We are in a tiny sea-plane, flying from Male in the Indian Ocean, and underneath us I can see the countless tiny islands that are the Maldives. There’s a discernible buzz of excitement – honeymooners stop gazing at each other and instead gape out of their windows, children strain out of their seats and friends catch each other’s eyes and nod smugly.
It’s not just the dreamy seascape below that is causing the frisson, it’s because we have a sense of just how lucky we are to be here. It’s a sad truth that the Maldives have an uncertain future due to climate change. Since 80% of the 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level, scientists have predicted that within 100 years many of them will be uninhabitable or disappeared completely. Look closer out of the window and you can see that many of the smallest islands are already submerged under water. You realise how vulnerable this beauty is.
Around 200 of the Maldivian islands are inhabited and more than 100 of these are home to luxury resorts, catering to over one million visitors each year. It is hoped that as more travellers experience this tropical idyll, the more pressure will be applied on global leaders to slow down the rising seas.
Full of optimism, having just opened its doors in the southern Gaafu Dhaalu atoll, is Amari Havodda. While many of the resorts cater to honeymooners, its concept is all about welcoming in not only those in love with each other but those in love with life, too. Leaving the seaplane, therefore, there’s a mix of relieved parents and kiddies, groups of affluent young friends, and intertwined young lovers.
After ice-cold towels and ice-cube-clinking cocktails are dispatched we head towards our villas. For the ultimate Maldivian experience opt for one of the 60 overwater rooms built on stilts that jut out over the aquamarine ocean. There are also 60 secluded beach residences with to die-for-views through the palm fronds and out across the ocean. All of these are dotted around the island – so you can opt for sunrise or sunset views from either type of villa – which is a nice touch – and for those wanting total seclusion, a few come with their own private pools.
While the beach villas are spectacular hideaways – my money is on the overwater rooms, which are simply knock-out. The walk alone along the wooden-planked, long jetty, surrounded by the impossibly turquoise waters, is so glamourous that each trip to and from your room becomes a catwalk moment. Naomi: eat your heart out.
Inside, the all-white décor is a welcome reprieve from the dazzling tropical heat but, still, it is nicely jazzed up with pops of colour – in the form of azure accents and local seascapes in hues of burnt oranges and golds. Lamps made out of driftwood, wall-art crafted from fuchsia grasses and stone handles on wardrobes give a textural quality to an otherwise sleek design.
The oversized bed is placed in the middle of the room to make the most of the views beyond the sliding glass doors. Leave your shades on your bedside table for you’ll wake up to the brightest sea you’ll ever see. Fall out of bed, put on your swimming costume and pad out on to your private deck. Bypass the hammock and circular bed (that’s for afternoon snoozes) and it’s down your stairs and into the ocean for the best wake-up call you’ll ever experience.
The al fresco bathroom gives even more of the wow-factor. The egg-shaped tub means you can soak under the stars, while the open-air power shower means washing with the heat of the morning sun on your face becomes a euphoric activity.
It’s easy to fall in love here. Which is probably why it’s one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world – after all, who can be bothered with bickering when your head is being turned by such a sublime, technicolour landscape? Amari Havodda caters for the loved-up with its offering of tender moments – private dining in your villa, sunset cruises upon a traditional Dhoni boat the dolphins playing alongside you and beach suppers à deux. Even the spa doles out the love for couples with its Head Over Heels package – where you get to be massaged, pampered and then served supper alone in a private garden – no need to mingle with anyone else.
For everyone else, meanwhile, the romance is alive and kicking all around you no matter who you are holidaying with. Beach cinema nights mean family-friendly classics with popcorn and cocktails on tap, there are outdoor yoga sessions at sunset and sundown and sushi-making classes with expert chefs. Unlike many resorts, where you have to take a boat to the nearest reef, Amari Havodda has its own house reef surrounding the island, and which is simply teaming with marine life. Put on your snorkel and in seconds you’ll be swimming among barracuda, sail fish, eagle rays and turtles. There’s also glass-bottom kayaking, diving, jet-skiing, paddle-boarding and sailing on offer – so plenty to fill your time. At 5pm, dolphin-lovers (that’s all of us then) can wander along to the security guard’s perch at the end of the jetty for daily sightings of pods passing by. It’s love at first sight.
Food is another highlight – breakfast and lunches are served in the Amaya Food Gallery, which features live cooking stations. Made-on-the-spot omelettes and tropical smoothies were my go-to for breakfast – but the choice is immense from local fish-based stews (yes, they are a thing for breakfast in the Maldives) to still-warm pastries. While for lunch, there’s Asian street food (seafood pad thai and fish curry) to classic Maldivian cuisine (the tuna mashuni and roshi, a local bread, was a highlight). Freshly baked breads, risottos made to order and an array of desserts that would not look out of place in a French patisserie, meant saying goodbye to the bikini after 1pm – but a holiday is a holiday.
For something special, there’s also the urban-style Ember Robatayaki restaurant. The evening-only eaterie serves authentic Japanese ‘fireside-cooking’ – gigantic tiger prawns, just-caught reef fish and Wagyu beef are barbecued in front of you and served with garlic, chilli and lime with spicy dipping sauces. There’s also sashimi, tempura and yakitori to complete the sublime experience.
After a few days of whizzing around trying various activities, you suddenly stop and breathe it all in. My ‘magic moment’ was after a ‘mood massage’, one of the signature treatments on offer in the Thai-themed Breeze Spa. From invigorated to serene, the idea is that you choose how you want to end up feeling at the end of your treatment. Hidden away among palm trees and exotic blooms, the spa reflects its sensory experiences in its opulent al-fresco design and locally-inspired products. My choice of mood was ‘dreamy’ and so I emerged in a blissed-out state, smelling of mango and coconut, to slither back to my sun-lounger. Looking up at the candy-coloured skies of yet another glorious sunset about to begin, my dream was in fact reality.
Amari Havodda Maldives is offering a Duo Villa Experience Package from $554 per night (approximately £380). The price is for a minimum four-night stay with accommodation in a Beach Villa and the last two nights of your stay in an Overwater Villa. For more information visit: www.amari.com/havodda-maldives
Qatar Airways flies from London Heathrow to Male via their state-of-the-art hub, Hamad International Airport with fares from £788 return. For further information and to book visit: www.qatarairways.com or call 0330 024 0125.
This article is also on The Arbuturian