MY ATOLL HOME

Min­i­mal fuss, max­i­mum plea­sure

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION MALDIVES - AMANDA WOODS THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF AMILLA FUSHI

The gen­tle sounds of small waves un­der my villa pro­vide the per­fect sound­track to bath time with a view. As I lie back in the free­stand­ing bath and feel the gen­er­ous sprin­kle of salts dis­solve around me I look across my wooden deck to the light blue wa­ter in my fresh­wa­ter pool, closely fol­lowed by the bright turquoise and then deeper blue waters of the Mal­dives.

It may seem strange to be in a bath when just a few me­tres away, steps lead into a pool or the In­dian Ocean, but I’ve al­ready spent hours in both and it’s time for a quick freshen-up be­fore cock­tails and din­ner. I know they’ll both be de­li­cious when I get there but I’m find­ing it a chal­lenge to pull my­self away from my co­coon and can see why room ser­vice or “home de­liv­ery” is so pop­u­lar here.

Amilla Fushi means “my is­land home” and at 200sq m my villa, or rather my Ocean La­goon House, is not only big­ger than some apartments I’ve lived in, it feels homely – in a stylish, I-wish-my-home-re­al­ly­looked-like-this way.

The 2.1sq m bed with su­per soft sheets and goose down and feather pil­lows is heaven to sleep in, the large daybed in the lounge area of the open­plan room whispers prom­ises of naps in be­tween read­ing books, while the 42” flat-screen tele­vi­sion – with satel­lite chan­nels, Bose sur­round sound, DVD and Blu-ray player for those who have vis­ited the DVD li­brary – and free high-speed Wi-Fi pro­vide TV and movie op­tions.

Along with that large tub for soak­ing in, the bath­room has two show­ers in­clud­ing one with a huge mon­soon show­er­head and twin sinks stocked with Ae­sop prod­ucts, while out­side there is an­other shower on the deck where daybeds, chaise lounges and a ta­ble with chairs share the space with my invit­ing pool.

I’d ar­rived at Amilla Fushi af­ter a 40-minute boat ride from Amilla’s sis­ter re­sort, Fi­nolhu.

While most re­sorts in the Mal­dives em­brace thatched roofs and more tra­di­tional ideas of what a trop­i­cal is­land es­cape should re­sem­ble, at first glance the vil­las at Amilla looked like a line of plain white boxes. But from the mo­ment my katheeb, or per­sonal but­ler, opened my front door and showed me around, I wanted to spend as much time as I could in what was re­vealed as chic, con­tem­po­rary de­sign. Even though it was big enough for me to live in, my onebed­room la­goon house was at the smaller end of the Amilla villa scale, which ranges from 200sq m to a mas­sive 3000sq m, and in­cludes one­and two-bed­room over­wa­ter and on­the-beach vil­las, tree houses where pools are sus­pended in the tree­tops, and four-, six- and eight-bed­room beach res­i­dences.

Those staying in res­i­dences can choose a name for the num­ber­plate of their des­ig­nated Rolls Royce-style buggy as well as on their let­ter­box. With Leonardo DiCaprio staying on the is­land at the same time, I had to laugh when I saw a Casa Gatsby sign on one let­ter­box, and won­dered what names some of the other celebri­ties – in­clud­ing David and Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, Kate Moss and Kate Winslet – may have used when they stayed. One reg­u­lar guest who has gone be­yond sim­ply nam­ing his villa is Gor­don Ram­say, who has brought his Bread Street Kitchen restau­rant to the is­land through a se­ries of pop-ups. Ram­say first col­lab­o­rated with the re­sort in May 2017 and then again over the fes­tive sea­son and Easter.

Amilla has also col­lab­o­rated with night­club brand 1 OAK on a cock­tail lounge, and with the well­ness com­pany Body­ism on per­sonal train­ing, Body­ism classes and a Clean and Lean Cafe in the Javvu Spa.

I didn’t make it to the Clean and Lean Cafe, opt­ing in­stead for meals at Feel­ing Koi, which won a Best Luxury Ho­tel Restau­rant in the In­dian Ocean award in 2017’s World Luxury Restau­rant Awards, and at the pool­side Bazaar where the dishes in­clude grilled, wok-fried and pizza op­tions. But I did man­age to make it to the spa vil­lage for my com­pli­men­tary mas­sage. Guests re­ceive a free spa treat­ment within the first 48 hours of their stay and I’m walk­ing on air af­ter my jet lag mas­sage. Walk­ing on air with a strange bulge on my lower back. Af­ter see­ing I’d been badly bruised in a re­cent fall, my spa ther­a­pist, Ningsih, leapt into ac­tion, point­ing at a tree out­side the treat­ment room and ex­plain­ing she could make some­thing to help. She whipped up a neem leaf poul­tice, and I left with an un­ex­pected but wel­come or­ganic spa treat­ment.

Amilla Fushi is part of the Baa Atoll’s UNESCO-pro­tected Bio­sphere Re­serve and as easy as it would be to stay on the is­land at all times, be­tween May and Novem­ber it’s manta ray sea­son and a chance to swim with the gen­tle ocean giants.

When a guest tells me they were sur­rounded by dozens of manta rays when snorkelling a cou­ple of days be­fore, I can’t wait to see them for my­self. Un­for­tu­nately manta ray luck is not on my side, and while I do see a large dark shadow pass­ing be­low it’s too far away to get a real look. Sure, I’m a bit dis­ap­pointed not to see them but I’m hav­ing so much fun watching the other colour­ful fish around us and try­ing out a full-face snorkel for the first time that I still clam­ber back into the boat with a huge smile on my face.

As we zip back to the is­land and I see those sleek white vil­las wait­ing for us, it feels like com­ing home.

PIC­TURES: SUPPLIED

Amilla Fushi has taken a stylish ap­proach to trop­i­cal de­sign with spa­cious, chic vil­las and even Rolls Royces­tyle bug­gies.

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