Sustainability at Holiday Inn Resort Maldives

If you’ve been following our blog for a while you’ll know that sustainable tourism and responsible travel are huge factors for us in choosing accommodation when we travel. As eco-friendly travel becomes more popular, it can be difficult to know whether a hotel is really committed to environmental protection, or just trying to cash in on a growing trend. Sometimes you have to visit a property in person to really understand the level of commitment to sustainability. Sometimes we have high hopes for a hotel or resort and then arrive to find their “eco”-ness is limited to a recycling bin and a yearly beach clean up.

Luckily, sometimes the exact opposite happens and we’re pleasantly surprised with how much a resort is going above and beyond to be sustainable. That was the case for Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives. Not only are they practicing what they preach in terms of environmental sustainability, but they’re also committed to wildlife protection and cultural preservation. The commitment to all three is what really knocks it out of the park for us. Here’s what the Holiday Inn Kandooma is doing to keep the Maldives an incredible place for locals and tourists.



Ethical Animal Tours in the Maldives

Snorkeling with Sea Turtles

We’re always weary when hotels and resorts offer animal tours to their guests. We understand that tourists are interested in interacting with exotic animals when on vacation, but too often these activities negatively impact the wildlife population. Before booking any excursions where animals are involved, we always run through a checklist to see if the activity includes touching, feeding, or otherwise impacting the natural behavior of the wildlife. We were very excited to see that the activities at Holiday Inn Maldives passed our checklist! All of their excursions limit interactions to simply observing the animals from a respectful distance.



Our first tour was the Turtle Point Reef snorkeling. We took a speed boat to Turtle Point, about 45 minutes from the resort. We donned our mask and flippers and jumped into the water. Just a few minutes after arriving, our guide Ushan had already spotted our first turtle! It’s pretty incredible to watch the turtles float lazily in the water, cruising with the currents and occasionally popping their heads up above the surface.

Sea turtles are incredible creatures. Some species can hold their breath for several hours, with some able to hibernate under water for months! Turtles are protected in the Maldives. Since 1995, it’s been illegal to catch, kill or collect them. All fishing in the Maldives is pole and line fishing, which cuts down on the number of sea life killed from discarded fishing nets. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for “ghost nets,” nets left or lost by fisherman in other countries, to make their way to the waters of the Maldives. Ushan told us that not long before our arrival a turtle was found tangled in a net. Luckily they were able to cut him free and put him back into the wild. During our snorkeling tour we saw about 6 turtles, each one magnificent and breathtaking. Excursions like these are so important because they educate guests on the fragility of the environment and how our actions at home can affect the environment around the world.



Dolphin Tours

We also took part in the Dolphin Cruise. On this excursion you observe the dolphins from the boat, as opposed to snorkeling with them. It’s not guaranteed to see dolphins, so we felt very fortunate that not long into the trip our boat was surrounded by dozens of them! Huge pods of dolphins were swimming within feet of the boat, their grey fins gliding above the water. Every once in a while a little baby would show off by jumping in the air and spinning around. They really put on a good show for us. Side note: If you don’t see any dolphins on your trip, don’t worry! The hotel will let you join the next Dolphin Cruise free of charge!



Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Maldives

One activity we wanted to go on, but unfortunately couldn’t due to the weather, was the whale shark snorkeling. If you’ve kept up with our blog, you may know that we are big advocates for ethical whale shark tours. One of our most popular articles is why we chose NOT to swim with the whale sharks in Cebu, Philippines. We were very excited to hear that the Holiday Inn Kandooma whale shark snorkeling tour does not include feeding of the animals.



“Chumming,” or the act of luring animals to your boat by throwing fish parts into the water, can affect the eating and migration patterns of sea life. Instead of attracting the whale sharks by chumming the water, the boat operators are always on the lookout for the animals and coordinate with each other via walkie talkie. The guides also educate the guests on keeping a safe distance from the animal, but not because they are dangerous. Whale sharks are actually not sharks, but rather the largest fish species in existence. They’re gentle giants and not at all harmful to humans. They can be quite shy though, so it’s natural for them to take off when they spot you. Because there is no feeding of the animals, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll see any whale sharks.

To get to the snorkeling location, you have to take a speed boat across the channel and depending on the weather this can take 1 and a half to 2 hours. The waves can get quite choppy in the channel, so it’s not recommended for those that get seasick. But even if you experience some seasickness, you may get lucky with a calm day. I can also recommend the motion sickness tablets Bonine, which don’t cause drowsiness like Dramamine. Unfortunately I completely forgot to bring some on this trip! Either way, if you’re able to take the whale shark tour, you’ll be amazed by the beauty and sheer mass of these incredible creatures.



Reefscaping Sustainability Project

One of the activities we were most excited about was the Reefscaping Project – and it did not disappoint! We always look for hotels that go above and beyond with sustainability initiatives. That’s what Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma has done with their Reefscaping Project. Unfortunately the Maldives have suffered through a series of coral bleaching. Coral bleaching happens when the water temperatures rise and the algae that lives in their tissues is expelled. This causes the coral to turn white and become more susceptible to dying.

There was a terrible coral bleaching in 1998 that killed about 90% of the coral in the Maldives. It began to regrow, but then another series of bleaching in 2010, 2012 and 2016 killed around 60-70% of the Maldives’ coral. Coral are incredibly important to the ecosystem of the ocean. Not only does coral provide shelter for small fish, it also plays a part in the ocean food chain, giving nutrients to other sea life. Bright, vibrant coral is also a huge draw for tourists wanting to snorkel in the Maldives coral reef.

Thankfully, the Holiday Inn Kandooma is doing its part to regrow the coral population. With their Reefscaping Project, they snap off pieces of live coral and use wire to tie them to a structure. The structure is then placed in the ocean. By cutting the coral, you’re actually stimulating new growth. It’s a similar process to cutting off the top of a pineapple and replanting it to grow a new fruit. Ushan, the resort’s marine biology expert, leads the Reefscaping project.

Guests can sponsor a structure and even have their name written on a tag to be placed on the structure. Guests who sponsor the project have the opportunity to sit down with Ushan and learn more about the importance of reefscaping. They can participate in creating the structure with coral pieces, as well as snorkeling out out to the location to ‘plant’ it in the ocean. Guests will also receive periodic updates on the project. So much cooler than bringing home a souvenir is knowing that you’ve contributed to reviving the coral reef!




Sustainability at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma

Not only is the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma doing its part to protect the Maldivian ecosystem, they’re also doing their part to look inward and examine their own impact on the environment. Several sustainability initiatives have been adopted to reduce waste and lower their carbon footprint. One simple, but incredibly effective initiative is using reusable glass bottles of water in guest rooms. This may not seem like a huge undertaking, but it reduces the resort’s plastic use by approximately 650 bottles a day! They’ve been using the glass bottles for the past 8 years. Imagine how much plastic has been saved during that time. I’ll tell you, it’s almost 2 million bottles!



All of the water used at the resort is produced by the island itself. Their desalination plant produces on average 15,500 liters of drinking water per month. Rain water is harvested to be used for guest laundry, saving approximately 50 tons of water per month during the rainy season. The heat generated by the resort generators is used to heat the water in 22 staff rooms and in the desalination plant. This reduces energy consumption needed to heat showers, as well as reduces use of diesel.  The resort is planning to expand this project to heat the water in all staff rooms. They also have plans to install solar panels to produce energy from that hot Maldivian sun.

There are tons of small initiatives like these that all add up to reducing the resort’s carbon footprint. From using low wattage light bulbs, to re-using maintenance materials like gloves and paint brushes, it all adds up to help ease the impact on the environment.



Connection to Community

For us, traveling responsibly is much more than just being environmentally friendly. Sustainability ensures that destinations are protected and preserved for generations to come. That includes cultural traditions, animal welfare and supporting a thriving local community. Too often when tourists visit a resort, they’re unable to get a deeper insight into local life. They’re limited to just interacting with hotel staff. Which, don’t get me wrong, can be a great way to connect with locals. We had an incredible time connecting with the staff at the resort. The hospitality at the Holiday Inn Kandooma is incredible. But when the opportunity presents itself to dive deeper into the local culture, we take it. That’s why we were excited to see that the resort offered a 2 hour tour to the neighboring island.



The local tour is a great way to gain some insight into local culture. The Maldives are made up over hundreds of islands. At the moment there are 365 resort islands established for tourism (yep, one for every day of the year!). And there are over 200 local islands, some of which have guest houses, inhabited by local residents. There is a local island a stone’s throw away from Kandooma (literally, if you have a good arm). You can’t swim there because there is a deep channel separating the two. But you can hire a boat from the hotel or take the local island tour.

The tour is only about two hours and you’ll be connected with a local guide. Our guide, Mohammed, gave us a great tour of the town and was happy to answer all our questions about Maldivian life. The Maldives are 100% muslim and the religion has a strong influence over the island. There are 3 mosques on the island (two for men, one for women) and all of the local women wear a burqa or hijab. Every island in the Maldives must have a mosque if there are any people living on it. Even if its a plantation island with only two farmers living there, it still must have a mosque. Visiting local islands is a great way to get a different perspective of the country. You can also add a few extra days to your trip with a stay on the local islands, which is a great way to extend your trip f you’re traveling to the Maldives on a budget.



If you’re hesitant to do a tour that exploits the local people and puts them on show for tourists, this is far from it. Locals just went about their daily lives as we strolled through the town. Mohammed showed us interesting things, like how high the water level went to when they suffered through a terrible tsunami in 2004. Toward the end of the tour, the guide will take you to a shop to purchase souvenirs. They alternate which shop they take visitors to, giving each shopkeeper a chance to sell their wares. We’re not really souvenir people, but we do like to support local economies so we bought a couple of small items. There is also a mini-mart in town, which is a good place to pick up some affordable snacks (and yes, they take credit cards). At the end of our tour, Mohammed dropped us back off at the boat and the call to prayer began over a loudspeaker. Mohammed wished us farewell and joined the groups of men making their way to the mosque.

The local island tour may not be a high priority on your Maldives bucket list, but we encourage you taking a couple hours out of your sunbaking to see how Maldivians live. Supporting locals in this way ensures that community’s will profit from tourist. Spread the wealth, spread the love!



Overall, the sustainability initiatives at the Holiday Inn Maldives exceeded our expectations. From the Reefscaping Project to the eco-initiatives, it’s clear that the resort is committed to protecting the gorgeous environment that draws so many people to this stunning destination. Beyond the environmentally conscious efforts, the resort is focused on protecting the wildlife population and the local culture. It’s the combination of these efforts that make the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives such an outstanding place to stay.

Thanks to the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives and InterContinental Hotels Group for hosting us in the Maldives. As always, all opinions and thoughts are our own and we’d never recommend a destination or hotel we didn’t fully support.

Holiday Inn Kandooma: Maldives Resort Guide

For as long as I can remember, traveling to the Maldives has been at the top of our bucket list. Who doesn’t dream of that gorgeous blue water and white sand beaches? We were smitten by Instagram photos of the iconic overwater villas and videos of undersea adventures. Let’s face it, a destination like the Maldives pretty much sells itself.

But when it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, and actually choosing accommodation, there are a dizzying amount of options. That’s why we were looking for a resort that stood out among the rest. Maybe it would have stellar reviews on its super friendly staff, maybe it was committed to environmental sustainability and had the practices to back it up, maybe it would have a plethora of activities that let us interact with animals from a safe and respectful distance. Or maybe…. It would have all three!



Yep, we actually found a resort that knocked it out of the park in terms of hospitality, sustainability and overall gorgeousness (yep, making up a word there) – the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives. I know what you’re thinking. The Holiday Inn? Isn’t that a city hotel? That’s what we thought, but this resort couldn’t be further from that. It’s every bit the luxury island accommodation you want from the Maldives.


Arriving at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma

After arriving at Male international airport we boarded a Holiday Inn speed boat to the island of Kandooma. Upon boarding we were immediately met with the warm hospitality that makes the Holiday Inn Maldives so special. Zuhree, the staff member that accompanied us on the ride, greeted us with a bottle of water and a cool, mint-scented towel, both a refreshing treat after the stuffy plane ride. Not 5 minutes into our journey we looked to our left and spotted a pod of over 100 dolphins. The driver kindly turned the boat around so we could get a closer look. It was a perfect introduction to the natural wonders of the Maldives.



One of the perks of staying at the Maldives Holiday Inn is its convenient location to the airport. Unlike further resorts that are further from Male, you don’t need to coordinate taking a seaplane, which only runs from 6am to 6pm. Instead you’ll hop on a speed boat which takes less than 45 minutes to reach the resort. A seaplane might be a novelty, but trust us, once you get to the Maldives you’ll want to spend a much time as possible on the water.

Like clockwork, our boat pulled up to Kandooma 40 minutes later, the water beneath us quickly turned from deep blue to bright turquoise. As soon as you see the color of this water you know that the raving reviews of the Maldives have not been exaggerated. Yep, the water really is that blue! Docking at the island, it felt like our eyes were bulging as everything looked like technicolor. From the turquoise water to the white sand to the green palm trees, every color was bright as can be.



Checking in at the Holiday Inn Resort Maldives

The first smiling face that greets you when you pull up to the dock is Russel. With her million dollar smile, she gave us a warm welcome and escorted us across the bridge to the lobby. Russel is from the Philippines and she graciously let us practice our rusty Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines), without laughing too much at us.



At check in, we were greeted with a refreshing drink and another cool towel, which was much needed because it is warm in the Maldives. Our bags were transported to our rooms so we didn’t have to lift a finger. With our cold drink in hand we were ready to leave the real world behind us and soak up this island paradise.

Accommodation Review

For the first two nights we stayed in an overwater villa. And we’ll start off by answering your most pressing question. YES! Yes it was amazing and just like the photos we dreamed of. There are no cars on the island, so to get to our villa a golf cart escorted us to the opposite side of the small island. At the end of the sand stood the quintessential Maldives overwater villas. With the curving dock that you’ve seen in a million Instagram photos and the villas jutting out over the water on either side. Our villa was filled with natural light from the three sets of sliding glass doors that opened to the breezy outside. The decor is simple and beachy, with white wood floors and furniture. Leading out to the deck is an outdoor shower and an outdoor bathtub (!!!) Yes, there is a regular indoor shower in the bathroom, but why shower indoors when you can soak up the sunshine while under the water? Don’t worry, you’re hidden from view so feel free to toss those inhibitions into the wind!



The balcony and the villa’s deck are really the “pieces de resistance.” Walk down your private deck and you’ll find yourself looking at some of the clearest water you’ve ever seen. You can lounge in the deck chairs or hop in the overwater hammock, where the only thing separating you from the water is a thick netting. The view extends out to the deep blue of the ocean, where a break water keeps the rough waves at bay (pun intended). On a windy day there’s still a bit of a current, so make sure you don’t drift too far out, unless you’re ready for a workout swimming back. Also, the sand below has sharp rocks, so we recommend bringing water shoes. Other than that, all you need is a swimsuit and your SPF 30!



For the rest of our stay we were in a beach house overlooking the water, which we thoroughly enjoyed as well. The set up was similar to the overwater villa, except the beach house has two stories. The ground level is an outdoor sandy lounge space with a daybed and chairs. Upstairs the room has a balcony with an ocean view. There was a row of daybeds a few hundred feet from our villa and the water was just 50 feet in front of those. It was a convenient spot to go out in the morning and grab a bed before they were all taken. We also loved that the bed in our room was facing the balcony, so we could pull aside our curtains in the morning and wake up to a view of the gorgeous ocean.


Hospitality at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma

When we were initially researching the Holiday Inn Kandooma, we were stoked to find their sustainability initiatives and ethical animal activities, but we wren’t sure if the hospitality would live up to their incredible reviews. We had read TripAdvisor reviews that raved about the staff in every department, praising cooks, servers and receptionists by name like they were old friends. Surely, the hospitality couldn’t be that good, could it?

Spoiler alert: It is! Over our week at the resort we actually developed genuine friendships with the staff. It was a joy to hit the buffet every morning and catch up with our friends from the food and beverage team. (Side note: At the buffet breakfast, you’re greeted by a staff member to take your drink order. You can choose from a warm pot of tea or an entire pot of coffee, freshly plunged right at your table. If you’re a coffee drinker, you know what you a treat it is to have a hot pot of coffee all to yourself. OR you can ask for an espresso drink made to order. Complimentary lattes with breakfast? Keep ‘em coming!)



We loved that when we settled into breakfast, our favorite team members would often come to our table to see what we were up to for the day. This seemed to be consistent during our time at the resort. We often had staff members checking in with us to make sure everything was perfect and to see if they could make our stay even more fantastic. And before you assume that we received special treatment because we’re bloggers, we actually saw many instances of staff members going above and beyond for other guests. Whether it was a very patient waiter communicating with a guest through Google translate, or staff from the Kids Club making funny faces for the younger guests. Everyone seemed to be truly have a great time.

During our stay we often ate at the the poolside restaurant Bokkurra Coffee Club. During our leisurely lunch and dinners we’d chat with the staff there and really learn more about their story. We made friends with Nayez, who just finished school and has dreams of becoming a graphic designer, with the talent to back it up. And Issey, who got married in February of last year, the same date that we got engaged! He’s a fantastic artists and shared with us drawings of his cat.



Or Saika, our favorite bartender at the beach bar. She’s from Nepal, but has worked around the world, including the Seychelles and now the Holiday Inn Maldives. She loves working at the bar because she can get to know guests as they sit and chat with her over a drink. By asking about their vacation she can find out if there is anything she can do to make their stay even better. Or Ratheesh, one of our favorite cafe managers, who made us a plate of curry from the buffet just because he thought it would compliment our meal at the cafe (it did!). These are just a few of the many, many wonderful staff members we befriended while at the Holiday Inn.

Before the week was over we were invited to watch the last game of the staff football tournament. There are over 400 staff that work at the resort, many of whom live on the island. To keep fit during their time off, the Holiday Inn organizes sports tournaments, where different departments compete against each other. We were expecting a friendly lowkey game, but it was actually very official. The teams had uniforms and trophies were handed out afterward. The final game was between security and housekeeping. After a thrilling match, it came down to penalty shots and security won. During the rest of our stay it was really fun seeing the players around the resort and chatting about the game. These little interactions and the friendliness of the staff are what makes this resort stand out from the rest.



Resort Facilities

You could spend all your time in the picturesque Maldives ocean during your trip and be happy, but it doesn’t hurt that the Holiday Inn Resort Maldives has some pretty spectacular facilities available to enjoy. The infinity pool is somehow the PERFECT temperature and overlooks the beach closest to the lobby. If you want to be in the mix, this beach is the most popular, but never once did it feel overcrowded. There are lounge chairs and bean bags, and the beach bar is so close that the waiters will bring a drink directly to your chair.



If you’re looking for a quieter area to swim and relax, the swimming area near the overwater villas is blissfully quiet. Just a few day beds and a handful of lounge chairs are scattered around the sand, overlooking some of the bluest water you’ll see on the whole island of Kandooma. There’s a little alcove here so the water is protected from the current. It’s a bit like floating in a natural pool.

But it wasn’t all laying around on the beach working on our nonexistent tans. Jules pumped some iron in the well equipped fitness center and I (Christine) took a fantastic yoga class with Simone, the Perfect Wave surf and yoga instructor. They have twice daily classes, a morning Hatha class and an evening Yin class. Both take place on the jetty and are a perfect way to start or end the day overlooking the water in full zen mode.

If you’re a keen wave rider than you can add surfing in Kandooma to your list of holiday activities. Kandooma has some great surf breaks just a short paddle from your door, making it the perfect way to catch some waves while also having a super relaxing vacation.



Those that prefer the type of wellness that doesn’t require breaking a sweat can enjoy a spa treatment at the Kandooma Spa by Como Shambhala. We had the signature Como Shambhala couple’s massage and enjoyed every second of it. The treatment started with a foot scrub, followed by a full body oil massage. We left feeling gloriously relaxed. The facilities at the spa are immaculate and serene. We recommend the signature massage treatment, as well booking the Spa Suite’s private garden with your very own plunge pool. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a blissful afternoon for two.

Overall there’s a million little details that make this resort so enjoyable, from the facilities, to the gorgeous surroundings. But the biggest thing that made our stay so incredible was the hospitality. Every morning Jules and I walked out of our villa feeling like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, with housekeepers, gardeners and other staff greeting us with a big, cheery “hello” on our walk to breakfast. Resorts have a reputation for being cookie-cutter and a bit stuffy, that’s why it’s so incredible to feel like you’re part of the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma family. On our last day we walked around the resort to say goodbye to everyone and that’s when it hit us just how many new friends we’d made. After cheery hugs and exchanging Instagram details, we promised to be back someday to enjoy this incredible island once again. And we plan to make good on that promise!

Thanks to the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives and InterContinental Hotels Group for hosting us in the Maldives. As always, all opinions and thoughts are our own and we’d never recommend a destination or hotel we didn’t fully support.

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