Club Med, Maldives
I've had a two decade long love affair with water on my journey to becoming an Olympian, and beach vacations always top my list. From the seaplane I see a handful of Maldives’ 1200 golden-white islands, sprinkled across a translucent turquoise sea. It's ridiculously beautiful.
Only 200 of these islands are inhabited, and most private resorts have an island all to themselves, with rooms that offer easy beach access or iconic luxury over water villas with picture perfect views. The strict Muslim code on dress, drinks and other things is also relaxed as you leave islands inhabited by the locals for the ones with resorts. Travel costs can vary between $100- $750 a day, depending on where you choose to stay and when you go.
I was looking for someplace fun, relaxing... or both! I split my stay between the two resorts of Club Med Kani and their Finolhu Villas because of their fantastic all-inclusive policy which really takes the whole stress out of vacation planning; the resorts offer chic accommodation and depending on your preference, you could pick a room in the heart of the resort buzzing with activity or a secluded villa with a private pool. What I like best about Club Med is their wide menu of activities like sailing lessons, snorkeling, yoga etc. all of which are included along with food, drinks and entertainment in your booking rate. So all you really have to do is wake up and enjoy!
Here’s my list of must do’s if you’re visiting Club Med:
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with the denizens of the Indian Ocean, you should definitely plan snorkeling if not dive deeper with scuba. The clear waters are just so perfect for this! Both Club Med Kani and the Finolhu Villas offer free snorkeling trips to multiple locations around the Maldives. But even if you don’t want to go out that far, the reef around the Finolhu Villas in particular, is rich and colourful - replete with all variety of colourful fish and coral. I will never forget the rays or the five foot reef shark that easefully swam through the pillars that held up my over water villa (while I dropped my coffee as I scrambled for a camera), or the incredulity of seeing a school of silver flying fish leap twenty feet out of the water and back - like a Disney movie - so suddenly that there wasn’t even a chance to even try and capture them on film. The hotel provides snorkeling gear for all their trips. And a complementary lifejacket in your room makes it super easy to get out of your room and into the water in a jiffy, but do carry your snorkeling gear if you want easy time to explore the reef on your own.
TIP: The coral is sharp, and there are poisonous sea-urchins as well. So you’d be well advised to carry a pair of sand shoes or wear fins.
Club Med Kani in particular is perfect for those who love active vacations; there's kayaking, paddle-boarding and sailing included in your package. And you can also try a host of other activities like fly-boarding, para-sailing, jet skiing and more for a small fee. With the sea making up 99% of its territory, the Maldives is one of the world’s leading water-sport hubs. While not exactly an exclusively Maldivian experience - the water-sports here are a great way for some ocean fun. Definitely on my to-do-again list.
The food at Club Med Kani is simply outstanding. The restaurant at Kani is located just as you get off the jetty, almost underscoring the primary importance that great food is for a good vacation. I particularly loved the multi-cuisine buffet format of the hotel’s main restaurant, which keeps it so easy. From old faithfuls like Indian butter chicken and naan to the more exotic braised pork with salmon and caviar, prawn sushi, brique a l’oeuf and lots of local reef fish preparations, the F&B team led by Yigit and Chef Bhaloo Ravin ensured the food was its always fresh and delicious. And you can dine indoors or choose the alfresco tables just outside the restaurant or on the beach with waves lapping a few meters away. And if you miss a meal, two a-la-carte restaurants are open for late meals.
A highlight of the Club Med experience is the nightly extravaganzas put up by the Club Med Kani G.O. Team at the open-air theatre by the bar. My dive instructor Hugo Cortes doubles as John Travolta for a fun performance inspired by the musical Grease while my sailing instructor did an impressive African tribal dance on another night. If you want to live the night up, the bar is open with line dancing, fun activations and great mixes of drinks with music.
It has been an extraordinary journey, and as I look down from the airplane window on the sunny golden islands with emerald trees scattered like jewels across a pristine sea dotted with sailboats, I wish that we could freeze the clock and hold on to this for generations to come. In the meanwhile, make the most of this heaven-on-earth, and plan your visit soon!
High Season: December - February
Surf Season: March - October
Club Med Kani for activity filled vacation
Prices start at USD $1500 for two adults at Kani for 3 days
Club Med Finohlu Villas for luxury and romance
Prices start at USD $2900 for two adults at Finohlu for 3 days
The author is an Olympian Swimmer and Arjuna Awardee with a passion for travel. He blogs about his journeys on TravelWithRehan.com.