FOUR NIGHTS AT A BAREFOOT CHIC RESORT IN THE MALDIVES
Picture this: turquoise water gently laps towards the shore, sending small waves that dissolve into white bubbles against the pure white sandy beach. Sun loungers come into focus, people stretched out on them, some with books in hand, some still, as their skin glistens in the sunlight. Pools, buildings, dense green treetops then a wooden walkway, a jetty leading out to the ocean with symmetrical luxury apartments on either side, surrounded by the ocean as far as the eye can see with the sun beaming on the horizon…we’ve all seen that drone shot giving a glimpse into paradise. That’s exactly what Finolhu Baa Atoll is, just five degrees north of the equator, where the barefoot chic resort offers a playful twist on idyllic island life. We spent four nights on the island to find out just what exactly holidaying in the Maldives is all about.
Our first seaplane experience – a short 40-minute journey where the inflight team and pilot’s uniform included flip flops, obviously – took us from the Maldivian capital of Male, out to one of the 1200 bucket list islands, where you can stay for a minimum of two nights with up to eight guests. The landing was very anticlimactic, smoother than the 149 heading up Kingsland Road, from which we were welcomed by the smiling and waving Finolhu team, very White Lotus of them.
First impressions count for a lot and we couldn’t help but think this is where dreams come true; the resort is special alright. There are 125 villas, 79 of them have their own private pool, and all come with luxurious furnishings. We checked into one of their entry-level lagoon villas, which gave us 145 square meters of private space above the water along with an outdoor rain shower, private terrace with sofas and loungers, direct access to the ocean, Marshall sound system, freestanding bathtub, infinity pool….you get the idea, a jaw-droppingly beautiful villa dressed in infinite shades of blue.
Even more incredible than that are the rockstar villas, where everything is bigger; two master bedrooms, eight more meters on the infinity pool, a private bar and more, coming in at around $4,700 per night. It’s probably the most profanities we’ve used in one sentence upon when seeing what these are like. There is another option that might just eclipse the rockstar pad however, a cosmic experience where you can spend a night under the stars inside not one, but three connecting bubbles, the only bubble in the Maldives. With a separate area for the bedroom, living room and bathroom and an outdoor bathtub, the bubble is set away from the main island of the resort offering total seclusion. Oh and you also get your own personal Bubble Butler, who is on call whenever you need them.
Getting about the island is pretty easy, besides the usual one foot in front of the other, there are buggies darting up and down ready to chauffeur you about, and it’s a great way island throughout the day and night. We managed to spot our first shark within the first 30 minutes of arriving and they were a tad bigger than expected, but,we were assured they would not be near anyone in the water. As well as sharks and enormous shoals of fish, we spotted a manta ray, majestically swimming in the shallow water, and at night we also got a glimpse of a turtle too, magical. Though, if we are talking magical, on our final morning, drawing the curtains open across the floor-to-ceiling folding doors where the sun was slowly rising from the ocean, we spotted two dolphins bobbing about in the distance. A surreal moment where we just sat still, watching, appreciating, wondering if we could put everything in storage and move here for a few months.
For us, we found most days on the island revolved around two things – where and what time to eat – and with four main restaurant offerings, we weren’t short of options. The main food hangout, where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served is the Beach Kitchen, which is an international-style buffet restaurant with an enormous variety of food, including stations cooking up hoppers, veggie, fish and meat curries, and lots of seafood and fresh fish, all beautifully presented and served with a smile – the staff really are very friendly, and engage in conversation to get to know a little about you.
The start of the show for us was Finolhu’s fine dining and award-winning restaurant Kanusan, which sits on stilts surrounded by the Indian Ocean and serves up classical and modern Japanese cuisine. Then there is the North African and Middle Eastern restaurant, Arabian Grill which rocks some pretty great hummus and lots of grilled meats. Crab Shack’s rustic charm is a 20-minute stroll along the beach (or five-minute boat ride) away right at one tip of the island, and it’s where you can dine on the beach with your feet in the sand, tucking into mango papaya salad, piri-piri chicken and a glass of chilled rosé. There is also the Beach Club, by day a chilled space by the pool with more casual food – try the poke bowls – with a DJ playing to cocktail-sipping barefoot dancers at night.
WHAT TO DO
Spa time on holiday is a bit of a ritual for us and Finolhu did not disappoint. Surrounded by lush gardens and water, Fehi Spa offers a full range of health and beauty treatments and when it comes to massage, there’s everything from traditional Swedish to Thai on offer, with therapists on hand to advise you on how to meet your relaxation goal. We loved everything about the spa, the way the therapists engage with you; the care and attention shown during the treatments; the steam, sauna and plunge pool hydrotherapy facilities; and sipping green tea sitting comfortably in a chair and doing nothing.
If you’re all about the activities, the island also delivers on that front with kayaking, stand-up paddling, windsurfing, sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, speedboat tours, X-Jet Blade and more over water options. Under the water opens up a whole new world of discovery with snorkelling and diving on offer. Located in the incredible UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Baa Atoll is where you can see fascinating marine life. The world’s greatest hotspot for manta rays, Hanifaru Bay, is just 30 minutes away by speedboat, and is where dozens of them can be found from May to November.
One of the most interesting experiences we had was to contribute to restoring the health of the resort’s house reef. Finolhu has introduced a coral reef restoration project, which involves attaching pieces of naturally broken coral to spiderweb frames shaped like hearts and placing them on the edge of the resort’s house reef, helping safeguard the biodiversity of its abundant marine ecosystem. The broken coral the starts to grow from the frame, and every six months we’ll get a photograph showing how it’s doing. How cool.
The Maldives is a dream adventure where you can have so many unique experiences. Sure it comes with a price tag, but for most of us, a trip like this might be a once in a lifetime and spending time in such a beautiful destination is worth it. Your island playground is calling.
Book now for stays until 31 March 2023 and save 25% at finolhu.com.