Stargazing in the middle of the Indian Ocean on the roof of a wooden dhoni, daytime snorkelling trips surrounded by aquamarine clear waters, calming fishing boat rides into the middle of the blue, a discovery of an underwater world teeming with sea life right at your doorstep and a beach villa you want to call home: this is how I would describe my latest trip to the Maldives, courtesy of Oblu Select at Sangeli Maldives.
Granted, in Maldives, one is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the right property to spend your hard-earned holiday in. From local hotel chains and locally inspired resorts to international hotel chains and uber-luxury offerings, there are several price points. There are resorts that are close to the main island of Malé, offering speedboat rides as a convenient connection by water, while there are properties flung at such a distance that a speedboat ride is impractical and the seaplane comes into play with its view of glistening waters and verdant islands.
Oblu Select at Sangeli Maldives, a lush, private island with white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoon fringed by dazzling coral reefs, is situated in the North-Western tip of Malé Atoll, 50 minutes by speedboat from Velana International Airport. Operated by the popular Indian Ocean hospitality brand – Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, the five-star resort offers an all-encompassing hassle-free beach holiday experience, with an upgraded premium holiday plan titled The Serenity Plan, more on that later.
The resort, a design baby of mastermind Salil Panigrahi (also founder of Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts), has a variety of contemporary villas and suites, situated either directly overwater or facing the beach and surrounded by lush greenery and bird sound mimicking a natural rainforest.
A selection of restaurants and services round up the property, amidst some of the most exotic dive and snorkelling locations in the entire Male` Atoll. Unique features include two specialty restaurants – Just Grill and Simply Veg, an adults-only island from sunrise to sunset called One Banyan Island (named after a wise old banyan that the spa is built around), The Rock – an exclusive (and reclusive – a great place to stare at the sea if you want to reflect in complete isolation during the day when it is closed) sunset sundowner bar, Sangs – the lively main pool bar, a fully fledged overwater gym, SSI and PADI courses, among others.
SUITES AND VILLAS
Oblu Select at Sangeli Maldives offers some of the largest entry level Beach Family Suites in the country and we should know, having experienced its comfortable interiors ourselves. The tropical and vibrant stand-alone villas face the beautiful turquoise lagoons of Sangeli Island, each with direct beach access, large open-air bathrooms and cosy and comfortable interiors. Deluxe Beach Pool Villas come with a private 13m² pool.
The 2 Bedroom Beach Pool Suite is the perfect real estate with separate entrances for each room and a spacious living area – also a product that we experienced first-hand during our stay. One master bedroom (with a dramatic four poster bed) and a secondary bedroom with twin beds, both with open-air bathrooms, the suite also has a spacious outdoor veranda facing a lovely 13m² private pool and direct beach access. Ideal for families or group travellers, these suites come with a day bed, sun deck chairs, a walk-in closet fully equipped with bath robes and water safety equipment.
The exotic Honeymoon Water Suites – think a splash of red drapes, bold mirrors and a ceiling that opens to let the stars in – are situated directly above the water and come with their own private pools and a host of services exclusive to the category. There are, of course, several other categories for over-water villas at the property, and these are usually the most popular category of villas for any Maldivian resort, but there wasn’t any free for us to sneak a peek into. These over-water villas are closer to One Banyan Island with its speciality dining and spa when compared to the beach suites but buggies are almost always handy if you’re too lazy to walk or have kids.
As the name suggests, the Serenity Plan available at Oblu Select at Sangeli offers a peaceful way to make most of the experience.
Contrary to preconceptions about the Middle East, 58 per cent of Indian Ocean holiday bookings this summer coming out of UAE-headquartered dnata Travel are for all-inclusive retreats, demonstrating an increase on previous years of travellers seeking a fuller experience and best value for money. Length of stay is up 30 per cent with more customers booking seven nights plus, compared to an average three to five night stays in previous years.
The Serenity Plan, a luxurious holiday package, offers the discerning traveller an all-encompassing hassle-free beach holiday experience at Sangeli. It ensures all guests have plenty to eat throughout the day, lots of premium beverages from sunrise to sunset (and beyond). It makes sure you are entertained with live DJ music, lots of watersports activities, a kids club, wellness, spa and fitness-led activities and complimentary transfers from and to the airport.
Starting with free mini bar replenishments and speciality dining, premium beverages, locally inspired spa treatments to all non-motorized water sports activities and unique experiences such as stargazing and fishing are all part of the Serenity Plan, depending on the number of nights you plan to stay for.
Simply Veg and Just Grill – two speciality dining outlets at One Banyan Island are open on a pre-booking basis for lunch and dinner (subject to change so please check ahead of booking for your client). Offering moody seating by the ocean or by the pool (with ample dining options indoors for both outlets), the kitchens offer creative, inspiring meals with intuitive grape pairing. Children under 16 years can dine at these two speciality restaurants only during dinner as until sundown, One Banyan is an adults only island – but fear not, that is precisely what the excellent kids club is for.
These speciality meals are a perfect break if you are one of those people who just have to treat themselves to excess every time they witness large lavish buffets. The all-day dining restaurant – The Courtyard - serves up fresh and freshly prepared, delicious fare with a focus on regional and international cuisines and majority of the premium beverages included within the plan. A wide selection of liquor including premium brands of spirits, top notch wines, and beers are all included. Unlimited orders of signature cocktails and mocktails from a menu of sixteen cocktails and ten mocktails are accepted without raising an eyebrow.
If you are not too careful, you may find yourself missing out on everything else the resort offers and just immerse yourself in the F&B because of the variety that is on offer. And it changes every day. Friday night, however, is a gala celebration at The Courtyard with the Indian Ocean themed dinner and entertainment.
Sangeli island comes alive with local Boduberu music and DJ night organized twice a week, live music performances organized thrice a week. Complimentary use of snorkelling equipment throughout the stay, complimentary use of non-motorized water sports equipment: Stand-Up Paddle Board, Kayak, and Pedaloss, and a host of fun activities and learning experiences organized daily for kids including hunting for shells, various arts and craft, talent competitions and kiddy pool activities.
Depending on number of nights at the resort, you will also have one complimentary sunset fishing per guest during stay, one complimentary excursion per guest from a selection of excursions such as guided snorkelling trip or a moonlight cruise. The Elena Spa also offers complimentary holistic treatments (minimum stay requirement is four nights to avail free spa treatments).
The Elena Spa offers specially crafted and comprehensive wellness experiences, therapies and massages using a range of natural and organic products. With 6 double treatment rooms, yoga pavilion, steam room facilities. With a team of certified professionals, guests can embark upon holistic journeys surrounded by the calming and natural tropical surroundings.
The SSI and PADI courses are available at TGI Dive & Water Sports Centre at Sangeli along with their multilingual team of professionals are ready to take guests through the wonders of Maldives lying below the surface of the water.
Locations suitable for both snorkelling and diving - include the outer reefs, as well as the inner lagoon at the centre of both islands and chain of over-water villas. The lagoon itself is home to a variety of small reef-fish species throughout the year. The deep blue depths showcase wonderful hues of corals with a huge variety of the native Maldivian underwater environments in a relatively small space with high bio-diversity.
Additionally, they also offer a range of water-sports options, both motorized and non-motorized, for guests to experience and learn – as well as exotic island excursions and cruises.
With Maldives open consistently to international travellers from July 2020, offering clear regulations, quarantine-free travel, and direct flights, it is expected to be one of the most popular summer choices for outbound travel from the Middle East this summer.
What Oblu Select at Sangeli Maldives offers is unpretentious five-star service at incredible value – be it the premium nature of the beverages included in the Serenity Plan, spa treatments, use of dive centre equipment, activities and entertainment, in-villa mini-bar daily and complimentary replenishment or the excellent kids club.
Oblu Select at Sangeli Maldives as an updated set of Covid-19 protocols that covers every guest interaction starting from the pick up at Velana International Airport, where ferries are thoroughly sanitised before guest pick up and social distancing is maintained throughout the ride while making guests feel welcome at the same time.
At check-in, temperature check through infrared thermometer upon arrival, contactless payment and protective screens ensure safe arrivals.
Villas are deep cleaned, disinfected, and sanitised before arrival. Every villa is left vacant for the recommended duration (overnight) before new arrivals. Room cleaning is only performed in the guests’ absence, to minimise face-to-face contact; villas are cleaned using hospital-grade disinfectants and electrostatic spray; all high contact areas are carefully cleaned and sanitised; and villa linen is laundered at high temperature using recommended disinfectants.
Public spaces are cleaned frequently, with recommended cleaning products; highly frequented areas are cleaned and sanitised on an hourly basis; hand sanitisers are placed in all the public areas; regular temperature checks are carried out for guests and colleagues; pool water is tested every 4 hours for pH and Chlorine saturation and to maintain safe distancing, pool beds are placed 1.5 to 2 metre apart.
There are mandatory temperature checks performed before entering gym, kids’ club and the recreation centre. Gym equipment is sanitised upon every usage; while the kids’ club is completely disinfected thrice a day.
A specialised doctor is available 24/7 on the island for any medical assistance; in-house medical room equipped for clinical care, basic medication, and first aid.
There is a well-equipped isolation area in the resort premises with round the clock boat service to a local medical facility whenever the need arises; but just to be extra safe, there is a Certified Disaster Management Team available on hand to handle any exigency.
The Dive & Watersports Centre has its own set of mandatory temperature checks before dives, excursions, and all Dive Centre activities. Dive centre equipment is sanitised with disinfectants and kept out of use for the recommended duration, after every session.
The spa also has mandatory temperature checks before treatments, daily deep cleaning of the treatment rooms. All spa colleagues wear a protective shield while performing the treatment. All products, processes, and practices are tested and certified by Diversey, in sync with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) norms, using hospital-grade disinfectants for fast acting, broad spectrum disinfection.
On the food and beverage front, menus come with bar-codes, restaurant emphasis is on live cooking stations and pre-plated single portions to minimise contact. Table spacing is ensured at all bars and restaurants, assuring adequate social distancing. There is mandatory use of gloves and mask for food handlers to prevent cross-contamination and easy access to hand sanitiser for all guests and food handlers in all restaurants.
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