It’s been a real challenge to wade through the post holiday blues and get down to writing about the awesomeness of our most recent trip to the Maldives. But as part of our public service, we shall suffer the pain of those glorious memories and share with you our incredible experience.
After careful deliberation and a great deal of research, we were clear that we wanted to be in the Ari Atoll (best diving/snrokelling atoll) and equally clear that the only ‘meal plan’ we wanted to be on was the all-inclusive one. With this decided, narrowing down our search from the vast array of hotels became easier. And after a quick back and forth with our favourite Maldives Specialists – Purely Maldives we settled on Constance Moofushi, an all-inclusive resort located in the South Ari Atoll, a short 25-minute seaplane ride from Male.
We arrived from Kochi on an uneventful Spice Jet flight (where we seemed to be the only couple not on our honeymoon) and quickly cleared immigration and customs; but not before having a good chuckle on account of one unassuming, honeymooning couple who thought they could bring an open bottle of wine into the Maldives. Watching them get rid of the bottle under the intense scrutiny of customs officials was a good reminder to do your homework before arriving in any foreign country. Alternatively, you could just read our informative posts like our tips for planning a trip to the Maldives and be well prepared before you go.
Post customs, we were met at the arrival gate by a representative of Purely Maldives who escorted us 5 steps to the Constance Hotels arrival desk. From there, the Constance representative quickly took us to the Maldivian Air Taxi check in desk (another 10 steps) and in a few minutes we had our boarding cards in hand and were ushered into an air-conditioned minivan that transported us to to the Constance seaplane lounge (7-minute drive) where we were to wait till our seaplane departed. We were fortunate that we had only an hour’s wait and the serene lounge overlooking the seaplane jetty was the perfect place to kill time.
While we were the only guests in the lounge when we arrived, the space was large enough to fit 50 guests. This lounge, unlike the one that we had used on a previous holiday, was air-conditioned which was a huge boon given that we were yet to get out of our travel clothes and into appropriate beach attire. We also appreciated the reasonable spread of cold sandwiches, soft drinks and the Nespresso machine that came handy while the hotel staff quickly completed all our check in formalities to ensure that once we arrived at the resort, we could get straight down to the serious business of unwinding.
The lounge also had a good wireless internet connection which made it easy for us to send the mandatory selfie to our friends and family; letting them know that we had safely arrived in paradise.
Given that this was our second time on a seaplane, the first-timer nervous anticipation at the prospect of being packed like sardines in a tin can was replaced with just impatience to get to our final destination.
Impatience notwithstanding, this was the first time that we were flying around sunset and the view from up there still took my breath away, but before we knew it we were making our descent into the isle of Moofushi.
We were received by a whole bunch of staff including the general manager – Olivier. One of the staff members quickly whisked us away for a brief orientation of the property and eventually showed us to our beach villa.
Given that we had six nights on this trip, we had decided to split our stay between the beach villas and an over-water villa to get both experiences. While the beach villas and over-water villas were both quite similar in design and amenities, the experience of each on account of their location was quite different. I much preferred the privacy of the over-water villas as well as their easy access to the reef. My travel companion however, didn’t enjoy the long walks along the boardwalk in the blazing hot sun to reach the other hotel amenities; so choose your accommodation based on what you prefer.
Both rooms had large comfortable beds, flat screen televisions with an apple tv and a large library of movies, a well stocked mini bar and partially open bathrooms. The beach villa had a private sit out on the beach with direct access to the ocean with a hammock and deck chairs, while the over-water villa had a large open deck with steps leading directly into the sea.
Do bear in mind though that a number of the over-water villas at Constance Moofushi aren’t really over the water so be sure to express your preference at the time of making your reservation.
We had requested an odd numbered villa with a sunset view and they were kind to honour our request by giving us one of the furthest water villas on the sunset side.
While the rooms were very comfortable and extremely well thought out, I did think that they lacked that something that could make them feel more luxurious rather than just comfortably utilitarian. However, the little touches – such as the travel adaptor, flip flops and beach bags in every room as well as ‘wet swimsuit bags’ were thoughtful details that you often don’t find in more luxurious rooms.
The lack of opulence in the rooms though was well compensated for by the impressive quality of food and drink. Always apprehensive with ‘packages’ of any kind, we were half expecting to be short changed in the food and drink department. However, we were left pleasantly surprised and really impressed. The hotel boasts of two bars. The larger Manta Bar is attached to the main buffet restaurant while the smaller Totem bar is the more casual, pool bar. Both had a wide variety of beers, spirits and very friendly bartenders whipping up some exceptional fresh fruit cocktails.
Expect premium brands like Grey Goose, a few single malts of the Glenfiddich variety, tequila and liqueurs of every kind and a selection of 170 international wines.
Every evening, the resident sommeliers would do the rounds and pick out a bottle (or two) based on your tastes and preferences and despite the heat we found ourselves nailing a few exceptional Chiantis & Malbecs during our stay. The drinks in your room mini bar (beers and a bottle of wine) are also included in your room rate and the bar is restocked daily.
Shockingly, the food was also of a similar high calibre. It would be unusual to equate high quality food with a buffet spread but Constance Moofushi has somehow managed to nail that brief. Buffet breakfasts were served daily at the Manta Restaurant and this was probably the only meal that was comparable to other hotel buffets. The standard spread included cereals, meats, cheese and breads complemented with eggs to order, a choice of freshly made pancakes,waffles or french toast (served by rotation) and a few Indian and Asian choices. This was usually the quickest meal for us.
Lunch and dinner was where Moofushi really upped its game. Lunch could be eaten ala’ carte at the pool bar or buffet style in the main restaurant. Most days we opted to go ala’ carte for lunch and were never disappointed with the fresh salads, sandwiches and burgers that were served at Totem. On the few occasions that we did make it to the main restaurant for lunch we were staggered by the sheer choice. Made-to-order wood fire oven pizzas, freshly tossed salads, a pasta or risotto counter along with another 8-10 international dishes.
Dinners though stole the show. We usually chose to eat out on the beach or on the deck of the Manta Restaurant, both of which gave us an opportunity to shark watch as we ate. A friendly moray eel also gave us company most nights. With four live counters at every meal – usually a seafood grill, a barbecue type meat station, a pasta or risotto counter and a live dessert, you could get through an entire meal without eating anything pre-cooked. Being good gluttons however, we made sure to sample the rest of the food as well. Each meal had a central theme – Latin American, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean etc. and these themed dishes were usually accompanied by a few dishes catering to the British/European guests (fish and chips, roast chicken, shepherds pie), some for the Asians (a stir fry with noodles or fried rice) and some sub-continent dishes (curries and breads). Desserts were also always an elaborate affair with one live counter, an ice cream bar and a litany of those mini gelatine-filled desserts that are omnipresent at all buffets. We quickly honed in on the freshly-made ice creams (the salted caramel was exceptional) as the perfect cool end to what tended to be fairly warm dinners.
Included in your stay is also one dinner at Alizee, the hotels fine dining restaurant and while the food and service were both impressive, we actually missed the wider variety of the buffet that we had gown accustomed to.
Complementing the ‘high’ notes of the food and drink, was the snorkelling that provided a rather different sort of intoxication. The hotel loans out free snorkelling equipment on the day of your arrival, that remains with you for the duration of your stay. This was extremely handy because of the luggage restrictions on the seaplane. We spent hours every day in the water and despite having carried our gym gear with us we didn’t feel the need to burn off calories in any other way. There are a few reefs accessible right off the beach at Moofushi, though we found the reef near the seaplane jetty to be the most prolific in marine life. Turtles, sharks, giant squid, eagle rays, dolphins were just some of what we saw every day. We also went on three excursions during our stay (some of which were included in the package) though the whale shark excursion was hands down, the highlight. The dive centre staff worked tirelessly to spot these plankton-eating, colossal beings and swimming with these giant, gentle creatures was almost a spiritual experience and not one that we will ever forget.
The hotel also has a large beach with deck chairs as well as a smaller swimming pool which we didn’t feel the need to use. We did notice though that the pool tended to be more popular with families with kids and the Asian tourists.
Aside from the daily excursions, there was also something organised every evening for guests. These included cocktail-making lessons or wine tasting with the sharks, a behind-the-scenes tour or management cocktails (all of which were included in the room rate). It was a good way to interact with other guests as well as the hotel staff and we have to say that the wine tasting with baby reef sharks darting between your legs is a must do!
The Spa was also highly recommended by other guests but we were too caught up getting massaged by the gentle waves that we didn’t get a chance to check it out in person. We did however, make it a point to check out the spa rates and didn’t find these too unreasonable given the remoteness of the location.
Alas, like all good things, this memorable trip too had to come to an end. And the farewell sign sums up what we’ve been feeling since.
A six night stay on the Cristal ‘all-inclusive package’ starts at INR 150, 000/- per person. There is an additional cost of approximately INR 30, 000/- per person for the seaplane transfer which is booked through the hotel. Based on our research, we would strongly recommend using a Maldives specialist like Purely Maldives to get the most competitive rates.