Wildly romantic, the Maldives is the perfect place for honeymooners. But One&Only Reethi Rah’s new wellbeing offering also targets solo travellers who are looking to reset their mojo. On my visit earlier this year, I fall in love with the power of one.
The Maldives is undeniably one of the most romantic destinations on earth: sunset cruises are accompanied by playful dolphins, dinner àdeux is taken on isolated beaches and there’s nothing quite so breath-taking as waking up with your loved one to those views over an endless azure sea.
Surprisingly, perhaps, what makes this island region so perfect for loved-up couples is also just the ticket for single travellers looking for a reboot. Found in the North Malé Atoll, One&Only Reethi Rah is one of the Maldives’ most-established resorts renowned for its luxe vibe and imaginative hospitality aimed at couples and solo travellers alike.
Occupying one of the largest private islands in the area, the resort – its name means ‘beautiful island’ in Maldivian – has long set the benchmark for luxury in the Maldives and, as a consequence, is a favourite among a glitzy A-list crowd. The Beckhams, for instance, regularly book out the uber-private Grand Sunset Residence (which comes with its own chef, wine cellar and beach cinema). The other 121 villas do not disappoint, however, and are found dotted across 12 idyllic beaches – with some perched over the ocean, with their own infinity pools.
Interiors by Jean Michel Gathy are seductive. Indonesian in style, the thatched homes are grand spaces with vaulted, bamboo ceilings, sunken baths with scenic views, and layers of stylish details. Luxury textiles come in the shades of an exotic sunset (ochre, burnt orange and gold), Art Deco-style dressing tables have a genius built-in mini-fridge for cosmetics (naturally) and floor-to-ceiling windows open out to pristine, private beaches or – in the case of the over-water villas – to terraces from which you can dive in to swim with manta rays and rainbow-coloured fish.
While there is plenty here for honeymooners to croon over together, there’s also a dizzying array of activities for family, friends and solos to enjoy – from the climbing wall to the tennis courts, from the dive centre to the FIFA-certified football pitch. You can learn to paint in the artist’s studio or explore the island on your own bike (there’s 6km of coastline to discover). A must is one of the day excursions with the resident marine biologist where you can dive with whale sharks or learn more about the Hawksbill Turtle population. Meanwhile, afternoons can be spent snorkelling on the resort’s own house reef, where you’ll swim among white-tip sharks and butterfly fish.
Despite its size, throughout the resort there’s still a holistic and intimate feel. There are 800 staff here, from over 35 nations, but you wouldn’t know it. They move seamlessly around – like a tightly choreographed ballet – with each staff member greeting guests with a special One&Only ‘signature’ – a placing of their right hand over their heart. Be warned: by the end of your trip, you’ll be automatically doing this, too.
The sprawling destination ESPA spa is where this sense of wellbeing is really harnessed and it is just the place to lose hours, if not days, to reenergise yourself again. While there are locally-inspired treatments, such as the ‘Essence’, which utilises some of the island’s many home-grown coconuts, taken from its 20,000 trees, it is best known for the all-encompassing spa journeys, which bring in an impressive line-up of experts. Yoga guru Dr Gopal Govindasamy and Dr Buathon Thienarrom, who specialises in traditional Chinese medicine are past visitors, while Parisian foot expert Bastien Gonzalez also has an outpost here.
The latest Sleep Journey calls upon a variety of disciplines, from beauty to nutrition, and aims to destress even the most burnt-out urbanite. You enter the spa via a lofty temple-like space – complete with tinkling fountains and Balinese carved wood features. Thatched treatment villas are found dotted around the tropical gardens, with some looking out to the beach. Here, your session begins with a Sleep Ritual assessment, in which a ‘sleep trainer’ looks closely at your sleeping patterns and develops a tailored approach to address your needs, also checking in with you during your stay.
The first step is the sleep meditation, which focuses on breathing and visualisation techniques to the sound of soothing music. This is followed by the Bastien Gonzalez Re-Foundation foot treatment, which rejuvenates limbs with a black diamond scrub, followed by an intense foot and leg massage to relieve muscle tension and ‘heavy legs’.
If you’re not drifting off already, the full-body massage will send you on your way. Releasing deep-seated muscular tension, using a combination of hot stones and warm relaxing oil, this is uber-nurturing, and finishes with a blissful scalp massage to clear the mind.
Healthy eating is also touched on, with the resort launching new ‘Bliss Bowls’ at the Beach Club – which focus on antioxidant ingredients (such as pomegranate, coconut, pumpkin seeds and avocado) – and which are ideal for lunch. For breakfast, meanwhile, there’s a dedicated Superfood Counter in the Reethi Restaurant where you can concoct your own healthy start to the day with a huge range of vitamin-packed juices to try.
Come night time, there is an array of restaurants to choose from. Tapasake is a glamourous spot, with a sushi bar and tapas-style Japanese menu – chefs cook up a storm at your table, which are positioned over the water. While, the boho Fanditha Bar, on the northernmost point of the island, is the perfect place to watch the magnificent Maldivian sunsets. Hurricane lamps, colourful Arabian rugs and crystal chandeliers are suspended from palm trees and you dine in white tents by the ocean or on giant cushions on the beach, dipping into the Middle Eastern menu of mezze, grills and Arabic cuisine.
For Italian cuisine, head to Rabarbaro, where you’ll eat the best lobster and saffron risotto of your life. Meanwhile, hidden away in a secret garden and lit by flickering candle light, is Botanica, a true highlight of Reethi Rah. Beautifully atmospheric, you eat amid lush plants and next to the fragrant kitchen garden. There’s an orchid house, filled with the delicate blooms and a potager, where you can also dine. Start your evening off with a cocktail at the Gin Bar – there are 34 varieties to choose from, then select your meal from the simple, yet inspiring, menu. With an emphasis on freshness and seasonality, dishes include Octopus with Ash Baked Potato, Reef Fish Maldivian curry and King Prawn from ‘The Fire’ with handpicked vegetables and organic red rice.
Back in your villa, you’ll discover a range of sleep treats waiting for you – such as mini ESPA products, calming tea and personalised sleep music. Just the right combination to ensure the sweetest of dreams.
PLUS: Stop the stress with a stop-over
Break up your journey with a layover in Dubai’s
One&Only Royal Mirage
Long journeys to the Indian Ocean can play havoc with your sleep patterns and wellbeing, so break up your journey with a stopover at sister property – One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai. Inspired by the opulence of Arabia, the hotel is situated in verdant gardens and has lavish interiors.
Its Oriental Hammam is where you should head. Check in for the Rose Ritual – and exotic but thoroughly pampering treatment designed to relax and revive you. After a black soap wash, a clay wrap and a rose oil massage, you’ll be rejuvenated. Squeeze in lunch at Drift, the new beach club, which gives a nod to the Mediterranean with chill-out tunes and the best black truffle pizza. It’s eye-opening.
Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.co.uk; 01242 547 708) offers a four night One&Only Reethi Rah Sleep Collection package, staying in a Beach Villa on a bed and breakfast basis with transfers and international flights on a B&B basis from £6,945 pp. The package includes a Bastien Gonzalez treatment, 90 minute Sleep Ritual including breathing exercises and meditation as well as a deep therapeutic massage, mindful scuba diving and a ‘bliss bowl’ and cocktail at the Beach Club for two guests. Book until 16 December 2019. A stopover at One&Only Royal Mirage can be added for £420pp.www.oneandonlyresorts.com
*This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Canary Wharf Magazine