The Maldives is the place where sunsets ignite the horizon on fire and dolphins dance in the crystal-clear waters. With a unique geological composition—1,190 islands grouped in a chain of atolls—this tropical wonder is based on a single concept: each island is a resort, and guests are the only residents. The Maldives is in the middle of nowhere, and this is precisely what makes it the place you want to be.
At just 200 metres long by 200 metres wide and with only 15 overwater villas, Kudadoo is an intimate and understated statement of ultraluxury designed by Yuji Yamazaki. The island itself is a lush explosion of greenery—sea lettuce, iron wood, coconut palm, screw pine—encircled by a ring of white sand. The architecture has a distinct Japanese aesthetic.
The first sight of Kudadoo is from the air, arriving on a 40-minute seaplane from Malé, the country’s capital. Yamazaki chose this vantage point as a starting place for his design. The approach was to build in a way that highlights the island’s natural beauty while using as few natural resources as possible. The Retreat, the hub that houses the resort’s common areas—restaurant, spa, salt chamber, cheese and wine cellar, bar lounge—maximize light and natural air flow and incorporates 984 solar panels. Yamazaki and his team made them decidedly visible, a design element that has become a signature of the place. Kudadoo is the only fully solar-powered private island in the country. “Sustainability cannot be an add-on that is built out of sight,” general manager Brad Calder says. “Rather, make it a design element placed in plain view.” Calder oversaw the opening of Kudadoo in 2018. “More than just buildings, we need to build environments,” he emphasizes.
The low-lying islands of the Maldives are at risk from climate change (the average ground level elevation is 1.5 metres above sea level). Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih addressed the issue in a speech at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow in 2021. He said, “Our islands are slowly being inundated by the sea, one by one. If we do not reverse this trend, the Maldives will cease to exist by the end of this century.”
The Maldives is the smallest Asian country, by land area and population, and yet has an offering of roughly 150 resort properties in the luxury sphere. Fishing (pole and line, no nets) and tourism are the two main industries. “If you aren’t sustainable on an island like this, you wouldn’t have the beauty,” Calder notes. There may be no better place in the world to showcase the future of sustainable tourism than at Kudadoo.
The 15 villas that extend in an arc over the coral-rich ocean at Kudadoo are havens of privacy. A slatted-timber path leads to the lattice-clad curved-roof dwellings. The palette of dark-wood furnishings and neutral textiles creates a canvas of tranquility. The floor-to-ceiling sliding window doors are on opposite walls to enable natural air ventilation from the Maldivian breeze. Each of the one- and two-bedroom villas is well-appointed with amenities—smart TV, Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speaker, yoga mat, sun hat, beach bag, rain jackets, life jackets, drawing pencils and sketch pad, The Healing Earth natural skin care—and an indoor-outdoor bathroom with freestanding tub. The sprawling decks all have their own infinity pool, a sofa swing, dining and lounging spaces, shower, and of course direct access to the sea. Days likely begin not with a shower, but with a dip in the Indian Ocean.
The Maldives is home to diving and snorkelling, a world where swimming among an incredible variety of exotic fish and tropical sea life is a given. The ethos at Kudadoo is “anything, anytime, anywhere,” and guests’ personal round-the-clock butler makes it all happen. The resort is fully inclusive, extending to the long list of water adventures like paddleboarding, parasailing,
kiteboarding, and scuba sessions. So too at the spa, where massages mean being lulled by the sound of the waves and caressed by the sea breeze. Fancy a massage morning and night? No problem. Prefer your treatment in your villa? Ditto.
The resort’s concept of anything, anytime means you can pretty much order (from the resort app if desired) and eat and drink what you want whenever you want, whether a specific request or from the extensive menu (breakfast is 21 pages). Indubitably, there are the first-rate frills that are becoming commonplace among fine resorts—pillow menu, duvet and blanket selection, pillow fragrances, mattress comfort selection—but travellers to Kudadoo get something more: a desire to care for the islands. You just have to be enveloped by the silence, the warm sun, and the gentle breeze, all the while captivated by the purest expression of blues. Kudadoo is a cure-all for body and soul.