I had been swarmed with work, and my head, heart and body had been long craving a vacation, when my trip to the Maldives came up. It was almost as if someone up there had read my mind, and was offering me the perfect four-day escapade to the warm clear seas and green vistas of the tropical islands. For the longest, Maldives with its powder white beaches and turquoise waters has been a favourite with luxury travellers from around the globe.
Every resort in Maldives is known to be an oasis of privacy, and with over 100 to choose from the only problem is selecting where you want to stay. We zeroed down on the Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, the largest single-resort island in the Maldives, located in the archipelago’s most southerly atoll. Putting up at Shangri-La would mean us taking another flight out of the Male to Gan International Airport, and then proceed to the resort in a speedboat. Although it would mean slightly longer travel time, we were willing to go the extra mile for the promise of what lay ahead. When we landed in the nearly two-mile long resort, spanning a full island, we knew we had made the perfect choice!
Located in the Maldives’s outhernmost Adu atoll, beyond the equator (you actually fly over the equator), with only the Indian Ocean separating the island from Antarctica, the private island resort of Villingili is quite literally on the edge of the world. The most unique bit about this resort is that the clocks on the island are set one hour ahead of Gan, so guests can enjoy an additional hour of daylight.
Water, water everywhere
We were booked in one of the 60 sunset water villas at the resort, and were promptly whisked in for an in-villa check-in, a norm they follow with all guests. Built on stilts in the
resort’s secluded lagoon, access to the villas is via a timber walkway suspended over Villingili’s azure waters. The 166 sq. m villas give the illusion of being completely open to the elements with very few walls and glass partitions allowing for unobstructed views of the ocean. For many of us, the whole idea of being in the Maldives is not about joining in, not about taking part; it’s about evaporating into your own little world. Through my stay, I did not see another soul unless I left my villa. Not from my sun deck, not from the hammock, not from the open-to-sky shower, nor the living or bedrooms. Through this, what rings the loudest is not isolation, but the sink-in silence of high-end luxury.
Room-wise, custom-made furniture complement earth-toned fabrics with subtle Middle Eastern and Indian touches, the phone is never out of reach no matter which corner of the villa we are in, a common thread of sustainability runs through the room as was evident from the cute toiletries adorning the vanity counters, the highlight being the thoughtfully stocked organic after-sun gel.
While the overwater villas are fascinating, there are other types of villas to choose from here as well: Beach Villas offering complete isolation, located along Villingili’s powdery white shoreline; Two-Bedroom Beach Villas for families; Villa Muthee, housed in a self-contained entertainment pavilion fronted by a 16-metre pool.
No holiday can be quite complete without some great food to go. On our three nights at the resort, we chose three different restaurants: Fashala, on the first night, the seafood buffet special at Javvu the next night, and Dr Ali’s on the last night of our stay. Fashala is aptly named after the local Dhivehi word for ‘the edge’ because of its location at the northern peak of the island. The decor at the Fashala Lounge is contemporary, relaxed and understated. A temple to the sea, Fashala has soaring views of the ocean. Local produce from the surrounding waters and neighbouring farms are at the centre of Fashala’s Mediterranean-inspired recipes.
Javvuu, where we had most of our meals including breakfast and lunch is set across two pavilions, with a large glass front. For a casual midday gourmet experience, the lunch menu features imaginative dishes from around the world, created to suit the most discerning palates, including the health- conscious. The tantalizing Western menu served in the evening brings together delectable ingredients such as prime Wagyu beef and the freshest seafood.
Dr. Ali’s on the other hand is a restaurant laden with Eastern sophistication and pays tribute to a much- loved Maldivian doctor called Dr. Ali. The dining pavilions here are decorated throughout with special artworks and nostalgic artefacts with historical significance to the Maldives–from old nautical instruments such as sextants dating
from the spice trade route era, to local herbal etchings and foliage collection.
Road to rejuvenation
Spanning over 16,700 sq. m., the secluded sanctuary is its own spa village within the resort. Eleven spacious treatment villas offer the CHI signature ‘spa within a spa’ concept,
featuring private treatment rooms, lounging areas, steam rooms, outdoor gardens and bathing facilities along with two meditation pavilions and a yoga pavilion with views overlooking the Indian Ocean. The spa village is surrounded by the island’s own dense vegetation, which sets it apart from many of the other Maldivian resort islands.
The extensive CHI menu features signature therapies like the Himalayan Healing Stone Massage and the Mountain Tsampa Rub based on the ancient healing traditions of the
mystical Himalayan region, while in the Maldives, natural indigenous ingredients and products like coconut and cowrie shells feature in a number of exclusive therapies highlighting the local culture of the islands.
I signed up for the Kandu Boli Ritual, which is a body and face massage, in which larger tiger cowrie shells are used to apply pressure. The treatment finished with warm coconut oil drizzled through the hair followed by a soothing scalp massage. I slept for a straight two hours after the treatment, and woke up fresher than I had in a long, long time, just in time for some golf lessons at the resort, that boasts the only nine-hole golf course in the whole of the island nation.
While I am personally not a great fan of adventure, and prefer my holidays to be more relaxed and lazy, for the adventure-minded, the resort has a host of activities: biking and walking trails threading the two-mile-long island, water sports from catamarans and kayaks to snorkeling along an eco-trail, and some coral planting too! A must-do however, has to be the sunset Dolphin cruise on the luxury yacht, that takes you deep into the sea, with champagne and canapés for company. While the spinning dolphins, we had heard so much about gave us the miss, the angling we engaged in mid-sea made for a truly memorable and a largely sumptuous dinner. I am returning soon,
this time to see the dolphins in action.