Above me, the black sky is ablaze with stars, and at my feet, the ocean is still warm despite it being close to midnight. Under the towering palm trees, there are platters of handmade chocolates – some filled with lemon cream, others oozing caramel – waiting to be devoured, and there’s a line-up of crafted rums specially chosen to complement them. It’s a memorable end to another blissful day in the Maldives. If I was looking for a place that was utterly romantic, then this would be it.
But this is not my honeymoon or a ‘sweep-me-off-my-feet’ holiday for two, instead this is an experience for one: a chance to turn off and reconnect – it just happens to be in the dreamiest place in the world.
Of course, the Maldives are renowned for being the most popular destination for newly-weds to kick off their new life together. With its unspoilt islands, home to a series of glitzy resorts, there’s something about the seclusion, pampering and pristine scenery of this part of the world which makes it just perfect for love-birds.
Mirihi Island Resort, in the South Ari Atoll, however, is doing something slightly different. While it welcomes its fair share of loved-up honeymooners, it has also recognised that the untouched beauty and peacefulness of its tiny island is also perfect for those travellers who want a ’pick-me-up’ getaway or a holistic ‘reset’… all by themselves.
As soon as you arrive, you kick off your shoes – never to be worn again until you board the sea-plane back to Malé at the end of your trip. It really is the ultimate bare-foot boutique hotel and there’s something utterly liberating about it. Whether you choose to rest your head in an overwater villa – from here the magical aquamarine sea is a breathtaking sight each morning – or in one of the beach villas – you’ll have your own slice of deserted beach to call your own – both are equally idyllic.
While there is undoubtedly a whole slew of resorts in the region that offer an all-singing-and-dancing hotel experience, Mirihi is unique in that it offers more of a low-key, simple offering that captures the essence of the Maldivian way of life. It is perfect for those after fuss-free living for a while.
Luxury is certainly not skimped on, but Mirihi’s ethos is all about letting you ‘breathe’ – so as a single traveller it’s not in the least bit intimidating or daunting to be by yourself. While other resorts may boast butlers, here there is no need – service is streamlined and slick without being bombastic or too formal. It’s just the right side of friendly. There may not be a long-list of eateries to choose from, but both the Dhonveli Restaurant – with its changing menu each night – and fine-dining Muraka Restaurant – offers enough inventive dishes to keep you from being bored. While there’s a whole raft of activities to keep you from feeling lonely, it’s fine if you want to do your own thing – no-one will pester you. In short, Mirihi is about ‘quiet luxury’ and making you feel at one with your surroundings.
Days start with an uplifting sunrise yoga session, followed by breakfast of freshly-baked breads and pastries, chilli-infused omelettes or creamy yoghurts topped with exotic fruits. You eat at secluded tables overlooking the impossibly azure ocean. Those wanting to chill out, should head to one of the beach beanbags to soak up the sun and swim away the hours (be prepared to share your sea bath with turtles, baby whale sharks and rainbow-hued fish – even in the shallows).
In the afternoon, if you can be bothered to stretch your legs, you can head to the beachside Duniye Spa, which uses Healing Earth products infused with tropical ingredients. For those wanting to get their mojo back, the Maldivian Island Experience is a must. The signature ritual aims to capture the blissfulness of the Maldives, and as you succumb to the Indian head massage and full body experience, your senses fill with the coconut scents from the oils and the sound of the waves breaking nearby.
Come sundown, there’s a daily meditation class on offer, but just walking around the tiny island a few times – it is just 350m long and 50m wide – watching scarlet crabs scurry into the sand and herons fly past – has the same mindful effect.
For those wanting a sense of adventure, meanwhile, there’s plenty to choose from. The new Manta Ray Safari sees you sailing south on a traditional Dhoni boat to the edge of the atoll. The hotel’s diving experts find the perfect spot for you to snorkel alongside the gentle giants (some measuring up to 12 feet across). This is also one of the few spots in the world where it is possible to swim with whale sharks, so the hotel has also launched a Whale Shark Safari to give guests the chance to swim alongside the impressive and scary-looking – yet harmless – sharks. It’s a humbling experience.
Back on dry land, head chef Felix Bamert – who marries his German technical know-how with a Maldivian flair for flavour – offers individual cooking classes which take you on a journey through the tastes of the Indian Ocean. Red Lentil Curry, Pol Roti Coconut Bread and Banana Fritters are surprisingly easy to master.
But there’s plenty of culinary highs to be had here which won’t put your cooking skills to the test. The Dhonveli Restaurant is the most relaxed eaterie and has a wide, al fresco dining room, facing the ocean. It’s cleverly designed, with tables set far apart, so there’s no chance of feeling conspicuous dining alone. As well as a huge variety of international dishes, the highlight is the Maldivian menu. From Tuna Curry Don Riha to Tempered Jackfruit with Mustard; Spiced Baked Fish to Banana Curry – the country’s cuisine is a blend of complex Indian and Sri Lankan flavours, layered with an abundance of unusual spices and ingredients – such as gotukola, drumstick leaves and banana flower.
For something extra special, there’s Muraka – the over-sea restaurant – which offers a fine-dining experience. It might be too romantic a setting for some solo travellers, but after a chilli-passion-fruit daiquiri or two, you realise that having a meal here – single or not – is undoubtedly one of the most heart-lifting ways to reflect on your day.
There are sunset cruises, where you will see joyful pods of dolphins swim by (this is a real highlight of a trip to the Maldives) and snorkelling on the house reef (opt for the night tours to see a true rainbow of colours underwater). The wine-paired curry evening in the private Ruhgandu Wine Lounge is lots of fun, while the cinema on the beach showcases classic movies in an exotic setting. There really is plenty to fill your time.
With only 37 rooms, which all have a pared-back design ethos of whitewashed walls, open-air bathrooms and colourful naïve artworks, Mirihi offers the ultimate castaway experience. The only difference is: you won’t want to be found again.
Nightly rates at Mirihi Island start from $600 (£479*) per villa, on a B&B basis, based on two people sharing. Prices are subject to 10% service charge and 12% GST. For more information or to make a reservation visit www.mirihi.com or call +960 668 0500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Price in pound sterling accurate according to today’s exchange rate.
*This article is also published on The Arbuturian