+ CLOSE

You’ve seen the photos. You may notice that they look remarkably similar to those for Fiji, Thailand, Indonesia…….In fact, on any tropical resort worth its bananas, you’ll find pretty much the same things. Powdery white sands and aquamarine seas? Check. Tasteful ethnic objets of indeterminate origin? Yup. Flamboyant tropical foliage? Present. Super duper king sized bed draped in swathes of muslin? Sure. Ministry of Sound Chillout Sessions Volumes 1 – 537?  Sadly so.

So what makes the difference between them? Read on, dear reader.

Travelling to the Maldives I spent many hours mulling over the perfect resort. We had previously stayed at (and loved) Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili, but having recently stayed at Soneva Kiri in Thailand, thought we might be Soneva’d out. I was tossing up between Landaa Giravaruu, Reethi Rah and Hadaahaa (now the Park Hyatt) but eventually decided on the former because of its location in Baa Atoll, which I hoped would make for superior diving and snorkelling. It also had excellent children’s facilities including a marine research centre and kids’ club.

Four Seasons resorts, particularly in Asia, are consistently marketed as the best in the region. They have a knack of being all things to all people – enough romance for honeymooners, enough facilities for businesspeople, and enough activities for families, whilst still offering top drawer dining and accommodation. However, in the case of Landaa Giravaaru, I think it worked against them.

Let’s get the minor complaints out of the way.

Firstly, despite the obligatory white sands and swaying palms, the resort was surprisingly concreted. Maybe this is a legacy of the tsunami (as were, I suspect, the lifejackets in the villas), but the design of the resort seemed to be tropical bland. There was nothing I could obviously fault, from the open air lounge to the private pool with overwater daybed, but there was no real wow factor and the sturdiness of the buildings somehow made it less romantic.

Secondly, the food was good. Sometimes worse than good but never better. I know this place is miles and miles from anywhere resembling a continent. The fact that they can put on sashimi, banana pancakes with syrup and fresh blueberries and various fine dining options identified by faux-french descriptions is a miracle, so I shouldn’t complain. But I have had better in places with similar restrictions. The Moroccan themed restaurant however was excellent, helped along by shisha pipes and large lounging areas beneath the stars.

Thirdly, there seemed to be a lot of what I call “plus plus”. You pay your room rate. It may or may not include spa treatments, breakfast, diving, a bottle of champagne, or some fresh fruit. The Maldives is expensive to start with, but it seemed like every time we turned around, there was another cost. Excess luggage? Plus plus (admittedly levied by the air taxi, not the resort). Room service? Plus plus (add on 30% if you don’t want to venture out – ouch!!). Marine Biology lecture? Plus plus. Wifi? Plus plus. You get the idea. I don’t like to stint whilst I’m on holiday but I did have to peek through my fingers when I got the draft bill.

That is to be expected in the Maldives though. My real complaint was something which is almost never canvassed in reviews, and I can understand why because I’ve been trying to work out how to put it delicately. A resort has no control over its other guests, and as long as they are paying the bucks, they’ve got every right to be there. But you can run out of luck sometimes.

The resort was about 75% full during our stay, a good indicator of success. It has everything you would expect at a luxury resort. However the other guests left something to be desired – rumpling the sun loungers clearly dedicated to my villa, making the seafood buffet into a competitive sport, and unfortunately  treading on the hermit crab my son was playing with. 

OK, I’ve had my princess moment and despite all that, the staff were brilliant, the facilities excellent and the surrounding ocean a wonder of the world. Would I go back? In quieter times without doubt, and my son is already angling for it, obviously recovered from the demise of the hermit crab. Just make sure your wallet is feeling robust and get ready to defend your sun lounger.