The Maldives still makes for a magical getaway

19th Jun 19 | Lifestyle

Could you ever tire of this Indian Ocean favourite? Sam Wylie-Harris rediscovers her love for the islands at the new Faarufushi hotel.

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Racing into the sunset, I feel a warm glow on my face, even though I’m shielding myself from the sun’s rays with a wide-brimmed hat. We’ve been skimming across the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean for 20 minutes, and it feels as if time’s standing still, with nothing on the horizon but a sinking sun.

Then, like a mirage, a lush green island looms into view. As we circle its silver sandy shores, I feel a tickle of excitement. Within clear view is a table for two, a parasol, bean bags, chef in whites, two waiters and a fired-up BBQ.

We’re handed flutes of ice-cold fizz, and as dusk falls, we tuck into plates of Cajun-spiced yellowfin tuna, seabass, king prawns and wagyu steak, topped with more fizz and wine.

By the time papaya is served, we’re so relaxed, all our cares have been washed out to sea, and we’re chatting and laughing like two love-struck teenagers under a blanket of stars.

This romantically remote desert island dining takes place at the newly opened Faarufushi, the latest addition to Raa Atoll.

A scenic 50-minute seaplane journey north of Male, this small coral island has 37 beach bungalows and 42 water villas, each marked by a thatched roof of coconut leaves and mesmerizing views of the turquoise lagoon – and most boast private infinity pools.

Tellingly, the flora and fauna have been carefully preserved, and at first sight, the showstopping 45-metre pool (just shy of Olympic-sized) is so expertly cushioned amongst the tall palm trees, you’d think it was how mother nature intended.

Sleeping in style

Ocean Retreat with Pool, Faarufushi, Maldives (Universal Resorts/PA)
Ocean Retreat with Pool, Faarufushi, Maldives (Universal Resorts/PA)

Our huge water villa is about 200-metres down the jetty (golf buggies ferry guests to and fro), and days are topped and tailed with dips in the sea.

Sam & Giles on the jetty, Faarufushi, Maldives (SWH/PA)
Sam & Giles on the jetty, Faarufushi, Maldives (SWH/PA)

Just steps away from our king-sized bed (with 400 thread-count sheets), we snorkel, sunbathe, and casually sip rosé from our well-stocked wine fridge.

The nature-inspired décor combines warm woody tones with swatches of turquoise, and little touches include a coconut with roots in a vase of water. The rattan rocking chair, raffia slippers and an origami elephant towel at turn-down service are a world away from our bijou flat back home.

Wining and dining

Eclipse, Faarufushi, Maldives (Universal Resorts/PA)
Eclipse, Faarufushi, Maldives (Universal Resorts/PA)

Four restaurants operate in the resort, with smiley, engaging staff providing friendly service. Turn up barefoot and breakfast like a king in Iru (the Dhivehi word for sun), which serves an impressive hot and cold buffet, as well as a la carte.

We enjoy lunches sitting by the pool at Sangu (meaning shell horn), which serves the best sashimi – or the beach restaurant Athiri, where ceviche and Korean chicken wings are ‘finger licking’ good.

Sam & Giles in Boli Bar, adjacent to Eclipse, Maarufushi, Maldives
Sam and Giles, Boli Bar, Farrufushi, Maldives (SWH/PA

On one special evening, we get dolled up for Eclipse. Their fine-dining restaurant rests on stilts overlooking the lagoon and the intimate ambience feels deliciously romantic.

Strolling down the jetty for sundowners in adjacent Boli Bar, we’re diverted by our barman excitedly pointing to the water. In utter amazement, we watch rare eagle rays glide past us at high tide.

Spa and relaxation

Couples treatment room, Nika Spa, Faarufushi, Maldives (Universal Resorts/PA)
Couples treatment room, Nika Spa, Faarufushi, Maldives (Universal Resorts/PA)

Burning incense creates an air of sweet earthiness at Nika Spa (named after the Banyan tree in its pavilion), which has six couples’ treatment rooms with luxurious en-suite bathrooms. Set on stilts, they resemble giant treehouses.

Three chimes of a gong ushers in our 60-minute Lombok massage, which combines medium pressure strokes and skin rolling to release any tension.

If you struggle with a massage, Nika offers complementary yoga sessions (based on the activity schedule).

Sam walking along the shoreline watching reef sharks (SWH/PA)
Sam walking along the shoreline counting reef sharks (SWH/PA)

Alternatively, walking barefoot along the shoreline and counting blacktip reef sharks (they’re harmless) is the best therapy in the world.

Water sports and diving

When the wind picks up, there’s a chance to go windsurfing ($31/£24 an hour), or have fun hiring a Yamaha jet ski (from $154/£119 for 20 minutes) – and if you’re feeling adventurous, go in search of dolphins (from $339/£262 for 60 minutes).

The Euro-Divers team recommended a guided snorkelling tour ($68/£52 per person for 90 minutes) as it’s a 300-metre swim from the beach to the edge of the reef, and the large lagoon is exposed to strong currents, even when the weather’s fine and super sunny.

Peter Diving demo on beach
Giles with member of Euro-Divers team receiving a PETER Diving demo on beach (SWH/PA)

Ever tried PETER Diving? It’s a cross between snorkelling and scuba. A compressed tank floats on the water’s surface and a long air hose means you’re free to explore the pink coral.

Island life

During the day, staff tend to the trees and gardens, while at dusk, giant fruit bats sweep between the palms.

Main pool at sunset (SWH/PA)
Main pool at sunset (SWH/PA)

Even though it only takes 15 minutes to walk around the island, there’s always so much to explore.

This secluded hideaway isn’t flash, but it is a dreamy paradise.

How to get there

Kuoni offers seven nights half-board at Faarufushi in a Beach Retreat with pool, including flights with Emirates from London Gatwick and transfers in resort. The price for selected departures in October 2019 based on two adults sharing starts from £3,899 per person, with a saving of up to £1,841 per couple. To book please quote tour ref: MV0111.

© Press Association 2019

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