Postcard: Maldives Family Getaway
The Four Season’s Landaa Giraavaru retreat, in the Maldives, is a resort with serious Ahh-factor. I recently spent a week here with my two daughters, Kate and Julia, aged 17 and 11 respectively, and my friend Julie (my teenage son, Thomas, opted to go skiing with friends, but I’m sure after he hears our euphoric reports will not make the same mistake twice). At the end of the trip, we all felt completely relaxed and content.
My friend Julie’s Ahh-moment came when she discovered Lastri, a therapist with healing hands who was originally recruited from an ashram in Indonesia. If you go, try the Himalayan salt scrub and Landaa massage in one of the six spectacular Sea Treatment Rooms, and book Lastri. I preferred the more nurturing Aruyvedic and Tantric retreat, set amidst the spa’s leafy herb garden, where a multitude of plants from India are grown specifically to be used during these treatments. The spa was built three years ago under the guidance of Luisa Anderson, who has spent more than twenty years studying and practicing natural healing. “People don’t want just pampering,” she says. “To feel healthy, they need to be connected to themselves, the planet and others. A spa can be an opportunity to reconnect with yourself.”
The ancient Indian science of Ayurvedic means “life knowledge” and aims to give you the tools to rejuvenate. Before getting an Ayurveda overhaul, the spa recommends guests get a free consultation from one of the resort’s two doctors to determine a guest’s dosha or energy source (there are three: vata, pitta and kapha). Ayurveda says each dosha type needs to follow a specific diet and lifestyle suited to their particular dosha. Dr. Kannan recognized my dosha type as vata: generally quick, moveable and changeable like air and space). Although we had just met, he analyzed me perfectly and told me what I needed to do to rebalance my system (as well as skin tone, energy levels and mood). Dr. Kannan also suggested specific types of food; the resort’s restaurants facilitate an Ayurvedic diet by helpfully placing symbols for each dosha besides each items in the menu. For the truly dedicated, the Landaa has just started offering 7, 14 and 21-day Ayurvedic immersion packages.
While I was busy traveling into the world of Ayurveda, my teenage Kate was solidly on ground, taking advantage of the Olympic-size swimming pool, which overlooks the Indian ocean, the poolside bar for a refreshing Lomi Lomi, a Maldivian drink filled with ginger, honey, lime and crushed ice, and the large, airy gym. Eleven-year old Julia, meanwhile, barely pulled off her goggles during our stay. If she wasn’t busy searching for sea turtles, dolphins, tiger sharks, or pretty fish, she was busy water skiing, or somehow finding pleasure while holding on for dear life to an intertube as a motor boat dragged her bouncing along at top speed across the ocean. (It helped that Julia had some buddies from London along: her best friend Grace and sister Lily were also staying at the resort, and they too had permanent rings around their eyes.)
Landaa does a good job weaving education into its activities, so each snorkel outing is preceded by a short talk from the spa’s marine biologist in the impressive new Marine Biology Center. A typical day could also include a lecture on global warming, coral reef conservation efforts, or a talk on the nearly endangered manta ray. There was so much going on at Landaa that I barely opened my book. Every time I thought I might read, the view proved distracting. And the resort was full (we went during Easter), but it’s so well-designed, with activities and four restaurants dotted across the atoll, that it never felt crowded.
Landaa Giraavaru’s success is also due to its superlative general manager, Armando Kraenzlin, who is 100 percent committed to creating memorable experiences for his guests. Enthusiastic but poised and soft-spoken, this manager somehow gets the best out of his employees, as service was astonishingly good. Its impossible to walk the various sand paths connecting the different parts of the resort without being greeted with a smile and hello by each member of staff that passes, even if they’re busy raking sand, cutting flowers or driving by on a golf cart. This good humor is infectious.
Which rooms to book depends very much on what you’re after. Romantics who never want to leave their abode should book one of the Ocean Villas, which are completely surrounded by sublime turquoise water. Suite No. 420 at the end of the pier, with views of the sunset, would be my ultimate choice, with no. 320, also at the end but facing the sunrise side, a close second. Those who want to be near the water sports and scenic Blu restaurant, beach villas no. 220-228 are ideal. I also loved the quiet jungle beach villas no. 203-207, where a sunset swim is just a few sandy steps away (as is the tennis court and gym). And for spa enthusiasts who prefer an airy feel and want to gaze at the sea easily from their terrace, beach bungalows no. 122-129 are the ticket. Rates from $700.
Read other review of resorts in the Maldives
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Read Elena Bowes’ postcard on traveling with teenagers in Istanbul