The Maldives’ exotic scenery and luxury hotels continue to draw UK holidaymakers. Between January and May this year, more than 53,000 British tourists headed to the Indian Ocean islands – an increase of 21% on 2006.
Western and Oriental Tropical Locations group head of product David Kevan said: “The Maldives offer romance and total escapism. Client satisfaction is generally high, and sales remain strong. The only downside is air access – it can be very difficult to get seats.”
New hotels are appearing thick and fast. Banyan Tree Madivaru opened in September; Herathera, in the unexplored southern Addu Atoll, opens in November; and Shangri-La will open its first Maldives property next year.
Kuoni Maldives product manager Linda Pedlar said: “The Maldives is our number one destination. It used to be perceived solely as a destination for honeymooners, but now it’s much more diverse with something for everyone, from families to couples.”
Here’s our round-up of some of the hottest places for holidaymakers of all kinds.
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa
Taj Exotica is stunning, and the Taj Spa is regarded as one of the best in the Indian Ocean. Guests can enjoy treatments in one of the over-water Spa Pavilions, each with private sun deck, relaxation area and sea views. There’s also a VIP suite and two suites for couples.
Spa treatments include Balinese massage, warm stone therapy, Javanese lulur, Royal Thai massage, reflexology and aromatherapy. Health-conscious guests can start the day with a yoga class or work-out in the gym, built into the rock overlooking the ocean.
The hotel is in the middle of one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives, Emboodhu Finolhu.
Sell it to: Stressed-out executives, honeymooners and anyone who is looking for the ultimate spa experience in an informal, tropical environment.
Sample package: Kuoni offers seven nights in a lagoon villa on a bed-and-breakfast basis, including flights with Monarch Airlines from Gatwick with transfers, from £1,615 per person in October 2007.
Sun Island Resort and Spa
Karaoke, electronic games, canoeing, volleyball – you name it, Sun Island has got it. The resort, on the island of Nalaguraidhoo, is set among tropical gardens and clear lagoons, and has become a favourite with families. While mum and dad relax at the swim-up bar, kids can splash around in their own pool.
The whole family can enjoy tennis, squash, basketball, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, scuba diving, wind surfing, catamaran sailing and canoeing. At night, there are live bands, discos, karaoke competitions and even crab racing.
Sell it to: Families looking for a fun, action-packed holiday with the chance to opt out of the activities if they prefer.
Sample package: Seven nights with Virgin Holidays starts from £959 for adults and £599 for children under 12, full-board. Prices include Qatar Airways flights from Heathrow to Male via Doha, and transfers for departures until December 31.
Angsana Maldive Ihuru Resort and Spa
Angsana Maldive Ihuru, a four-star resort in the North Male Atoll, offers a multitude of water sports including water skiing, wake boarding and banana-boat riding.
It also has some of the best scuba diving in the Maldives – there is a coral reef just a few metres from its beach.
Less adventurous guests can go snorkelling, windsurfing, canoeing (you can go around the whole island in 20 minutes) and glass-bottom boat rides.
Sell it to: Sporty couples of all ages and abilities, but also couples in which one person is looking for a less energetic holiday.
Sample package:Thomas Cook Signature offers seven nights’ full-board for departures May 1 to June 30 2008 from £1,915 per person, twin-share. Flights depart from Heathrow to Male via Dubai with Emirates.
The Beach House at Manafaru
Beach House’s Villas, Grand Water Pavilions and Grand Beach Pavilions have their own private pools and personal butlers, so it is perfect for couples who want to spend some quality time together.
This luxury property opened in July and is geared towards weddings, honeymoons and romantic breaks. Wedding packages include a complimentary blessing ceremony with a local photographer and spa treatments. What could be better than a chocolate butter massage to get you in the mood?
Sell it to: Newlyweds, couples (young and old) celebrating an anniversary or special occasion, and anyone who wants to revive the romance in their relationship.
Sample package:First Choice offers seven nights on a bed-and-breakfast basis from £1,647 per person twin-share, with flights from Gatwick in June 2008.
Hilton Maldives Resort and Spa
Hilton Maldives is a five-star resort with no less than seven top-class restaurants, so it is ideal for discerning diners and wine connoisseurs.
Rebranded as a Conrad in December to reflect its luxury status, this Rangali Island resort is also home to the world’s only all-glass undersea restaurant, where guests can dine 16 feet below sea level. The restaurant serves contemporary Maldivian cuisine with western and Asian influences, and only seats 14 people.
Back at ground level, diners can watch expert Japanese teppanyaki chefs at work at Koko Grill, or tuck into fresh seafood prepared in the show kitchen at the Sunset Bar and Grill, set on stilts over coral reefs.
The Wine Cellar serves an extensive range of wines from the underwater cellar along with a five-course tasting menu. For something less formal, suggest dining on different world cuisines with the sand between your toes at the Atoll Market Restaurant.
Sell it to: Anyone who loves and appreciates their food. Children (even fussy eaters) are well catered for too.
Sample package: ITC Classics offers seven nights from £2,024 per person on a bed-and-breakfast basis, in a Beach Villa, including flights and transfers, until December 2007.
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