Jumeirah Vittaveli is like no other Maldivian resort I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. As soon as my toes touched the sand I felt transported to the pages of an adventure fiction novel by what can only be described as the resort's "rugged luxury"; a unique mix of natural beauty and carefully considered touches that created a five-star castaway experience.
Perhaps it is Vittaveli's proximity to the capital island, Malé, that makes it the only desert island I have visited that didn't feel, well, deserted. Instead, there is a real buzz about the place creating an atmosphere more closely related to a village than a resort. The staff, a mix of internationals and locals, embrace this sense of community which spread right across the island, whether it was the ice cream vendor on the mini high street or the bustling paths home.
Surrounded by the island's beautiful gardens, the Talise Spa's nine treatment rooms (villas) are over water or in garden locations. It is no coincidence that the spa at Vittaveli was voted the Maldives Leading Spa resort in 2015 - they take their spa treatments seriously here.
The spa is deeply rooted in tradition and culturally connected, such as the use of pure Maldivian coconut oil within some of the treatments - the oil is produced on site and harvested from coconuts from the island. Signature treatments use ingredients, plants and herbs that are organic and indigenous to the region and utilise local traditions with a focus on wellness. The garden relaxation area is a perfect location to unwind whilst sipping on a mix of healthy juices, taking in the beauty of the Indian Ocean surrounding you.
The Talise Tanning Treatments are pretty unique and fantastic for the perfect glow. For anyone who has trouble tanning or achieving an even tan, these treatments are a must. Start with 'Before the Sun' - consisting of a full exfoliation to remove old patchy colour and dead skin cells, then a moisturiser and a cell energiser which will nurture your skin protecting it from ageing and dehydration.
Follow this with the 'Tan Booster' - a hydrating treatment perfect for getting the tanning process going. This allows tanning safely, ensuring optimal skin quality. You can be sure of nourished, golden and flake-free skin for a change! And lastly 'The After Sun' has been designed to moisturise and protect sun-exposed skin making sure to hydrate and repair your skin to it's full glory.
The villas are like whole homes, colonial in style, awash with beautiful wooden features from the floors to the massive wooden headboards, high beam ceilings and furniture. The architect opted not to have walls in the extra large main bathroom area, (apart from the wind and rain blinds which are rarely needed) the bathroom is completely open air. I suspect to both celebrate the beauty of the surrounding foliage and to instil a real sense of Tarzan-esque adventure to the place.
The main bedroom is decidedly more Lord Greystoke than his jungle-dwelling alter ego and boasts luxury from floor to ceiling. A four-poster bed is the centrepiece of the villa, complete with a large draping mosquito net, that again conjured up a feeling of being the king and queen of the jungle. Some welcome perks were the copious amounts of free bottled water, the Nespresso machine which was replenished daily with coffee pods and the exotic fruit plates and treats left in the room each day.
The garden continues the theme of castaway chic with an L-shaped pool hugging the villa and a disguised secret tunnel leading onto a golden sandy beach that for the most part was uninhabited, making you feel as though you rule the island.
Swarna is the resort's exquisite Indian restaurant - translates to 'gold' in Sanskrit. For me it reflected the gold standard of the food here. We were lucky enough to have a cooking demo by the chef himself, and awarded a Certificate Of Participation for effect. The demo was a fascinating insight into how much work goes into creating sublime Indian cuisine from scratch. Try the 'Paneer Tikka' - marinated cottage cheese in yogurt with tandoori spices. Then, opt for the 'Murgh Labadar' - slow cooked chicken in an urn in onion and tomato gravy, flavoured with fenugreek. Followed by a yummy selection of indian sweetmeats.
Mu Beach Bar & Grill on the southeast beach, serves perfect grilled cuisine and seafood. We were treated to a full moon private dinner on the beach, surrounded by candles and lanterns with the ocean lapping at our feet. Try anything from the grill from the meat to the lobster, prawns and fish. You won't be disappointed.
Fenesse is the resort's Mediterranean restaurant. Contemporary French, Italian and Spanish inspired dishes will whet your appetite as you gaze across the Indian Ocean.
If the idea of flopping about on the sand like a beached whale fills you with dread, there are a host of activities, both on land and sea, to keep you occupied. In fact, your itinerary could be filled from dawn to dusk if you so desired and ours was carefully planned and filled with exciting, relaxing and fun activities.
The staff had organised everything meticulously, from private jet ski and snorkelling, a nutritional lunch in the Orchid Gardens, a private sunset and dolphin cruise, an in-villa romantic spa bath ritual, a private thai kick boxing class, coconut oil making demonstration, in-villa champagne breakfast and sunset fishing. Each experience was as fun and creative and wonderful as the next. Two thumbs up to the wonderful staff at Vittaveli for filling our diary!
There is a strong sense of ecological responsibility here. For example, there is a golf driving range situated on a jetty, looking out towards a horizon that boasts more shades of blue than Poseidon's palace, guests are free to perfect their golf swing all the while safe in the knowledge that the golf balls are biodegradable, designed to double as fish food once submerged in the crystal clear depths.
And speaking of feeding the fish, at 5 o'clock every evening there is a ritualistic gathering on the shoreline as the tons of the local stingray and jack fish population jostle in the shallows like a pack of dogs for scraps dished out by the hotel staff. As well as being a fascinating chance to see these beautiful creatures up close this is yet another example of how the island fosters a sense of community both marine and terrestrial.
Suite Memories (30% off Ocean Suites plus daily in villa breakfast & spa bath).
Advance Purchase Rate (15% off if booked 15 days advance, 30% off if booked 45 days in advance).
Jumeirah Flavours (Half-Board upgrade).
Words: Amanda Byram
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