You’re probably reading this on the commute. I know, because I’m always reading about places I’d rather be as I sit on the tube. It really is a particular type of torture to put yourself through, pressed up into someone’s armpit on the Victoria Line or hunched over a computer in a badly air-conditioned office, lusting after pictures of the perfect holiday. So for a moment: let me indulge you and transport to another place. A place of translucent waters, beaches with sand like demerara sugar and where the sun doesn’t choose to only shine precisely for the hour after you’ve taken lunch.
I am, of course, talking about the Maldives, the type of place glossy holiday brochures were invented for. The pearly-hued clusters of islands that you’ve probably seen reflected back at you from the pages of the tabloids when Jennifer Lawrence takes a holiday. And of course, the native territory of the honeymooner (also in this category: the Mauritius, the Bahamas – basically all of the suffix ‘s’s’, except maybe Balarus).
But it’s 2019, and if you’re female, 26 and London-dwelling (guilty, guilty, guilty) you’ll have probably accepted that waiting for your honeymoon is futile reasoning to wait around to visit all of the places you want to see. So with no sign of a ring in sight, I took the plunge and headed to The Maldives, with its rich local culture and wealth of activities. Here are three different types of Maldivian adventure to take yourself on that venture off the beaten track. Disclaimer: we cannot be held responsible if in the next five minutes you ‘accidentally’ quit your job….
The Private Island Experience
Let’s start with the James Bond of all holidays: the Private Island Experience, hard to achieve if you happen to not be a fictional spy, but those seeking the feeling of parachuting into your own tropical haven can get there in just 25 minutes from the bustling Maldives capital of Male… by seaplane.
Vakarufalhi, on the south Ari Atoll, provides an arrival moment so breathtaking it makes you momentarily drop your iPhone back in your pocket to truly appreciate. Once on the ‘ground’ at the hotel, clever interior trickery creates a feeling that the starched sandy beaches are melting into the rustic design. But the ‘private island’ feel really kicked in when I was led to my beach villas. Nestled back among tropical fronds and greenery, the beach villas – of which there are just 39 – are magically secluded. They’re also offset to give every guest individual access to the beach in the time it takes to tumble out of bed, have a little stretch and wander out to dip your toes in the water. A warning should be made at this point: floating on your back in the sea for 45 minutes is enough to make you decide that you absolutely need your own beach at home as a matter of urgency.
Once you tire of that activity (though it’s possible that may never happen) those wishing to bliss out can head to the world-renowned Duniye spa for a muscle-melting massage while gazing through the floor and into the sea. Meanwhile, the aquatically-inclined can explore the house reef; scuba diving, sailing, snorkelling and even night snorkelling are all on offer. Open-air dining at ILAA restaurant offers a sumptuous range of international cuisines with a focus on Italian food (the ‘pasta corner’ and ‘pizza station’ are not good for the waistline) which can be enjoyed before a traditional Bodu Beru dance show, if you’re lucky. My personal favourite activity on offer, however? The open air cinema offering movies under the stars… okay, so it’s made for romance, but who says you can’t indulge in a little romance for selfish indulgence?
With a wealth of local culture – true travel-connaisseurs would be mad to miss the activities that the local inhabited Islands have to offer. For a taste of Maldivian life, Maafushi is an inhabited Maldivian island offering experiences like line fishing – a practice which is environmentally sustainable and has been practiced in the Maldives for centuries. For a perfect first evening, I recommend enjoying this against the backdrop of a burnt orange sunset (and eating your own catch afterwards is not an experience to be missed).
Maldivian holidays don’t need to necessitate taking out a small mortgage, either. The Liyela Retreat starts at £97 a night with breakfast, which also makes it ideal for a more conscious budget without skimping on a chic experience. In accordance with local Islamic religion Maafushi is alcohol-free – making it perfect for a very belated dry January. The rooftop Raha restaurant offers a trendy Brick Lane-worthy menu of juices ‘Detox smoothie bowls’ and traditional Moroccan treats that will mean you soon forget you even felt like a glass of Chablis with dinner. If you’re a social media junkie, then there’s a dedicated ‘best-Instagram spot’ on the island, set against the backdrop of the sunset. Don’t believe me? We tested it out…
The rooms at Liyela blend natural materials with sumptuous, trendy toiletries and morroccan accents – meaning that for the price, you still get the experience of waking up in crisp white cotton sheets and padding onto your balcony to watch the sunrise. Mopeds whizz around on sandy tracks, local restaurants bustle and Island life on Maafushi is faster paced so make sure that you enjoy it to the full by wandering around to see the bikini beach, the mosques, the school and of course, snap a picture on the beach swing.
The Design-Your-Own Adventure
A word of advice: don’t get caught in a tropical rainstorm in the Maldives (quite impressively, despite it being low season in the Maldives from April to November we managed only one deluge). Luckily, the sprawling 5* Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is the perfect refuge. Our seaplane was delayed, but the silver lining was an extra hour of relaxing in the Sun Siyam private seaplane lounge – complete with massages, large day beds to flop onto and the holy grail: fast wifi.
On arrival I was whisked through the resort on buggies to our Deluxe Pool Villa – they start at £333 a night and come with a courtyard bathroom, pillow-festooned beds ready to tumble onto with a book. The ultimate device to make you feel like an off-duty celebrity is your own private pool: which stretches down to the famous continuous white beach surrounding the 52-acre island. And the VIP treatment doesn’t stop there – each villa has its own private butler (yes, butler!) and – my personal favourite novelty – a ‘wish’ button on the telephone.
There are 15 different restaurants on site, catering to every culinary proclivity no matter how epicurea. On my first night I sampled Flavours, where we dined in the prestigious wine cellar surrounded by 350 bottles of wine (the dream) while gazing out at the light-studded Maldivian ocean, and where the sommelier was kind enough to show us a bottle of Chateau Lafite valued and £5,000. Needless to say, my credit card ran and hid at the bottom of my handbag.
Did we end up belting Whitney Houston in the Karaoke Villa after a little too much wine at dinner? Perhaps. But an invigorating pilates or yoga class at the Eden Garden spa (four time winner of the Best Luxury Spa award) is the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs and re-invigorate with your Om Shanti’s against a tropical backdrop the next morning. For the adventurous (and the less hungover) there’s a water sports centre and diamond-awarded diving and instructor training center, badminton and tennis courts, a fully equipped gym and activities like snorkelling safaris and dolphin sunset cruises on offer. Your wish really is the Sun Siyam’s command – just make sure you press the right button on the telephone.
Did you miss your tube stop? Me too… oh well. All the more time to cheer yourself up with a quick ‘Throwback Thursday’ and start planning your next holiday. I would go as far as to say that given we’re knee-deep in FOMO season at the moment, it’s the best time to start digging out your passport, packing your bags and getting working on your ‘bucket list Pinterest board’. And when it comes to the Maldives? I couldn’t think of a better place to start…
Overnight accommodation in a Deluxe Beach Villa with Breakfast at The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi costs from £333 (US$421) per night, for 2 adults including taxes. For further details, visit www.sunsiyam.com.
Overnight accommodation in an Ocean Palm Deluxe room with breakfast at Liyela Retreat costs from £97 per night. For further details, visit www.liyelaretreat.com.
Overnight accommodation in a Beach Villa with breakfast at Vakarufalhi Maldives costs from $250 (£197) per night. For further details, visit www.vakarufalhi.com.
For further information on the Maldives, visit www.visitmaldives.com.