Drops of paradise scattered across the cobalt waters of the Indian Ocean, the superlatives flow easily when it comes to the iridescent atolls of this far-flung archipelago, as Sales Consultant Sally Yendley found out on her recent trip.
This is a tropical island escape with serious state of the art credentials. All of the villas in this resort are sleek and contemporary - each room comes equipped with an iPad and you can arrange and request anything you may need or want via this. You can even choose to close the curtains of your villa with a simple press of a button on the device. Each villa also boasts a plunge pool - and they are some of the largest villa plunge pools that I have seen in the Maldives. I would absolutely recommend the villas on the sunset side of the island, where the beach is utterly beautiful.
There are quirky elements woven into the fabric of this resort - not least the much vaunted Subsix underwater music club - but my particular favourites were the rooftop bar at Fahrenheit - the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner whilst watching the spectacular Maldivian sunsets, and the Deli where the ice cream parlour sells homemade gelato that is sublime!
The underwater focus continues here at the LIME Spa which is home to the world's first underwater treatment rooms - a deeply relaxing setting for some seriously pampering treatments. A small and intimate property, the pampering continues across the board here with a dedicated 'Thakuru' butler service - our butler, Afzal, is a senior thakuru and he ensured that no wish went unfulfilled during our stay.
The Maldives is renowned and revered for water sports and the diving and snorkelling available in the surrounding lagoon and by the reef of this hotel is quite exceptional; often around the more developed northern atolls, the coral is diminished and has died away, but around Huvafen Fushi the coral is healthy and thriving. This is in no small part thanks to their resident marine biologist - Nicole Herz - who has developed a programme to help to maintain and regenerate the coral on the reefs around this atoll.
Sustainability is the buzz-word at this iconic rustic-luxe property. The architects of the 'no news, no shoes' philosophy certainly know how to do barefoot chic and there is a real focus on eco-friendly activities and processes on the islet. Many vegetables, herbs and fruits used in the cuisine on the island are grown in the organic kitchen garden and they try to find a way to reduce waste and recycle everything - even a coconut shell can be recycled or repurposed.
This green focus does not detract in the slightest from the standard in the resort. The rooms are some of the largest in the archipelago and offer an open-air living room and large sun decks - both on the roof and out over the water. In addition, you can shower under the stars in your open air shower. All of the villas at Gili are overwater and, before my visit, I expected to be able to snorkel straight from the steps down into the lagoon. However, the water around the villas is very shallow and you may need to wade out a little bit further into the lagoon to snorkel and see more diverse marine life.
By The Sea restaurant has a delicious fusion Japanese-Peruvian menu and I would highly recommend dining here - the food is exceptional and with the accompanying sake and sensational ocean views, a meal here is a moment you will treasure. We rounded off our evening at the Jungle Cinema enjoying a film with cocktail in hand and feet in the sand.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda
This is a small and intimate resort with such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere that I would happily recommend it to couples and families alike. A band plays on the jetty to greet us as we arrive into the resort - a happy and exuberant welcome that cannot fail to put a smile on your face. Walking around this garden island, this exuberance seems to be reflected in the flora and fauna - pathways are lined with borders of bougainvillaea, frangipani and hibiscus flowers, creating a melange of heady scents and colours.
The Island Spa sits on its own island - reached by a short dhoni ride - and you cannot stay at this resort without indulging in a treatment at the Night Spa where lunar treatment rituals take place in an open-air room under a starry tropical sky. For experiences of a more exhilarating persuasion, there are few better locations for aquatic activities - both above and below the water. There is a PADI dive centre at the resort with over thirty dive sites close by and a Surf School to enable guests to enjoy arguably some of the world's best surfing. Adrenalin junkies and spa junkies equally well catered for.
The Marine Discovery Centre at Kuda Huraa is an interactive research and education centre. Guests and local school children alike are introduced to the conservation programmes, including the turtle rehabilitation and tracking programme with frequent talks on marine life and conserving the local and global marine ecosystem.