Ever since I can remember, the Maldives have been on my travel wishlist. Their pinterest-worthy turquoise waters and seemingly endless horizons have always appealed, so when the opportunity arose to visit late last year, there was no hesitation in boarding that plane.
After flying via Dubai to catch up with friends we flew to the main Maldivian airport of Malé, before taking a small propeller plane to Gan Island (and crossing the equator)A seamless speedboat transfer later, we stepped ashore to our final destination of Villingili; the home of the beautiful Shangri-La.The fresh coconut water and beautiful tropical flower arrangement that we were greeted with after our long journey was a very welcome gift, before we were whisked away to our villa on one of the resort’s golf buggies.Our accommodation was one of the water villas which are located on stilts, as the name suggests, in the water. As we headed down the timber jetty to our home for the next few days, I knew instantly I was ticking off a bucket list experience with this trip.This feeling only heightened when our host threw open the doors to our villa and we were met with the impressive interior which was vast, airy and contemporary in design, with hints of the nature surrounding it.Our excitement levels grew as we explored our new homes’ open plan interior, taking in the large walk in wardrobe and various ‘cosy’ areas intended for lounging; the villa was clearly built for comfort and uninterrupted relaxation.Behind the bedroom area was the stunning natural stone and dark wood bathroom. A huge free-standing bath took centre stage whilst we both had our own vanity areas beside a glass door which led to an open air shower with the crystal blue water visible below.
The pièce de résistance of the water villa is obviously the view, and it was clear why the Maldives are so special as soon as we stepped out on to our deck. Vivid azure water as far as the eye could see surrounded our secluded terrace, where we could dive off the edge if we fancied a dip or just lounge on the beds to top up our tans.After familiarising ourselves with our luxurious villa we decided to order lunch from the in-villa dining menu and dine outside at a shaded spot on our deck. The menu offered both Pan-Asian and European options; that afternoon we opted for chicken, feta and watermelon salads which were fresh and delicious.Once lunch was finished we were picked up to be taken to the Chi Spa for a massage. The spa was in a secluded spot of the island, hidden away amongst the lush greenery. We were welcomed with a cool cup of sweet ginger tea and an iced towel to refresh us, before being shown to our treatment hut by our therapists.We both chose the Cowrie Shell Massage – the spa’s signature treatment focusing on balancing the chi of the body (ayurvedic). After a long journey – we relished the hour long full body massage using locally blended oils to help de-stress and unwind. The Cowrie shells were used by the therapist during the massage (in a similar fashion to a hot stone) these were then placed over the ears while the therapist chanted; not something I have ever experienced before but a memorable moment none the less!
Following our treatments we floated back to our villas feeling rather zen and ready for a few more hours of doing pretty much nothing……Dinner that evening took us to Javvu on the beach – serving fresh grills and some local favourites. We sat at the shoreline and took in our new idyllic surroundings as we feasted on lobster risotto and chilled wine.After dinner we decided to further explore the resort by moonlight and discovered an open air cinema showing Batman Returns. We sunk into the comfy bean bags ordered an after dinner cocktail and enjoyed the impromptu Sunday evening screening on the beach.For breakfast the following morning we braved the journey to Javvu on our bicycles (offered by the resort for guests to get around the island). After a few moments of hilarity; almost ending up in the bushes/lagoon we arrived at our destination safely.
Breakfast took the form of an extensive buffet offering an array of tropical fruits, yoghurt, cold cuts, pastries and cereals to traditional cooked breakfast items.Each day the chefs manned live cooking stations offering guests freshly made pancakes with a choice of toppings, omelettes and Asian noodles. Whilst Milly started with fruit before heading to the omelette station, I sampled the delicious pastries followed by crepes filled with caramelised banana.Fuelled by a filling breakfast we looked forward to a day of guided snorkeling and an evening dolphin cruise. We headed to the dive centre to pick up our snorkelling paraphernalia and cycled back to the villa to test run our new gear from our own jetty.We stepped into the azure waters to see schools of tropical fish swimming around us. This only served to whet our appetite for more under water exploring later that day.
After lunch we boarded the resort’s boat for our turtle quest snorkelling. Armed with a Go-Pro (lent by the dive centre) and following a brief intro from our expert guide we jumped in.We were thrilled to see the turtles (kindly pointed out by our guide as they weren’t easy to spot) stingrays, puffer fish and my favourite brightly coloured stripy ‘Finding Nemo’ fish.Back on the boat we showered the sea water off before being offered warm towels to dry.Heading back to the island we decided on trying out Dr Ali’s, another restaurant at the resort. Dr Ali’s is a culinary journey exploring the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Arabian Gulf and both the menu and décor reflects these three distinctive cultures.We decided on sharing a selection of dishes across all three regions, with standouts including cheese sambousak, spiced prawns and the most delicious garlic naan I have ever tasted.Full to the brim we made our way back to our villa to tackle the most pressing decision of the trip; which pillow to choose from the pillow menu.We opted to spend our final day exploring the island both in and out of the water. After another beachside breakfast we hopped on our bikes to discover some more of the beautiful scenery that Villingili has to offer.Snorkel gear on, we made our last splash in the central lagoon before retiring to our private deck for fear of overdoing it!We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on the terrace, iced drink in hand, enjoying the tranquil beauty of the Shangri-La, whilst trying to forget our imminent departure……..
For more information on the Shangri-La Villingili, Maldives, visit their website >