When you think of the Maldives, immediately a vision of luxury comes to mind. White sandy beaches, crystal skies and glistening water. A recent visit to Milaidhoo Island confirmed these expectations, and this, coupled with a side of Maldivian culture (something quite unique to Milaidhoo) made for a hearty meal of relaxation and fulfillment.
The tiny island is located within the Baa Atoll’s UNESCO biosphere reserve and is accessed via seaplane, a bucket list experience in itself. The hum of the propellers lulls as you gaze over the aquamarines and turquoises, strewn with golden rings of sandbanks and dotted with specks of emerald land. Stepping onto the shore I can’t help but feel my stresses melt away into the humid air. The peaceful ebb and flow of the rolling waves. The gentle swaying of the lush vegetation. Swings beckon at every corner. The instinct to kick off my shoes and sink my aching feet into the crisp sand is overpowering. This is the place you come to unwind.
Milaidhoo opened in December 2016 and offers fifty private pool villas, with an option of either a water, or a beach villa, as well as the island’s latest offering of a spectacular Ocean Residence and Beach residences. As I enter my water villa, I am struck by the sheer sense of light. Floor to ceiling windows on multiple walls open to a panorama of striking turquoise and sparkling ripples on the water’s surface. Technicolour azure, as far as the eye can see. Rather than competing with the vivid hues of the surroundings, the furnishings adopt more neutral tones, opting instead for a range of oaks, teaks and pines in subtle shades of blonde. I step onto the deck and breath in the island air. The private infinity pool beckons with its glassy reflections of the cotton clouds, but the huge Undhoalhi swing wins my attention this time.
A conscious effort has been made to maintain the nation’s rich heritage at Milaidhoo, and this is one of the many aspects which sets it apart. Maldivian culture is celebrated, both in the high concentration of local staff, and in the exquisite construction of the villas. Designed by a local architect, the villas have adopted the most attractive of Maldivian elements. The Undhoalhi swings, a staple of Maldivian homes, are a tranquil respite, and hours can be easily spent gently swaying back and forth to the sound of the water lapping and the distant drone of seaplanes. The Cadjun thatched roofs are fashioned from local dried coconut fronds add to the aura of the tropics. Local art has been used to accentuate the design of the villas, which is reminiscent of island living. Turquoise and coral accents represent the sea and sunsets, the most spectacular I have ever witnessed.
Everything here is bespoke, from the materials used in the construction of the villas and residences to the impeccable service. Privacy is of the utmost priority here, with and careful consideration has been taken in order to facilitate this as subtly as possible. Local beach cabbage lines the walkways of the water villas and residence, creating a natural screen and a sense that you are the only person on the island. Beach villas have been nestled subtly between the trees, their entrances concealed by a multitude of lush vegetation. The result is the essence of relaxed solitude. There is no sense of pretence on this island, something so often associated with luxury. This is excess of another kind. This is the indulgence of true honest escape, of natural carefreeness. A humble luxury of sorts.
This lack of pretence is continued into the island’s two bars and three restaurants, where guests are encouraged to attend barefoot. There is no dress code, and therefore no obligation, the only requirement being to come, enjoy an exquisite meal, and go to your heart’s content. Housing the nation’s only Maldivian eatery Ba’theli, Milaidhoo showcases its appreciation for local cuisine. Robust curries, coconut and seafood are the stars of the show, served under open skies, on the deck of a boat. Compass pool bar is a perfect for a light lunch. Opening out onto the pool deck, with bamboo swings and raked sand floors, the transition from beach to bar is completely seamless, and the light lobster rolls tangy and crunchy and completely refreshing.
Contrary to the impression I might have given thus far, Miladhoo island is not merely for the idle. Yes, you can choose to wile away your days on the beach, but if the inclination presents itself, the island offers an array of activities, ranging from simply snorkelling with turtles on the island’s house reef, to sleeping, four-poster-bed-style on a private sand bank. Being situated within the Baa Atoll’s UNESCO biosphere reserve provides a priceless opportunity to swim with manta rays in Hanifaru bay, the world’s largest feeding hotspot for these gentle giants. Alternatively, you can immerse yourself even further into the Maldivian culture, by visiting a local village, or try your luck at fishing by hand, Maldivinan style. Every step of the way, Milaihdoo takes things a step further, with personalised surprises around every corner, and this is, in my opinion, what sets this property apart.
Of course, no island hideaway would be complete without a spa, and with five over-water cabanas, boasting stunning ocean views, Serenity assures a memorable experience. On entering my suite, I am immediately at ease with the floral scents of lavender. A nature lover, I ask for the sound system to be turned down in favour of the sounds of the waves, and I slip into a blissful oblivion. Dressing after the treatment, I look in the mirror and am surprised to see an attractive plait in my hair, strung with fragrant jasmine flowers. Another one of the signature Milaidhoo moments.
The Maldives has long been a popular destination for relaxation, synonymous with indulgence and luxury. But what makes Milaidhoo different is the staff. Perhaps it is partly the Maldivian sense of hospitality, but they possess a spark that can only come from a true love of their work. Your every need is anticipated in advance. Some properties take pride in remembering their guest’s coffee choices at breakfast, but it is rare to find it ready on the table when you arrive, because the waiter saw you coming. You are the priority here and much like the water surrounding the island, the property moulds itself around you. The best way to describe the experience is that it is human. The result is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Images Courtesy Of Milaidhoo Island