In late 2016 I became one of the first guests to check in at Hurawalhi in the Maldives, the first resolutely five-star resort opened by Crown & Champa Resorts.
A challenging endeavour for a local company until best known for its collection of four-star properties, the resort fell short of my expectations in some regards — notably dining and the uniform villas’ unimaginative interior design — but there was one feature that staggered: a house reef so abundant that I lost hours gazing at traffic jams of zebra-patterned bannerfish, canary-yellow long-nose butterfly fish and skittish glassfish, not to mention the occasional octopus and nonchalant eagle rays.
In that respect, Hurawalhi easily bettered every other luxury resort in the Maldives I had visited and from September 2018 travellers who might ordinarily consider the country’s top tier of properties have cause to look again at this outpost in the Lhaviyani Atoll (about 40 minutes from the capital Malé by seaplane). That is when Hurawalhi’s sister property Kudadoo Private Island, five minutes by boat from the original resort, will open.
One of Kudadoo’s 15 villas
A collection of just 15 overwater villas, residences here will be significantly more expansive (one-bedroom villas come in at 303sq metres; two-bedroom residences at 380sq metres). Each will feature a private deck with hanging sofa and sun loungers, and large infinity pool looking towards the ocean. A section of the villa incorporates a glass floor, so couples can gaze at the sealife below while dining at a glass table.
With every abode at the adults-only island benefitting from butler service, the expectation is that guests will spend much of their time being tended on privately in situ, but Kudadoo also includes its own restaurant, spa, main freshwater infinity pool, gym and small but pleasant beach.
Sunset from the enclosed deck
Further variety awaits on Hurawalhi, where all of the amenities remain at the disposal of Kudadoo guests. While quality at that resort’s buffet restaurant Canneli isn’t consistently of the standard they will likely be accustomed to, Kudadoo guests will no doubt be intrigued by 5.8, the world’s largest undersea restaurant.
Aquarium restaurant, teppanyaki grill and bar, meanwhile, is a pleasant spot from which to watch the sun set as shoals of miniscule fish spring from the water — I could have returned each evening for the Oreo cheesecake though more virtuous types should be satisfied by the sushi and sashimi.
5.8, the world’s largest underwater restaurant
The larger island also offers tennis, badminton, football and beach volleyball, alongside the expected water sports, including jet skiing, paragliding, water skiing and wakeboarding. But whether staying at Kudadoo or Hurawalhi, guests here are best advised to set aside time to discover what lies beneath the ocean’s surface.
It is hard to conceive of a more encouraging setting in which a trepidatious newcomer could develop a love for snorkelling or diving. I remember in particular one languid snorkelling expedition, just a minute from my villa, being interrupted by a skirmish in the distance — I looked up to see a pod of dolphins frolicking just 20 metres away from me.
Another boat excursion was punctuated by the hugely welcomed arrival of a clutch of manta rays just 200 metres from Hurawalhi’s shores.
While the Maldives has an estimated population of just 5,000 to 6,000 manta rays, some 400 of these mysterious creatures congregate around the Lhaviyani atoll. We joined them in the Indian Ocean’s warm waters and swam together for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes before they vanished into the depths.
Should future Kudadoo guests be similarly lucky in their encounters, it will provide very good reason to consider a visit to the latest of the country’s ever-growing spread of private-island resorts.
Rates at Kudadoo Private Island resort start from approximately £1,400 per night.