By Nivi Shrivastava
There’s nothing more blissful than a dip in the glittering turquoise-teal waters of the Indian Ocean as the toasty Maldivian sun shines on you, leaving a soft holiday tan that you carry back home as a souvenir from island life. Popular as the playground for the “rich and famous,” the Maldivian archipelago consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 coral atolls (200 inhabited islands and 154 islands with tourist resorts) in the Indian Ocean. Post-pandemic, due to the impact of an unprecedented global lockdown, one can notice the revival of slow, mindful travel at luxury destinations, especially among the wellness hospitality groups.
This summer, as we boarded a direct flight from New Delhi to Velana International Airport in Male, the excitement to re-visit and hop across luxury islands was enough to keep me awake during the four-hour flight. As we cleared the swift immigration process and procured our tourist Visa-on-arrival, the familiar colourful sign of ‘Maldives – celebrating 50 years of tourism’ appeared by the ferry port right next to the exit gate. After a quick photo-op with the sign, we hop on the speedboat for our first stop – the Kuramathi Maldives in the Rasdhoo atoll. Jetting across the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean, we reached our resort just before the sunset and glanced at the pristine shores bustling with shoals of fish that gathered to greet us.
Known for its idyllic sea views, the premium property by Universal Resorts appears like a mini tropical jungle and spreads across 1.8 km in length tapering to a gorgeous stretch of white sandbank surrounded by crystal blue lagoons. A lot of guests come here to enjoy thrilling water sports like windsurfing, catamaran rides, wakeboarding, and scuba diving. As part of sustainable efforts to keep the environment clean, this Travelife Gold-certified resort takes special interest in eco-friendly practices like the installation of an in-house bottling plant, recycling treated water for gardening, utilization of reusable glass bottles, and phasing out single-use plastics. Along with the amazing food and beverage options, guests can experience a unique natural trail and marvel at the curated hydroponic garden which sustains the farm to fork kitchens, cross a 300-year-old banyan tree and walk up to the Eco-center to learn about the marine conservation projects.
From an immersive experience at the Kuramathi, we then head to the indulgent twin resorts of The Residence Maldives at Falhumaafushi and Dhigurah on the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, which is the largest and deepest atoll in the world. The beautiful villa resorts are separated by a kilometer-long bridge that connects the sister properties run by Cenizaro Hotels and Resorts. Known for its finest luxury dining and wellness experiences, the resorts are also home to a natural coral reef that inhabits resident sharks and turtles. As part of sustainable efforts on the island, the resort continues to grow the seagrass in the surrounding lagoons to prevent beach erosion and provide food for sea turtles and marine animals. As we spent two beautiful days exploring the white sand beaches and rocky shores across the vast property, we saw some amazing initiatives in place. Right from over 1,000 solar panels to recycling water units with an in-house sewage treatment plant, or simpler but effective ways to curb plastic like glass water bottles, eco-friendly paper packaging, paper straws, and wooden spoons – the resort ensures an indulgent yet guilt-free luxury vacation for guests.
From brushing past the equator at The Residence, we head up to the North and land at the chic five-star property – the Noku Maldives on Kuda Funafaru island in Noonu Atoll. Designed using natural stones and wood, the 50 private villas on this island are perfect for a secluded experience in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean. Run by Preferred Hotels and Resorts, the boutique property practices some unique initiatives to sustain the environment. From feeding the sharks and marine animals every evening to using chemical-free ingredients at the Noku Spa, there is a special emphasis on using all things natural for resident guests. And, of course there’s a ban on all kinds of plastic on the island, which keeps the flora and fauna flourishing.
(The author is a Delhi-based travel journalist and reports on luxury and hospitality trends She can be contacted at email@example.com. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)