhu eating (calling it research of course!). In between, I lay in the shade with my book, praying to the fruitbat gods that the bat above me wouldn’t poop on my head, snorkeled, tanned, and slept. So while I hate to disappoint, for me all it takes for the perfect Maldives vacation is a beach, a baby shark, and a well-behaved bat.
I am curious – if money was no objective – what would be your ideal version of a holiday?