Club Med Kani, Maldives review: An endless happy hour in paradise

Read our writer's views on this property below

Warwick Stanley finds intoxication of a different kind in the Maldives.

The chain of islands stretch out below us to the horizon beyond, as our seaplane tour takes us south.

Three or four immediately to our left, another two or three hoving into view through the window to the right.

All with reefs, turquoise lagoons, paper white sand and a liberal topping of trees.

Well-formed waves are breaking off the reefs and atolls that intersperse the island group.

No wonder The Maldives is the surfers' El Dorado.

The water down there is about 27 degrees centigrade, the air temperature around 32.

One tropical paradise after another, wherever you look.

A paradise for seagoing anglers, too, by all accounts.

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For seafarers of another age, the locals say, it would not have appeared so attractive.

Its shallow waters and reefs were notorious for snavelling larger craft.

If our seaplane had kept heading in the same direction for another hour or so, we would have seen hundreds more of the Maldives' 1196 islands and myriad atolls.

About 200 of the islands are inhabited, but the total population is little more than 300,000, and the capital Male accounts for 100,000 of those.

Tourists are helping fishing hold up the small nation's economy.

And tourists love those bungalows in the sea.

By the time our seaplane banks, turns and heads back towards my touring party's own island paradise, the sheer number of lagoon dwellings has become a point of interest.

For years, I'd been drawn by the sight of these thatched roof bungalows sitting on stilts in the sea.

I wanted to stay in one - and obviously I wasn't Robinson Crusoe.

To cater for the demand, many of the inhabited islands have their fingers of lagoon rooms and walkways reaching out into the shallows.

And there was mine, at the seaward end of one of the six jetties and 70-plus bungalows off the island of Kani.

From its shuttered windows, I'd watched the seaplanes touch down, taxi into the resort's wharf and take off with batches of sightseers.

It was a spellbinding experience, settling into that lagoon suite, with the constant lapping of the water below, the view to a small island beyond, the luxury of a king-size, mosquito-netted bed and a huge bathroom that looked out onto the water.

The verandah, which is accessed via the bedroom or living room, has a ladder leading down to the water so that guests can take a dip at any time of the day or night.

And no, there's no need to worry about sharks - they don't grow big around here.

But luxury brings its problems, and the problem in this instance was that I did not want to leave that bungalow - ever.

Club Med Kani would not have forgiven me if I had not ventured out during my five days on the island, and I was obliged to while away some of the hours around the resort village.

Most hours are happy ones at Club Med - the drinks are always on the house as part of the all-inclusive package.

Happy hour, however, takes on new meaning here.

Many of the guests are intoxicated - and not because of anything they've had from the bar.

It's the love that's in the air, you see.

Club Med Kani is not exclusively for honeymooners, but they certainly account for a large swag of the clientele.

Apart from love, they're here for the pearly white beaches that separate crystal clear waters from a canopy of palms, the relaxing bars, the mouthwatering restaurant menus and, if not a lagoon suite, a beachside bungalow.

Like the islands of film and storybook fame it resembles, Kina would not be a good place to be shipwrecked without its resort.

With the Maldives short on produce, Club Med Kani has to fend for itself, and most of the food for its international cuisine has to come from Sri Lanka.

Fish is an exception.

A tuna catch arrives at Kani every few days, providing a treat for sushimi lovers.

As at all Club Meds, the food comes "free" as part of the all-inclusive package that takes in the flight and airport transfers to get there, twin-share accommodation and a range of activities.

Buffet meals and snacks are available most hours of the day at the expansive Velhi Restaurant.

As well as the abundant European and Asian dishes available, each evening features a traditional national menu such as Indian, Thai, Korean or Italian cuisine.

A la carte dining at the sophisticated Kandu Resaurant, which overlooks the softly-lit lagoon and offers an intimate and serene experience, is not included in the package.

If you're going, the advice is the same as for any visit to any Club Med: Leave any dieting resolution behind.

The temptations are simply too great for all but the most resolute.

For those who want to do something other than eat, drink, loll in the sea or swimming pool or lie under a palm tree, sailing, snorkelling and windsurfing are free.

So is tuition, and you can also have lessons in aerobics and cooking if you want.

Not included in the package are scuba diving lessons, the seaplane flight over the islands, the half-day Blue Lagoon cruise, half-day tours of the capital Mali, deep-sea angling and indulgent spa packages.

The Blue Lagoon cruise is a must for those who want to try some snorkelling.

There's a visit to a deserted atoll and another to a shallow reef before a stopover on the island of Tolishdoo, about an hour's outboard ride from Kina.

About 1200 live on the island, and in one of the shops you'll see blow-up photos of the water-covered island when the tsunami came through on Boxing Day in 2004.

Other features of the walk around are original coral-built homes, a mosque for women and another for men, the school, where English is second language to the native Dhiveni, and the island's boat-building sites.

The mid-afternoon arrival back at Kani gives the visitor plenty of time to relax and prepare for the resort's evening events.

There's live music at the bar after Club Med's GOs, or gentle organisers, have put on their well-rehearsed, themed evening shows.

They work hard these GOs - around the clock.

And it doesn't stop them being the friendliest lot of hosts you're likely to find anywhere in the world.

Asia Pacific commercial general manager, Olivier Horps, says friendliness has always been of the utmost importance to the Club Med experience.

"And as we upscale, moving into more and more countries and going more upmarket, friendliness remains the thing we continue to strive most for," he told our tour group.

The French group now has 80 resorts worldwide - 53 of them so-called sun resorts like Club Med Kani and 27 snow resorts.

Horps says it wants their informality to differentiate them from the usual traditional luxury hotel market.

"We see ourselves as very upscale but very convivial, friendly and warm, while offering a beautiful place to be," he says.

"And we want to make people happy. I don't think there are that many hotels around the world which set out to make people happy."

But all good things must end, and it's hard to remain happy when the speedboat arrives to take us away from our island in the sun.

IF YOU GO:

Packages available saving 30 per cent on low season land stay only and 15 per cent land stay only in the coming high season. On sale from September 14 until November 30 for travel until April 30, 2010. Offer subject to availability.

Eight night all-inclusive package on a twin share superior accommodation start from $3,986 for an adult from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide flying Singapore Airlines, and from $3,712 from Perth, based on March 1, 2010 departure date.

Club Med Kani package includes airfares, transfers and taxes, compulsory Club Med one-year membership fee, full board including wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, twin share accommodation with the option to upgrade to a Deluxe Beach Villa or an overwater bungalow suite, daily and nightly entertainment, open bar and snacking service and a range of sports and activities.

The writer was a guest of Club Med and flew Singapore Airlines.

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