When it comes to luxury escapes, The Maldives always finds its way to the top of the travel wishlist. This stay at The Residence Maldives had us sharing way too many #sorrynotsorry moments…
Here’s a survival strategy for you when you’re overdue for a getaway from Hong Kong: think of that turquoise water. We’re never going to get over it. Just flying to The Maldives ruins you forever. Peering from your window seat and catching sight of those unmistakable atolls is the first, breathtaking hit. Arriving at your resort and being this close to a gin-clear lagoon is something else altogether. I just spent five days at The Residence Maldives in a villa over that water, and I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to suffer through this review until you can dive straight in yourself…
We don’t use the words swoonworthy lightly, but…
Let’s be frank: you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so you’ve got to soak it up, big time. If, like me, overwater bungalows make your heart skip a beat, and you love the idea of plunging straight into calm waters for a first-thing-in-the-morning dip or afternoon snorkelling session, then picture yourself right here.
Waking up to a Maldivian sunrise over the sea (or chilling out on your verandah with a sundowner) is the life. The private pool situation is irresistible: and yes, you should go for that midnight dip. Prefer being on the beach? The beach villas with direct access to the soft, powdery sand and a hammock to swing in on lazy afternoons will press all of your buttons…
Sunrise yoga, spa and repeat
Imagine kicking off your day with yoga on an open-air deck, taking in the morning sea breeze as the sun rises. In a complete departure from a lifetime of exercise avoidance, I was compelled to wake up at the crack of dawn for what the resort calls ‘Healthy Hour’. Having accomplished so much by 7am, one of course has earned a spa session (or two). Hit the Spa by Clarins at the Residence Maldives for one of the signature treatments, from facials to healing massages and the recently introduced Ayurvedic oil therapy. Opening your eyes at the end of a stress-melting massage to that showstopper view of the sea is next-level bliss.
Sea and do
Yes it’s easy to lose yourself in all that island-style relaxation, but The Residence Maldives is the epicentre of some amazing experiences at sea and on the surrounding islands (which you can explore to get a dose of local life, or visit purely for a private picnic).
But you know you need to be in that heartbreakingly beautiful water. Yes, you can slip straight in from your bungalow for a snorkel (harmless baby sharks, octopi and stingrays hang around The Residence), but the best coral gardens and amazing sea life spotting opportunities are a quick boat ride out from the resort. A guide will join you for your snorkelling session – and chances are high you’ll spot one of the many local turtles. If you’re an experienced scuba diver, the Indian Ocean is all yours.
But what brought the real magic for me was the sunset dolphin cruise – when we arrived at the resort other guests kept on raving about the pod they’d spotted the night before – with a baby dolphin in tow. We didn’t find that little guy, but I’ll never forget sitting at the edge of our boat, watching a dolphin race us so close by I thought I could reach out and touch it. Still on a dolphin-spotting high, we watched the sky transform into vivid layers of colours for an epic sunset that was worth the trip alone.
One thing I really wanted to explore was local flavours, and I made one helluva discovery during my stay: The Maldivian breakfast. The Residence Maldives’ spread includes an incredibly comforting dhal (so good I had to ask for the recipe) and masuni – a popular local dish of tuna with fresh, shredded coconut – all served with chapati. As tuna is readily available in local waters, it’s a star ingredient in local cuisine – so make sure you try the Maldivian tuna curry here too. Another to-die-for dish? The local fish salad, which is a zesty, spicy combination of fresh fish, crispy curry leaves, leafy greens and toasted coconut. The handful of local and locally inspired dishes are amazing here: I wanted even more of them on the menu.
More foodie highlights at The Residence Maldives? The seafood barbecue on the beach: the lobster and squid fresh off the coals was out of this world. And for French-influenced fare, The Falhumaa restaurant serves up a sophisticated menu in a stunning setting over the reef. It’s true: lobster thermidor and seared scallops are best enjoyed to the sound of waves lapping.
And it’s all about the people
The staff on this gorgeous island are as warm and welcoming as it gets. From remembering our favourite drinks at the bar to happily looking after other guests’ little ones, the team here is attentive, on the ball and genuinely friendly. One of the sweet guys we saw regularly wanted to bring us a shell from his island home nearby the resort. Now that’s hospitality.
Getting to The Residence Maldives:
The Residence Maldives is in the Gaafu Alifu Attoll, and like all special, pristine places in the world, it involves a journey. The flight to Male International Airport from Hong Kong is just over six hours, followed by a domestic flight that takes under an hour to get to Kooddoo Airport. From there a short boat ride will take you the rest of the way. My tip? It’s worth upgrading to business as chances are there’ll be a bit of time between flights and lounge access will be a godsend.
Another word of advice: do allow yourself at least four nights to make the most of your vacay. On day five, I thought I was going to have to be dragged back home, leaving claw marks in the sand. But here’s the silver lining: The Residence Maldives is opening a swish sister property complete with kids’ club on nearby Dhigurah island at the end of 2018. It will be connected to the existing resort by a 1km jetty so you can enjoy the facilities at both properties – now there’s my reason to come back for another one of those Maldivian breakfasts…
The Residence Maldives, Falhumaafushi, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Republic of Maldives