The private island of Machchafushi, home to the magnificent Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives, is small, totalling around 53km2 in space. To put that in perspective, this diminutive islet could fit into the total area of Manchester roughly 14 times over. But, as the saying goes, big things come in small packages
Our travel expert Nilma Patel and her family stayed at the Centara Grand Maldives for a week in June 2016 and, together, they discovered a place they could all fall in love with, for different reasons.
It takes roughly 25 minutes to travel from Malé to Centara Grand Island by seaplane and, if you’re travelling with a family, you can be forgiven for thinking your little ones might be a little hesitant to jump on another plane. If that’s the case, they will soon change their mind, as you soar past stretches of metamorphosing wondrous blue waters, punctured with scattered islands of gold and green. Due to bad weather, Nilma and her family had to make part of the journey by speedboat, showing that even paradise can occasionally have moments of madness. Fortunately, the kids loved the speedboat and the combination of seaplane and boat made for a fun way to get there. Everyone on the island, somewhat windswept and full of adrenaline, were whisked through check-in and introduced to their Beach Suite that offers partial views of the sea.
'We stayed in a Beach Suite and I absolutely loved being able to just step out right onto the beach, which I probably miss the most. The hotel put a children’s bed in the living area and actually converted the sofa to a bed, so the kids had their own little space to relax and sleep.'
'The Club Lounge was fabulous. It’s in addition to any kind of all-inclusive package and has its own pool and sunbeds. Drinks are served all day, you can have lunch here, enjoy afternoon tea and the best bit was that we had it all to ourselves, as nobody else had decided to book it, so that was an unexpected treat!'
The chance to capture the lucrative Club Lounge for yourself is rare. Nilma remembers the staff were fantastic, going as far as to send a message to the manager when home to thank them for their excellent hospitality. Babita, Shaheena and Kathy stood out for the way they interacted with Nilma’s children who, in turn, adored their new friends. For something a little more interactive, Nilma found the social aspect of Aqua Lounge to be refreshing, alongside the fun sofa swings that look out on to the ocean.
Cooking with the Chefs
Complete with four restaurants and two bars, the dining and drinking components of Centara Grand are ideally balanced. From Thai to Italian, the restaurants produce a mouth-watering palette of dishes. The Reef, a thatched roof classic restaurant, is a favourite of Nilma for its themed evenings, where you can try Greek, French and Indian dishes. Suan Bua is another favourite of visitors, mostly due to its delicious Thai cuisine, but also because of its scenic location next to the soft ripples of a lotus pond.
'We dined at the main restaurant, The Reef, where they had global kitchen nights. We tried food from all these different stations, like shish kebab, enchiladas and salads, but my favourite was definitely the Italian. We dined their twice and we also dined at Suan Bua twice. Both were fantastic.'
A memory that Nilma will never forget, is her son cooking enchiladas with the wonderful Chef Ashish during the global kitchen night.
'We were just sitting and the chef came over and started talking to us. The next minute, he said to my son, Shiv, ‘come on, I’ll teach you how to make enchiladas. He had a great time and I was so thankful that Chef Ashish decided to do something special like that.’
Fun in the Sun
Chances are, you will spend most of your time here doing very little, basking in the barefoot beauty of the golden sands. But, the chance for excitement is all around you, on and beneath the crystal blue water. The warm uninterrupted sway of the water hides away a treasure trove of life to discover, from sturgeon fish and whale sharks, to angelfish and manta rays. Turtles are just some of the amazing sea life you can see on your explorations. Every day brings new adventures; kayaking, wake-boarding and catamarans, while shipwrecks and new coral formations make themselves known on exciting dive activities.
'My husband and the children snorkelled while they were here. The staff looked after them so well. One of my children absolutely loves snorkelling, so it was a dream for him.'