The resort might be described as a Four Seasons take on Soneva Fushi. That neighbour is pretty much the established leading resort in the country, for its rustic luxury, its constant innovation, green conscience and beautiful island. Landaa Giraavaru has all those attributes but set in a more conventional, classic resort style. That it’s under the radar of world-renowned resorts is an enigma to me and I expect it will rise to wide recognition soon enough.
The single aspect that isn’t first class is the snorkeling. At least in the expected Maldives housereef way. The reef suffered a bleaching event in 2010 that killed off much of the regrowth from the major bleaching event of 1998 and the tsunami of 2004. However, out of a crisis has come a solution that is not only unique in the world at the moment but also an attraction and key point of interest in itself.
Working from the Marine Discovery Centre, Marie and Thomas of the company Reefscapers have perfected a technique of growing healthy corals on conical metal frames. A great number of these are carefully tended to independent growth at several points around the island. They are a wonder to snorkel over as they flourish and attract fish into the lagoon. Guests are able to sponsor a frame and have their name attached to it.
The Marine Discovery Centre itself is probably the best such place in the country. It mixes research and marine science with displays (a fun touch-pool), education, excursions and places to shop, lounge and have lunch. Talks here take in such subjects as the geology of atolls and reefs, the story of the turtle and the new wonder of the Maldives: the whale sharks and manta rays of Hanifaru Bay. From June to September - particularly August and September for the whale sharks - there is no better base to set off from to see one of the underwater world’s finest sights.
Other fine sights are lonely sandbanks for you and your partner to get away to during the day or dine on at night. Or, indeed, just the lagoon to dine in. A private yacht is at your command for snorkeling, dolphin watching, cruising and romancing.
Four Seasons take their community responsibilities seriously and the value of this is found in their inhabited island visits, which are entertaining and enlightening. They are fortunate to have a few of the more interesting islands nearby, particularly the storied Kudarikilu and Kendhoo.
Children are very well looked after. The Kuda Velaa Kid’s Club runs lots of activities from games and crafts to time with the resort Yogi and the head chef. Older children have their own club and are left more to their own electronic and table games.
The over-water spa is calm and professional but for me the intriguing pleasure was had at theAyurvedic Centre in the jungled centre of the island. Imagine a 4-handed treatment with tantric chanting, lots of oil, ground and powdered this for the body, that for the hair. You lose yourself in hands of ancient knowledge.
There are 2 glorious sight-lines on the resort. One is the broad avenue of towering palm trees that leads from the jetty to the 2-storey, thatched reception and upstairs bar. This, surprisingly, is not replicated anywhere else in the country. The other is when you step into The Blu restaurant on the western tip of the island. The vision of blues on blue, of space and air, of white and sand is very special. The style of the restaurant is suitably barefoot, fun and refreshing. No better place for a pizza and fizz that I know of.
The other specialty restaurant is Al Barakat, which is a perfect illusion of some favourite old haunt in the Middle East. Downstairs you might have some mezze and aperitif as you glance out to sea, then move upstairs for your banquet.
Having got special permission to re-use old coral, typical Maldivian coral walls have been recreated around each villa. This beautifully settles the rooms into the environment and visually displays the resort’s attachment to the country. The rooms themselves are elegant and expensively adorned. The unusually high ceilings enhance the sense of spacious luxury. As this is an east-west lying island, half the rooms (including the water villas) face north and half face south. Facing south you get the sun during the day, facing north you get the blue sky and empty views to sea.