Komandoo has just the simple elements of a Maldives holiday - and the guests want nothing more.
For them, this is one of the islands that offers the ideal mix. It is small, comfortable and quiet; there is no animation and little organised entertainment, but the intimate atmosphere is conducive to mixing and meeting with fellow guests and staff on the same wavelength.
The 65 rooms are essentially the same. 20 are Beach Villas, 30 are Jacuzzi Beach Villas and 15 are Jacuzzi Water Villas. The main difference (apart from the Jacuzzi) is whether the rooms are on the side facing northeast or the side facing southwest. The wide southwest beach has the sun on it just about all day but the rooms on the other beach have a more private look and feel to them, as the vegetation goes down further and the water comes up closer. The sun leaves the northeast beach in the afternoon but you have a sunlit view out over open water to two beautiful desert islands. On the other side, the view is partly obscured by Hinnavaru, an inhabited island. Low walls set out in the lagoon run right around the island, which is disappointing, but they are soon out of mind, especially at high tide when many of them are also out of sight.
The Beach All Around
The beach goes almost all around the island and is wonderful, the sand melting below your feet. The rooms have steps directly onto the sand, except for two or three rooms together in one corner, where the steps go into the water. For some guests this is even more exciting. Constructed entirely in Finnish pine, with unfussy matt black and deep brown furniture, the rooms have a smart yet homely Scandinavian feel to them. They are warm, yet full of light. The TV is large but distant and side-on to the bed. There is an iPod music system, a Nespresso machine and complimentary bottles of water.
The water villas, being much newer, are in perfect order and their bathrooms are more distinguished than those of the beach villas. From the outside, the beach villas are just beginning to show their age, in this very competitive middle to upper market. The privacy, however, is very good as the vegetation has grown tall and thick between the rooms. Wooden screens hide the neighbours on the water villa decks.
Snorkeling is excellent because the island is ideally sited in a channel. Although the reef edge slopes away rather than drops off and is not among the best for coral, it is a magnet for a wide range of creatures. One marine biologist from Hamburg counted 265 species without ever going for a dive. Manta rays, eagle rays and dolphins are not infrequent visitors to the reef as they pass on into the atoll.
The dive school positively encourages snorkeling, with equipment, lessons and trips out to the nearby wrecks, thilas and caves (on the Kuredu house reef). The very pleasant and supportive base leaders reckon that if you come to the Maldives you have to put your head under the water and if one partner is into diving then snorkelling is a fine way for the other partner to pass the time and start to understand the obsession.
With a rare concentration of narrow channels one after the other, the diving itself is some of the very best and the most local. There are 15 sites within 15 minutes. The system at the dive base is as easy as the place itself is open and welcoming. With relatively few guests, the attention is personal, and that extends to chats in the bar over problems and preferences (as well, of course, as reliving those diving highs).
Long, Slow Evenings
The bar is conducive for long, slow evenings. An atmosphere of ease and camaraderie is engendered by its low-slung cosiness and encouraged by the manager or manageress who are, here, the host and hostess. Both in the bar and in the restaurant it's clear to see that people are meeting, greeting and enjoying new friendships.
The restaurant is at its best in the evenings too. Here, the head chef acts as second host, explaining dishes, tickling appetites and setting a tone of bonhomie. The food is very good with plenty of adventure and variety. The setting is perfect: sandy floor, lamp-lit tables under a high thatch roof, low coral walls and wooden deck out to the lagoon. One drawback is that the very local island, Hinnavaru, is visible (and audible at the calls to prayer). Also Lunch and breakfast are good rather than great.
Haute Cuisine Restaurant on the Jetty
A new haute cuisine restaurant has been built half way along the main jetty. The plates presented here are so beautiful you hesitate to start; a welcome change from the buffet, however fine, in the main restaurant. Here too the French head chef comes out to chat to each couple to explain dishes and just to chat. In between courses, surprising ‘amuses bouche’ arrive, such as mango sorbet.
As befits the place, there are no boards at reception offering or pushing excursions, entertainments or special dinners. Although all the usual trips are offered, the take-up is not high. A most unusual one is a trip that combines the atoll capital, Naifaru, with the largest tuna processing and canning plant in the country, Felivaru. The most popular is the weekly trip on the sailing cruiser 'Britt'. And the most private is the launch to Kudadu, a beautiful desert island with excellent snorkelling. A maximum of 4 people are taken but usually this is just for one couple alone.
A good spa rounds off the possibilities and that's it: a perfect place to do very little.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville