To visit the Maldives must the most beautiful, satisfying and emotionally uplifting experience for any human being.
To visit one of the two One&Only resorts there – the One&Only Kanuhura and the One&Only Maldives at Reethi Rah – must surely be as close to paradise as can be found on this Earth.
These island paradises are surprisingly accessible for discerning travellers from the Gulf.
Regular scheduled flights offered by Emirates Airline from Dubai and Qatar Airways from Doha, offer a four-hour passage to Male, the capital of the Maldives.
On arrival, guests bound for the One&Only Kanuhura are whisked from Male International Airport to the seaplane terminal a mere 15 minutes away and ushered into the property’s exclusive lounge to catch their short flight to Kanuhura.
Meanwhile, guests bound for Reethi Rah merely walk to the quayside to board one of the resort’s three luxury launches for the 50-minute trip over clear blue water to the resort itself.
Although both resorts reflect the overriding attention to luxury detail and customer service that all One&Only properties portray, each has its own unique cachet.
The secluded and tranquil resort of the One&Only Kanuhura is set on a slim, oval island measuring 1km by 200m. It has 100 villas in five categories all with sea views and either access to their own white sandy beach or a private wooden deck with a staircase leading straight down into the clear waters of the lagoon. The beautiful sandy beach stretches all around the island and is the origin of the term ‘barefoot chic” – a term that has to some extent been usurped by other resorts in the Maldives but is really only applicable to this spectacular resort.
As general manager Hector de Gallardo said: “Although we have a complete range of beach sports and diving and snorkelling activities I would say that one of the most popular activities of our guests is to simply walk on the beach – to feel the sand in their toes and simply chill.”
But one should not discount the active options available to guests at the One&Only Kanuhura. The resort’s Sun Dive Centre, which has Padi Gold Palm certification, offers discovery or Padi-certified dive courses. Experts will relish the opportunity to dive over the 40 dive sites on the atoll, which include two wrecks and two marine protected areas. However, as de Gallard pointed out, the majority of the most spectacular marine life and corals can be found within 15m of the surface, which with the extreme clarity of the water, allows the casual snorkeller the opportunity to see a rich selection of brightly coloured corals and fish.
Guests who prefer to stay on top of the water have a plethora of water sports to enjoy from sailing the resort’s Topcat catamarans or windsurfers to powered water sports such as wake boarding, fun tube and banana boat rides.
For those who prefer a little work out there are canoes and kayaks. All these facilities are reproduced for the kids as well with appropriate sizes of vessel to choose from.
Perhaps the ultimate experience is a big game fishing trip, which allows the expert and beginner alike to indulge in the adventure of a lifetime, seeking out and challenging some of the fastest and most challenging large species fish in the Indian Ocean. The professional crew aboard the 31-foot outrigger Keyolha has a deep knowledge of the seas and an intimate knowledge of the habits of the majestic blue, black, and striped marlin, wahoo and yellow fin tuna. Better still, the day’s catch can be prepared by the resorts superb chefs for lunch or dinner.
For food and drink, the resort features three exquisite restaurants and a pool side bar – and for those not exhausted by their daytime activities – a nightclub. Thin Rah features a nightly buffet selection for those who want sample and savour a huge variety of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes, while the Olive Grove located next to the pool and beach offers a selection of Mediterranean dishes à la carte. Candlelit romance on the shores of the Indian Ocean sets the tone for Café Veli where guests can enjoy some of the chef’s personal creations using the freshest of local fish infused with spices, pickles and sauces to form a delectable Asian fusion cuisine under the stars.
Guests who desire the ultimate in private dining can take advantage of Kanuhura’s own deserted island, which is just a short boat ride away from the main resort but feels like a thousand miles away.
Universal to all One&Only resorts is their family friendliness and both resorts in the Maldives have a Kids Club, which gives parents the opportunity to really relax and enjoy their own company for a change, secure in the knowledge that their children will not only be safe but also entertained by professionals in the club.
And what better way to relax than by taking advantage of the spa facilities that are a major feature of each resort? In keeping with the Maldivian feel of the Kanuhura One&Only the Spa is decorated throughout in an Asian style with aromatic scents, warm brown wood fittings and all natural fabrics creating a sense of tranquility. As one of the first signature brand spas in the One&Only Resorts group, the more than 40 treatments available use 100 per cent organic materials.
The One&Only Maldives Reethi Rah (which means ‘beautiful island’ in Dhivehi, the language of the Maldives) is a much larger and more sophisticated experience – the ultimate in ‘island chic’. Covering a huge 44 hectares of beautifully landscapes gardens, the resort has only 130 exquisite, spacious, luxury villas, giving a unique sense of space and freedom yet privacy. Splendid beach villas – many with their own private pool – lead down to private beaches and the ocean while the ocean villas are set in groups of four well out over the water and feature magnificent sunbathing platforms, ocean hammocks and extensive leisure areas.
The six duplex villas, ideal for families, are made up of two beach villas just five metres apart linked by a walkway hidden in lush tropical vegetation. Larger accommodation is provided by two grand water villas and five grand beach villas. The grand water villas face westwards for the enjoyment of magnificent Maldivian sunsets, each with its own private pool overlooking the ocean, large sundecks, sun-loungers and ocean hammocks and a separate sitting and dining room inside. The grand beach villas provide the ultimate hideaway with their own section of coast and private beach, individual pools, canopied daybeds, and, again, separate dining areas and sitting rooms.
As with all One&Only resorts, the cuisine is exceptional, with the Reethi Restaurant (adjacent to the Rah bar!) serving fresh authentic contemporary food in a choice of three settings.
In Tapasake, a new concept in tapas-style Japanese food, modern Japanese food is cooked by a saxophone playing Japanese chef descended from a long line of master sushi chefs.
The jewel and a great attraction for guests from the Gulf is Fanditha, which means ‘magic’ in the local language. This romantic beach bar and restaurant serves laid back Middle Eastern food with carpets on the sand, giant cushions on day beds, hammocks and Arabic shisha pipes under the stars.
The spa at Reethi Rah is a destination in its own right combining a fresh approach to healing in the Maldives with almost 10,000 sq m of space inside and out devoted to the health and relaxation of guests. All treatments are inspired by Eastern philosophies combined with the latest relaxation and rejuvenation techniques.
More active sports enthusiasts can attend the world renowned Peter Burwash tennis academy or indulge in a huge array of water sports and diving and snorkelling options. And to round off the day why not take a romantic sunset cruise in a traditional Maldivian dhoni (boat).