Idon’t think I really ever knew the true meaning of the phrase ‘holiday of a lifetime’ until one bleak day in January, still mourning the end of Christmas, I took a plane, seaplane and a speedboat and arrived in paradise. It’s easy to forget the journey that came before when we find ourselves standing, suitcases in hand, on a floating landing platform in the middle of the Indian Ocean, watching our private speedboat whizzing towards us for a transfer to Kandolhu, the idyllic island resort that is to be our home for the week. I’ve never had a holiday that has started quite so glamorousl­y. Kandolhu is a tiny resort that sits in the North Ari Atoll surrounded by a perfect circle of white sand and a lagoon so clear you can practicall­y see the colourful fish, reef sharks and turtles from your lounger.

It has 30 luxury villas – a few over the water, the others nestled discreetly around the edge of the island – looking out on to a view that will be imprinted on my mind for ever. Imagine a warm breeze, waves gently lapping at the shore, sand so soft you can’t bear to wear shoes (and you don’t, not even for dinner, so don’t pack any) and nothing on the horizon except sparkling sea as far as the eye can see and a huge expanse of sky that fills with layer upon layer of stars at night. We stay in a Duplex Pool Villa, a two-storey space with a private section of beach, a sitting room, plunge pool and outdoor bathroom so we can shower under the night sky. As if that isn’t luxurious enough, extra details such as an ipad, underwater Gopro camera and a state-of-the-art Nespresso machine make us feel utterly spoilt.

The resort is all-inclusive, but any fears of buffet queues and limited menus are quelled by the five outstandin­g à la carte restaurant­s all offering something delicious, from the cosy, romantic Sea Grill (our favourite) to the Japanese restaurant Banzai that seats just six guests and where I eat the most delicious Wagyu steak I’ve ever tasted. You can also book a candlelit beach dinner for two and feel the waves lapping at your feet as you sip Champagne.

Despite being small, Kandolhu never feels crowded. We are often the only people in the spa on our daily visits for a steam and sauna – in fact, we rarely see any guests until dinnertime. The resort manages to strike the perfect balance between relaxed luxury and five-star service without being overly formal. It’s very Robinson Crusoe, but if Robinson Crusoe had won the lottery. We’d go back in a heartbeat. OONAGH BRENNAN

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 ??  ?? Above and top right: a Duplex Pool Villa is the ultimate island getaway.
Above and top right: a Duplex Pool Villa is the ultimate island getaway.
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