MAL­DIVES There’s a re­sort for ev­ery cou­ple amid the turquoise la­goons of this In­dian Ocean na­tion

As one of the world’s most pop­u­lar hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tions, this In­dian Ocean es­cape has a re­sort to suit ev­ery­one’s no­tion of ro­mance. Amelia Hunger­ford dis­cov­ers 11 of the best, from one of the first to the new­com­ers rein­vent­ing is­land liv­ing.

Signature Travel & Lifestyle - - Contents - Travel file Ac­com­mo­da­tion baros.com one­an­don­lyre­sorts.com sun­siyam.com hu­vafen­fushi.com streg­ismal­dives.com cheval­blanc.com/rand­heli luxre­sorts.com gili-lankan­fushi.com soneva.com/soneva-jani foursea­sons.com/mal­divesvoavah co­co­prive.com Get­ting there Th

Clas­sic with a twist

Think of a Mal­di­vian is­land re­sort, and chances are you’re imag­in­ing the palm-fringed beaches and over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows of Baros Mal­dives. It was just the third re­sort to open in the sun­drenched na­tion, all the way back in 1973, and it has been en­chant­ing star­ryeyed hon­ey­moon­ers and ro­mance­seek­ers ever since. Per­son­alised ser­vice with warm is­land hos­pi­tal­ity has ce­mented its rep­u­ta­tion, while the fact that no chil­dren un­der eight are al­lowed is a guar­an­tee for cou­ples’ seren­ity. Ex­plore a world of pri­vate din­ing op­tions, from the grand pi­anoshaped deck iso­lated in the mid­dle of the sea to the deck of your wa­ter villa.

With 122 vil­las (start­ing at 135 square me­tres) and seven restau­rants and bars, uber-luxe One&Only Reethi Rah is big enough to give you op­tions and small enough to en­sure im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice. Ru­mi­nate on the beauty of the Mal­dives from the breezy com­fort of your thatched-roof villa, ei­ther rest­ing along the beach or raised above the ocean. The Grand Sun­set Res­i­dence comes with a pri­vate road for bliss­ful seclu­sion, two golf carts and a pris­tine stretch of beach that is all yours.

Choice is also the rai­son d’être for The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi with 14 deca­dent din­ing venues to ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing adults-only re­lax­ation at Reflections, French fare be­side the wa­ter at Flavours, and homemade ice-cream at La Cre­me­ria. In­dulge in a sun­set dhoni cruise fol­lowed by a pri­vate beach bar­be­cue for two, and set­tle into an Infinity Pool Villa with a glass-panel floor or spread out in the over­wa­ter Aqua Re­treat with Jacuzzi and but­ler ser­vice.

When one pool isn’t enough, Hu­vafen Fushi’s Deluxe Beach Pool Villa of­fers the per­fect so­lu­tion, com­ple­ment­ing a beach­front dip with a sec­ond pool in the walled gar­den of the out­door bath­room. If you’d rather be closer to the wa­ter, why not set sail aboard the re­sort’s dhoni for a night? Savour pri­vate din­ing un­der the stars and suc­cumb to re­lax­ation with a mas­sage on a de­serted sand­bar. When you re­turn, head to the reef in the un­der­wa­ter Hu­vafen Spa, where fishes swim past as you feel your wor­ries drift away with the tide.

High style, high touch

El­e­gant forms are the hall­marks of the Mal­dives’ most stun­ning re­sorts. The St. Regis brought its im­pec­ca­ble New York-style ser­vice to the is­land na­tion with the open­ing of The St. Regis Mal­dives Vom­muli Is­land Re­sort. Its vil­las’ roofs re­call the smooth grace of manta ray wings and the mouth of the curved Whale Bar gapes open to of­fer spec­tac­u­lar sun­set views. The clos­est con­ces­sion the re­sort makes to rus­tic­ity is the sand floor of the Crust pizza and br­uschetta res­tau­rant; oth­er­wise, the de­sign­ers have cre­ated the glit­ter­ing il­lu­sion that mar­ble and gold are at home in the trop­ics.

Che­val Blanc Rand­heli lives up to its Louis Vuit­ton-Moët Hen­nessy pedi­gree in shades of dove grey, char­coal and cit­rus yel­low, a treat­ment even given to the cus­tom sea­plane. Jean-Michel Gathy’s in­te­ri­ors are slick, each of the 45 vil­las able to be par­ti­tioned with over­sized doors. Infinity pools and colos­sal free­stand­ing bath­tubs are de rigueur. The Owner’s Villa, set on its own one-hectare is­land, fea­tures a pri­vate spa with a yoga ter­race, a sep­a­rate guest villa and a chef to cater for your culi­nary de­sires. ‘Al­chemists’ cre­ate ex­cur­sions and ex­pe­ri­ences,

be it a well­ness reg­i­men, vis­its to neigh­bour­ing is­lands, a sun­set sail or a night-time snorkelling trip.

At re­launched LUX* South Ari Atoll, it’s all about a ca­sual beach­house vibe. Think white in­te­ri­ors, with a touch of turquoise for the 187 vil­las, and the Beach Rouge con­cept, cre­at­ing a pump­ing Mediter­ranean-style beach club with lash­ings of red. Ro­man­tic Pool Wa­ter Vil­las are hide­aways built for two with dou­ble rain show­ers in the airy bath­rooms and a love nest sus­pended be­side the pool, an ideal set­ting for watch­ing the world go by. The soonto-ar­rive LUX* North Male Atoll takes things a step fur­ther on the de­sign front, cre­at­ing pen­t­house-style res­i­dences with ‘reef-view’ rooftop decks.

Cast-away chic

‘No news, no shoes’ is the one rule you’ll find at Gili Lankan­fushi. Your villa’s per­sonal Mr or Ms Fri­day, named for Robin­son Cru­soe’s is­land com­pan­ion, is so much more than a but­ler, cu­rat­ing your ro­man­tic get­away to in­clude

lantern-lit din­ners be­side the sea, sun­set cruises, a bam­boo mas­sage for two at Meera Spa, or an un­der­wa­ter dis­cov­ery at the new Gili Veshi marine bi­ol­ogy cen­tre. The over­wa­ter vil­las fea­ture rooftop ter­races where you can talk about every­thing and noth­ing un­der the stars. Cru­soe Res­i­dences stand apart in the ocean, ac­ces­si­ble by boat, while the 1700-square-me­tre Pri­vate Re­serve is said to be the largest over­wa­ter villa in the world with four bed­rooms. A wa­ter slide swirls from the top floor down into the la­goon where your in­ner child can make a splash.

Play­ful­ness is also at the heart of Soneva Jani, one of the new­est re­sorts in the Mal­dives and sis­ter to long-time favourite, Soneva Fushi. Many of its Wa­ter Re­treats and Wa­ter Re­serves are off­set by slides, as well as re­tractable roofs for stargaz­ing, pri­vate pools and open-air bath­rooms. Soneva Jani’s is­land home is alive with edi­ble gar­dens, which are at the heart of its myr­iad din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, from the cho­co­late, ice-cream and sashimi of So Cool to the ce­les­tial din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at the Mal­dives’ first over­wa­ter ob­ser­va­tory, So Starstruck. Catch a clas­sic film at Cin­ema Par­adiso while you re­cline on cata­ma­ran nets over the la­goon.

An is­land made for two (or 22)

When you seek ab­so­lute seclu­sion for your ro­man­tic get­away, opt for a pri­vate is­land. Four Sea­sons Pri­vate Is­land Mal­dives at Voavah opened at the end of 2016, a fully staffed en­clave de­signed for up to 22 guests – or a sanc­tu­ary for just the two of you. Per­son­al­i­sa­tion is the real lux­ury here; div­ing off mo­to­ry­acht

Voavah Sum­mer, sand­bar pic­nics, marine bi­ol­o­gist guides, spa ther­a­pies for two and a world of din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences are just a re­quest away. If your own twohectare bolt­hole isn’t enough, you can also en­joy the fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices of Four Sea­sons Re­sort Mal­dives at Lan­daa Gi­raavaru, just a boat ride away.

Coco Privé, a mem­ber of Pre­ferred Ho­tels & Re­sorts’ Leg­end Col­lec­tion, fea­tures one main res­i­dence and five vil­las for friends and fam­ily (if they’re in­vited). The de­sign is pared-back and neu­tral, let­ting the beauty of na­ture take cen­tre stage; even the open-air bath con­trasts cool grey with vi­brant green fo­liage. Quaff fresh co­conut wa­ter on your pri­vate beach, co­coon your­self in a love nest for the af­ter­noon and feast on Mal­di­vian cui­sine when­ever and wher­ever you choose.

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01 One&Only Reethi Rah 02 The Grand Sun­set Res­i­dence at One&Only Reethi Rah 03 Treat­ment at LUX* South Ari Atoll 04 One&Only’s Fan­ditha Sun­set Bar 05 Villa at LUX* South Ari Atoll 06 The St. Regis Vom­muli Mal­dives 07 Spa at LUX* South Ari Atoll 02

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10 08 Hide away on Hu­vafen Fushi 09 Spa re­lax­ation at Baros Mal­dives 10 Pool at One&Only Reethi Rah 11 Well­be­ing Pav­il­ion at Che­val Blanc Rand­heli

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