In the early years, the “spa” was relegated to some small rooms in sequestered in the middle of the island. With the rise of wellness tourism, resorts brought the spas front and centre to the main stage of the destination – over water. Now, an over-water spa common fare among the five-star Maldives properties. And yet, within the spas themselves, the massages are the main event and most of the treatments rooms are designed and reserved for the treatments. The spas will often feature beauty treatments – eg. facials, manicures, pedicures – but they are most often found near the entrance with a limited ocean view. But, the Jumeirah Maldives spa gives the aestheticians the same pride of place as the masseuses with an over-water room with floor-to-ceiling windows on 3 sides. Good looking out for those getting their looks good.
I’ve realized with this post that I need an “Over Water” tag for all those over water treats (but keeping the overwater villa features separate).
The roof over Kudadoo’s over water pavilion sets a new standard for solar ambition. The Champa resorts keep upping the bar on the solar investment across their estate after their snaking jetty of panels at neighbouring Hurawalhi. The 320-kWp solar system generates enough electricity to power the entire resort:
“Committed to your well-being and that of the planet, Kudadoo reinvents sustainability – we take pride on the island being powered by the sun 100%, and on eco-conscious choices that intertwine the design, conceived by the architectural mastermind Yuji Yamazaki, and adventures to create a luxury experience that threads lightly.”
With all of these energy sustainability investments in the country, I’ve add a new “Solar” tag for all of the sun powered initiatives in this sun-drenched destination.
Gili Lankanfushi’s wedding pavilion is its very own ‘best of the Maldives’ collection all rolled into one stunning Maldives medley – an over water traditionally styled villa with glass floors looking down to aquamarine lagoons to celebrate one’s nuptials in paradise.
My first ever outdoor yoga session in my life was in the Maldives. I had been introduced to the discipline back during my West Africa travels with one lesson in Togo, but then it was 25 years later when Lori and I did the sunrise yoga at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. I’m not quite an avid practitioner though Lori and I have a weekly lesson. Lori is well into it, has done some special yoga retreats and did several yoga sessions during our last Maldives tour. I always check out the resort spa and scan the treatments and classes on offer in every visit. And I have never come across the range of yoga sessions offered by Taj Exotica.
Taj features and over water yoga and meditation pavilion (see photo above) as well as two breath-taking over-water couple spa suites and the Heat, Hydro and Relaxation Pavilion, with its welcoming sauna, generous relaxation deck and waterbeds.
We have been studying yoga for over a year now and no two sessions are the same. I’m regularly surprised by the entirely new collection of poses that our teacher Vivian Campbell introduces to us each week. Yoga seems to have no end to the variety of not just poses, but also different styles and technique variations. Taj reflects the diversity of this ancient art with its own equally diverse menu of sessions…
- Asana, Prananyama, Mudara, Banda
- Balanced – 90 minutes
- Advanced – 90 minutes
- Abhilaya – 60 minutes
- Advanced Surya Namaskar – 60 minute
- Gentle – 60 minutes
- Dynamic – 60 minutes
- Pranayama – 60 minutes
- Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana – 90 minutes
- Kunjal Kriya – 55 minutes
- Jala Neti – 45 minutes
- Yoga Nidra – 25 minutes
- Yoga Nidra Advanced – 50 minutes
- Hirdayakasha Dharana – 50 minutes
- Ajapa Japa – 50 minutes
- Antar Mouna – 40 minutes
“Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.” – Sting
Most resorts offer a “main restaurant”, which is a large buffet stuck somewhere inside the island as the default option for board packages, and a range of “a la carte” eateries, which are usually a bit more distinctive in menu and location like being over the water. Safari Island puts its main restaurant in the prime location on the resort with a striking design and ambience to match (see above).
The structure is sort of reminiscent of Baros’ “Lighthouse” restaurant, only on a grander scale and Lighthouse is a la carte. It is completely open all around (well, there are storm blinds they put down when it gets too windy). One of my pet peeves with main restaurants is that they often have no view. Even when the ocean is just a few feet away, they never seem to clear the foliage so people can actually enjoy the view. But Safari Island is right over the water.
And you can top and tail your evening with an antipasto aperitif and/or post-prandial potation at their Sundown Bar (See below). We sat on its deck watching only the reef sharks circling in the lagoon shallows below, but a larger shark which we thought was a nurse shark. It turns out it was a lemon shark. So the perfect place for a cocktail with a twist (an turn) of lemon!
You don’t need a water villa to enjoy the over water lounging at AaaVeee. This fresh new face in the Maldives resort crowd has added special decks that any can use for that over-water lounging vibe…
“Perched majestically in 3 sturdy decks above the sea, these 3 nature discovery decks set on stilts overlooking the calm blue lagoon, scenic beach, peaceful islands and the ocean, boasts simply stunning views of dazzling sunsets. You could sunbath on these quiet comfortable wooden sunbeds while chilling with the excellent drinks which we provide.”
After all that lagoon drinking, you might need a place to lie down for a bit. For a growing number of resorts, you won’t have to go far. One of the most popular lagoon accessory is the over water hammock. Years ago, this feature was quite distinctive, but now it is becoming (rightfully) more popular. Here is your guide to lagoon lounging in the Maldives…
1. Anantara Dhigu
3. Gili Lankanfushi
6. The Rania Experience
10. Taj Coral Reef
11. Six Senses Laamu
12. Summer Island
13. Vilu Reef
One of my favourite dining themes is over the water (if not IN the water). The Maldives offers diver menu of in-ocean dining. Now, I’m not talking about mere “over water” dining. Just about every self-respective 5-star resort has one of those. I’m talking about surrounded-by-water dining. In fact, NIYAMA’s “Subsix” (see above) goes so far as to be both in the ocean and “IN” the ocean with its underwater dining room.
For an outstanding meal out standing in the middle of the ocean, here’s the full list…
1. NIYAMA – Subsix
2. TAJ EXOTICA – Ocean Pavilion
3. BAREFOOT – Black Pearl
4. JUMEIRAH DHEVANAFUSHI – Johara
5. BAROS – Piano Bar
6. ANGSANA VELAVARU – Azzurro
7. KANDOLHU – Sunset Pavilion
8. GILI LANKANFUSHI – Wedding Pavilion
If you want work on your Olympic form without tearing yourself away from the signature Maldives sunshine and seascape, then Huvafenfushi is the fitness centre for you. Set out on its very own jetty with 360 degree views of the ocean masterfully exposed by floor to ceiling glass walls. Nice to see a bit of healthy activity given a place of prominence. So often the resort gyms are tucked away in some remote corner of the inner island. Probably because exertion and effort is sort of the antithesis of what the Maldives is all about.
Also Huva features a fine set of kit from high-grade machines to often-omitted Olympic free-weights and racks (one of my pet peeves is when a resort’s fitness centre is a running machine and a few dumbbells).
When we visited last summer, it was one of the few gyms that inspired her to work off a few of the pina coladas and reef fish curries she has consumed on the trip (see below).
If the Maldives islands aren’t small enough for you, the Ayada has created its own “Ile de Joie” (Island of Joy) in the middle of its water villa lagoon. It serves as the home for its cheese and wine restaurant.
Over water venues are great for ambience offering intimacy with the water below, but they are all wood and construction and so depart from the natural splendour of the island. Except at Ayada, they have brought the lush tropical nature to their overwater restaurant with foliage, flowers and even palm trees planted on this little culinary cay. A great place to hand out all day long with their distinctive dhoni seats on the deck.