The Maldives archipelago is, assuredly, the ideal setting for grand, romantic gestures. Its private island resorts go to great lengths to make couple holidays – whether it’s to celebrate an anniversary, a honeymoon, or just because – extra special, ensuring that you and your partner feel like you’re the only two people in the whole world. In fact, you’ll be cosseted with the exceptionally high standard of care now synonymous with the Maldives from the moment you arrive at Male International Airport – where your resort’s representative awaits to personally escort you to a waiting private speedboat or seaplane transfer.
For couples looking for we time – be it walking hand in hand by the clear waters of a shallow lagoon, or simply sitting side by side, listening to the waves lapping upon the shore and feeling the breeze swishing the coconut palms – the Maldives offers a mind-boggling number of options, all with romantic settings. You could go truly nomadic and wake up on a different island every morning; be a castaway even, and simplify life to just a parasol, a beach towel and a few provisions.
Even a day trip to the inhabited Vaadhoo, one of the islands nearest to the capital Male, can yield wondrous experiences. Go for a romantic walk on the beach at night and marvel at the phenomenon known as “Sea of Stars” (above) – where the tides glow courtesy of bioluminescent marine microbes. For the full Maldives experience, stay at Adaaran Prestige Vadoo.
Another luminous experience can be had at Gili Lankanfushi, set on the eponymous island. Its house reef is beautifully illuminated by its own fluorescence, and the stars shining unimpeded above add to its luminosity.
If privacy is high on your list, head to the luxurious Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa – which moves its clocks forward an hour to offer guests more daylight for play – on Villingili island, tucked away on a castaway isle.
The extent top resorts now go to in order to make things special is nothing short of impressive. The service at hand, some say, comes close to being telepathic. The modern sine qua non is the thakuru: a personal butler assigned to you throughout your stay, one who comes in all guises.
Amilla Fushi, for instance, has a dive butler who will be there every step of the way when you and your other half learn to freedive. Once certified by Dive Butler International, the dive centre operator for the resort, the two of you can attempt the Blue Hole Challenge – the Blue Hole dive site is part of Amilla’s house reef – on a single breath.
Over at Six Senses Laamu, a Guest Experience Maker can be called upon to make all necessary arrangements for your dream holiday. Not to be upstaged, the new The Residence Maldives by Cenizaro even has a Romance Concierge to help shape the perfect proposal moment or your once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon.
At the Maldives, it’s easy, too, to enjoy a private meal amid spectacular natural landscapes. From throwing together a picnic set-up at the water’s edge to setting up an intimate table for two at a secluded, romantic spot, the resorts here have got destination dining covered.
At Baros Maldives, you can have a romantic, private breakfast, lunch or dinner on the resort’s very own sandbank – complete with a personal chef, a waiter and a sandbank butler whom you can call when you’re ready to leave. Or enjoy your meal for two on the resort’s Piano Deck: a wooden platform shaped like a grand piano set in the resort’s lagoon, which is within sight of the resort but accessible only by boat.
Kuredu Island Resort & Spa also has a private sandbank called Dream Island, which you can book for your exclusive use for half a day or a full day – whether it’s for an event such as the exchange of vows, a candlelight dinner or just to hang out.
For desert island dining, there’s Gili Lankanfushi resort’s One Palm Island, which is accessible only by water and has nothing on it save for that one palm tree.
Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, too, knows how to create that secluded vibe, by way of its bespoke Dine by Design service offering lunch – prepared by expert chefs in the on-board galley – on the equator aboard its luxury yacht. There’s also a Dinner in the Jungle by torchlight, where nocturnal sounds, lush vegetation and a themed menu help create a memorable experience.
Adventures for two
While the Maldives has long been branded a ‘fly and flop’ destination, the reality is there is a whole slew of romantic excursions and activities on the cards. For one, there’s Niyama Private Islands Maldives’ sunrise or sunset champagne cruises on its Dream Dhoni sailboats (below).
Then there’s the private screening for two at Gili Lankanfushi, where you and your partner can enjoy old favourites at the open-air The Jungle Cinema (below), comfortably seated in lounge chairs and surrounded by softly lit lamps on the sand. Request for a private dinner before the screening, or have some chocolates, strawberries and champagne while enjoying the film.
Over at Jumeirah Vittaveli, you can even experience the joy of outdoor ice skating without the biting cold at its ice rink – the archipelago’s first – made of artificial ice plates that pass for real ice. This experience can, of course, be privately booked for two.
And, as befitting the lovely beaches and crystal-clear waters, there is a host of water-based activities you can try. Huvafen Fushi has a great house reef that acts as a natural aquarium and coral garden, where marine biologists offer guided snorkelling trips. Alternatively, go night diving at Constance Moofushi, or await the Manta On Call alert at Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru or Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah and be whisked off by speedboat when the rays appear. At JA Manafaru, you can even hit golf balls made of fish food into the sea!
While many resorts have kids’ clubs and activities, there are a number that recognise that couples on vacation may not appreciate being always surrounded by families. Consequently, some have adults-only sections. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, for instance, sets aside 21 King Spa Water Villas specially for adults.
There are also those that explicitly indicate that they cater only to adults. Two such resorts are Hurawalhi Island Resort and Kudadoo Maldives Private Island by Hurawalhi, its sister resort due to open in early summer in 2018. The former has 90 villas and is home to 5.8, the largest underwater restaurant in the world (above), while the latter has one- and two-bedroom villas, with guests being able to use the facilities of its larger sister resort.
And then there are those that simply do not offer kid-friendly facilities and activities. COMO Cocoa Island is one such example.
The villas of villas
Want to have complete privacy and yet, some buzz when cabin fever hits? Residence-style villas with everything you could want – and then some – are what you’re looking for.
If you’d like a wellness retreat as well as a digital detox, Amilla Fushi’s one-bedroom Wellness Tree House does nicely. A team from Bodyism, the resort’s wellness consultant, will put together a programme – this includes daily spa treatments, fitness activities, and healthy meals and snacks – for the duration of your stay. If it all gets too much, there’s the cantilevered infinity pool to relax in.
Love water? Look to Gili Lankanfushi (above), which has only water villas. Its seven standalone Crusoe Residences are set in a lagoon a short boat ride from the main island and stand 30m apart. Each two-storey, one-bedroom villa has a living room, a semi-open-air bathroom, an overwater sun deck and hammock, a rooftop terrace and a mini wine cellar. You will also have your own rowboat – though you can call for the resort boat to get to the main island. Topping the Residences is the Private Reserve: the world’s largest overwater villa. Located 500m from the main resort, the three-bedroom villa comes with an infinity pool, a sauna, a steam room, a gym, a cinema, a kitchen, a customised wine cellar selection and a water slide from its top deck into the sea.
Velaa Private Island, too, has an uber-private option in the form of its one-bedroom Romantic Pool Residence (above), set away from the main resort and which can only be reached by boat. It comes with in-residence facilities such as spa treatment rooms and a gym. The dining gazebo, which is on its own jetty attached to the villa, scores bonus romantic points.
Private and reserved
For a truly exclusive holiday, there’s Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah (below). Set in a UNESCO biosphere reserve, it can only be accessed by a single private group at any one time. With seven bedrooms, a luxury yacht, a dive centre, a spa, activities such as extreme water sports, and more, it has everything you need. Should you wish to have a party, the dedicated island staff will handle all arrangements for you. Want a change of scenery? Motor over to Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru, or the inhabited Kudarikilu village and Dharavandhoo Island nearby for a glimpse into Maldivian culture.
Or just do what many couples head to the Maldives to do: nothing at all. That’s bliss of Shakespearean proportions!
– TEXT BY ADAM JACOT DE BOINOD
PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES (MAIN), 123RF.COM (SEA OF STARS)
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.