Raffles hit the bullseye when they decided to bring their sophisticated brand and heartfelt signature service to the southern Gaafu Alifu Atoll. They’ve brought the same ethos and amenities fans love; from the personalised touches like stocking up the mini bar with your favourites and slippers the exact size, to the familiar sight of The Long Bar that crops up at every property. But although technically a chain, there’s more of a boutique feel about the place. It could be because of the intimate number of villas and tiny decorative details (we’ve got serious tile envy), or maybe it’s the refined demeanour, a world away from the razzle-dazzle of some of its northern counterparts.
Meradhoo makes you feel unapologetically expensive. It’s like living your own private island dream; with rooms dressed in the trendiest Farrow-and-Ball-esque palette and arguably the biggest beds you’ll ever sleep in, ambient private dinners enjoyed to the low-key beats of the region’s only Cuban band, and private butlers so dedicated to their job they even follow you into the water when diving.
… the me-time you never have time for. A title that’s been on the reading list for too long needs packing and those shoulder knots will be no more soon enough, because there’s no excuses not to revel in some R&R here. Every nook and cranny is a little pocket of calm to retreat to where no fuss is made and decisions are easy. Like what to have from the simple yet finest menus, which treatments to indulge in at the modest spa, or which pool to get stuck into that book beside.
Guests find their own tempo in one of only 38 private pooled-out villas, split across two islands. Good rhythm-keepers stay in their own secret sanctuary on the beachfront of the main islet, shrouded in lush vegetation but still with communal spirit. Complete pace-slowers, however, bask in the vast open ocean on the separate ring of overwater villas just a short dhoni boat ride away. Both face either east or west, but we think the sunset rooms are the prettiest.
There’s not many islands that can claim to have not only one, but two house reefs. Just as the vibes above sea level differ, so too do those under the waves. Accompanied by the resident marine biologist, diving around the water villas sees larger animals like rays, white and black tip sharks and Napoleon fish pass by, while nearer the island is where the corals and some of the 20 plus resident hawksbill turtles can be found.
Taking up a hearty stretch of sand, the Royal Residence is a grand Maldivian palace that’s an experience in itself. It feels like a separate hotel but just with your nearest and dearest lounging by the 40 metre pool, partying around a barbecue, or taking in another glorious sunset on a private dolphin cruise – where the probability of seeing them in these distant waters is near perfect. And if it’s a “go big or go home” kind of trip, either one island or even both are available to entirely buy out.
The Maldives has a hot, tropical climate with sunshine all year round. The most popular months to visit are between November and April during the north-east monsoon when it is dry with very little wind. Whilst there may be rain during some of the summer months, with ever-changing weather patterns and excellent offers, this is becoming an increasingly popular time to travel.
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