15 Reasons To Visit The Maldives
VOGUE India|July 2021
From surfing to stargazing, Vogue India’s guide to the beautiful archipelagic nation shortlists exclusive island experiences you cannot leave without
Megha Mahindru

1 Dine at the world’s smallest restaurant

Located on a lagoon and accessible only by a three-minute boat ride, Taj Exotica’s Ocean Pavilion is one of those magical places to reserve for your big romantic sundowner. Comprising all the ingredients of a dream proposal, the champagne arrives here as you take your place at the socially-distanced overwater restaurant that features all the privacy in the world with the perks of a customised menu and dedicated butler.

2 Watch a movie under the stars

Lounge on a hammock or park yourself on a reclining beach bed on a balmy Maldivian evening to watch your favourite movie as the night sets in. Outdoor cinema experiences with the waves as your surround sound are offered at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef, The Standard, the two Soneva properties, and Six Senses Laamu. You’ll never want to go back to Netflix and chill.

3 Take a digital detox

W Maldives’ two-day Robinson Crusoe experience on the private island of Gaathafushi is not the castaway experience that Defoe immortalised. Located in a tech-free zone, with only one resort phone available, you can switch off and reconnect with nature or settle in for a candlelit dinner for two. There’s also the digital detox package at LUX* South Ari Atoll Resort and Villas that requires you to leave your iPhone in a black box. If you manage to stay away until checkout, an amount from your bill is donated to the local community.—Megha Mahindru

4 Immerse yourself in a luxurious art trail

Joali Maldives, studded with 73 beach and water villas, is located on its own private island, Muravandhoo in Raa Atoll. Apart from the usual tropical pleasures of indulgent plunge pools and sun decks, this is the archipelago’s first and only luxurious, art-immersive island retreat, curated by Zeynep Ercan and Ala Onur (of Istanbul-based art collective No LaB). The resort's founder-owner, Esin Güral Argat, envisioned Joali with a simple idea to reshape “the white-wall concept and curate unique experiences”. With an impressive collection of carefully chosen artworks scattered across the property, guests can spend days exploring the interactive experiences created by 13 international artists (made in collaboration with local artists and artisans to support the surrounding community and revive local art forms) or sign up for art workshops that cover all age groups. Follow the Joali Art Map by bike, golf-style buggy or on foot, and as you go from one point to the next, don’t miss dining at the Manta Tree House - Bushra by South African artist Porky Hefer, and snorkelling around Club Tropicana, an underwater coral sculpture garden by New York-based artist Misha Kahn. James Turrell fans should look no further than the new Patina Hotels in Fari Islands, where the American artist’s Skyspace pavilion is just one of the many Instagram-worthy spots.—Shahnaz Siganporia

5 Live in a bubble tent

Made for the times we live in, Finolhu’s bulbous Beach Bubble tent is located on a quiet sandbank in Baa Atoll and comes with its own shower and washroom. Its see-through polyester fabric allows for a good night of stargazing complemented by a private barbecue on the beach. Reminiscent of Scandinavia’s famous glass igloo hotels, the view from the starlit beach is as breathtaking as the Northern Lights.—Megha Mahindru


If staying at home has amplified your yearning for adventure, bookmark these hotels

TAJ CORAL REEF RESORT & SPA: This quaint resort with thatched-roof cottages is a diver’s haven. It comes with its own PADI-certified dive centre, several dive sites and a 1,000-year-old coral reef to explore. And that’s not all. There’s also an authentic shipwreck, home to thousands of fish, resting at a depth of 22 metres.

FOUR SEASONS RESORT AT KUDA HURAA: This child-friendly property offers everything from hydrofoil experiences to a PADI scuba-diving centre, but the highlight remains its surf school, run by professionals from Tropicsurf of Noosa, Australia. The resort is located on one of Maldives’ most popular surf breaks and it even tailor-makes lessons for kids aged six and older.

NIYAMA PRIVATE ISLANDS: With two islands named Play and Chill, this resort features plenty of action and rest options to choose from. For the former, there are a range of overwater and underwater activities, like night snorkelling, kneeboarding, catamarans and tube rides, along with unique experiences such as a private snorkelling expedition with marine biologists. Also note that the waves here are conducive to surfing all-year round.

ANANTARA KIHAVAH MALDIVES VILLAS: Snorkelling enthusiasts won’t want to miss this unique underwater spectacle. Swim with manta rays as the creatures migrate annually during this season for the krill and plankton that accumulate in Hanifaru Bay. Equally rewarding is a dive at the house reef which teems with marine life.

CHEVAL BLANC RANDHELI: Whether you’re a beginner or want your kids to get a taste of the thrill of surfing, the hotel’s surf simulator—the only one of its kind on the archipelago—will let you ride a wave at any time of the day.

THE NAUTILUS MALDIVES: If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway on a secluded island, The Nautilus is the ideal spot to decompress. Just 15 minutes from the hotel is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Hanifaru Bay, where during manta ray season (from May-November), guests can swim and snorkel with the beautiful creatures. Looking for extreme sports? The resort has recently started skydiving trips, where a free-fall from 12,000ft opens up to the spectacular view of Baa Atoll. —Mihika Agarwal

7 Take a break from homeschooling

Ask any parent about virtual schooling and chances are you’ll stir up a lively debate on asynchronous and synchronous learning and increasing screen time. But amongst these differing opinions, you’ll find a commonality—the pandemic’s at-home living has underlined the importance of experiences, especially in the natural world, to inspire and educate a more mindful next generation. And that’s exactly what Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi, the twin luxe resorts by British-Indian hotelier Sonu Shivdasani, are focusing on in their programmes for younger guests. Both resorts have collaborated with UK-based mentoring firm Oppidan Education, which is known for its individual, interactive approach to education. Through a specially created programme, young guests receive one-on-one interaction with educators and take part in treasure hunts, get active in a mini Olympics, learn how to identify turtles, and much more. Teens are invited to learn about conservation and the environment, discover how to cook tasty Maldivian snacks, and end their stay with a disco at the children’s centre, The Den. For those over age 12, Soneva Academy provides course certification in the marine life of the Maldives as well as a chance to study the night sky.—Priyanka Khanna

8 Dance the night away at an overwater club

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