Gili Lankanfushi Private Reserve St. Regis Vommuli John Jacob Astor Estate
Sometimes the “Best” (and “Biggest”) of the Maldives can become an ever escalating arms race of hyperbolic luxury. One of the more curious bragging rights tussle is over the “Largest Water Villa in the Maldives”
For years, the reigning champion was Gili Lankanfushi’s Private Residence. I had it listed as 1400 sqm. Then, a couple of years ago came along St. Regis Vommuli’s John Jacob Astor Estate listed as 1540 sqm, putting the voluminous into the Vommuli. A YouTube video tour “Largest overwater villa in the Maldives” heralded it as the new crown holder in the outsize overwater villa league table. But then, I read this listicle piece by Lina Travel, “Largest Overwater Villas in the Maldives” which put Gili back on top listing the Private Residence at a larger 1700 sqm. I contacted the resort and they explained, “We had an extension of the Private Reserve in 2015, making the total area 1700 sqm.”
If only the corals could push some button for a bit of cooling shade when they get too warm. At least guests at Velaa have that luxury with deck cabanas with tops that can be rolled out for a bit of shade or rolled back for sunshine (or starshine if you want to lie back on the deck lounger and gaze at the stars at night).
With the latest resort launched from Soneva (that’s Sonu&Eva), I’m expecting the new Soneva Jani property to open up all sorts of new possibilities. And it has literally *opened up* the universe to its guest with a stellar feature (which happened to be on my latest Haven’t Seen post #22) – a retractable roof:
“Each master bedroom will feature a retractable roof. Guests will sleep under the stars at a touch of the button, as the roof slides back to reveal the night sky.”
Soneva Fushi is the run-away leader of “Best of the Maldives” innovations and distinctions (77 compared to runner-up One & Only Reethi Rah’s 63) so I am expecting all sorts of delights to fill their latest creation. But the one that most captivates me is that all villas feature a retractable roof for stargazing!
Lori and I have fallen asleep countless times under the Maldives starscape. But eventually, you have to move inside from the hard, narrow deck loungers or sandy blanket. Now you can drift to sleep under starlight in the comfort of your villa bed. Last summer, we had a blast driving around Italy in a sporty convertible. Now you can snooze in the Maldives in your own stylish convertible.
“Raise the roof and have some fun” – All Night Long, Lionel Richie
Now you see it. The camouflage of the animal kingdom always fascinates. We came upon the king of camo a chameleon on our South Africa safari. We would never have seen it had the guide not pointed it out. In fact, even when the guide did point it out, we struggled to see it at first. And the Maldivian masters of masquerade are of course the octopi. Lori and I spent a delightful snorkel watching an octopus move around the coral croppings constantly changing his color scheme and his very skin texture to match the new coral he was next too.
The octopi of the resort world is Amilla Fushi’s water villas…
- “Anyway, it has its own magic: it is a mirror that reflects the surrounding colors!! Can you see the magic? — at Amilla Fushi.”
More literally hidden wonders of the Maldives. Thank again to Paola – she knows all the Maldives secrets!
Kandolhu puts the water in the “water closet”.
During the past couple of decades that we have been visiting the Maldives, the tubs have gotten larger and the showers more decadent. The bathrooms have emerged from being tucked away to standing out with al fresco opulence. These days villa bathrooms have become almost mini private spas with their lavish design, bountiful space, and luxury fittings. Kandolhu resort exemplifies this trend with their over water villas whose bathrooms exemplify the flair of the resort’s contemporary design with its soaring airy motif, clean lines and crisp styling.
The heart of any Maldives trip is the unworldly seascape and resorts do everything to bring with water wonderland front and centre – snorkelling, glass bottom boats, decks overlooking. One of the hot features at the glitziest water villas is the glass floor. A portal to this maritime magic even when you are sequestered inside. But you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy this fancy foot-level fenestella. The value priced Embudu resort sports lovely versions in their Water Bunglows. And there is plenty to see. We watched a couple of puppy reef sharks and a baby stingray during our short stay. The most affordable glass floor water villa in the Maldives.
Some resort gizmos don’t just help you control your villa, but they actually control it for your automatically. One of our favourite eco-innovations is featured by One & Only Reethi Rah’s climate control. When either front door or deck door is open, the AC automatically cuts off. That way you can invite the outdoors into your villa where you are relaxing or getting ready without having to remember to turn the air conditioning off.
The Maldives are renowned for diminutive islands (a plot of sand and a palm tree). But at some resorts, the “island” has diminished to nothing at all. Don’t worry…it’s not the often reported “sinking of the Maldives”. It’s just resorts bringing their guests closer to the alluring seascape and more remote from the rest of the world.
Gili Lankanfushi (above) was the one who started it all with their lagoon villas (and dedicated boats to ferry guests to and from their villas). And it still commands the destination topping, paragon of the concept, their Private Reserve.
Jumeirah then took the concept to a whole new level by making a stand-alone neighbourhood of water villas.
Now a small collection of room types not so much “marooned” as “maritime”. I excluded the “yachts” even the semi-permanent moored one (eg. The Rania Experience, Huvafenfushi’s Dhoni Suites) because it’s not quite the same even though they too are places to stay out in the middle of the water.
Thanks – again – Paola (who prompted the list and initiated the research).
1. Gili Lankanfushi – Crusoe Residence [above]
2. Velaa – Romantic Pool Residence
3. Jumeirah Dhevanafushi – Ocean Pearls
4. Jumeirah Vittaveli – Ocean Suite with Pool
5. Medhufushi – Lagoon Suite
6. Angsana Velavaru – In Ocean Pool Villa
7. Meeru – Honeymoon Suites
One resort who appreciates “Sunset Villas” is Atmosphere Kanifushi. There is no choosing between sunrise and sunset at this resort…because ALL the villas have been built westward facing. All four of their room types are designated “Sunset”.
In all fairness, the standard “Beach Villas”, the left most villas numbered “12” on the resort map below, are really “north” facing. In fact, all of the villas are really NNW facing if you want to be precise. North by Northwest should give you a fine view of the sunset on the western horizon in most cases. But one visitor did report to me that at certain times of the year, the sunset was really hard to see (and that would certainly be the case for the westernmost “Beach Villas”. So if you are draw to this sunset orientation of Kanifushi, you might want to veer toward the villas on the eastern most end of the island.