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THE GOOD LIFE Travel


This page: One of 15 secluded, individual ‘ocean residences’ at Kudadoo. Bottom right: Kudadoo’s Himalayan salt chamber. Right: Hurawalhi’s underwater restaurant, 5.8, is the biggest in the world and has a mass of 400 tons


Doha to change planes – and endured an unexpected but reassuring nasal swab – before arriving in Malé to begin the final aerial portion of the journey, on a very different type of craft. The seaplane we boarded had just enough space for the dozen or so passengers, their luggage and, crucially, the crew. The cockpit didn’t even have a door, so we could see the pilot and co-pilot’s bare feet on the pedals. We watched on, somewhat nervously, as they fiddled with the rudimentary-looking controls and instruments. Once we took off, the views were extraordinary. After several months of lockdown and pseudo-lockdown, buzzing above the expanse of the Indian Ocean and spotting some of those 1,200 unreal-looking desert islands was tantalising – and a welcome change of pace. After a short speedboat trip from the dock where the seaplane dropped us off, we could finally see one of them close up. Kudadoo Private Island is tiny – just 200


The design is the work of Yuji Yamazaki, who has


drawn on his Japanese heritage to produce something that looks stunning and has sustainability at its core


IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT to design a better tourism destination for the age of Covid. The Maldives is blessed with a climate that brings temperatures that hover around the 28 or 29 degree mark all year round, and a cooling sea breeze. The country is made up of around 1,200 islands, spread over an area of 300 sq km, with the capital Malé roughly in the centre. As one prominent hospitality entrepreneur noted recently, each one of the smaller islands could almost be regarded as an individual ‘isolation centre’. In March 2020, the country shut its borders. But tourists were permitted once again from 15 July last year – as long as they could provide a signed health declaration form and evidence of a negative PCR test, taken no more than 96 hours before their


flight. During December – the time of my visit – the country had 96,412 new visitors, which is down 43.7 per cent on the average for the month. But arrivals from some countries – including the UK and Russia, two of the Maldives’ largest markets – were above normal levels. The sharpest rise was among countries such as Kazakhstan and Ukraine, which saw a 220 per cent and 99 per cent increase in visitor numbers in December respectively, according to tourism ministry data. My journey was over four legs; two of them in the plush surroundings of a Qatar Airways Qsuite – the airline’s business class offering is all soft lilac lighting, champagne as you as you sit down, flat beds and dividers that separate you from the aisle (and your travelling companion, if you so choose). We stopped in


metres long. And to say it is one of the more exclusive, luxurious resorts in the Maldives is something of an understatement. There are just 15 residences here – each suspended on stilts over the turquoise sea in the style that has become a Maldivian trademark. But the resort, which opened to guests for


the first time in 2018, is not in danger of having the epithet ‘cookie-cutter’ applied to it. The design is the work of Yuji Yamazaki, who is based in New York but has drawn on his Japanese heritage to produce something that both looks stunning and has sustainability at its core. The resort’s power comes almost exclusively from the 984 solar panels that are tastefully incorporated into the design. The lattices of the Japanese-inspired wood


structures look good during the day but even better at night, when they are bathed in a golden light that catches their angular edges, casting shadows in all manner of different ways and contrasting with the turquoise light bouncing off the sea below. Kudadoo is the latest in a string of around a dozen resorts in the Maldives with a connection to Swedish entrepreneur Lars Petre, who has been described as ‘the man who made the Maldives a luxury mecca’.


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