SITTING on a white, coral-sand beach soaking up the sunshine, with your feet in the azure blue of an Indian Ocean lagoon, is some people’s idea of a holiday in paradise – in the Maldives it is just the beginning of a decadent dive into an adventure for the senses.
"The massage bed face pad looked down to the lagoon and offered another wonderful view of those rainbow flashes of colourful fish"
There is still a sea of experiences just waiting to be explored, to dip into and sample at your leisure – from fine and often exotic food to the rhythm of Maldivian music, from diving and snorkelling among fish of near unimaginable colours to submitting yourself to a soothing spa massage with the ocean breeze for company.
The Maldives have moved on from being fly-and-flop resorts to being paradise islands just waiting to engage your every sense and at the five-star LUX* resort it is done with a welcoming smile and a distinct emphasis on luxury.
LUX*, on Dhidhoofinolhu island, is a 25-minute seaplane flight from Male‘s international airport and, after an excellent BA Club World flight, the luxury continued. A dedicated lounge awaits at the water‘s edge with a sun-terrace to enjoy until your seaplane arrives and it continues as you touch down in the lagoon alongside the island’s pier to be met with a wonderful warm welcome.
The first few days were spent absorbing ourselves into this island paradise, soaking up the sun on the balcony of our prestige water villa – a luxury home on silts in the ocean just a few private steps into the warm waters of the lagoon.
The Maldives archipelago is more than 1,000 tiny islands never rising much more than 1.5 metres above the sea, its atolls surrounded by live coral and sandbars. Only 200 islands are home to its population, the others given over to tourism, agriculture and fishing. It is a perfect recipe for idyllic holidays with the freshest of food.
The first evening was a decadent dining experience on one of the island’s beaches, with our bare feet in the sand, beneath a fading blue sky giving way to an intense sunset and all to the tune of the ocean lapping against the shore. Superb – as was the meal with seafood. Later in the holiday we enjoyed a breakfast at the water’s edge with our personal butler on hand to ensure perfect service, palms offering dappled shade from the fresh, bright morning light, just one of the “activities” on offer at LUX*.
Back to the grind and another offering is a one-hour session at the resort’s marine biology centre. You won’t come out an expert, there are an estimated 2,000 species of fish alone, but at least you will have a few more accurate descriptions to use other than, “blue fish with stripes” or, “yellow fish with funny fins”.
It is a great starting point to help you enjoy the wonderful range of diving and snorkelling opportunities but you can see these beautiful creatures as you paddle in the shallow waters or stroll across the boardwalks. And for the truly committed, LUX* is hosting an underwater festival this year.
A fun experience is the daily feeding of baby sharks and, over at the East Bar, magnificent stingrays whose elegant underwater twists and turns give way to a frenzied, inelegant rush at the steps to be first in line for supper. We sat and watched while sipping a cocktail as the sun set. How civilised. So civilised it was to be repeated, often. As dusk settles you can also hear the fruit bats noisily crash-land into the trees.
Though Dhidhoofinolhu is less than 2km long it is packed with opportunities end entertainment from catamaran sailing, underwater photography, kayaking and fishing to tennis, yoga, cocktail making and a well-equipped fitness room - with qualified trainer on hand - an outdoor cinema and pop-up bars adding to the regular haunts. You can even see the island’s special blend of coffee being roasted before sitting down to enjoy a cup.
There are eight fine dining restaurants, six bars and a beach-side artisan-built pizza oven to the exacting design of award-winning Italian chef Enzo. The restaurants offer Maldivian, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, Arabian, Chinese and Indian dishes – a world of food cooked to impressively high standards.
My favourite? Perhaps the Maldivian evening with food, local music and dance, or maybe the Italian dinner on the beach, or was it the breakfast served by our own waiter on a sandbank beneath the palms? You get the idea I suspect.
Next on the all-action agenda was a visit to the neighbouring island of Dhigurah aboard a traditional dhoni and guided by Risheef, who was born there and happy to point out his former school, a 300-year-old mosque and arrange a demonstration by locals making building materials and handicrafts from coconut and palm leaf. The return journey, at sunset, was to the sounds of traditional musicians as we sat on cushions on the upper deck watching the sky turn a fiery red.
One Maldivian experience that must not be missed is the spa in its stunning ocean location. It began with sea salt scrub for the feet before a stroll to a secluded water villa for a massage experience of a lifetime. The massage bed face pad looked down to the lagoon and offered another wonderful view of those rainbow flashes of colourful fish.
LUX* Maldives really is one of those destinations where the end of the holiday comes all too soon and they know it. “You may have escaped but you will return” is the sentiment as the friendly staff wave you aboard the seaplane.
I enjoyed a last few glances at unbelievably beautiful atolls dotted across the Indian Ocean from the seaplane and it was back to Male but with a comforting thought – after the luxury of attentive staff on our paradise island, the return BA Club World flight maintained the standard we had now become accustomed to. Flat beds, excellent food, fine wines – including a superb chablis and champagne – ensured a five star end to a paradise holiday.
British Airways offers seven nights at the five-star LUX* Maldives www.luxresorts.com from £2,049 per person, based on two people sharing, for travel in February and March. The price includes return British Airways flights from Gatwick and accommodation with breakfast. Visit ba.com/maldives or call 0844 4930758.
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