‘People, not luxury matter in longer travel experiences,’ says the couple who won an all-paid, 365-day vacation at Kandima Maldives
Winning an all-paid stay in the Maldives for a year is truly what dreams are made up of.
The Maldives was one of the first countries to allow entry to Indian tourists a year ago. Images of picture-perfect sunsets, crystal clear azure waters and glasses of wine by the beach were all over Instagram. Going to the Maldives had become a pandemic trend, and those of us who couldn’t fly to the island nation had to satisfy our wanderlust with all those pictures.
Amidst all of this, Kandima Maldives hosted the winners of its #365DaysinParadise Contest, Jameel and Lameez Haffjee at the resort for their 1-year all-paid holiday. The resort became this Johannesburg-based couple’s safe haven for an entire year, starting May 2021.
Ivory Station spoke to these childhood sweethearts and a married couple for two years about their experience of holidaying in the blue paradise for 365 days.
What was your lifestyle like pre-pandemic?
That’s a bit of a difficult one to answer since our pre-pandemic life takes us back to when we were dating. We got married at the end of 2019 just before the world turned upside down. We spent our first year of marriage in lockdown and working from home and now we are extending that honeymoon phase onto our own little island in the Maldives.
Jameel and Lameez Cycling
How did you come across the Kandima contest?
One of our honeymoon destinations was the Maldives and we actually stayed at Kandima. Because of that, we ended up following the resort on Instagram. During the pandemic, when we all spent way too much time on social media, we found their contest with the prize of a once-in-a-lifetime experience to stay for a full year at their resort. We entered the competition thinking we will never win. but have nothing to lose either.
What was your reaction to winning it?
Absolute shock! An overwhelming flow of gratitude and many, many tears. We honestly couldn’t believe that we had actually won until the very day we booked our flight and landed on this island. No words can actually describe that moment perfectly.
Jameel and Lameez at Kandima
How did you adapt to working from a luxurious Maldivian resort?
It took about 2-3 weeks to get into our new routine here, but since then it’s been quite easy. The resort is actually a lifestyle resort and the staff is trained to treat guests as friends that are coming to visit to have a fun time. Very different from other five-star luxury resorts in the Maldives. This has easily become our home and we no longer see it as a “luxury place”. Just like there are roads at home that we use to drive to work on, there are pathways here that we cycle through to get to where we need to go. We have our own home here, which has lots of plants. There’s a fitness centre too that we go to, to can keep up with our fitness routines and there are also cafes and areas we can work from. It was quite easy to adapt.
Image Courtesy- Jameel and Lameez
How is your day like at Kandima Maldives?
As we are 3 hours ahead of South Africa time, work only starts at 11 am here and ends around 7 pm. Most mornings we wake up at 5 am to enjoy the sunrise and thereafter we shoot content for our Instagram and TikTok accounts. Thereafter, we go to the gym to work out and enjoy breakfast before starting work at 11. In the evenings, we have dinner and meet with our buddies on the island to catch up and chat. We, of course, make sure to catch every single sunset on the beach in front of our villa. We don’t work on Fridays for the period we are here and also get to enjoy our usual weekends – Saturdays and Sundays. On our 3-day weekends, we are snorkelling, catching up with family, dining around the island, chilling at the beach and upskilling ourselves in social media content creation.
What is your favourite thing to do on the island?
Our favourite thing to do on the island is going snorkelling because you don’t know what different marine animals you might see out there, it’s different every time. So far we’ve seen sharks, stingrays, starfish, lobsters, turtles and so much more. The underwater is a world of its own and it’s really special that we get to experience one of the best in the world right at our doorstep.
Image Courtesy- Jameel and Lameez
Have you ever felt homesick?
To be very honest, we’ve not felt homesick once on this trip. Of course, we wish the family was here to have this experience with us but never did we once feel like going back home, and are definitely not looking forward to leaving this island.
What has the experience of living on an island taught you?
One of the most important things that this experience has taught us is that it’s not about “things” in life. It’s about people. Initially, we came with the wrong idea about the materialistic things and comforts this luxury resort island would give us, and yes, it truly feels like a fairytale, but we would never want to continue staying here if it weren’t for the people. The staff or a better word is, our family, here on the island have gone above and beyond to make us feel part of them. We’ve literally developed a whole new home and family on the island. And if it wasn’t for them, this stay would not be as memorable as it’s been so far.
Jameel and Lameez in Turkey
What are some of the other countries you have visited? Which has been the best so far?
Other than the Maldives, collectively we have visited Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Turkey and Dubai. Lameez’s favourite place is Bali and the main reason is the energy of the people there. It’s something extremely contagious, which consumes you with another level of peace. Jameel’s favourite place is Cappadocia in Turkey. It’s such a magical fairy-like city! Our favourite places to visit while travelling are unique places that can’t be found anywhere else in the world and Cappadocia is one of them!
Which destinations are on your bucket list?
This is a very long list, but we will name a few for each of us.
Lameez – Giraffe Manor in Kenya, Mexico and Italy.
Jameel – A ski trip to Switzerland, Greece and seeing the northern lights is high up there as well!
What does new-age, millennial luxury mean to you?
Since you’ve mentioned new-age millennial luxury when it comes to travel, we’d really like to give our honest opinion on this.
We do believe that travel is a luxury in terms of how much you get to learn and experience, but we don’t believe it is something that everyone can’t afford. There are different forms of travel and some are way more luxurious and expensive than others. But for us, the best form of travel is the one that costs the least, like our trip to Bali.
Our favourite travel experiences are being with the locals, which would be the cheapest way to travel for these individuals open their hearts and arms to you in their country to show you around. If you’re willing to opt for cheaper accommodation and food options and fewer luxury experiences and shopping trips – travel is definitely achievable for all. It doesn’t even require a plane. You can explore your own backyard and that’s exactly what we plan on doing next year. There’s so much that our own countries have to offer. We, new-age millennials believe that you don’t require a plane ticket, a luxury hotel and the most expensive food from around the globe to travel. But the best experiences are waiting for us right outside our doorstep, that is what travel is to us.
Follow the couple’s adventures and experiences here
By Tanvi Gupta
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