What was previously one island with three resorts of different standards is now one big resort of outstanding quality. The three resort centres remain, renewed and upgraded, while the nine room categories are spread throughout the island. The middle section of the island is where most of the high category rooms are located and the centre here has the most facilities clustered around. But as this is all one resort, it is really a pleasant matter of moving up and down between your favourite venues for eating, sunbathing, drinking, playing and enjoying. And as it is a large and very green, luxuriant island it never seems like the place is full, when it almost always is (because people have discovered the new Kuramathi).
The choice to make is the room you want, based on its type, price and location. The types include the Honeymoon Pool Villa, Water Villa, Beach Villa and Garden Villa. Each room has the same facilities and amenities, except that the top two categories also have a Nespresso machine. What differentiates the rooms, apart from whether they have a jacuzzi, is their size, age, density and location.
Nine Categories Of Rooms
The nine categories are very carefully and cleverly calibrated by these factors. You won’t make a terrible mistake because the rooms are similar in many ways and you can always ask to move to another location. Critically, the three ‘zones’ still do have different feels to them.
The narrow, top part of the island (that used to be the premium Blue Lagoon resort) is still the quiet area, with the sunset sandspit, ‘Serenade Jetty’ and excellent ‘The Reef’ restaurant. The rooms are now towards the most affordable end. The middle zone is the smartest area, with the spa, kid’s club, big pool, sports and restaurants. And the wide bottom part of the island that used to be The Village is still the fun, active and affordable end. Having said that, there are some more expensive rooms in this area, and the new centre is fantastic. Separate from the old main bar is the chic-looking Sand Bar and Island Barbecue around an infinity pool. It’s beautifully conceived and delivered.
The Essentials Are Still All Here
The whole resort has been re-imagined and the new product is top class. At the same time, the essentials are all still here. Diving is a big draw. There are many fine, varied sites, from thilas to channels, corners, inside and outside reefs. Mantas visit in the winter and the great all-year attraction is the hammerhead shark point. The personnel at the dive base, Rasdhoo Divers, couldn’t be more friendly and accommodating.
Snorkeling is also very good here. One short swim out from my Water Villa with Jacuzzi revealed a black tip reef shark, a white tip, an eagle ray and a group of 10 squid. The parrot fish seem to be bigger and more varied than elsewhere and, indeed, all the fish seem to be more habituated to snorkelers here than at other resorts. This may be a bonus from being established for so many years.
What was one of the country’s first resort Bio Stations is now a very impressive, and award winning, Eco Centre, with a resident marine biologist and horticulturalist. It is a place that every guest will want to keep revisiting to attend different talks and demonstrations, learn about eco friendly developments or sign up for a snorkeling lesson or nature walk. The centre is up there with the very best such initiatives in the country and guests on Kuramathi can be proud of that.
As happens on long islands, the best beaches are at each end, with some pockets and bulges of sand along the sides. The quality of the sand is excellent.
Food, Fun And Entertainment
The cuisine on Kuramathi used to be one of its weaker points but that is forgotten history now. The buffets are very good and the specialty outlets are many and also much praised. Every guest comes on either full board or one of two types of all-inclusive. The Select All-Inclusive gives guests access to all the outlets and finer drinks, although every all-inclusive guest has a choice of more than 50 cocktails.
Perhaps what defines Kuramathi as much as anything is the liveliness of the evenings. On a big, mature island such as this you can always keep away from the action but when and if you want it, there is great fun to be had. If you don’t fancy what is on at one centre you can take a buggy and listen, dance or watch the action at another. This is one of the best places to hear good Maldivian and international performers.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville, 25 May 2011