Imagine this. You’re ankle deep in the turquoise waters in The Maldives. Your feet sink into the sugar-white sand just metres from the beach. You gently climb into the overwater hammock. As you lay there, the sun’s golden rays glide across your body. A small wave washes over you and you smile. There’s nothing but the azure sea in sight. It’s unparalleled beauty, or perhaps paradise as some say. You begin to drift off to sleep. It sounds like the indulgent holiday that everyone has on their bucket list at some point, right?
Today I am savouring every moment.
Located just south of the Indian subcontinent, the Maldives are a gorgeous group of islands in the Indian Ocean area consisting of 26 atolls. Island holidays are all about saying goodbye to routine - and the Maldives guarantee you do just that. Days here aren’t dictated by timetables. They’re relatively uncomplicated and usually involve breakfast by the ocean, swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing, more swimming and sleeping. There are an abundance of resorts scattered across the atolls to suit your budget and needs.
Here are two of the best:
Six Senses Laamu
After a short 35-minute flight from Malé, the capital of the Republic of Maldives, we’re on our way to highly-acclaimed and eco-friendly Six Senses Laamu. The speedboat cruises into the evening's horizon and within 15 minutes we have arrived at the awe-inspiring resort. Every one of my senses ignites with delight. The sights, sounds and smells are marvellous in every way. The many bars and restaurants are all made from timber and mostly set over water to take full advantage of the view. So impressive is the setting that it looks like it has been plucked from the Waterworld film set.
Stepping ashore, we are welcomed by the team and greeted by our personal GEM (Guest Experience Manager), who is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week for any need or query we have. A beautiful overwater bungalow above the pristine waters awaits us. It’s complete with an outdoor rain shower and an expansive deck dotted with sun lounges and a double daybed that looks out to a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. When the last of the daylight fades, I slip into the netting hammock to watch the spectacular equatorial sunset – one that will no doubt imprint on your memory.
Fringed by palm trees, sandy pathways make the island easy to explore on bike. There’s no strict plan here and shoes are optional. Staff are friendly, waving to guests as they navigate between the bars, restaurants, spa and other facilities at their own pace. The reefs are serene and clouds of colourful fish are simply captivating as you snorkel or dive just metres from Chill Lounge and Bar – the perfect place to unwind after a taxing day of underwater exploration.
The bar is built over the water and on several levels. Here, many guests spend the afternoon sprawled out on the lounge, sipping cocktails and dangling their feet just above the waterline. Others prefer to indulge themselves at ‘Sip Sip’ at the sunken bar and adjacent poolside seating; or at the free al fresco ice cream parlour where 40 flavours tantalise your tastebuds.
One evening we are treated to a superb barbecue lobster dinner on the beach under the stars. The lantern-lights and delicious seafood make this dining experience simply unforgettable.
Be sure to enjoy dinner one night at LEAF - Six Senses Laamu’s signature restaurant. Perched above the organic garden, it’s five-star dining at its best. The service and food is faultless and watching the chefs cook the local produce in the open kitchen adds to the amiable atmosphere. For casual dining, head to Longitude; the resort’s international overwater restaurant. The two-storey dining space begins each day with a bountiful breakfast. Dinner is a la carte international menu of fresh catch, grilled meats, pastas and Asian flavours.
Any trip to Six Senses Laamu must involve a little pampering at the island’s magnificent spa. Set right on the beach, Six Senses Spa Laamu in Maldives offers four uniquely designed couple's treatment nests, four secluded couple's treatment pavilions plus one Ayurvedic treatment pavilion, all within the island’s natural vegetation. Highly-trained therapists use a variety of natural products to provide a comprehensive range of award-winning signature treatments, and rejuvenation and wellness specialties of the region. If you’re feeling up to it, an aerial yoga class overlooking the beach is highly-recommended. The soft parachute-silk fabric is suspended from the ceiling and helps support the body weight during a sequence of postures. The class provides an enjoyable introduction to stretching, breathing, meditation, gymnastics and aerial arts.
Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa Maldives
Surrounded by a coral reef and powdery-white sand beaches, this luxurious island resort has something for everyone - honeymooners, families and those seeking an island escape. Accessible by plane from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, followed by a five-minute boat ride, Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa is the most southern resort in the Maldives. The remote location and the sheer size of the island make this resort all that much more secluded and special. In three days, I barely encounter another guest.
The elegant villas with thatched roofs and sundecks are modern and spacious. My overwater villa comes with an impressive freestanding bath, outdoor shower and beautiful deck with sun lounges. A few steps down the ladder and you’re submerged in the glistening waters of the Indian Ocean.
Perhaps the most impressive features of the island are the nine-hole golf course and CHI, The Spa. The spectacular sanctuary is located in its own spa village within the resort, with spacious individual treatment villas, complete with private gardens and steam rooms; and a yoga pavilion overlooking the Indian Ocean. The spa menu offers a selection of Asian massages and Indian Ayurvedic treatments, ranging from body massages to facials. The 60-minute Kandu Boli Ritual is simply divine. Kandu Boli, meaning 'sea shell', draws energy from the ocean. During the treatment, my masseuse uses a Cowrie shell to massage my body. This helps relieve tension, ease stress and relax my muscles. Warm, pure Maldivian then coconut oil is drizzled through my hair before a heavenly scalp massage. The sound of the ocean outside my treatment room makes my spa experience super calming.
Dining on the island is a gastronomic delight. Australian chef, Michael McCalman, has recently been appointed the new executive chef. The variety of cuisines available on the island is extraordinary. The restaurant, Dr Ali, leads the dining experience with three distinctive living rooms that focus on fine cuisine from the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Arabian Gulf. The quality of the seafood and local produce is impeccable, and guests are impressed with the authentic flavours and aromas.
Alternatively, if you prefer modern al fresco dining on the sand, Javvu is the place for you. The ocean serves as a backdrop to an international breakfast buffet, gourmet lunch experience or candlelit dinner. The M-Lounge is a perfect retreat for guests who want to watch the sun set with a cocktail in hand. The trendy beachfront venue features a contemporary white décor with comfortable lounges overlooking the waters of the lagoon.
How to get there:
Emirates operates 77 flights per week to Dubai from Australia, with onwards connections from Dubai to the Maldives. Emirates’ 77 services operate from Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. Prices start at AUD $1,716.40 in Economy class (ex Perth). Upgrade to business class and enjoy gourmet cuisine, delicious beverages, and even a spa treatment at the Timeless Spa while you’re waiting to board your flight in Dubai. There’s a range of massages and rejuvenating facial and body treatments available.