LUX SOUTH ARI ATOLL

THE MAL­DIVES

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - HOTELS -

So, the word of the day is FUN. Yes, let’s make that in cap­i­tals and say it joy­ously. When you stay at a Lux prop­erty – The Mal­dives, Re­union Is­land, Mau­ri­tius, or along China’s an­cient tea trails – you need to get in the groove. There’s such a buoy­ancy and bright­ness to these re­sorts that guests in­evitably feel as if they are glid­ing on unseen skate­boards or drift­ing into one of those glam­orous cig­a­rette com­mer­cials of yes­ter­year in which beau­ti­ful, bronzed peo­ple smoked fil­ter-tips and ef­fort­lessly trav­elled by sea­plane.

I am not that kind of su­per-so­phis­ti­cated trav­eller but am I hav­ing FUN? Oh, yes. Lux South Ari Atoll, newly re­opened af­ter a daz­zling makeover, is a haven that could well be­come the de­sign-driven tem­plate for The Mal­dives. Just about ev­ery re­sort in this na­tion of scat­tered is­lands has over­wa­ter vil­las and a sense of ro­mance, and all are gir­dled by white-sand beaches and brochure-blue water. But at Lux the of­fer­ing is el­e­vated many notches to in­clude ex­pe­ri­ences rarely seen out­side the hip­ster en­claves of, say, the Mediter­ranean.

There is, for ex­am­ple, a ge­lato bar with un­ex­pected flavours such as pina co­lada and marsh­mal­low. There are pop-up Aperol bars in the sand with sax­o­phon­ists and bare­foot wait­ers. There are chang­ing light­ing ef­fects and a moody red vibe at the Beach Rouge club, and the sign in the water be­yond ex­horts guests to CEL­E­BRATE LIFE. Which is easy-breezy while hover-board­ing or sip­ping freshly ground cof­fee from Gu­atemala at Cafe Lux or mak­ing free in­ter­na­tional calls at a Doc­tor Who-style red phone booth. “Hello! Not com­ing home!”

But in all of this funk­i­ness, the de­sign­ers have not lost sight of the Mal­di­vian con­text. Be­cause if you want to feel as if you are in Ibiza, then just sim­ply go there. You know you are in the In­dian Ocean when the la­goon is Tif­fany-turquoise and cruis­ing to spot whale sharks and float­ing yoga are ca­su­ally listed on the daily agenda. The raked paths of white sand bor­dered by or­chids and groves of ba­nanas feel res­o­lutely Mal­di­vian and are tended by about 50 gar­den­ers. A cook­ing class, in a flour­ish­ing kitchen gar­den where stu­dents can pluck in­gre­di­ents vir­tu­ally grow­ing at their el­bows, re­veals the se­crets of spiced lo­cal cur­ries and cha­p­at­tis. Freshly grated co­conut is the key, con­fides beam­ing chef Ha­neef.

There are 193 pavil­ions, suites and vil­las across seven floor-plans, of which the pick are the cat­e­gories of “ro­man­tic” and “temp­ta­tion” over­wa­ter ac­com­mo­da­tion and beach vil­las with pri­vate dip­ping pools. From the former, hop down into the la­goon or bob in that 7m in­fin­ity pool, a raised rec­tan­gle jut­ting to­wards sea and sky in a fu­sion of paint-chart blues. From the beach villa digs, it’s just a few steps to a salty swim or cy­cle along this spit of an is­land un­til it’s time to flop. Where to laze? A lat­ticed hang­ing pod, a cush­ioned boom net slung from a pier, a floaty­cur­tained day bed, a multi-coloured stool un­der sus­pended surf­boards at the semi-open La­goon Bar. I’ll have a candy ap­ple mojito mock­tail, thanks. Su­san Kuro­sawa is The Aus­tralian’s travel edi­tor.

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