Rediscovering Maldives in the new normal COVID era
Which explorer doesn’t seizure to an island for comfort, especially when times are as distressed as this? Last week I find myself on an Air India flight, heading to Male via Trivandrum. Maldives has opened up and there seems to be a scoot to get there, many of who I suspect are in it for the long haul, planning several weeks’ worth of holidaying or workcation. Being a one island one resort country it also indicates that one can live a tranquil life for a few days and is not likely to be affected by the coronavirus.
THE NEW NORMAL FLIGHT
So of course I join in the fray and get an RT-PCR test done two days before my flight, a negative report from an ICMR https://www.icmr.gov.in/ listed diagnostic centre is a mandate! I dutifully web check-in and fill in the https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ form uploading my pic and negative RT- PCR report 24 hours prior to my arrival. The same is needed to be done on departure as well. The check-in and flight is especially blissful with safety measures in order. Needless to add I am wearing a mask and a face shield and sanitizing my hands every time I touch something (in spite of everyone on the flight having a Covid Negative Certificate). Once I clear all the check posts and immigration in Trivandrum, a less than two-hour flight whisks us to Male, and what’s on the other side of the window makes it the most gorgeous ever, the stunning blue sea seems to get ever closer as our plane glides over the imposing Ocean; I am relieved to be finally arriving to my destination. The minute I get Wi-Fi, I register at https://haalubelun.hpa.gov.mv/. Once at the Male Airport the process is the usual and nothing more as I have already uploaded all my details.
COVID SAFE ACTION MEETS OPULENCE
A scenic seaplane ride gets me to Kandima. A non-touch temperature check, hands-free sanitisation and disinfection of my luggage later, I finally check-in via the ‘K’ app (contactless but of course) and while it signals the new normal it’s reassuring. Adjudged asymptomatic, I am given an RFID wristband, to be worn all the time and substitute a door key to my room. The voice which says, “Now you can enjoy a mask free stay”, sounds like music to my ears. In the buggy which drives me down, I am in an awed hush, this passionately lush landscape stuns me. Breaking the old-style Maldivian mould, there are no thatched roofs or Robinson Crusoe rustic designing here; Instead, Kandima has gone for a contemporary and a young peppy vibe with lively pops of pink perfect for that much-needed funk. The layout of the aqua overwater villas is excellent, mine is with a swirl pool and a bathtub. The way they reel along the boardwalk is intended to exploit privacy. Marine life thrives and a bottle of sparkling goes down easy at sunset. The buffet meals in the restaurant are ladled out by staff wearing masks, however I opt for a la carte table set up by the sea every evening. Some things the pandemic hasn’t changed. We are communal beings after all, I make friends with Neeraj Seth the dynamic Head of Kandima and there are gripping conversations under the stars and to the clinking of glasses, new amity is forged. My days fill with allowing my imagination to run free in the in- house art studio, sunset cruises, yoga sessions, cycling down to the end of the island, water sports and take preference over out and out relaxation. But don’t get me wrong, Kandima hasn’t entirely unrestricted the Maldives’ ethos of ease and unwind. A wellness centre including a gym and spa is equipped to sooth weary muscles – and a Balinese massage is what I go for! I have been to some of the best spas in the World and this one takes some beating, especially as I can hear the waves pounding on the shore during my treatment. Kandima exceeds my dreams. It’s a resort that’s unbelievably stylish, with whimsical restaurants, limitless stupefying views, honest hospitality, and greatest of all – a soul!
COVID COMPLIANT TRADITIONAL MALDIVIAN LUXURY
It is still early when I leave Kandima behind and head for the capital on a seaplane, passing through beautiful island resorts and the Indian Ocean. Another seaplane later I am in the Raa Atoll at Heritance Aarah that feels delectably detached from real life and oh so Robinson Crusoe, a theme that runs through the desert island resort replete with lush vegetation, vanilla white sand beaches and the translucent sea. This is my first thought, Heritance Aarah is built for social distancing, the accommodation and all facilities are set well apart. My ocean villa feels like a wooden boat floating at sea and I spot several sharks and manta rays from my glass-bottom bedroom. As one of the deeper archipelagos, snorkelling and diving is predominantly relaxed and can take place metres from the shore. The resort seems playful and even though it is uninhabited right now and I will not be surprised if the ocean starts to talk to me. I am booked on an all-inclusive premium package and I have my own butler to look after me. The delightful staff have a ‘your wish is my command’ attitude. Each meal experience is top drawer and offers a great variety of both food and dining experience. For most meals my popular haunt is ‘Ranlu’, a transition restaurant where the ambience, food and service styles change as the day progresses from Breakfast to dinner, though the fling with fun continues. For my afternoon tea I sit by at the hammock at ‘Ginifatu’ enjoying the sunset with my cuppa. Evenings are well spent at the ‘Pool Bar’, overlooking the infinity pool. The bartender is ever ready to whip up cocktails or pour me a glass of whatever I fancy. Ordering drinks is a blend of showbiz and creativity as the mixologist creates a tailored experience from his cocktail trolley, while the cosmopolitan cuisine and live music auxiliary add fascination to the senses for an extraordinary night out at ‘Baani’. On my last afternoon, we celebrate the sun with setting a table outdoors for our evening drinks, before we move in to ‘Ambula’, an exclusive restaurant where we learn how to make the SriLankan Maldivian blend in curries and also dine. And though it isn’t needed, everyone stays six feet apart. It is a lovely way to round off a week after a long, long time! I have already web checked in, and yes I get my RT-PCR test done at the resort within 72 hours prior of my flight so I can apply for exemption from Institutional quarantine when I get back home. Needless to add my report is negative, I fill in my health declaration and request for exemption on https://www.newdelhiairport.in/covid19 , which comes in a jiffy. After breakfast I board my plane with a heavy heart, meaning to come back again at least once more to this Paradise on Earth. Back home in Trivandrum, immigration is a breeze as the airport authorities are super-efficient. Humanity is undoubtedly more armed nowadays to battle viruses than it was years ago. I will prize my exclusive ‘no mask’ experience more than ever now.
Best Way to Reach: The best connectivity from Delhi is by Air India via Trivandrum. Go Air is soon to launch its direct seasonal flights to Male from Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. IndiGo has direct flights from Mumbai.
Where I Stayed?
Kandima, Dhaalu Atoll; Call: +9606760077;
Web https://kandima.com/index.php/en/ Heritance Aarah, Raa Atoll; Call? +9606580222; Web www.heritancehotels.com/aarah/