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Paradise Exists



By Lauren Glendenning

I once printed a picture of one of those over-water bungalows only found at resorts in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean and pinned it to the wall in my office. It was a picture I could gaze at from time to time that could immediately take me to that perfect place, far away from the stresses in life or at work.

In May, that picture became a reality — and the lavish beauty I experienced while there trumped my wildest expectations.

My boyfriend, Ryan, and I booked flights to the Maldives, an Indian Ocean nation made up of 1,190 small coral islands, about 100 of which are resort islands.

When we arrived, we were stunned — not because it looks any different than it should or than we expected but because it’s so beautiful that we almost couldn’t believe it exists.

It’s surreal because it’s fabled and for good reason. This is a place where honeymooners go, where the rich and famous go on holiday, where couples fall in love with each other all over again.

The Maldives is made up of atolls, which are coral islands that encircle lagoons. The climate is warm, as the country is just north of the equator, and tropical. The hundreds of islands are no more than 6 feet above sea level, covering almost 56,000 square miles.

Traveling there from the United States isn’t easy — perhaps that’s why so many people looked at us puzzled when we told them we had just been there.

The Maldives? Where is that?

And the people who could likely point to it on a map would react in awe because we had gone there, as if Americans couldn’t ever possibly go to the Maldives and that our doing so had broken some unspoken law about where we’re allowed or expected to travel.


A world away

Flying from Denver to the Indian Ocean takes time, patience and maybe even a couple of sleeping aids (get a prescription from a travel doctor, or take advantage of free cocktails aboard international flights). It’s two hours to Los Angeles, where you can then board Emirates Airlines’ 16-hour nonstop to Dubai. After a layover in Dubai, which we chose to extend to four days (more on that experience in an upcoming article), then it’s just more than four hours to the Maldives capital of Male. All in all, that’s about 20 hours in the air, not including stops.

From there, depending on which island you’re heading to, you’ll need to board a seaplane and fly for anywhere from 10 minutes to more than an hour. To get to Kuramathi Island, where we stayed, the seaplane took just 15 minutes. From the seaplane, which is flown by barefoot pilots wearing shorts — an appropriate touch — you can see the beauty of the coral islands surrounded by turquoise waters so clear you can practically snorkel from the air.

The islands aren’t solely known for the beaches and water, though — there are also incredible lush landscapes, and this is especially true on Kuramathi Island.

When you arrive, the first thing you notice isn’t the pristine, white-sand beaches that are everywhere. It’s the tropical jungle that splatters an already gorgeous canvas with breathtaking trees, plants and flowers. You can get lost in this flourishing forest — the island feels like a botanical garden, one stocked with bats, hermit crabs, banyan trees and those over-water villas that I had been dreaming about for years.

Any American adventurous enough to take their beach vacation somewhere outside of our go-to destinations such as Mexico, Florida, Hawaii or Costa Rica can do it with just a little extra time and money. The reward is beyond worth it.


Ocean perfection

It’s hard to imagine staying in another type of room at Kuramathi, or any other Maldivian island, although beach and garden villas appeared lovely, as well.

I think it’s because we traveled all this way that we wanted to sleep on top of the ocean and enjoy every second of being there. At night, when the stars shine brighter than they do during the darkest nights in Vail, we could see the glimmer bounce off the sea and the sound of nothing more than a few small waves splashing beneath. There’s nothing like it.

You could sit out there for hours — and we did — listening to it. Just total peace, and if you’re lucky enough to catch it during or near a full moon, the light is just enough so that you can see where you are — in this picturesque paradise halfway around the world, where nothing, not even updating your Facebook status to brag to your friends about where you are, matters.

Kuramathi is an island with it all, too. Those looking for a pampered holiday can visit the spa — which sits on the beach so you can hear the sound of the ocean as you enjoy your spa treatments — or any one of the island’s restaurants (there are nine). You can relax on the beach while sipping on a cocktail from the resort’s extensive drink list, or you can choose ultimate privacy by sunbathing or snorkeling right at your villa.

Foodies will find this island more than adequate, too. Basic all-inclusive packages include three buffet meals per day, offering food that spans cuisine from Japan to Europe to Russia. The Sri Lankan and Maldivian food, however, was by far the most sensational.

For the more adventurous and active traveler, Kuramathi has a watersports shop where you can go windsurfing or stand-up paddleboarding. There are water kayaks available, too, and private fishing excursions.

Snorkeling trips, either with a group or private, offer trips out to nearby reefs — although the “house reef” surrounding the island is accessible by a short swim from the villas. It was the house reef where we saw some of the most colorful fish, as well as black tip reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays.

The scuba experience is once in a lifetime, too. The Rasdhoo Atoll Divers, located on the island, offer everything from diving courses to certification to expert dives. They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable — Ryan’s first dive since getting certified at Beaver Divers was here, and the instructors were there for him every step of the way.

Regardless of what kind of traveler and vacationer you are, Kuramathi — and the Maldives in general — will blow your mind in terms of what’s possible in an island vacation.

Paradise has been found — it’s sitting right there in the Indian Ocean.

Editor’s Note: Lauren Glendenning is the Assistant Manager Editor of Vail Daily (Colorado, USA). This article was first published on Vail Daily and we thank Lauren for permission to republish.


ROBINSON NOONU offers exciting sports, well-being events for guests



ROBINSON NOONU, the premium resort on the Maldivian island Orivaru, is offering guests the chance to experience innovative concepts and practice them with experienced coaches and experts. The resort’s upcoming event weeks include the HOT IRON Event Week, Mindful METIME Event-Week, “BODY POSITIVITY”-Event, and “Your timeout” Yoga-Event.

From October 16th to 21st, 2023, guests can participate in the HOT IRON Event Week “Strength meets mobility”, led by Sebastian Prahl. This strength-endurance training with the barbell is suitable for all levels and focuses on body toning and fat reduction.

From October 16th to 21st, 2023, guests can participate in the HOT IRON Event Week “Strength meets mobility”, led by Sebastian Prahl. This strength-endurance training with the barbell is suitable for all levels and focuses on body toning and fat reduction.

The Mindful METIME Event Week, led by Peter Praunsmändtl, takes place from November 7th to 19th, 2023. Guests can find their inner strength through meditations, breathing exercises, and workout classes, including Pilates and mobility sessions.

From December 22nd, 2023, to January 13th, 2024, guests can participate in the “BODY POSITIVITY” Event with Sava Assenov. This event includes core training, Pilates, and yoga flows, as well as early bird workouts and intensive whole-body workouts.

For those looking for a yoga-focused event, the “Your timeout” Yoga Event with Anja Bölitz takes place from January 13th to 27th, 2024. Bölitz, founder of emBODYMINDing®, focuses on healthy alignment for the body and mind, combining yoga and fascia training with meditation and mindfulness.

“Many of our guests come to our island not only to relax and enjoy the dreamlike scenery, but also to benefit their body and mind during their holiday,” said Jan-Hendrik Karliczek, General Manager of ROBINSON NOONU. “With our sport and well-being event weeks, we offer them the opportunity to get to know new innovative concepts and to practice them with experienced coaches and experts.”

In addition to the special event weeks, the resort offers a wide range of activities for all guests to enjoy, including volleyball, badminton, football, water polo, table tennis, billiards, snorkelling, diving, fishing, sailing, boat tours, and wakeboarding.

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Inaugural Kandooma Manta Week kicks off on World Manta Day 2023



Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives celebrates the annual World Manta Day (17 Sept) with the naming of a recently rescued Giant Oceanic Manta Ray, an award and a variety of guest activities for the resort’s inaugural Kandooma Manta Week. World Manta Day has been created to celebrate manta rays and to raise awareness of the threats that these beautiful, mysterious, ocean giants face.

Last month divers from Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives led by Japanese PADI-certified Dive Instructor Tomoyo, freed a Giant Oceanic Manta Ray tangled in ghost nets, at a site nearby to the island resort. The Manta Trust through its identification process has now confirmed the Manta is an adult male and is the 915th Oceanic Manta Ray to be spotted in Maldivian waters. As part of the identification process the Manta was named ‘Kandooma’ in honour of where it was seen and the dive team who freed it from tangled nets.

“We are delighted to have the Manta named after our natural island, Kandooma. When the Manta Trust shared confirmation of the name with us, I was absolutely thrilled,” said Mark Eletr, General Manager, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, who was one of the divers who freed the Manta.

As part of the Kandooma Manta Week activities at the resort, the team at Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives will host a naming ceremony for Kandooma the Manta and will honour the Dive Instructor, Tomoyo from the Kandooma Dive Centre for her bravery, seizing the opportunity to cut ‘Kandooma’ the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray free. Other activities for the week long celebration of Manta Rays includes special scuba dives and snorkelling excursions to observe these giants in their natural environment and learn about their behaviours, the threats to their survival and share the story of the freeing of ‘Kandooma’.

“Tomoyo showed no hesitation on the dive. First ensuring the group of accompanying divers were all safe before proceeding. Fortunately they were all experienced and each had enough air remaining for her to do this. In all it took about three and a half minutes to free Kandooma. I was so proud of her for the way she conducted herself and took positive action. I think also the other divers need to be acknowledged as well, they remained calm, kept their distance, didn’t interfere with what Tomoyo was doing and recorded the entire encounter,” added Mark.

The newly named Manta, ’Kandooma’, is estimated to be 4 metres in size. While confirmed origin of the fishing net is yet to be confirmed, it is understood it is not Maldivian and has drifted with the tide from another country, reinforcing the importance of education and responsible disposal of nets and fishing line.

The theme of World Manta Day 2023 is Tourism. Tourism plays a pivotal role in Manta Ray conservation, as it helps to raise awareness, generates funding for research, and contributes to efforts to protect Manta Ray habitats and prevents their exploitation.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma is on the doorstep to some of the Maldives Top Ten Dive Sites and the wellbeing of the ocean and all the life within it, is important to guests and hotel staff alike. The resort aligns its efforts with IHG’s purpose True Hospitality for Good, through their sustainability programme ‘Journey to Tomorrow’ which is the hotel group’s response to helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

Recent events with Kandooma the Manta have inspired the resort’s management to add two free Scuba Dives per day for certified divers staying at the resort for 3 nights or more.

Located in the South Male atoll just 40 mins from the airport by boat, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is a beautiful island paradise. White sandy beaches, swaying coconut palms and turquoise waters form the backdrop for various leisure pursuits and some of the best diving in the Maldives. Guests can choose from Garden and Beach Villas, two-storey Beach Houses and the popular Overwater Villas. Families are well catered for with a choice of 2- and 3-bed villas, the Kandoo Kids’ Club, and its complete activities programme. Six food and beverage outlets ensure healthy appetites are satisfied and the flavours of the Maldives are explored. For guests who desire the ultimate relaxation, sun loungers and hammocks are located around the island. The Kandooma Spa by COMO Shambhala offers the ultimate tranquility and escape for body and mind.

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Kandooma Maldives shakes things up with free scuba diving for guests



Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, just days after being awarded Best Dive Resort 2023 in the Maldives, has added free scuba diving for guests as part of their stay.

“This inclusion sets us apart from our competitors and offers something pretty fantastic for keen scuba divers visiting the Maldives,” said Mark Eletr, General Manager, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives.

“Just like we include breakfast, snorkelling lessons and access to the Kids’ Club as part of a stay, we now include diving!”

The resort has it’s own five-star PADI Resort dive centre, known as Kandooma Dive complete with experienced and professional dive instructors, purpose-built facilities and a dedicated fleet of dive boats.

Kandooma is known for it’s diving, positioned on the doorstep to some of the Top 10 Dive Sites in the Maldives. Divers can expect to see a wealth of marine life, including manta rays, whale sharks, reef sharks, colourful reef fish, turtles, eagle rays, and a variety of coral species. Some of the dive spots near to Kandooma, include:

  1. Kandooma Thila: This renowned pinnacle showcases schools of vibrant fish, colourful coral formations, and an abundance of marine life. From white-tip reef sharks to eagle rays, the site is a captivating spectacle of biodiversity.
  2. Guraidhoo Corner: Drift along the currents and witness the congregation of gray reef sharks, white-tip sharks, and eagle rays. The site’s dramatic underwater structure adds to the allure of this exciting dive.
  3. Cocoa Corner: Known for its thrilling currents, this site is a magnet for pelagic species. Divers often spot hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and other large marine inhabitants as they glide through the deep waters.
  4. Kuda Giri: The Kuda Giri wreck is an interesting dive site in South Malé in the Maldives, which includes both a small wreck and a pinnacle. They have created a welcoming habitat for a variety of marine life. There is hardly any current around this area making it suitable for less experienced divers.
  5. Manta Point: Witness the mesmerising dance of manta rays as they gather to feed and be cleaned by smaller fish. This site promises awe-inspiring interactions with these majestic creatures.
  6. Lhosfushi: The channel deepens inside to a sandy bottom to 30 metres. There are plenty of fish and marine life including turtles, schools of snapper, sweet lips, fusilier, tuna, Napoleon and white-tip reef sharks. There are also large morays, ribbon eels and elegant fire gobies.
  7. Medhu faru: This channel dive is good for both incoming and outgoing current. You will be likely to spot Napoleon, the graceful Eagle rays and a wide selection of colourful fish. Medhu Faru is one of the best dive sites to see large numbers of reef sharks at close range.
  8. Kandooma Caves: Explore a labyrinth of swim-throughs and underwater caverns adorned with sponges and gorgonians. The site is known for its macro life and the occasional appearance of larger predators.
  9. Waggiri: This is a great dive site for every diver, especially those who love to see small life and have long dives. The formation of this giri is very unique and a perfect place to try a night dive. Expect to see anemone fishes, groupers, frogfish, ghost pipe fish, schools of bat fish, stonefish and yellow mouth moray eels.
  10. Miyaru Kandu: This channel dive features an explosion of marine life, including barracudas, snappers, and reef sharks. The site’s coral-encrusted overhangs and vibrant soft corals create a stunning backdrop for underwater exploration.

“At Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives we are passionate about our aquatic wonderland and sharing it with our guests. The beautiful crystalline waters, vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life all make it a paradise for underwater enthusiasts and those seeking unparalleled exploration of the deep blue,” added Mark.

Marketed as Dive Free @Kandooma, the new inclusions are available to full paying guests staying a minimum of three nights and includes two single tank group dives for two certified divers per day of stay. All dives are fully guided and include free dive equipment, boat transfers and air/Nitrox. Guests must be fit to dive and be fully certified. The offer is governed by PADI best practice, meaning there is no diving on day of departure + 24 hour ‘no-fly’ time. Any unused dives can only be rolled over to other days at the discretion of the Dive Centre Manager and unused dives are not encashable or exchangeable for other services. Note: some flash sale/discounted accommodation offers may specifically exclude this Dive Free inclusion. The Dive Free @Kandooma inclusions commence 1 September 2023 and will be reviewed 31 October 2024.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is a beautiful natural island paradise, located in the South Male Atoll just 40-mins from the airport by boat.  White sand beaches, swaying coconut palms and turquoise waters form the exquisite backdrop for a wide variety of leisure pursuits and some of the best diving in the Maldives.

Guests can choose from Garden and Beach Villas, two-storey Beach Houses, the three-bedroom Beach Pool Villa and the popular Overwater Villas with direct ladder access to the water below.

Families are well catered for with the Kandoo Kids’ Club with its dedicated water zone and a full activities programme.  

After a day of diving you will have a healthy appetite.  Delight in a choice of six food and beverage outlets with an array of delicious cuisine and a showcase of Maldivian flavours influenced by India and Arabia.  

Between dives and for those guests who desire the ultimate in relaxation, sun loungers and hammocks are located around the island and the Kandooma Spa by COMO Shambhala is the ideal place to unwind.

Whether an experienced diver seeking adrenaline-pumping encounters or a novice eager to embark on a new adventure, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives offers an abundance of opportunities to explore its underwater treasures. With its warm waters, exceptional visibility, and a Five-Star Resort Dive Centre, it’s easy to see why Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives was named Best Dive Resort 2023. At Kandooma scuba diving is elevated into an immersive experience that forever lingers in the heart and memory, and now its FREE.

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