Brochure porn, I think they call it. When you drool for hours over photographs of exotic destinations. Thing is, when it comes to The Maldives, I've never seen the money shot. I've never seen a photograph that actually captures the true beauty of this breathtaking garland of magical islands...
As I board the small, and stiflingly hot, eight-seater seaplane, I'm slightly nervous. It's only got two small engines, what if they stop working and we plummet in to the sea? As we ascend the air conditioning blasts me in my face, and my focus strays. I spot Robinson Crusoe islands scattered amongst crystal clear atolls. Dolphins playing, palm trees swaying, schools of angel fish jumping out of the still waters of the Indian Ocean. I'm thrown out of my nervous state, my worries are squashed, and I'm catapulted into a state of nirvana.
The seaplane safely descends in front of a tiny island. The only thing that hints that this isn't an actual desert island is the scattering of small thatched buildings hidden amongst a jungle of palms and exotic trees, and a gathering of staff waiting to greet the new arrivals. Mocktail in hand I stand on the jetty and breathe it all in. I glance down to the sign at my feet. "No shoes, no news beyond this point" I'd arrived in paradise and it was way better than the brochure.
In the coming week I would discover hidden corals with fantasias of tropical fish, turtles and stingrays. Gaze idly at white sand, turquoise waters, incredible sunsets and rainbows. Oh, and experience my first spa treatment whilst watching a shark...
Constance Moofushi, South Ari Atoll. (All Inclusive)
Constance Moofushi is a tiny island situated in the South Ari Atoll region, widely regarded as one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the world. Moofushi is known as 'The Jewel Island' and there is something strangely magical about it, a haven of sand-between-toes meets Crusoe-chic elegance. Attentive white-clad staff buzz around hypnotised guests, all sporting the same dazzling grins - you can't help but join them. Silvabelle (everything's beautiful here, even names...) shows us to our room. "I've worked at lots of resorts over the years, there's definitely something special about this one," she says. She's right.
The Room: Water Villa, The modern Maldivian water villas sit along the jetty overlooking the lagoon. Contemporary in style with a charming 'thatch and rope' rustic edge. A large bedroom with king-size bed and chaise longue seating area leads on to the private deck, with loungers, an outdoor shower and steps leading directly down to the lagoon. To the rear is a large bathroom with twin rustic stone sinks and a part-outdoor monsoon shower with lagoon views. Facilities in all rooms include: Mini bar with all-inclusive wine, beer, soft drinks and snacks. Flat-screen TV, Mac-mini, complimentary wi-fi, iPod dock and own-brand toiletry products. There's also a turn-down service with petit fours.
The Spa: Le Spa de Constance is a short walk from the main resort, through a serene tropical garden and chill-out zone. Set across eight water villas, facilities include: Six open-sided treatment rooms and two couples' rooms, all with glass bottom floors and sea views. A large relaxation deck with bean bags, day beds and stunning sunset views. A fully-equipped gym and yoga pagoda are situated nearby.
The Treatment: Enchanting Wave Massage is an 'awakening' full body anti-jetlag ritual, and after an 11 hour flight, it works! First a deep inhalation of Ila Orange Blossom oil is used to awaken the senses. A cooling foot scrub follows, then an amazing combination massage of Reiki, Temple Hawaiian, Lomi Lomi and Esalen using Ila Orange Blossom and Eucolyptus to energize the whole body. The treatment finishes with a second deep inhalation and pressure point foot massage. USD 159
Other treatments include: Sumptuous Romance, an early evening couples' massage to relaxing light and sounds followed by champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, whilst watching the sun set over the ocean. Dreamy. USD 366 per couple. (Honeymooners are entitled to a 50% discount on this treatment.)
Activities include: Snorkeling, diving, kayaking, windsurfing, yoga.
To Eat: Manta for nightly themed buffets, delicious curries and lunchtime wood-fired pizzas. Aileeze Beach Grill for steaks, extensive seafood menu and salads. Manta Bar for cocktails and snacks. Totem Bar for cool, laid-back beach-side burgers. Kids menus are available in all restaurants.
Don't Miss: The Snorkeling Extravaganza Trip, which takes you on a traditional Dhoni (Maldivian boat) to two stunning coral reefs where you can spot turtles, manta rays, parrot fish and, if you're lucky, baby sharks! Wine and cheese tasting, with the wonderfully passionate house sommelier, Romain.
Constance Halaveli, North Ari Atoll.
A 30-minute speedboat ride takes us up to the North Ari Atoll, another diving hot-spot and home of the ridiculously luxurious resort of Constance Halaveli. As we approach I can tell straight away that it's very different to our previous paradise. It's definitely still paradise but somehow it looks more 'polished'. I notice there are no footprints in the pristine white sand. The palms form a perfect line along the never-ending deserted beach. It's stunningly beautiful, incredibly peaceful, and very, very quiet...
We arrive at our villa it all falls in to place. A mini paradise lies within the bigger one. A private pool sits on the deck overlooking the lagoon. The accommodation is stunning with every luxury you could wish for. People rarely leave their villas here. There's no need to. Over the next few days, other guests appear, mainly in the evening, young loved-up, beach-chic types, groups of 40-somethings, and young families (Halaveli prides itself on being very child friendly, they have a great kids club). The perfection of this island, the impeccable service, discretion, privacy and no-holds-barred luxury creates a surprisingly unpretentious little haven of bliss. You'd better get saving though...
The Room: Water Villa. The water villas sit above the turquoise lagoon, along the longest jetty in The Maldives. A hallway leads on to a huge, contemporary style, bedroom suite with a lounge area and an impressive Dhoni-shaped high raftered ceiling. A curved glass wall gives uninterrupted views of the ocean and opens out on to the private deck with infinity pool, outdoor shower, and steps leading down to the lagoon. To the rear of the hall sits a sandstone bathroom with a monsoon shower and freestanding tub overlooking the ocean. I could easily live here... Facilities include: Super-king bed, double walk-in wardrobes, own-brand toiletry products, flat-screen TV, Mac-mini, Nespresso machine, mini wine fridge and mini bar. Turn-down service with petit fours.
The Spa: Valmont for Le Constance Spa is housed half way up the jetty in a clutter of candle-lit, glass-bottomed, water villas and decks. Facilities include, hot and cold hydro-jet plunge pools, outdoor Jacuzzi, manicure and pedicure suite, a hair treatment station, steam and sauna rooms and a spa shop. A relaxation deck, with double daybeds and sunset views. A state-of-the-art gym is situated on the main island.
The Treatment: Skin to Within begins with a salt and eucalyptus oil foot scrub, followed by a Tibetan bell ritual for spiritual balance. A blend of coriander, lime and coconut oils are then used for a targeted, acupressure, spine-focused massage to open up the back and get rid of any knots and tension. A shiatsu head massage and deep lime inhalation completes the treatment. I felt like someone had literally opened my back up and removed the knots. Amazing. USD 250
Other treatments include: Valmont After Sun Body Package. A complete replenishing treatment of face and body, using an aloe and lavender wrap followed by a deep moisturising massage to soothe sun damaged skin. USD 410
Activities include: Snorkeling, diving, kayaking, tennis, yoga, personal training, kids club.
To Eat: Jahaz, for international buffet dinners and à la carte lunches. Jing, for Asian-European fusion, fine dining and shark watching. Meeru, for wonderful grilled fish, bbq à la carte and candle-lit beach-side dining. In-villa, private beach and wine cellar dining options available. Kids menus available for in-room dining and at all restaurants.
Don't Miss: Fish feeding at the diving centre, every evening at 6pm. Beware of the sharks and stingrays! Night snorkeling, a trip to a coral reef at sundown to see the reef and fish in their true colourful glory. Free diving intro, a 20 minute introduction to diving.
Contance Moofushi, British Airways offer seven nights at the 5* Constance Moofushi from £3,199 per person, based on two people sharing, for travel between January 13 and March 13. The price includes return British Airways flights from London Gatwick and all-inclusive accommodation.
Constance Halaveli, British Airways offer seven nights at the 5* Constance Halaveli from £3,449 per person, based on two people sharing, for travel between January 13 and March 13. The price includes return British Airways flights from London Gatwick and accommodation with breakfast.
To book visit ba.com/maldives or call 0844 493 0758.