Amanda McClatchie gets a taste for the high life at luxury lifestyle resort Kandima.
Contemporary "lifestyle" resort Kandima claims to be a game-changing destination and a world apart from what's on offer elsewhere in the Maldives, smashing the honeymooner stereotype.
I visited the 4-star resort for its official launch event and it was one of the most stunning places I've ever been lucky enough to experience.
Kandima is situated on its own 3km-long tropical island, Dhaalu Atoll, just a 40-minute seaplane flight from Male's International Airport. The scenery during the flight over the Indian Ocean was breathtaking. Ninety-nine per cent of the Maldives is made up of water and there are 1190 coral islands so the sea was peppered with turquoise blobs (or atolls, if we're being technical) as far as the eye could see. The Maldives are as ridiculously picture-perfect as they look in photos: crystal clear turquoise water, palm trees and white sand that squeaks beneath your toes. The islands are a far cry from Male itself, which is a concrete jungle with narrow streets jam-packed with motorbikes.
After landing in Kandima's lagoon, a quick boat ride took us to the jetty where the Krew (there's a K-theme at Kandima, a la the Kardashians) were waiting to take us to the reception for a welcome drink. It isn't your typical hotel lobby, with the floor a continuation of the white sandy beach, and the music playing from the speakers creating an Ibiza-like vibe. I loved the "kool" technology in the RFID wristband, which acts as both a room key and wallet, allowing guests to charge food, drinks and activities to their room. I'm also a huge fan of Kandima's 24-hour room concept — you get 24 hours from the exact time you check in.
There is a range of room options, with the Beach Studio I stayed in at the bottom of the scale. It was chic and stylish and the views of the lagoon as I chilled on my very own daybed swing could have been photoshopped. I loved the mirror in the bathroom with built-in magnifier. Studios start at only $236 per person, per night, half board. I also spent a night in an Ocean Pool Villa which looks out to uninterrupted views across the Indian Ocean. They're pricier at $618 per person, per night, but worth it for total luxury in this overwater retreat. If you're lucky you might spot dolphins from your bubble bath.
Aside from chilling by the pool and swimming in the deliciously warm sea, I took advantage of the range of activities available: I went diving and snorkelling; sipped champagne on a sunset cruise (the sunsets were breathtakingly beautiful); took part in an aqua-spin class which happens to be in the longest pool in the Maldives; perfected my down dog at a beach and sunset yoga class; and learned the cha-cha with the UK's Strictly Come Dancing stars. There's also stand up paddle-boarding, jet-skiing, parasailing or banana boating, if you're after a thrill, and you can catch your dinner on a sunset fishing trip.
There's an underlying focus on well-being, with a wide range of fitness and meditation classes on offer, and a relaxation spa where guests can enjoy Kandima's signature massage, esKapism. If you're coming with the kids in tow, there's a kids' club, Kandiland, the largest in the country, complete with a huge pirate ship wet area with slides, tunnels and water cannons, an in-ground trampoline and a climbing wall.
There are 10 restaurants and bars (although many weren't finished during my visit). Most nights I ate at Flavour, a contemporary market-style food hall restaurant.
I also enjoyed a delicious meal at Mediterranean eatery, Azure, a chic beach house feel which offers casual dining by day and elegant dining by night. The newly finished Sea Dragon, Kandima's signature restaurant, serves authentic Chinese cuisine with a modern touch and houses Forbidden Bar, where DJs play into the night.
Kandima is the latest offering of new hospitality group, Pulse Hotels & Resorts. Their mission is to take the holiday experience to the next level and, for me, they have more than achieved that goal.
• Opt for the all-inclusive package as the "Oh-so Kool Kandima kocktail" is so moreish the bill can add up quickly.
• There are 10 species of dolphins and whales in the Maldives and it is arguably one of the best diving spots in the world, so a scuba dive with the Aquaholics team is a Kandima must-do. I had an incredible dive among shoals of tropical fish of all shapes and sizes and even spotted a turtle and a moray eel. If you are a first-timer or need a refresher you can have a go in the dive pool, which has a glass window, ideal for capturing those Instagram shots.
• Breeze Bar is the perfect spot for a drink while you enjoy the music from the resident DJs as the sun goes down.
• Pack a pair of hair straighteners as the humidity hits you as soon as you step off the plane (my hair resembled Monica's from Friends in that Bahamas episode).
• The standard socket is the UK-style three-pin, so don't forget an adaptor.
• There's definitely no need for high heels, ladies — I wore jandals the entire time.
Singapore Airlines flies from Auckland to Male via Singapore, with Economy Class return tickets starting from $1400, for travel from May. singaporeair.com
Kandima prices start from $236 half-board per person, based on two adults sharing. There are also packages available including the Love @ K package which includes an in-villa champagne breakfast and 90-minute spa treatment or the Relax, Reset and Evolve yoga and meditation package. kandima.com