On my recent blog trip to the Maldives (does November still count as recent?!), I had the opportunity to stay at the gorgeous W Retreat & Spa Maldives. Up front, I’ll declare that this Active Escape to the Maldives is nothing like the experience I wrote about HERE. In fact, this is unlike anything I imagined I’d encounter in the Maldives; it blends those core Maldivian ingredients of natural paradise and a stunning coral reef, with the energised atmosphere of ‘island-party-bliss’. There’s a totally W-like ‘cool’ here that’s unique to their brand of hotels (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever visited one!), but it’s an ambience that’s subtly woven in amongst the turquoise waters, the white sand, and the coconuts! The result is highest-end comfort, lowest-possible stress, and an awesome fun experience that does wonders to recharge the city-dweller’s depleted batteries! Click MORE to see my complete Active Escape review.
Perched on a tiny atoll island little more than a meter above water-level in the Indian Ocean, where the sea is the very definition of crystal clear, it takes less than 5 minutes to wander round this compact tropical paradise. It’s quite far North in the archipelago of Maldivian islands, so you have to arrive at the W Retreat & Spa Maldives by way of a 20 minute sea plane journey – an unexpectedly breathtaking and comfortable experience in itself! From the air, the colours are outrageous, the rings of vegetated islands rising out of the deep purple ocean and vanishing just as quickly, are almost too delicious to be real! Stepping onto the island’s welcome jetty, you’re met by an array of some 20 staff clad in white linen island-wear, waving hello. Shortly afterwards you’re greeted by your name (telepathy?) and offered a “fancy cocktail” by the resort’s W Insider, a larger-than-life curator of all things awesome, like a ‘concierge of fun’ – see the video I’ve embedded just below. It’s all utterly charming, feels super genuine, and is a superb welcome after a 14-hour journey! It’s an amazingly cordial approach that sets the optimistic tone for every moment of your experience here, captured by their strap-line ‘Whatever, Whenever’! Whilst the island is mini there’s a lot to do to keep you busy; here’s my 4-part review, covering 1) The Fitness Activities, 2) The Hotel Facilities, 3) The Food and 4) The summary thoughts.
SECTION 1) THE FITNESS ACTIVITIES
a) SNORKELLING / SCUBA DIVING:
Every room has a full complement of snorkelling kit and buoyancy jacket to ensure you can take an active dip any time you fancy! The island offers what’s widely considered the best quality of coral reef in the entire archipelago. You can literally snorkel around the island (avoiding the seaplane landing strip!) and can follow the coral reef right out until it falls into the inky depths of the plunging ocean, surrounded by nemo fish and turtles. It really is a divers mecca, the waters are incredibly clear. If you want to venture slightly further out to sea, jump on a little boat and head out to sea where you can swim with whale sharks (the world’s largest fish), whilst exploring the Maldivian reef.
The island’s own beach-front dive shop! Here you’ll find a seemingly endless catalogue of water-sports – windsurfing, kite surfing, wake boarding, waterskiing, monoksiing, hydro-jets, paddle boarding, “transparent glass” canoes, Parasailing, SeaBob, ESCAPE two mast luxury sailing yacht, Private Speed boat hire, Romantic DHO sailing (traditional Maldivian Dhoni/boat), Catamaran sailing, Big Game Fishing on Castaway, Traditional Maldivian Night Fishing… i.e. plenty!
c) ENERGY – gymming at the FIT Fitness Center
A properly sized gym complete with Technogym machinery, and fully air conditioned (important amidst a super-humid tropical climate) where you can work out overlooking the Indian Ocean. There are all the usual suspects; treadmills, cardiovascular weight machines, dumbbells, Swiss balls etc. The extremely well versed and high-energy trainer Mark Angeles heads up the team, and apart from hosting a super efficient 30-minute power-class at 1800 every day, can lay on special beach-based Thai boxing class or palm-tree TRX session too, both of which are just outstanding! This is a supreme island on which to stay fit.
Yoga: There are always crisp white sand beaches with beautiful views, but my preference was for sunrise and sunset yoga classes. In the images below, I had an incredibly invigorating sun salutation session with the superb instructor Rajeeb, presided over by the sunrise, from the Spa’s tranquil waterfront pontoon.
Swimming Pool: If you want a change from the perfect sea you can always jump in a cooling pool and do some lengths.
SECTION 2) THE HOTEL FACILITIES & HIGHLIGHTS
The accommodation is either by way of secluded beach villa nestled amidst the vegetation, or those classic Maldivian houses on stilts in the water – of varying sizes. The rooms all feel extremely well invested, with every conceivable comfort. Whichever you choose, in all rooms you wake up overlooking the stunning ocean and get to enjoy your own little private pool. The beds are vast, indulgent and enable a truly restful night’s sleep, which I consider a core part of the wellness ethos!
The spa facilities are also on stilts above water, where the sound of the gentle ocean rhythm soothes during your moments of escape. All treatments include an aromatic steam bath, a tropical rain shower and/or a fragrant bath, and a refreshing body moisturising treatment. The treatment list is also amazingly wide (I tried quite few!) include Body massage, Chocolate body wrap (personal favourite!), Mini facial, Romantic rose petal bath. This is the place to really relax and re-energize, though the rest of the island isn’t bad either!
SECTION 3) THE FOOD
There are 6 food zones in total on the island – Fish being my favourite.
Delicious “at-home” dining with a twist. This is a wonderful venue where you have breakfasts as well as lunch and or dinner. You can sit indoors or outside with tables in the water dipping your feet in the water, my personal preference!
Sitting under the stars surrounded by vast roaring fires you may think you’re amidst a Lord of the Flies set; it’s a magical experience and the impossibly broad array of food is exceptional. A vast buffet, comprising all manners of super fresh fish and meats, being grilled right in front of you.
If you’re feeling lazy during the day, don’t get up, instead stay on your sunbed, lounge and enjoy your fresh tuna salad by the sea!
This was possibly my favourite restaurant. Below is a sample from the ‘Ocean to Table’ menu. It’s how I’d love to eat every single day of the year – ultimately fresh food, grilled and presented in a simple yet delicious way.
Cool your body in the the Wet bar whilst sampling something from the bar menu
SIP – SUNSET BAR
This quickly becomes a favourite place to watch the sunset whilst sipping mint tea ahem…or perhaps the occasional martini! They pipe through deep house tunes to soften the mood; fiery Maldivian evenings are a spectacular sight.
FIFTEEN BELOW – NIGHTCLUB
In keeping with the party spirit, this island has its own subterranean night club, below the water level, where the local resident DJ (at this time, the gorgeous Erica Rhone) presides over the chilled atmosphere. It’s a very W touch, and a bit of a remarkable aspect! The DJ also accompanies your pool parties (as below) and breakfasts with appropriately pitched vibes, which even now, makes me smile.
If you get bored (unlikely) or are simply in the mood for some horror (there isn’t much of that on the island otherwise) you can head to the cinema where you’ll find a comprehensive library featuring the latest and greatest…
I like to call this the play room it has a bar, a pool so you can do some aqua aerobics, FIT circuit training, pool games, beach games, billiards, table soccer, table tennis and much more.
SECTION 4) THE SUMMARY THOUGHTS
It’s a totally unique stay at the W Retreat & Spa Maldives; you feel that you’ve arrived at an impossible oasis in the middle of a gorgeous oceanscape, so much so that it almost feels as if you might well be Alice through the looking glass! The service ethic is attentive, well judged, polite and infused with a mischievous dash of party spirit! The rooms have edgy decor that goes beyond high-end chic, and ventures into quirky eccentricity, but stays firmly on the right side of the line. There are touches of character everywhere. It’s nothing like the traditional Maldivian haven, and is instead an apparition of cool! Go here if you want your Active Escape to be different to anything you’d expected, but every bit as awesome as you’d hoped!
All beachwear courtesy of www.beachcafe.com