What better way to sail around the string of beautiful Maldivian islands than on a luxury craft and what if that craft was operated by a luxury brand, guaranteeing exceptional service standards and experiences? Well, welcome to Four Seasons Explorer, in essence, a luxurious boutique resort - afloat.
Sail around the five Maldivian atolls with “every day an aquatic adventure” on this sleek three deck catamaran, accommodating up to just 22 guests in ten state rooms and one spacious Explorer Suite. With a staff to guest ratio of one to one, this is on-board living at an elevated pace with three, four and seven-night itineraries available cruising between the two Four Seasons Maldives resorts of Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru or private charters where the itinerary is of your own making.
Facilities on board are similar to those at a land-based resort albeit on a smaller scale – there are two bars; a restaurant with indoor and al fresco dining; a spacious lounge for relaxation; a library; an extensive dive deck and two sun decks. Activity-wise, there is an on-board spa therapist with a treatment area on the upper deck, a marine biologist to talk you through the marine environment and a PADI 5-Star Dive Centre offering a minimum of three dives a day as part of the all-inclusive itineraries. They can arrange a variety of water activities including snorkelling; kayaking; waterskiing; wakeboarding; windsurfing; fun tubes and island excursions galore.
Four Seasons Explorer’s home port is at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa and she sails on three, four and seven-night cruises between Kura Huraa and their second resort, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. She also undertakes private charters.
There are 1,192 islands encompassing The Maldives, strung across the Equator like a necklace in the Indian Ocean. The sea and the sky offer a wide palette of blue and aqua shades from a Tiffany blue to a deep dark midnight blue with the horizon sometimes blurred between them whilst the beaches are formed from soft coral.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa is based on North Malé Atoll which is comprised of 50 small islands or islets. All have incredible beaches and coral reefs and the area is particularly prized for diving with a wide variety of dive sites available. There are around 35 dive sites in the area plus a couple of shipwrecks for those who like to dive with a purpose.
Four Seasons Explorer is comprised of three decks, is 39 meters in length, has a beam of 12 metres and a draught of 1.9 metres enabling her to explore shallower waters than other vessels.
She has a total of eleven spacious en suite air-conditioned guest rooms in total – ten state rooms offering 20 square metres of living space located on the main deck and one suite, the Explorer Suite, offering 45 square metres of living space including its own private deck, located on the Upper Deck.
The state rooms are spacious and classically styled with a mini-bar, seating nook and a writing desk. Light and airy, these rooms are neutral in tone with large port windows looking out over the ocean. Amenities include cotton bathrobes, slippers, down pillows and duvets, hypoallergenic bedding on request, a makeup mirror, an alarm clock, safe, hairdryer and full bathrooms with bathtub. For entertainment, there is a CD player, connections for MP3 players, DVD player, an iPod docking station and a plasma/LCD television.
The Explorer Suite has the feel of a ship’s bridge as it is bathed in light from a curved bank of large picture windows, ideal for looking out over the ocean. Neutral in hue with highlights of blue / grey, it is kitted out comfortably in contemporary teak furniture with a day bed, dining area and its own private deck.
Facilities for a craft of this size are extensive – a lounge, library, two bars, a restaurant, a spa area, a dive deck and two, large spa decks. The activities are as or more far-reaching. There is fishing from one of the decks or from Explorer’s own wooden dhoni, taking to the waves with a range of watersports from windsurfing to wakeboarding and kayaking or simply relaxing under the magical care of the resident spa therapist for one of many treatments available. The spa is flexible too – treatments can be enjoyed on the upper deck’s private treatment area or out on a deserted island, with only the sea and the seabirds to distract you.
There are island excursions a-plenty from playing beach volleyball to visiting remote villages to snorkelling on a reef with the resident marine biologist in tow or enjoying a picnic, Robinson Crusoe style. In season, there are trips out to meet the manta rays, to swim with dolphins or to meet a turtle or two going about their business.
The PADI 5-Star Dive Centre on board has access to a range of dive sites too from shipwrecks to coral overhangs harbouring thousands of marine sealife to manta cleaning stations to swimming with sharks. With a short draught of just 1.9 metres, Explorer has effortless access to sites other larger vessels cannot manage and she also has her own dive tenders and a traditional dhoni too for entry to dive sites. In addition to the dives, possibly with the marine biologist, the team will also help record any dive with photography and video services.
Four Seasons Explorer regularly arranges specialised shared or private “surfaris” in conjunction with surfing partner, Tropicsurf of Noosa, Australia, perfect to capture those epic endless swells deep out in the ocean seascape. With sophisticated technology, the crew can accurately predict swell and wind forecasts to ensure that no surfing opportunity is lost. During the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy, there are opportunities for guests at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa to obtain day passes on board Four Seasons Explorer, the host vessel for the championship.
If circumstances do not allow you to own your own craft, then a trip on Four Seasons Explorer can be the next best thing. There is nothing so refreshing as a cruise out on the wide blue ocean nor anything as pleasant as a warm sea breeze whilst looking out over a vast horizon where the sky merges with the sea.
For a destination like The Maldives, which is all about the Indian Ocean, its myriad of tiny islands and its marine riches, a three-, four- or seven-day cruise aboard Four Seasons Explorer is surely the best way – and an alternative way - to experience the islands, allowing visits to largely unexplored islands. It also allows for spontaneous opportunities such as snorkelling with a passing pod of whales mid-ocean, challenging shipmates to an impromptu game of beach volleyball on an isolated shore or swimming with some friendly dolphins who popped by to say hi.
As Explorer shuttles between the two Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives – at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru – any stay can be extended to incorporate a land-based holiday too.
This is a natural brand extension for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, as when you are guaranteed a branded level of service and facilities – a micro resort afloat in many ways – and an exclusivity which is limited to just 22 guests - then any uncalled-for niggles about a possible dip in the standard of care will just dissipate to steer a course to pure indulgent and luxurious enjoyment.
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts operates four distinct offerings in the region – Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, Four Seasons Explorer and Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah, Baa Atoll.
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No stone is left unturned when it comes to dining onboard with à la carte choices for breakfast and seasonally changing lunch and dinner menus, inspired from Maldivian, Asian, European and American cuisine. The restaurant or dining room offers either an air-conditioned haven or an al fresco treat with dining at the Captain’s Table, as it always is, the epicurean highlight of the cruise with a beach barbecue a close second.
All the meals are all-inclusive with the exception of alcoholic drinks, speaking of which, there are two bars in which to enjoy a G&T or two – either indoors, cossetted on cosy sofas next to the lounge or outside, on the sheltered lower sundeck to enjoy the perfect spectacular sunset.
Snacks and drinks are served all day long in the library and lounge – the perfect place to relax reading a book, looking at any film clips from the resident videographer or simply playing a board game from the library.
Over the past twenty years or so, the Marine Savers conservation team, created by Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, has led the way on ecotourism by establishing some of the region’s most ground-breaking initiatives including coral propagation, turtle rehabilitation and manta ray research. For more inspiring information, see marinesavers.com for current projects.
The resorts have an ongoing programme that addresses all aspects of environmental, social and cultural sustainability including on-site bottling plants, local health and outreach projects. They are now partners with the NOW Force for Good Alliance and EarthCheck, a commitment to creating a more conscious, collaborative and Earth-aware travel industry.
Conservation - Since 2002, the team at both Maldivian resorts have transplanted more than 300,000 coral fragments into more than 7,000 frames to help restore Maldivian reefs working with Reefsavers.com. From their two Marine Discovery Centres, a team of 15 marine biologists have also rehabilitated more than 200 sea turtles since 2011 and manage the country’s only turtle and dolphin ID databases to help advance scientific understanding of local populations.
Protective partnerships - Four Seasons Resorts Maldives have partnered up with The Manta Trust to help protect these gentle giants, combining pioneering research with guest focused experiences of the world’s largest known population of manta rays.
Fish Lab - The resorts also successfully bred Nemo, the Maldivian clownfish made famous in the Pixar film “Finding Nemo” to help curb harvesting of sea creatures from the wild.
Reducing single-use plastic - Four Seasons Resorts Maldives has partnered up with the Maldives chapter of Parley since 2018, sending plastic waste (as well as that collected from three neighbouring islands) to be made into sportswear, some of which is sold within their resort shops.
Supporting local communities - The resorts also offer a Hospitality Apprenticeship programme, running since 2001, offering youngsters a year long stint at the resort. Since it started, over 651 local youngsters have graduated. The resorts are also the largest supporters of the Thulhaadhoo lacquerware artisans – the last left in the region – showcasing and selling their products.