STOP, DROP AND FLOP
Just when you thought resorts couldn’t get better, along comes a new breed
They call to us year round with their soothing siren songs, and while some things – including sun, sand and sea – remain the same, there are new things to look out for in the world of tropical resorts. Not to mention some tempting new options to try.
MAKING A SPLASH
Overwater bungalows are the dream for many of us, but Expedia travel expert Lisa Perkovic says they could be our new reality.
“In 2018, overwater bungalows might just move from the bucket list to the bookable list as more affordable options become available and travellers explore the tropical settings of Malaysia and the Maldives,” she says. “While not cheap, savvy travellers can unearth good deals on overwater bungalows if they’re flexible with travel dates and destinations.”
Luxury water toys that can make you feel like you’re in an action film are appearing in more resorts with Seabobs that zip you along both over and under the water, and Jetpacks and Jetblades that give you the power of hydroflight.
Full-face snorkels are a revelation for those of us who often struggle with leaking, ill-fitting masks, and have the added advantage of letting you breathe through your nose and talk underwater, while glass-bottom kayaks let you see the fish below you without getting your hair wet.
And while lots of tropical resorts have a reef on their doorstep, one now has one within the resort itself. The Ritz Carlton in Koh Samui, Thailand, opened last month and includes a one-of-a-kind swim reef with more than 50 types of fish. Not only is it a snorkelling space for all ages, it’s also providing a safe place for clownfish breeding and coral propagation programs.
SPECIAL GUEST STARS
After teaming with spiritual healer Jody Shield this year, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa in the Maldives is partnering one of the world’s most influential people in fitness, Faisal Abdalla, or “Mr PMA” (Positive Mental Attitude) from December 22 to January 5.
Also in the Maldives, Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen pop-up returns to Amilla Fushi from December 22 to January 10, while the nightclub of choice for celebrities, 1 OAK, will host three or four special events in 2018 at Amilla’s sister resort, Finolhu.
JUST FOR FUN
When UK designer Kelly Hoppen set to work remodelling the LUX* Grand Gaube Resort & Spa in Mauritius, she ran with the retro-chic vibe and sprinkled extra fun around the resort.
Among the new features to be launched on December 1 is a “Rum Treehouse” where guests order cocktails with one of 88 types of rum by tugging on a rope to get the attention of the bartender below, and a Citroën H van made into a pop-up bar.
The LUX* South Ari Atoll in the Maldives has “disco toilets” complete with a photo booth that looks more like a nightclub than a loo, along with a junk art studio where guests make art from recycled objects.
Meanwhile, other whimsical and retro touches to be found in various LUX* resorts include red vintage phone booths from which guests can make as many free international VOIP calls as they like.
Going out for the afternoon on a boat is one thing, heading out for a night or two with personal butlers and a crew is another. AYANA Komodo Resort, Waecicu Beach, will become the latest resort to offer its own ship to guests for overnight when it opens on Labuan Bajo in summer 2018.
The first five-star resort on what’s considered to be the launching point to the home of Komodo dragons, this latest AYANA will include a 54m-long, nine-bedroom, traditional Indonesian phinisi ship. Named AYANA
Lako’dia, the ship will be bookable by bedroom or private charter.
In the Maldives, a dhoni is a traditional fishing boat. At Huvafen Fushi, the resort’s dhoni has been given a luxury makeover with a kingsize bed, Bose surround sound, Philippe Starck bathroom fittings, a well-stocked Smeg fridge, wine cellar and a kitchen for the on-board chef.
DISCOVER A NEWCOMER
Champagne corks will pop in the Bahamas this week with the opening of SLS Baha Mar this Tuesday. The resort boasts 8ha of private beach and will mix nightlife and day venues, including a rooftop lounge where an open-air pavilion will offer some of the best views in the Bahamas. Restaurants will include Katsuya Baha Mar, the 10th restaurant Philippe Starck has designed for sushi chef Katsuya Uechi.
Often referred to as Pearl Island, Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island is about to welcome another luxury resort to Bai Dai Beach. The Radisson Blu Resort will have 522 rooms and suites and include a safari park, water theme park, retail section, spa, convention centre and 27-hole golf course. The resort is due to open in early 2018.
Norjamin Delos Reyes, Philippine Tourism attaché, says a range of new resorts on the horizon is good news for Australians who have fallen in love with the Philippines.
“The Crimson Resort and Spa Boracay is an ultra-exclusive hideaway situated at Station Zero. Guests will be transferred by boat to this tropical haven,” he says.
As well as a private beach, the resort will have three swimming pools, three restaurants and a fitness centre and spa when it opens in January.
Seda Lio in El Nido, Palawan, will feature lots of open spaces and take design inspiration from its tropical surroundings when it opens early in the year, while the Dusit Cebu Mactan Island will become a five-star resort for business and leisure travellers from late 2018.
In the Seychelles, the Four Seasons will be opening the only resort on the coral island of Desroches Island in early 2018. One of Four Seasons’ most intimate resorts – with only 71 villas, suites and residences, all with private pool and beach access – the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles will also have a sanctuary for Aldabra giant tortoise.
Thai luxury boutique resort company SALA Hospitality Group is opening its third resort in Thailand in Koh Samui, with the first-phase launch taking place this month and the final phase expected to be finished in late 2018. The SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort will include suites with private pools and an openair and beachfront restaurant.
Closer to home, Daydream Island in Queensland has temporarily closed for construction following damage caused by Cyclone Debbie in March. The $65 million redevelopment will include the expansion of the Lovers Cove function area and a new Asianinspired restaurant. Daydream Island expects to welcome guests from October.
Maldives might seem to have its fill of resorts, but Movenpick Hotels & Resorts will open its first property there next year in the northern Noonu Atoll. By the second quarter of next year, the remote island of Kuredhivaru will have 72 overwater and 32 beach villas. And April will see the second LUX* resort in the Maldives. Residences at LUX* North Male Atoll will all feature a terrace 5m above the main house lagoon so guests can soak in the view over the flattest country on earth.
AYANA Komodo Resort, Waecicu Beach, has its own ship (left); and Club Med Kani, Maldives (main). MALDIVES