Westin Mal­dives MIRIAND­HOO RE­SORT

At this new sus­tain­abil­ity-minded re­sort in the Baa Atoll, MARTIN CHAM­BERS feels all the right things and re­alises that big­ger doesn’t mean bet­ter

Condé Nast Traveller Middle East - - Cnt Exclusive -

Some things feel in­stantly right. A re­la­tion­ship, a pair of shoes, that Busi­ness Class up­grade, a car, a house, even a new job. You know that some­thing I’m talk­ing about, right? It works. It doesn’t try too hard. It just fits. This is how I felt as I first stepped on to the jetty of newly opened Westin Mal­dives Miriand­hoo Re­sort, on one of the na­tion’s small­est is­lands in the Baa Atoll.

But be­fore that feel­ing can en­ter your be­ing, you have to get there. And for me, that was thun­der­ously good fun. Miriand­hoo is 40 to 50 min­utes away from

Malé air­port via sea­plane, which felt not merely like a way to get from A to B but an ad­ven­ture as I tem­po­rar­ily switched places with In­di­ana Jones, or James Bond, as we glided through the air search­ing for an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site or even a vil­lain. This mental fan­tasy was soon dis­turbed by a jolt of tur­bu­lence, which fo­cussed my eyes on the open cock­pit where a shoe­less pilot was scrolling through his phone. Sud­denly I was ready for my over­wa­ter villa, pri­vate pool and Heav­enly (this is the Westin, af­ter all) bed.

On ar­riv­ing at Miriand­hoo’s jetty, the warm­est of Mal­di­vian wel­comes en­sued with an army of staff, com­plete with an um­brella and cov­ered buggy to whisk me away to my villa, armed with a wel­come drink that was rem­i­nis­cent of a spa (in a good way).

It would seem nat­u­ral to jump into a gush­ing de­scrip­tion of the villa, which I’ll get to, but first I’d like to write about some­thing I ex­pe­ri­enced at this very mo­ment. There’s an en­ergy here that im­me­di­ately evokes a feel­ing of calm, of ef­fort­less tran­quil­lity. As the trip pro­gressed, I hy­poth­e­sised that this was a re­sult of the is­land’s size. It’s one of the Mal­dives’ small­est re­sort is­lands and per­haps that makes for a feel­ing of com­fort,

a sense of com­ple­tion, which I later dis­cussed with other guests. Big­ger, per­haps, isn’t al­ways bet­ter.

On to the villa. The tra­di­tional over­wa­ter “hut” de­sign has been aban­doned here and the re­sult is spec­tac­u­lar, mod­ern-look­ing, shell-en­cased abodes. The shape, I’m as­sured, keeps the villa cooler dur­ing ex­treme heat, less­en­ing the de­mands on air con­di­tion­ing and the re­sort’s im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment. Un­der the shell is a long, rec­tan­gu­lar room that can be trans­formed into four sep­a­rate ar­eas based on guests’ pref­er­ences. Dur­ing my stay I switched be­tween an open-plan one-room sit­u­a­tion in the day, with floor-to-ceil­ing un­in­ter­rupted In­dian Ocean views, and by night to a cosier four-room con­fig­u­ra­tion with bath­room, bed­room, en­trance/din­ing room and a liv­ing area.

Slid­ing doors mean that the in­side can be seam­lessly in­te­grated with the ter­race. Dur­ing one rain shower I en­joyed a pizza while sit­ting on the bound­ary of in and out, as the rain pelted down with the boom­ing pre­ci­sion of an orches­tra. The ter­race it­self is spa­cious, with steps down to the house reef for those keen to snorkel, but the real jewel is the belly-deep in­fin­ity pool span­ning a good part of the deck­ing, where re­lax­ation is guar­an­teed. You’ll also find an out­door shower be­cause, well, that’s how things work here.

Eschew­ing an over­whelm­ing choice of dif­fer­ent ac­com­mo­da­tion, sim­plic­ity reigns. Broadly, there are two cat­e­gories among the 70 vil­las and suites: is­land vil­las and over­wa­ter vil­las, with vari­a­tions in size and scope to suit your trav­el­ling party.

It would be easy to for­get to wan­der be­yond your lodg­ings, but do that at your peril. A dive cen­tre, con­structed from con­tain­ers re-used from the is­land build – sus­tain­abil­ity is a theme that runs through­out the re­sort, be it reused con­tain­ers, self-cool­ing vil­las, faux-bam­boo pa­per straws or swing-top glass wa­ter bot­tles – will sate the ap­petite of any as­pir­ing wa­ter ad­ven­turer. I opted for a house-reef snorkel which, de­pend­ing on the time of day, will de­liver lob­sters, tur­tles, sharks, trig­ger fish, ea­gle rays and plenty more. A 40-minute ses­sion pre­sented, among other colour­ful ma­rine life, a cou­ple of black-tip sharks, and while I’d like to re­port I chan­nelled my in­ner ad­ven­turer and ex­plored fear­lessly along­side these new dor­sal-finned friends, the re­sult was more Brid­get Jones than In­di­ana. I beat a hasty re­treat to the safer con­fines of the re­sort’s Heav­enly Spa, which is ex­actly what it says it is.

Once you’ve snorkelled your way around the is­land, fought off sharks (that’s my ver­sion) and have been mas­saged into next week, you’ll need to re­fuel. And for a small is­land, you’ll be spoilt for choice. A sig­na­ture Ja­panese restau­rant, The Pearl, sits on stilts and, like the vil­las, is en­cased in a shell-like struc­ture. This is the hon­ey­moon meal, sim­ply splen­did. Lower-key but no less im­pres­sive is Is­land Kitchen, the in­ter­na­tional all-day­din­ing restau­rant, which is bril­liantly consistent across a pretty large menu. A more ca­sual af­fair can be found at Hawker – an Asian street-food-themed restau­rant, where the ta­bles sit di­rectly on the sand with an open kitchen along­side. My only re­gret is tast­ing the soft­shell crab there on my last day – had I known ear­lier, I’d have had one ev­ery day.

At Westin Mal­dives Miriand­hoo Re­sort, re­gard­less of which Jones you are, things feel, you know, just right. Dou­bles from AED 2,066; 00960-660 4444, mar­riott.com

Clock­wise from far left: The re­sort is on one of the Mal­dives’ small­est is­lands; Heav­enly White Tea bath ameni­ties; an Is­land Suite with Pool; the house reef teems with colour­ful ma­rine life; ex­pan­sive views from the bed­room of an Over­wa­ter Suite with Pool; the re­sort’s Over­wa­ter Suites

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