Islands of Blue
From supersized overwater villas to pocket-sized private islands, the Maldives does luxury like no place on earth.
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa
The Taj Exotica sits on a long, skinny island just 70 metres wide and 700 metres long in one of the biggest lagoons in the Maldives. It makes the most of its unusual shape with a long line of overwater villas backing onto the beach so you can skip the boardwalks. Another arm of villas stretches out into the lagoon in the more traditional overwater style, with the dramatic two-bedroom Rehendi Presidential Suite perched at the very end of the wharf. Taj Exotica’s speciality is private dining experiences – have lunch out on a private pontoon in the middle of the lagoon, on an isolated sand bar or in the tree tops.
PER AQUUM Niyama
One of the newer Maldivian resorts, PER AQUUM Niyama has just opened its second island – Play. Play is home to a state-of-the-art kids club with a water park, cooking classes, trampoline and circus tent-themed play rooms providing the kids with plenty of space to run wild. The big kids will enjoy exploring the jungle at Nest, the resort’s new Asian fusion restaurant. Tables are tucked between Banyan tree trunks on the forest floor and spread out along bamboo platforms raised up into the tree canopy.
This bite sized island is just 150 x 250 metres in size and a lot
of that space is taken up by a perfect white sandy beach encircling the entire perimeter. The rest of the island has just 30 suites – all brand new following extensive renovations early in 2015. Make a beeline for one of the seven Ocean Pool Villas, whose glass encased bathrooms have a bathtub that’s begging for a sunset soak. Snorkelling straight off the overwater villas is sublime – the house reef is one of the best in the Ari Atoll.
Since Ithaa, the world’s first underwater restaurant, was sunk off the beach a decade ago, Conrad Rangali’s double islands have been synonymous with a serious food experience in the Maldives. Whether you want to dine on dim sum at the Maldives’ first Chinese restaurant, Ufaa by Jeremy Leung, or sink your toes into the black volcanic sand of the intimate but very well stocked Cheese and Wine bar, you won’t go hungry. Start the day working up an appetite with Run Rangali, a half-hour guided jog around both islands, then move onto the breakfast platters at Vilu Bar, burgers by the pool, an international cheese tasting and then an underwater degustation at Ithaa.
PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi
When it comes to out-of-this-world luxury, PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi has perfected the formula. Just a 30-minute speed boat ride from Male airport, you’ll be sipping organic juice at RAW bar or cocktails at Salt within two hours of stepping off the plane. Huvafen’s excellent house reef, daily sting ray feeding, resident nurse sharks and underwater spa offer plenty of diversions, if you can tear yourself away from the view from your lagoon bungalows. Plunge pool, day bed and deck chairs look straight out at the ocean. Watch the sunset from the pool before heading to Cardamon Lounge, the resort’s private outdoor Indian dining experience, where the seats, table and tandoor oven are all built down into the earth.
Vivanta by Taj – Coral Reef
The Taj hotel group has plenty of experience when it comes to luxury accommodation and the Vivanta brand takes things to the next level, with a focus on cutting edge design and one-of-a-kind experiences. The Vivanta by Taj – Coral Reef sits in the North Male atoll and has emerged from a redesign that’s given overwater villas a breath of fresh air. The beach and overwater villas have a light and bright aesthetic with a focus on modern yet comfortable design. The overwater outdoor showers are handy if you want to swim straight off your villa, with the island well known for an excellent reef frequented by divers and snorkellers.
This brand new Maldivian resort burst onto the scene with a slightly different approach to the norm. Opening at the end of 2014, Amilla Fushi is co-owned by Australians who have brought a strong commitment to design and food to the table. Award-winning Sydney architect Kelvin Ho is responsible for villa “houses” which are given themes based on location – choose from Lagoon, Ocean, Beach, Reef and Tree Houses. Bliss out in your Beach House hammock, hide away 12 metres above ground in the coconut palm canopy of the Tree House or stretch out in the sun on your Lagoon House terrace. Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan is behind the menu at Lonu by Luke Mangan, which is already receiving critical acclaim.
Cocoa Island by COMO
Just 33 suites sit off the edge of Makunufushi Island in the South Male atoll but boy do they make an impact. Inspired by the traditional Maldivian Dhoni boat, the resort’s Dhoni Suites look ready to float off into the sunset, with curved wooden frames. Inside the villas and loft suites, lightweight white drapes swirl in the breeze, revealing plantation-style living rooms with colourful carpets and spacious split level bedrooms that are cool and calm. The brand’s world-renowned COMO Shambhala spa lives up to its reputation, with an open-air yoga pavilion, hydrotherapy pool and dedicated Wellness Paths.
In an archipelago characterised by tiny islands, Gili Lankanfushi bucks the trend with the world’s largest overwater villa. The entry-level villas are a spacious 210 square metres but it’s the Private Reserve that supersizes things. Accessible only by boat, this three-bedroom pontoon suite is a whopping 1,700 square metres and has its own 63-square-metre swimming pool. The resort’s Mr Friday butlers are at your beck and call, as is the resort’s water taxi to whip you back to the island. If the minimum $11,000 a night price tag is out of your budget, don’t worry, the resort’s other over water villas are stunning.
Another new kid on the scene, this five-star resort sits in the Lhaviyani Atoll and is already well known for its premium all-inclusive package. The resort’s 132 detached sunset villas are located on the beach and tucked into the trees, and all have direct access to the beach and the 2km lagoon. That’s if you can tear yourself away from the plentiful dining options. Just Veg is the first vegetarian restaurant in the Maldives, showing an influence of Mediterranean and Indian dishes.
Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa
The South Ari Atoll is the postcard perfect setting for this Colonial-style resort. Villas are decked out in beach chic style, with white weatherboard walls, thatched roofs, hanging wicker chairs and delicate drapes. The resort has a strong family focus – several villas have separate bedrooms with bunk beds and the Camp Safari and E-Zone kids clubs are always busy. Book into one of the recently renovated over water villas for a dip in the brand new private plunge pools before heading straight out to the reef for a snorkel. The resort’s house reef and shipwreck are popular with divers too.
Club Med Finolhu Villas
The days when Club Med resorts were for family fun only are long gone. Gasfinolhu Island is the private setting for 52 brand new villas reserved for couples only. The focus is on eco-friendly luxury living, with tasteful modern interiors, large outdoor terraces, plunge pools and direct ocean access. There is an organic spa on site, along with several bars and restaurants, but if you’re looking for the more boisterous Club Med culture, they’ve got you covered too. Club Med Kani resort is just a five minute speedboat ride away. •
Photography by various establishments
• Amilla Fushi: amilla.mv
• Atmosphere Kanifushi: atmosphere-kanifushi.com
• Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa: centarahotelsresorts.com
• Club Med Finolhu Villas: clubmed.com.au
• Cocoa Island by COMO: comohotels.com/cocoaisland
• Conrad Rangali: conradhotels3.hilton.com
• Gili Lankanfushi: gili-lankanfushi.com
• Kandolhu Island: kandolhu.com
• PER AQUUM Niyama: niyama.peraquum.com
• PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi: huvafenfushi.peraquum.com
• Taj Exotica Resort and Spa: tajhotels.com/luxury
• Vivanta by Taj – Coral Reef: vivantabytaj.com
• Wildlife Safari: wildlifesafari.com.au