Dreamy drops of heaven scattered in the Indian Ocean, the breathtaking islands of the Maldives are the ultimate fly and flop destination
For the first time ever, I’m struggling to find the words. Probably because the 10 days I spent in the Maldives were among the most glorious and ridiculously perfect I’ve spent on this planet, and no words seem to do it justice. But tough as the task may be, here goes.
With a happy husband in tow, my time was split between two resorts, Island Hideaway in the North Maldives and One&Only Reethi Rah, a luxury yacht ride away from the capital Malé.
After a 45-minute domestic flight from Malé and 20-minute speedboat hop to Island Hideaway, we were struck by how untouched and tropical it is. Unlike so many islands in the Maldives, only five per cent has been developed for the resort and it’s mostly covered in lush vegetation including coconut and banana trees.
Villas are so generously spaced along the blindingly white beaches that you could have a noisy family of five next door and never hear a peep, so it’s ideal for honeymooners. Reef sharks swim in a lagoon of the clearest turquoise water imaginable, and circle the thriving house reef just metres from the beach. We saw manta rays and dolphins glide past while sunbathing on our loungers, and one day a pod of dolphins played just off the beach so I grabbed my snorkel and mask and waded in. They scarpered, but as I turned back 10 brightly spotted eagle rays soared gracefully past like birds. My heart skipped a beat.
Guests are assigned a butler, predominantly local boys, and ours, Shakeed explained that he’d be at hand to organise activities like diving and spa treatments, or to call us a buggy. He’d also serve our meals - we just had to ring to let him know when we wanted them. The set-up meant we got to know Shakeed on a more personal level than would usually be possible. He revealed how he used to visit the uninhabited island with friends at night and pluck lobsters from crevices to barbecue on the beach. And he grew accustomed to our preferences, quickly realising my husband wanted chopped chillies on the side of everything.
Our villa was a thatched roof Dhonakulhi Residence, with a bed romantically draped with a mosquito net, roof terrace, plunge pool and swing in a private garden. The style is rustic but with Molton Brown products in the outdoor walled bathroom, which had an enormous marble tub and sand underfoot.
Our unwinding was complete with a massage in an over-water treatment room at Hideaway Spa, where Balinese therapists work their magic. Meals were excellent, too - we dined in our villa and the two over-water restaurants, of which the Asian one, Gaafushi, was our favourite.
Our next destination was One&Only Reethi Rah, where my husband and I were so wowed that we’re starting a ‘Reethi fund’ to enable future visits. Even the journey to the resort makes you feel like James Bond. We were met at Malé by sleekly uniformed guys, who whisked away our luggage and led us to a gleaming yacht emblazoned with the words One&Only. The other vessels bobbing on the quayside looked like rowing boats in comparison. An hour later we reached the island, where two larger, even more impressive yachts awaited in the harbour, available to charter for those with deeper wallets than ours. It was time to unpack the Jimmy Choos.
The beach villas and water villas are equally gorgeous, contemporary and Asian in style, with private hammocks and loungers. Beach villas have their own semi-private beach, while water villas have a spacious deck suspended over the lagoon and steps leading into the sea. You also get a villa ‘host’ to cater to your every whim.
The 12 beaches are breathtaking and the crystal-clear sea fluctuates between a deep mauve and piercing turquoise. You can pretty much close your eyes, imagine the ultimate paradise island, times it by 10 and still not be quite there.
The main restaurant, Reethi, serves sensational breakfasts and Tapasake, an exquisitely designed Japanese restaurant and chic cocktail bar, has Japanese chefs creating dishes resembling works of art, sushi and exclusively blended sakes. As we dined, we saw large sharks circling in the lagoon below, perhaps envious of our flappingly fresh seafood and wagyu beef. Then there’s Fanditha, a Middle Eastern beach restaurant and sunset bar with shisha pipes, swinging day beds and a DJ playing until the early hours.
One evening we enjoyed a private Lebanese beach barbecue under the stars with two chefs whipping up a feast just for us, and on another a blind tasting and to-die-for dinner in the wine cellar with charismatic sommelier Jean Sebastien. There’s also a kids' club offering activities like sushi making (in the kitchens with their own cute chef outfits) and pirate days. It looked such fun I was tempted to join in - it even has its own pool complete with colourful mini loungers where kids can sip mocktails.
During the day we snorkelled with turtles so unafraid that they let us touch their shells, and I sampled a divine massage and expert Bastien Pedicure in the beautiful ESPA spa. But we spent much of our time lounging by the large main pool surrounded by peaceful tropical gardens, and the stylish adults-only infinity lap pool, jutting out over the sea with a sunken stone bed boasting swoon-inducing views. Surprise treats are offered around, such as trays of ice creams in the afternoons.
I couldn’t help but laugh watching my husband swing in a poolside hammock while one of an army of staff offered him a cool towel, another polished his sunglasses (seriously) and another handed him a glass of chilled rosé. Paradise indeed.
Once back on the yacht for the return journey to Malé, we wondered if anything else could surpass the experience. Surely not, hence the Reethi fund. It could be the best investment we ever make.
Sri Lankan Airlines flies direct to the Maldives from around ₤450 return. Emirates has regular flights via Dubai from around ₤637 return.