When life gives you rainy days in London, friends locked in because of Covid and a social calendar full of tee-total soirées, there’s only one thing for it: a sojourn to Naladhu Private Island in the Maldives.

There are many different and exciting ways that I’ve navigated the world before. On a local boat through the Amazon that was crawling with insects. On a salivating camel braying its way through the Omani desert. Or even in a hot air balloon over the Nile. However, none of them have ever been as glamorous as a private water taxi jetting off from Malé, the capital of the Maldives.

Greeting me with a cool, wet towel and a plush carpet for my bare feet, the staff of Naladhu Private Island certainly know how to treat a guest. After they’ve sorted our luggage, stamped our passports and logged us into the Wi-Fi, we are whisked off in the speedboat to the sandy shores of Naladhu, which rests on top of the Indian Ocean like a petal.

Naladhu is conveniently located next to two sister resorts, Anantara Dhigu (for families) and Anantara Veli (adults-only). You can pay a visit to these two islands to use their facilities and restaurants but nobody there is allowed to step foot on Naladhu – it is a private island after all.

I’m inclined to invite my personal butler back to London.

On arrival at Naladhu, every guest is welcomed by the staff with a chorus of singing and drums, a freshly sliced coconut and petals of flowers scattered on the floor. I am introduced to my Kuwaanu, Haxan. ‘Kuwaanu’ means storyteller in the Maldivian language, which, in this case, is just a fancy way of saying personal butler. Haxan and I swap numbers so that, much to my delight, I can text him with any request at any time I desire. You think that’s intimate? Well, you better get used to it.

The main wow factor is the exceptional revamp that’s been underway across the island.

The personal touch here is what sets Naladhu apart. A welcome message is crafted in the sand outside my villa, my name is carved into a wooden sign on the doorhandle, a picture collage made from palms is laid out on my bed, and sweet bedtime notes are drawn on little leaves that I find on my pillow. To be honest, it’s more effort than any boyfriend has ever gone to – I’m inclined to invite Haxan back to London with me.

But that’s not all of it. They think of every tiny detail. They attach a leather binding to my iPhone wires to keep them from tangling and they place a pristine wipe in my glasses case (I take the hint, my spectacles really did need a clean). Obviously, these are not the most impressive elements to the suite, but this level of detail certainly makes a difference to my stay. The main ‘wow factor’, however, is the exceptional revamp that’s been underway across the island.

New York-based designer Yuji Yamazaki is behind boosting the 20 discreet villas dotted along the beaches, which re-opened in November 2021. Each one is designed so that you have complete and utter privacy. I wander from room to room in my Ocean House in the buff (because why not!?) indulging in the outdoor shower, the indoor shower, the private steam room, and the bath with a brilliant panorama of the waves lapping in. Each room is sensitively decorated with Indonesian teak furniture, white stone and palm roofs to reflect the surrounding landscape. Every villa is named after an indigenous Maldivian plant that grows on the island, and the chosen flora is planted in the garden entrance to each home.

Each morning, I wake up with the startling view of the ocean and then walk onto my private deck, dip into my private pool and kick back on a slowly swinging cabana. You can’t swim in the sea here – if you want quicker access for a dip, you can choose a Beach House but it doesn’t have quite the same hypnotic views of the water.

Those who are feeling a little flush can book the Residence, the large two-bedroom villa that sleeps up to six guests, or they can go the whole hog and hire the entire island. I’m putting it on my birthday wish list, that’s for sure.

The soothing, colonial style interiors are almost enough to stop you going outdoors to be honest. But I get the impression that Naladhu is intent on ensuring that a visit here isn’t just for romantic bedroom-bound honeymooners. They promote all sorts of excursions.

One of my favourite outings is swimming with nurse sharks – it’s actually a lot less heart-stopping than I originally thought. Promise. I’m guided by the enthusiastic and knowledgable resident marine biologist Emilia Fulgido who helps us spot and name all the species in the water, from the microscopic glowing sea sapphire to the toothy barracuda. You can also go surfing, spot dolphins, rent a yacht for the day, and workout with a personal trainer among the palm trees. There’s quite a lot to keep you busy in fact. And then, of course, there’s the food.

The dining options at Naladhu are never-ending. The no-menu concept means you can order anything you want (within reason, of course) at any time. Order a fry up at 3pm in The Living Room dining area, enjoy a floating breakfast of fruit and yoghurt in your private pool, or delight in a candlelit Thai evening meal on the beach. You can also order any drink from the bar in The Living Room courtesy of an enthusiastic cocktail maker who experiments with flames and smoke clouds to concoct taste sensations.

Swimming with nurse sharks is actually a lot less heart-stopping than I originally thought. Promise.

©Nina Zietman

There is a menu for guidance if you need it but being able to pick and choose anything you want at any time offers complete flexibility and privacy – like you have the island to yourself. While Naladhu exudes high-end hospitality, it’s this relaxed barefoot luxury that keeps people coming back.

The no-menu concept means you can order anything you want at any time.

However, if there’s one place that you should try, it’s the restaurant Baan Huraa that borders Naladhu and Veli. Walk along the jetty and you’ll be welcomed by a feast of Thai delights: grilled turmeric chicken, green papaya and peanut salad, hot and sour seafood and ginger soup, and local fish bathed in a coconut milk red curry.

The rest of my time here is spent flip-flopping around the island, relaxing in the spa with a full-body massage and lying on the beach. It really couldn’t be more idyllic. When my return luxury speedboat arrives, with the sapphire blue waters lapping at its hull, I think back to London and the ride that awaits me there. There really is no way to sugarcoat the London Underground after this. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Prices start from USD 1,485 per night on a bed and breakfast basis
for two persons sharing an Ocean House.
Visit www.naladhu.com for more information. 

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