LUX SOUTH ARI ATOLL
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.