25 reasons why the Maldives is a must for 2021
Soneva Fushi wasn’t the first private island resort to open in the Maldives – that honour goes to Kurumba, launched in 1972 – but when it welcomed guests to the Baa Atoll 25 years ago, everything changed.
Soneva was considered the first true luxury resort in the archipelago – the first to have pool villas, a wine cellar, an outdoor cinema, an observatory and (more recently) water slides. Another pioneering asset was its superb Six Senses spa, which launched what would become one of the world’s most respected wellbeing brands. Soneva has also pioneered sustainability all the way. What better time than the resort’s 25th anniversary to suggest 25 irresistible reasons to visit the Maldives next year?
1. What could be more delightful than walking straight into the crystal-clear, bath-warm Indian Ocean? How about whooshing into the turquoise lagoon on a slide instead? Soneva Fushi’s new water retreats are the biggest one and two-bedroom water villas in the world and, in addition to a slide, each has its own patch of glass flooring, a hot tub, a retractable roof and a huge private swimming pool. soneva.com One of the overwater villas at Soneva Fushi CREDIT: WWW.SANDROBRUECKLMEIER.COM/SANDRO BRUECKLMEIER
2. Six Senses spas – which you will find at Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Six Senses Laamu hotels – have created a blissful new treatment to help guests rebalance after the trials of Covid-19. The 30-minute Body Balance ritual begins with sage burning and chakra cleansing followed by a dreamy guided meditation as your head is massaged. sixsenses.com
3. While almost every Maldivian resort has a tip-top spa, there hasn’t been a resort fully dedicated to wellness until now. Kagi Spa Island will throw down the coconut fibre welcome mat in January. The Zen-like island – all curving pavilions, bleached woods and creamy white villas – will offer “wellness sabbaticals” with a focus on calm. As well as the usual scrubs, massages and facials, there is a host of alternative therapies available, from reiki to wave meditation and lifestyle coaching. Also included are daily complimentary yoga classes and sound baths incorporating gongs, singing bowls, crystals, koshi chimes and ocean drums. kagimaldives.comKagi Spa Island is set to arrive in January
4. During the pandemic, a number of resorts have taken the opportunity not only to refurbish their rooms and public spaces, but to shower some TLC on their house reefs, too. The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon has teamed up with Reefscapers to teach guests how to rescue corals from damaged reefs and replant them in safe waters. Joali’s coral reef conservation programme lets guests propagate baby corals and transplant them on to nursery trees in their house reef.
5. Located in the far south, just north of the equator, Six Senses Laamu is the only resort in the Maldives to offer blackwater diving. The spooky-sounding adventure is different from a normal night dive as it involves divers drifting in currents in the open ocean. Strings of LED lights are then tied to buoys which attract a menagerie of alien-like creatures, including tiny baby reef fish and invertebrates such as pygmy squid, bioluminescent bristle worms, and comb jellies which pulse and glow in all the colours of the rainbow. sixsenses.comSix Senses Laamu requires a bit of extra effort to reach, but you won’t regret it once you are there
6. When the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi opened in the serene Shaviyani Atoll in 2018 it planted an other-worldly underwater art gallery inside its house reef, the first of its kind in the Maldives. Since then, its sunken sculptures, which are made from non-toxic materials and promote coral and marine life regeneration, have flourished. Swim inside the gallery’s silvery walls now and you will find a kaleidoscope of hard corals, sponges, shellfish and schooling fish inhabiting this extraordinary aqua-city.
7. Leafy hideaway Gili Lankanfushi ranks among the Maldives’ most eco-conscious luxury resorts, with buildings made from sustainable woods, organic toiletries in refillable earthenware containers, and its own desalination plant. Now, they have introduced a “Powered by Plants” programme, with new plant-based menus, sweet vegan treats, eco-friendly bedding and reef-safe sunscreen. The programme also includes a vegan cooking class and private vinyasa flow yoga class. gili-lankanfushi.comGili Lankanfushi ranks among the Maldives’ most eco-conscious luxury resorts
8. Sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs, but their numbers are in alarming decline as a result of overfishing for their fins as well as degradation of the ocean environment. At the Banyan Tree Marine Conservation Centre at Angsana Velavaru, biologists are monitoring local populations using non-intrusive underwater bait cameras to help identify shark species and important habitats. Don’t worry about getting in the water; many types of shark found in the Maldives don’t have any teeth. angsana.com
9. The Maldives isn’t all about snorkelling in glassy-calm Tiffany-blue waters – adrenalin junkies can find plenty of high-energy kite and wave surfing, too. Aim for the North Malé Atoll, which is scattered with a mix of easy-to-learn left and right breaks. Further south, the Thaa and Laamu Atolls have an abundance of medium-sized waves and speedy barrels better suited to intermediates. Or, you could always surf an eternal wave at Cheval Blanc Randheli, which has just installed the first surf simulator in the Maldives.
10. The new six-bedroom Royal Residence at Raffles Meradhoo, set in the remote, insanely beautiful Gaafu Alifu Atoll, might just be the most glamorous island escape out there. Surrounded by a smudge of clotted cream-coloured beach, it has interiors that echo its Singapore sibling – jaunty stripes, monsoon blinds, swirling fans – as well as a 40m swimming pool, roof terrace and cigar room. Your very own Jeeves is also included. raffles.com Raffles Meradhoo is an elegant tropical reimagining of the original colonial-era Raffles Singapore .
11. Why work from home when you can work from the beach? At Vakkaru, in the Unesco-protected Baa Atoll, high-flying executives can sign up for a 21-day “Work Well” package, from £13,959. More than just a desk and internet connection, the programme comes with a dedicated “Vacay PA”, access to a sea-view boardroom, deliveries of brain-boosting food and drinks, motivational fitness classes and de-stressing spa treatments.