Glass gets that castaway feeling but with a luxury twist, Maldives

THINK of a Robinson Crusoe island but with all the mod cons, a luxury resort with an unwritten no-shoes rule, and crystal clear seas where you can see the marine life without plunging in, then you’ll have an idea of what a holiday in the Maldives is like.  

Made up of a series of atolls in the Indian Ocean, each resort in the archipelago sits on its own palm tree fringed island, which well and truly live up to the description of getting away from it all. A 20 minute speed boat ride from the international airport took me to Banyan Tree’s newly relaunched Dhawa Ihuru, a tranquil idyll ringed by a spectacular coral reef. 

Breakfast on the beach treat, Dhawa IhuruBreakfast on the beach treat, Dhawa Ihuru

With just 45 thatched-roof beachside villas dotted around the isle, you can take a walk and hardly see a soul, much less hear any noise except the lapping waves and the whooping cry of the ubiquitous waterhen. No wonder couples love it here. The ambiance is distinctly chilled, with the advice to go everywhere barefoot. Like the pathways, even the bars and restaurants are sandy floored.

Jetty at Dhawa IhuruJetty at Dhawa Ihuru

But don’t forget your shades. The white sands are as dazzling as the sun, lapped by turquoise-coloured seas that Photoshop couldn’t improve upon. You can spend the day taking it all in from the comfort of your beach bed or lounging in your private back garden. Or you can move your bones a bit.

For a small place there’s a lot to do, from the very energetic like waterskiing or kayaking to simply swimming in the wonderfully warm ocean followed by a relaxing wind-down massage at the spa.

After seeing a huge shoal of silvery anchovy darting along the seashore, then a group of lingering stingrays that looked like they would have come ashore if only they had the legs do to so, I couldn’t wait to do some snorkelling in the shallow waters of the house reef.

MaledivenScuba diving in Dhawa Ihuru reef

Dhawa Ihuru beachfront villaDhawa Ihuru beachfront villa

It proved to be instant magic as groups of brilliantly hued coral fish swam purposefully by in rapid succession, seemingly oblivious to my presence, followed by a languid-looking black fin shark. Good job somebody told me they were harmless.

For the more adventurous, a diver’s paradise awaits with the Rannamaari wreck, just off the shoreline 26m deep. With 30 diving spots at the house reef and a PADI 5-star Gold Dive Centre on site, there are new dives to discover and new diving skills to learn.

Angsana Velavaru beachfrontAngsana Velavaru beachfront

I was on an all-inclusive package that involved a deliciously varied buffet menu but I decided to try out the Ilaafathi restaurant on Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, an even more intimate retreat a five minute speedboat ride away complete with a spa and wellbeing centre. I was not disappointed and the lobster was exceptional. 

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru beach looking towards Dhawa IhuruBanyan Tree Vabbinfaru beach looking towards Dhawa Ihuru

Known as ‘Turtle Island’ in the local language, the resort of Angsana Velavaru is located further south, requiring a 40 minute trip by seaplane from the international airport to get there. It was a noisy but exhilarating trip that provided the surreal sight, only 1,500 feet below, of the myriad dots in the ocean that make up the Maldives island chain.

The flight landed alongside a floating jetty, and I was just a short boat ride away from the welcome sight of another picture perfect resort. With the same blend-in- with-nature look and luxury rustic-style accommodation, Angsana Velavaru is more family-oriented, with plenty of activities for children, including a Kids Club.

Angsana Three Bedroom Pool Villa with king-sized bedAngsana Three Bedroom Pool Villa

As elsewhere in the Maldives, the emphasis here is on sustainable tourism and I did my bit to help preserve the fragile reefs by taking part in some supervised coral planting. You attach small pieces of coral on to a metal frame, which is then taken out to sea for the coral to grow. This will go some way to restoring the coral that has been lost due to rising ocean temperatures.

Angsana Velavaru Beachfront Villa, Sun Loungers Ocean View

Later a boat took me out to deeper reef waters for another snorkelling session that was amazing even without the hoped for encounter with a turtle. But the day would end on a high note during a sunset cruise out to the open sea. All of a sudden, we were joined by hundreds of ducking and diving dolphins, which playfully leapt and spun in the air as if in greeting. Unforgettable.

by Angela Cobbinah

A beachfront villa at Dhawa Ihuru starts from £675 per night, exclusive of taxes and fees, based on the all-inclusive dine package. Guests can take advantage of the special introduction of the All-inclusive Island Getaway offer with savings of 25 per cent on Best Available Rate when booking a minimum of four nights, with complimentary return speedboat transfers.

A beachfront villa at Angsana Velavaru starts from £409 per night, exclusive of taxes and fees, based on the all-inclusive dine package.

An ocean view pool villa at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru starts from £801 per night, exclusive of taxes and fees, on a bed and breakfast basis.

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