Glass tries pickleball in paradise at Kagi, Maldives

MOVE OVER Zendaya (Challengers), pickleball is the sport everyone is talking about. Over the past few years, the quirky racquet sport has achieved borderline cult status in the USA and has an A-list following: George Clooney, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson among them.

Should further proof be required, Richard Branson just installed a court on Necker. So it stands to reason that the world’s hottest hotels are jumping on board. From the Hamptons to Hawaii, you can get your dinks in, and now there’s a new kid on the block: Kagi in the Maldives.

Pickleball court at Kagi

Billing itself as a ‘boutique wellness island’ with just 50 villas, the resort is utterly tranquil in every way. No motorised watersports, no golf buggies, no bicycles. Seaplanes aren’t even allowed to land in the vicinity. The only noise to interrupt the birdsong and gently lapping waves is the cheerful tock of pickleballers at play… We’ll come onto this in a bit.

First, I need to tell you about the wellness side. There are daily stretching classes, yoga and pilates plus sound healing, massage and facials of every variety. All the oils are natural – marula and neroli – because, on Kagi, nature rules. Giant heads of frangipani line the sandy paths. Orchid-filled flower beds are fenced in by rows of baby coconut husks. Sprouting coconuts adorn restaurant tables.

All the colours and textures of Kagi adhere to an elemental scheme: towelling cushions the colour of seaglass, woven latticework screens and pearly pool tiles that shimmer brighter than any I’ve seen. 

Leo Bear playing Pickleball at Kagi, Maldives

The food is sublime. At the spa, it’s health food par excellence: paleo bread to rival Bodyism’s, chia green smoothies and reef fish ceviche straight from the sea. But if you want to indulge, the creamy truffle tagliatelle at Nonna’s (the resort’s Italian restaurant) is 100 per cent worth the calories.

Now onto the pickleball offering… I’m pleased to report, it’s ravishing. The court meets the highest international standards – flawless smooth surface, bright painted lines and a professional-grade net. As for the opposition (bright-eyed hotel staff), they’re highly charged and impossibly athletic. Excellent fun. Areef, the hotel’s General Manager, is a born-and-bred Maldivian – and pickleball-obsessed, so you’ll never be short of a player.

Full disclosure: ‘too hot in the kitchen’ (inside pickleball joke, sorry) takes on a whole new meaning in the Maldives where temperatures simmer around the 30-degree mark year round. I lost every game. Went back to my villa with a beetroot-coloured face. But with a backdrop of swaying palms and Indian Ocean breakers, it really is every inch the fantasy. 

The question is, are you up to the challenge? 

by Leo Bear

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