Review: Maldivian Air DHC-8, Malé – Kadhdhoo – Kooddoo
It sometimes take a little extra time to get to somewhere special. This saying couldn’t be more truthful in the Maldives where the resorts are spread out across hundreds of small atolls interconnected by speed boats, boat transfers and sea planes. Our journey from Malé to the Park Hyatt took us on Maldivian Air on a string of planes boats and transfers.
This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
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Read more from this trip:
- Trip Introduction: The Empty Quarter of the United Arab Emirates, Doha Qatar and Huvadhoo Atoll Maldives via United Airlines and Etihad Airways.
- United Airlines: Vancouver – San Franciso – Washington Dulles
- United Airlines: Washington Dulles – Dubai
- United Airlines: Dubai – Doha
- Oryx Lounge, Doha International Airport, Doha, Qatar
- Etihad Business Class: Doha – Abu Dhabi
- The Grosvenor House, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Qsar Al Sarab, The Empty Quarter, United Arab Emirates
- Qsar Al Sarab, Activities (Camels and Dune Dashing), The Empty Quarter, United Arab Emirates
- Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Getting into the Emirates Palace Hotel & Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi – Malé
- Sheraton Full Moon Resort and Spa, Maldives
- Maldivian Air, Malé – Kadhdhoo – Kooddoo
- Park Hyatt Maldives – Park Villa
- Park Hyatt Maldives – Water Villa
- Visiting an Inhabited Island, Gemanafushi Island, Maldives
- Maldivian Air, Kooddoo – Malé
- Etihad Airways, Malé – Abu Dhabi
- Etihad Airways Pearl Business Lounge, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi – Doha
- Marriott Doha Hotel, Doha, Qatar
- Doha, Qatar
- United Airlines, Doha – Dubai
- Marhaba Lounge, Dubai Terminal 3, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- United Airlines, Dubai – Washington Dulles
- United Airlines, Washington Dulles – Los Angeles – Vancouver
Review: Maldivian Air DHC-8, Malé – Nasir Ibrahim Domestic Airport – Kadhdhoo – Kooddoo Airport
After some hunting around, as I had described earlier, we decided on the Park Hyatt Maldives. It met all the things we were looking for, remote location, excellent house reef, and a unique, isolated experience. Built in 2009, the resort was so remote and new, it had not even made it to Google Earth yet (although it did show up on Microsoft Bing). Even the airport we were to land at (GKK) hadn’t even made it to the Great Circle Mapper.
Thanks to another blogger, I discovered that Hyatt offered a 50% off rate (which was an actual true 50% off) advertising on the Ethiad UK version of the website under the specials page. The Terms and Conditions were that you had to fly into the Maldives on Ethiad Air and credit your resort points to Ethiad Preferred Guest (instead of Park Hyatt Passport). The Park Villa came to $540 USD per night and Water Villa came to $820 USD per night. The resort featured 50 separate villa’s, compared to the Sheraton’s 176 rooms, making for a much quieter and exclusive experience.
Getting to the Park Hyatt Maldives:
I had requested a morning transfer to the Park Hyatt, looking up the flight times to the south of Malé on the Maldivian Air website. There was a bit of a disconnect here with Hyatt, I attempted to get the times in advance, but we didn’t find out what time our transfer was until 4 PM on the day before we were to leave. Even though we left our arrival information as staying at the Sheraton the night before, I had to get Sheraton to call down to the Hyatt to get the information.
The process of getting to the Park Hyatt was another adventure, but thankfully it was all arranged by the Hyatt for a transfer fee of $427 USD pp. The transfer involved a 1 hr flight on a Maldivian Air Dash 8- 300, stopping at to KDM airport along with a continuation to the new GKK airport. It’s no easy trip at 238 miles between the airports. From previous reports, it seems that Hyatt used to use the KDM airport (with a longer 50 minute boat transfer), but now they appear to be using the GKK airport (with a shorter 25 minute boat transfer).
Inside the Moonimaa Domestic Lounge:
Our boat transfer from the Sheraton left at 715 AM, and we were escorted to the separate Male Domestic Terminal (5 minutes walk from the international terminal) by our Sheraton representative. Jackie, our Park Hyatt representative, met us there and, took our bags for us and escorted us into the domestic Moonimaa Lounge. We entered into a very retro looking but comfortable lounge. There was complimentary wifi, showers and bathrooms available, in addition to small snack items at a free buffet (no alcohol). Aside from some in uniform pilots, we were the first ones in, but the place ended up filling up to capacity by the time that we left.
Similar to a first class air service, Jackie checked us in from the seated comfort of the lounge and fortunately, we didn’t have to present ourselves at the Maldivian Air check in counter and worry about the uncomfortable “Sir, your bags are overweight…” conversation again. I had noticed that Maldivian had a weight restriction of 20 kg / 45 lbs on their website so we managed to squeak by that issue.
On Board Maldivian Air Dash 8-300’s:
Having flown a lot on the dated Dash 8 equipment type in Canada, it was a bit surprising to hop into one in the Maldives and discover new fixtures and fittings. I didn’t think anyone bought new Dash 8’s anymore!! I am guessing that a Dash 8 is used over a corporate jet type as it requires a shorter runway.
Flying over Maldives’ Atolls:
We had a very scenic trip down over the atolls. We ended up on the left side of the aircraft, which wasn’t ideal for island spotting. But we were able to get in some pretty scenic views of some of the 1,100 islands that were in the Maldives. Of note, I think that a float plane would offer a better photographic experience, as the best photos I had were on the ascent and approach to the airports. It’s something to consider if you’re assessing resorts and want the photo opportunities over the atolls. However, we were still able to see almost every shade of blue that there is in the world. Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time looking down from planes, but I’ve never seen anything in the world that looked like this.
Arriving to Kooddoo Airport (GKK):
On arrival to GKK, we ended up in a new airport where the paint was still drying. GKK is served only twice daily by Maldivian – so when the plane comes to town, its the event of the day for this island.
Once inside the Kooddoo Airport terminal building, we met our host with the Park Hyatt sign. We were the only two guests arriving on the morning transfer. The checked bags were put out onto a counter. Yes – with the small town airport of this airport, we were beyond the land of baggage conveyor belts.
Transferring over to the Boat:
We walked with our guide for about 10 minutes along a freshly paved street, past a working Tuna fish factory and its housing compound. The area was totally desolated but serene and beautiful. We had arrived in the middle of nowhere. The locals were very interested in checking us out, as they were all out in the street watching us as we headed to the boat.
We boarded a private transfer boat from an active dock area with commercial fishing ships. After the one hour flight, we were now in for a 30 minute transfer to the resort.
As we left the airport island, our luck prevailed. Our host and boat crew spotted dolphins immediately south of the airport island. I don’t mean a group of three dolphins – without exaggeration, there must have been 50 or more broken into 6-8 separate pods. Our hosts stopped the boat so that we could get a look at them. There were many photo opportunities and we were even able to get a photo of some right next to the boat. It was a good omen to the start of our stay.
I’ve never been this close to dolphins in the wild – ever.
Final Thoughts on Maldivian Air and our transfer:
Indeed, it is a long way to get down to the South Maldives and the Park Hyatt Maldives. This would be little to no fun after a long international flight. I was very happy that we had taken a few days at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa to allow some time to adjust to the time zone.
Maldivian Air was an efficient operation. It was neat to fly on older aircraft types that were in brand new condition. While our photos were interesting, they would have been better if we were in a float plane transfer since we would be closer to the ground with less altitude.