Forget honeymooners and couples. The Maldives is a perfect playground for solo, independent travellers, writes Angela Goh
“YOU should go with someone,” exhorts a friend on hearing that I am headed for the Maldives alone, echoing the many who regard the idyllic archipelago as a holiday destination meant only for couples.
The stunning, sublime seascape is as enticing for lovebirds and honeymooners as for solo tourists. Those looking for some “me time” to recharge, reboot and reconnect with themselves on an idyllic beach resort need not look elsewhere.
SOLO, SO GOOD
Nowhere ticks all the boxes for solo travel (perhaps Bhutan, but there is no beach there) than in the Maldives for the following factors:
* Ease of access: Well connected by major airlines, including low-cost carriers. You will be met by resort representatives who will handle all transfers from Male airport to the resort.
* Safety and security: You will be in safe hands as the Maldives is geared for high end tourism. For activities, the equipment and safety measures are top notch.
* Variety of accommodation: From midrange to luxury resorts with various room types, the Maldives also offers the highest number of overwater villas.
* Hospitality brands: Internationally renowned hotels have a presence in the archipelago.
* Quality service: Well trained, non-intrusive. The island nation has long been a premier holiday destination with a high standard of service.
* Activities: You name it they’ve got it.
* No single supplement: The biggest bug bear for solo travellers. Book direct and pay per room not per head.
The variety of resorts caters for a wide spectrum of proclivities, cravings and impulses.
From large, activity-filled properties to small, rustic resorts, and wellness-driven retreats, the following three are but a small sample of options for travellers of different interests.
BLISS IN SECLUSION
Nestled on a tiny island in a dream-like dazzling blue shallow lagoon, Naladhu Maldives is shrouded by trees and bushes, exuding the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. Along with a butler, guests are attended to by a small coterie of friendly staff, delivering impeccable, yet relaxed and informal service.
The resort island is endowed with a photo-perfect location, lying among a cluster of three islands and a couple of islets. Across a clear turquoise lagoon are two sister resorts, the adults-only Anantara Veli and family-friendly Anantara Dhigu, whose facilities Naladhu guests are free to access.
However, Naladhu, the most luxurious and exclusive of the three, remains off-limits to other guests by a weathered wooden door on a walkway, which remains locked (save for Naladhu guests who have the access key). Privacy and solitude are guaranteed.
The villas or “houses” as they are referred to here are each a sprawling 300 square metres and tucked amid well-manicured plants and accessed through sandy paths. The Ocean Pool Houses, within easy reach of the beach, are replete with a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, akin to staying in an overwater villa.
The large bedroom-cum-living room, bathed in natural light, looks out to an impressive ocean vista. A cosy dressing area decked in old world charm, together with a discreetly appointed walk-in wardrobe, leads to an open-sided bath and spa area, featuring outdoor and indoor shower, steam room and sunken bathtub.
Long, languorous moments are enjoyed in the sunken infinity edge terrazzo bathtub which abuts a pool fronting the sea.
What more, spa treatments are done in the guest’s villa on the outdoor deck, fronting a roaring, roiling sea for added ambience.
Without having to set foot outside the resort, meals from any of the eight dining options on the other two islands can be served at Naladhu’s scenic beachside restaurant, The Living Room. This resort is utopia for the recluse.
SCOOT flies to Maldives four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) from Singapore with daily connecting flights to Kuala Lumpur. Scoot-Thru is a complimentary service offering seamless flight connection and check-through luggage (for Scoot, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir) at Singapore Changi Airport. Details at www.flyscoot.com.
Velighandu Huraa island, South Male Atoll, Maldives
HIGHS Small resort with utmost privacy. Homestyle residences instead of rooms. Each house has a House Master or butler who is on-call 24 hours. Private beach cabana. Three-in-one options of neighbouring resorts for dining, beaches and activities.
LOWS Is not exclusive to adults only.
The highly-acclaimed Six Senses Laamu spa resort is conceptualised more as a holistic wellness retreat, offering its signature Integrated Wellness Programme (IWP). Combining science-based techniques and traditional therapies, this personalised holistic wellness programme is what keeps Six Senses at the forefront of high-end spa resorts.
It starts with a one hour consultation and screening with in-house Ayurveda and medical doctor, Dr Jitendra Varshney, affectionately known here as Dr J.
“This is a spa experience tailored to an individual’s body requirement. It’s not about selecting from a pre-determined menu,” explains the affable Dr J, who is also the property’s spa director, as he walks me through the rigours of IWP.
The screening analyses key physiological biomarkers of health such as body water composition, metabolism, oxygen distribution, heart function, blood circulation and stress parameters. Taking only a few minutes, the process involves placing both palms and feet on flatbed sensors which glean data from the skin and sweat.
The results will indicate which category of wellness goals I should work towards, such as sleep and resilience, trim and fitness, cleanse and detox, or full potential.
The art of wellness is also achieved through food. Careful curation of dishes from local fresh selections combines to produce healthy offerings. Ingredients are harvested by farmers known personally to the resort, a waiter tells me.
All dishes are marked according to the IWP goals. In the Chill Bar and Restaurant for example, Beef Noodle Soup is indicated for sleep, detox, trim, full potential. While the Maldivian Seafood Curry suits those in the sleep and trim categories, as well as being sugar- and lactose-free.
Guests who stay in the overwater pool villas have an option of in-room breakfast. For me, that means spending more time in the villa, relishing the “down to earth” luxuries of the voluminous space with split level bedroom, an outdoor shower area with ample space for an amazing all-glass bathtub with a view of the ocean floor.
Getting fit is easy because moving around is by bicycles. Alternatively, there are many fitness activities, including aerial yoga. There is no better location for my first lesson than under well-trained hands in the backdrop of an awe-inspiring aquamarine sea.
SIX SENSES LAAMU
Olhuveli Island, Laamu Atoll Maldives
EMAIL reservations-laamu@ sixsenses.com
WEBSITE www.sixsenses.com/ resorts/laamu/destination
HIGHS May to September is the time for the best waves. The YinYang Surf Break, the most famous break in Maldives, is only a few metres away from the resort. Cinema Under the Stars offers movies on the beach with popcorn and refreshments.
LOWS If size matters, this resort is large and getting around is on bicycles.
Como Cocoa Island recaptures the idyllic tropical island life. While many resorts in the Maldives steer in the direction of posh and pompous, this small resort (with only 33 overwater villas) offers a quintessential island setting in understated luxury.
Set on a tiny isle (circumnavigated in 15 minutes by foot) surrounded by clear turquoise waters, a cluster of low-key wooden thatched buildings stand inconspicuously among trees on sandy ground, while the overwater villas are strung out in an arc off the island.
There is no foot path and concrete is kept to the bare minimum. Sustenance is provided for by a single restaurant and bar.
This island setting of our dreams comes complete with a sandbank which stretches out to sea, where meditative moments of aloneness can be had.
In contrast to the larger resorts, Como Cocoa Island is an ideal place to do absolutely nothing, which I indulge with extreme gusto.
Bookended by an early drink and a sundowner, hours are spent on the private deck in the room, viewing the underwater “traffic”, looking out for playful dolphins which pass by in the late afternoon or merely listening to the rhythm of the waves crashing against the stairs leading to the water.
In the morning, a walk on the beach will be accompanied by resident black tip sharks, sometimes numbering seven at one time, frolicking close to shore.
In a tribute to the seafaring life of the Maldivians, several overwater suites resemble the traditional dhoni boats used by local fishermen.
It is in one of these eight Dhoni Suites, looking as if moored to a pier, that I cocoon myself to an enduring feat of languorous resort living.
Under the thatched roof is a modern, minimalist interior of whitewashed walls and clean lines. Wooden floors and furnishings lend a warm glow, underlined by blue marine tones.
Supreme spa wellness is another key aspect of this resort with its renowned Como Shambhala Retreat.
The well-crafted signature massage starts with gentle rocking to prepare the body and mind to unwind. Long strokes using the palm and thumb ensue while pressure is exerted on meridian points to release tension.
Its signature scent, Invigorate (peppermint, eucalyptus, geranium and lavender) which pervades the resort, leaves me feeling that way after a pleasurable stay.
COMO COCOA ISLAND
Makunufushi, South Male Atoll, Maldives
EMAIL res.cocoaisland@ comohotels.com
HIGHS Powder white sandy beaches extend to a sandbank. Shallow lagoon with a plethora of marine life. Snorkel just outside your villa. Extensive holistic wellness range including Como signature, Thai, Balinese and Indian treatments.
LOWS Only one dining option.