Discovering Kanuhura, the new jewel in the Maldives’ crown

Kanuhura markets itself as "unfettered paradise" - and it doesn't disappoint. Pic: TSPL
Kanuhura markets itself as "unfettered paradise" - and it doesn't disappoint. Pic: TSPL
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You would be forgiven for having a conundrum when planning your holiday to the Maldives.

That may appear a ridiculous statement to make when talking about one of the most sought-after tropical destinations in the world, but it’s true. The Maldives, a few hundred miles south of India and Sri Lanka, may have the territorial size of Portugal, but more than 90 per cent of it is water and there are more than 1,200 islands in numerous atoll chains, of which more than 100 are resorts. How on earth do you choose which one to go to?

The beach is one of Kanuhura's trump cards. Pic: TSPL

The beach is one of Kanuhura's trump cards. Pic: TSPL

The puzzle appeared to have become more complicated when Kanuhura, one of dozens of luxury destinations in the region, decided to close for 18 months, invest millions of pounds and reopen at the tail end of last year. In actual fact, they’ve made the picture a whole lot clearer.

I’d been told before setting off on my adventure to the Indian Ocean to expect luxury on a scale I had never experienced before. Kanuhura have gone for a “gypset” feel with the motto of “unfettered paradise”. I often take these words with a pinch of salt. I’ve heard it all before when visiting “honeymoon destinations” and have been left a little disappointed. However, from the moment I landed at a sweltering Velana International Airport, it was clear Kanuhura is prepared to live up to its reputation.

Upon arrival, I was whisked away into a secluded yet spacious room next to the seaplane section of the airport. To go anywhere in the Maldives from the main island – which is about the size of Peterhead, although that’s where the similarities end – you either take a speedboat from the airport or a seaplane. The latter is far more exciting, even if it does add more time to your journey. So, to be pampered at Kanuhura’s bespoke lounge with an excellent array of fruit, pastries and drinks hit the spot perfectly as I waited to board.

Flying in a seaplane is an exhilarating experience. Kanuhura is located in the northern part of the Maldives, in the Lhaviyani atoll, approximately 40 minutes away from Male, the capital. It’s the perfect way to start your holiday as you get an incredible view of many islands and can gawp at the crystal-clear waters and the coral. Landing, I’ll admit, is slightly scary, but I swear I caught a glimpse of a turtle swimming in the lagoon as our aircraft touched down next to the pier. Welcome to paradise.

Kanuhura is only 1.3 kilometres long by 300 metres wide. It’s a very intimate, classy location, with all the staff living in their own ‘village’ on the island. Most of them are on hand to welcome you. I was greeted by warm smiles and a coconut bursting with its milk, before being whisked away in a golf buggy down the pier to my room. It’s a nice, personal touch that makes a big difference after a long journey.

There are a couple of options when it comes to rooms. You can reside in a water villa, a property on stilts just off the beach where you literally step out of your back door into the sea, or you can stay on land in a sunset villa, complete with your own plunge pool. Being a sunset-kind-of-guy, I plumped for the latter, and wasn’t disappointed by my room, which was spacious, luxurious and had the added quirk of an outside bathroom. Don’t worry, nobody can see you, but there’s something pretty cool about showering under the sun or bathing with the stars for company. You can get the same amenities in a family room, just with an extra bedroom, and there are properties available that cater for groups of friends too. Wifi is excellent in all the rooms, which surprised me considering the size and relative seclusion of Kanuhura.

One of the potential downsides of being on an island this size is the fear of feeling cramped. Kanuhura has done a great job of making sure that their 80 villas all maintain their own space and privacy.

After a great night’s sleep in a well air-conditioned room, it’s time to get stuck into the food. There are eight restaurants on Kanuhura and breakfast is a buffet. Quite simply, I’ve never seen anything like it. Every cuisine is on offer, from Kellogg’s cornflakes, to crêpes, waffles, curries, cooked breakfasts and an enormous array of fruit. You may not need lunch after over-indulging in the morning, but if you do, the Italian restaurant Bottega does one of the best truffle pizzas I’ve ever had, or there’s Deli, a quite tremendous gourmet sandwich shop with an ice cream parlour adjacent to it. One day, I took a boat out to Jehunuhura, which is one of two deserted islands right next to Kanuhura, where you can have a secluded meal at Drift, its bespoke restaurant. Evening meals are best had at Veli, which is right on the beach and is an Asian fusion eatery. Take your pick from sushi, Indian, Sri Lankan or oriental dishes. My favourite meal, however, was in the chef’s herb garden, where they give you a six-course taster menu, with much of the produce picked next to where you are dining. Apart, that is, from the Aberdeen Angus steak. Us Scots get everywhere.

Kanuhura’s trump card, though, in the battle for supremacy in the Maldives is not necessarily the food or the rooms, as sensational as they are: it’s the beach. Most islands in this region only have sand on one side, but Kanuhura has a beach that goes all the way round the island. Not only that, the beach is extensive, which makes it child-friendly. The water is only a metre deep at most in the shallows, and it’s warm. Snorkelling is a fine activity in the seas around Kanuhura and you’ll see an array of wildlife, from small zebra fish to stingrays, manta rays, baby sharks and turtles. Make sure to apply the suncream though. It only takes the sun in the Maldives less than ten minutes to burn you, and I was evidence of that.

Despite its petite size, you won’t get bored on Kanuhura. Away from the beach, you can play tennis – the island has its own coach, Ondraz, who was friendly and informative – and squash, there’s a swanky gym, yoga sessions or, if you want to be a bit more active, the island’s fitness instructor Ali will put you through your paces with a ‘warrior workout’ on the beach. Each property has bikes – cycling is the easiest way to navigate the island – and everyone walks around barefoot. Relaxation and pampering is offered at the award-winning Kokaa spa – my Balinese massage was one of the best I’ve had. The island is fogged daily so those pesky mosquitos are virtually non-existent, even during the rainy season, and the most dangerous wildlife you’ll come across are fruit bats and cute hermit crabs.

Temperatures in the Maldives rarely dip below the 30C mark. June to October can see rain so the busiest time of the year is December to April, and I’m told New Year on Kanuhura is a sight to behold, with a feast on the beach followed by fireworks and one helluva party.

Getting to the Maldives is becoming easier and easier: BA and Emirates fly direct from London in the high season, or you can go via Dubai, Doha, Istanbul and Frankfurt from most Scottish airports.

With so much choice in the Maldives, I’d save yourself the hassle of trawling through islands and going straight for Kanuhura. It is the perfect place for a special holiday, be it a honeymoon, family trip or a milestone celebration with friends. Kanuhura lives up to its reputation, and is now the jewel in the Maldives’ crown.

• Rates at Kanuhura Maldives start from £520 per night based on two sharing a Beach Bungalow during low season. The rate includes breakfast and taxes, visit www.kanuhura.com/en or email reservations@kanuhura.com.mv