Back to blog listing

Island hideaways

Is this the most perfect Maldives Island?

Clive Wedderburn October 8, 2015

That’s a divisive question – is Kanifushi the most perfect Maldives Island? I’ll do my best to answer it – yet before I do, allow me to set out some criteria I believe should be met by any island claiming to offer the perfect paradise island experience.

Having visited a few ‘tropical island paradises’ in my time and viewed a range of different alternatives I can tell you I’m becoming quite discerning in my old age. Curmudgeonly (usually a crusty, ill-tempered, and old man) is the word I word use to describe my attitude to desert islands.  

Top of my list would be - people

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the location, how powder soft the beaches are or how many stars a resort has after its name, if the people are not nice, and that goes for the other guests too, then in the words of Shania Twain: that don’t impress-a me much. As a people person (meaning I also travel to meet new people) unlikeable human beings will mar any desert island experience.

A true desert island experience

Visiting a desert island paradise is all about the experience of tropical climes, the landscape, the sounds of the sea, the wildlife, the humidity and the constant reminder you are thousands of miles from home. You visit island paradises to be thrust out of context (particularly in the UK, where we don’t ordinarily live in thatched-roofed houses on stilts in the middle of a blue lagoon). The entire experience must be satisfyingly different from anything you encounter at home.

A balance of tranquillity and fascination is an imperative

On every island you need to feel that you could spend two weeks simply swinging in your hammock and that no one is going to bother you or thrust an itinerary in your face.  Or, being such a proactive species, the moment we fall groggily from our hammocks we must be presented with the opportunity to ‘do something’.

This could be anything from an ad-hoc game of volleyball on the beach, a massage on the sands from a well-being guru, even a serene snorkel in the lagoon – but there must be alternatives or we will tire of the experience. A tiny island with nothing to do will sap your spirit quicker than you can say Robinson Crusoe.

Everything on a desert island is easy-going

The very best paradise (the clue’s in the name here) islands have one thing in common: ease of living. If you feel hungry, barbeque a fish, if you feel thirsty, swim up to the pool bar, if you need to tune out – then simply find the nearest patch of sand and fall over onto a beach towel. The job of the desert island is to present us with a ridiculously simplistic way of life that challenges the very way we live at home.

Modernity is eschewed in favour of simplicity

By this I don’t mean that your bathroom is a stream 100 yards from your hut (although I have tried this and there is nothing wrong with the experience). Specifically I mean the pace of life that exists in the outside world is completely removed from your tropical island. Have you ever tried to run, or even go for a brisk walk in a pair of flip-flops? Simply impossible. On desert islands there are no deadlines – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This is our opportunity to leave our ‘I’m so busy-busy’ lives behind at the jetty.  

My stylish arrival at the Kanifushi

So when I arrived at the Kanifushi resort in the Maldives I’m naturally sceptical. You are a desert island paradise? It says so in the brochure, right? Prove it! (I told you I am curmudgeonly).

The Atmosphere Kanifushi nailed it the moment I stepped onboard the seaplane at Male airport. The moment that twin-prop De Havilland Otter took to the skies I became an intrepid desert island explorer, flying to the far ends of the planet in search of paradise perfection. I felt like the leisure industry equivalent of David Attenborough, which is no bad thing. This is the perfect way to arrive at your desert island paradise.

When you land at the jetty it’s a job getting out of the aircraft, but only because everyone wants to shake your hand to welcome you. You’re also immediately envious because they are dressed in desert island fatigues (linen trousers, linen shirt) and you’re wearing your tie-dyed disaster that you bought on the high street back in gloomy-land.

And that’s a long walk to the island along the jetty – but hey, there’s a couple of drummers who rap out a rhythm of Maldivian island beats to escort you. As you stroll towards the island this sensory experience enforces the notion that you’re a long way from home. Then finally you step foot on dry land and a glass of champagne is thrust into your hand. First impressions create long lasting memories.

Luxury island retreat

The Atmosphere Kanifushi is set on its own two kilometre stretch of white sand situated in the Lhaviyani Atoll region of the Maldives. It is approximately 30 minutes from Male by seaplane or a two hour journey by speedboat transfer should you prefer.

When you land, one of the only forms of transport that you will encounter are bicycles and tricycles that you can hire for a dollar a day. If you like to walk it’s a beautiful island to stroll around and I was particularly taken by wandering through the tropical flowers and tall swaying palm trees. The gardens here are beautifully landscaped.

As temperatures climb, and you need a bit of help getting from A to B then it’s easy to thumb a lift from one of the passing golf buggies who will gladly drop you off where you need to go.

The Platinum Plus package that I (really) enjoyed includes all-day dining in the main restaurant serving quality world cuisine and unlimited premium drinks at the bar – plus the mini-bar in your beachside villa is replenished twice a day no matter how thirsty you have been during your stay (and believe me I tried and failed to exhaust this facility).

I have to mention the quality of food, which was superb throughout, particularly at the contemporary meat-free restaurant at the far end of the island called JUSTVEG, available as part of the Platinum Premium Package. Not only were the views from the decking some of the best on the island - but the food was of an exceptionally high standard.

The resort also has floodlit tennis courts, a kids clubs and PADI diving services, complimentary snorkelling trips to the nearby reef and free non-motorised watersports such as paddleboards for hire should you require a spot of serene activity on the lagoon.

The Akira Spa, boasting six treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and a hair and beauty salon is set in landscaped gardens containing three hypnotic waterfall features, was also a favourite place of mine. There is, thank goodness, plenty to occupy your time on the island.

My beachside villa was (how can I put this) stunningly sexy and equipped with an ‘open to the stars’ bathroom including whirlpool tub.

There are generous patio doors that revealed a private view of the ocean. I marvelled at the small colony of hermit crabs that crossed my little patch of beach every morning (kids will love these critters). Every now and then you hear the roar of a passing seaplane, but, aside from that, the Kanifushi is a quiet strip of Indian Ocean gorgeousness.

What makes the Kanifushi stand out?

If I had to draw your attention to one aspect that impressed me most about the resort, it would be the small army of staff who work tirelessly to ensure your experience is a memorable one. In some resorts white-coated waiters constantly hover in your periphery, ingratiating themselves to your every need – this I might add is not necessary and becomes quite irksome.

While in other resorts staff sulk around the fringes, fading into the undergrowth when you need them most – more adept at camouflage than the local wildlife. This is equally annoying.

The good folk of the Kanifushi struck the right balance. Being there when you need assistance – otherwise getting on with their own lives when you don’t.

And I made sure I tested their resolve – this is a five star resort, after all. I asked for rare cocktails at the bar (no Pina Colada for me, thank you very much).

Question: Can I have a negroni please. Answer: No problem.

Question: I seem to have a strange blue insect in my bathroom - can you help?  Answer: (upon close inspection): Yes – don’t worry. It is harmless and is quite common in these parts.

Question: This is my first time snorkelling – I’m a bit of a wuss. Will I die? Answer: No problem, come and swim alongside me. (That was a nautical adventure two miles from shore I shall never forget and it was all thanks to my snorkelling supervisor and a beautiful Maldivian coral reef.)

Question: Can I have a glass of champagne for breakfast?  Answer: Yes, of course, but can I recommend the Champagne Bellini instead?

You get the picture.

Every stroll I took throughout the island was met with ‘good morning’ and ‘hallo, how are you’ from the courteous staff. What an effect this has upon everyone, who then become so accustomed to being greeted, that it spreads to fellow guests like wildfire. This creates a sense of togetherness, and cocktails at sunset are so much better when you meet new people.

Is this the most perfect Maldives Island?

So back to my initial teaser, is this the most perfect Maldives Island? The Kanifushi never put a foot wrong during my entire stay (and I did my fair share of poking and prodding). The experience was flawless, from the view from my veranda to the food on my plate at mealtimes.

At one point, I remember now, I walked to the pool, laid my towel on the recliner, a waiter appeared so I ordered a cold beer. I swam two lengths in the pool, and when I got out he’d placed the drink on my table. Now that for me was paradise. You may have your own ideas of what makes a perfect Maldives island – but whatever they are I’m sure you can find them here.