THE MALDIVES – NOT JUST FOR HONEYMOONERS
Impossibly clear waters and snowflake-white sand, there’s no need for Instagram filters in this part of the world, which is the stuff of pure paradise-island fantasy. There are many obvious drawcards to the Indian Ocean island nation, namely diving, snorkelling, swimming with manta rays or idle cocktails on the sand, and at every turn, guests are coddled with exemplary luxury at island resorts, which largely eschew the castaway vibe for gastronomic experiences and world-class spas. While the Maldives may seem pigeonholed as a destination for honeymooners, there really is something for everyone.
Families are truly spoiled with outstanding children’s facilities, nannies and kids’ clubs par excellence, such as the Scott Dunn Explorers kids club at PER AQUUM Niyama, while chic Finolhu, the newly refurbed LUX* South Ari Atoll and W Maldives – with its underwater nightclub – are made for friends’ getaways. The Maldives also notches up an impressive swell that lures surfers, particularly to the North Male Atoll. In summary, there’s always a reason to go to the Maldives – and return time and time again, with new enticing islands and refurbs from The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort and Milaidhoo both opening this month, to next month’s Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah launch, along with The Leading Hotels of the World island resort Kanuhura Maldives, also set to reopen in December after a lavish transformation (pictured above).
It might be far-flung, but the Maldives has its share of spectacular island gastronomy, writes Maricel Mansano, AKA @TheSandGypsy
The Maldives is the original “wish you were here” postcard setting, and I’m sure just like me, you saw pictures of the breathtaking beaches when you were a kid and dreamed about strolling along the endless white sands sipping from a coconut. Aside from coconuts, the Maldives is also something of a culinary paradise – especially at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, which is home to some of the most incredible dining experiences on earth. Mandhoo restaurant specialises in detoxification and organic nourishment. Even their champagne is organic, and I made a selfless effort to ensure this by tasting it over and over again.
The following evening, I ventured to a more secluded corner of Rangali’s peninsula to Vilu Restaurant – the perfect spot to watch the sun kiss the horizon at the end of the day and experience Mother Nature’s watercolour canvass in all its glory. I adored Vilu’s sumptuous à la carte Mediterranean menu, which features some of the finest foods and wines from across southern Europe. The culinary crescendo however, has to be Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, which quite literally, cannot be compared to anything else on earth. After a short descent down the steps from the welcoming area, diners emerge into the world’s only all-glass undersea restaurant. This venue is situated five metres below the surface meaning that it’s bathed in natural sunlight, and you dine amid a congregation of aquatic guests ranging from turtles and baby sharks to manta rays.
BAREFOOT LUXURY IN THE DHAALU ATOLL
What’s brand new, as close to otherworldly tropical island perfection as it comes, and one of the main reasons to get yourself the Maldives? That would resoundingly be the freshly-shucked St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, which has flung open the doors to its new private, nine-hectare island. Well and truly focused on the art of ultra-luxury, the 77 all-villa resort created by Warner Wong Design is unlike anything we’ve seen in the region, and it’s a first for St. Regis too; there might be a Bora Bora property in the portfolio, but this is the brand’s maiden voyage into the private-island domain.
With curved, manta ray-inspired roofs, the villas are some of the largest in the Maldives, and the cherry on top is the show-stopping two-storey John Jacob Astor Estate, a palatial abode with three bedrooms – each their own pool. Being St. Regis, no expense has been spared, and that includes 77 butlers ready and waiting to lavish five-star attention on guests. Prepare for some unabashed – and well-deserved – spoiling.