Your holiday really does begin as soon as you touch the ground. On arrival in to Male airport we were whisked straight to the top deck of their sleek yacht and were relaxing on the day bed enjoying a chilled drink before you could say pass me the sun cream.
|Yacht transfer departing from Male|
For a first time visitor to the Maldives, the 80 minute journey (soon to be possible in half that time with an optional speedboat transfer) was a highlight in itself, cruising past a mixture of deserted atolls and other hotel islands as well as sunken reefs where the turquoise waters really are as vivid and bright as in all the photos.
|Arriving to pristine perfection|
One&Only Reethi Rah’s proximity to Male itself has been raised as a question before - can you see skyscrapers, is the water clean, will it feel like the remote paradise island I hoped for? Such fears are totally unfounded. One&Only Reethi Rah is over 35 km from Male itself, meaning it is too far to see. One&Only Reethi Rah feels absolutely like a remote paradise.
|12 island beaches...|
One&Only Reethi Rah is actually found on one of the largest islands in the Maldives. There are no less than 12 island beaches for the 130 villas so even if the hotel is running 100% full it is always easy to find your own space to throw down your towel….not that many people do this however. Families and couples alike tend to enjoy the Beach Club – sunbeds and cabanas are places metres from the water where activities in the sandy bay include inflatable slides and volleyball; more adrenalin inducing options like water skiing and banana boats take place just out from the coral reef that surrounds the island; on dry land there is a climbing wall, golf simulator, pool and table tennis (plus tennis court and Astroturf foot ball pitch nearby) so while you just soak up the sun with a good book you needn’t worry about the kids (or husband/wife) getting bored.
|Swinging -dazzling perfection at the beach club|
This is also the best beach to snorkel from, with the house reef a short swim away or you can paddle out in a kayak and tie it up to a buoy or one of the floating sun decks! Another popular option for spending the day is around the Reethi Restaurant where a lagoon style pool partly shaded by palm trees is ideal for younger children, while adults can enjoy the more picturesque infinity lap pool that perches over the water nearby. Of course if those sound like far too much energy is required then you will have plenty of space by your luxury accommodation….
On the Beach
One&Only Reethi Rah’s Beach Villas (some with their own pool) all have their own section of beach and are spaced well apart from their nearest neighbour. On many islands, beach villas are often packed tight together and the beach they are found on is often the main island beach so you don’t feel a sense of privacy. Not so at One&Only Reethi Rah, we felt like the whole bay was ours such is the positioning of the vegetation and hidden nature of the villas. A small, but nice, touch was that our pool villa had 4 sun loungers plus a hammock so you could either be closer to the ocean and enjoy more expansive views, or nearer to the villa if you tend to be up and down.
|Viewing our domain - paradise in a beach villa|
|...with your own pool under the palms|
Having our own pool was an added bonus but not an essential if you are happy enough to cool off in the sea. It is worth noting that while the beaches are exemplary and water perfectly clear, the water in front of the beach villas is not a snorkelers paradise as the water level is generally quite shallow and there is no reef to speak of…but for avid snorkelers (like me) it is easy to visit the reef in front of the Beach Bar and there are may options every day for boat trips to deserted sand banks and other near by reefs where the knowledgeable staff know where the best chances are to see reef sharks, turtles, dolphins or manta rays.
Over the Water
One&Only Reethi Rah’s Water Villas are in small clusters of just 4 villas and have huge open decks with over water hammocks and steps in to the water. Water villas are the signature accommodation of the Maldives and it is tough choice whether to go for a water villa or a beach. As you fly above the islands you see many long branches of water villas extending from the main island in to the water, this can sometimes have the advantage of taking you in to deeper water (if you pay a premium to be at the ‘end’ of the branch) so you can swim and snorkel more easily, however you may need to go past 50 villas first before you reach yours. At One&Only Reethi Rah these tiny clusters are close to the mainland so you will not feel like you are out in the middle of the ocean, but you do still have great views from the terrace which wraps around two sides of the 130 sqm villa and you also still feel part of the island.
|Sublime water villa|
Villa interiors manage to be both strikingly beautiful as well as exceptionally well designed. In fact the word faultless was used when we sadly had to leave ours behind. While all room types do take a minimum of 2 adults and 2 children, Duplex Beach Pool Villas and the Two Bedroom Grand Beach Villa can accommodate up to 6.
Stuck on an island?
A worry for some when visiting the Maldives is that being stuck on an island you have to eat the same food in the same restaurant every day. Well even if this were true at One&Only Reethi Rah I would still have been pleased to do it because the food was just so good! Actually though you have a choice of 6 dining venues plus in-villa and signature dining excursions such as BBQ on a deserted sandbar. In keeping with the rest of the island, presentation holds as much importance as taste and both are delivered immaculately.
Our favourite was Tapasake, an overwater dining venue serving modern Japanese tapas style cuisine and boasting arguably of finest selection of sake and Rieslings in the country. The nightly visit of Bob the local reef shark who is a 10pm regular can give you something of a shock if you aren’t expecting to look down and see a 3 metre shark under your feet. Other dining options include Asian, Mediterranean and Arabic, all manner of salads from the organic garden, grilled local seafood, imported Kobe beef….you really are spoilt. The breakfast experience is a highlight of the day - walk in to the giant cool room to be faced by a choice of fresh sashimi, tropical fruits, homemade pastries….all supplemented by further buffet offerings from around the word as well a la carte hot dishes and fresh juices or prosecco if you want to indulge.
Having a dress code (shoes and trousers for men, ‘island chic’ for ladies) at some of these restaurants may sound somewhat over the top when you are staying on a tropical island. In reality it didn’t feel formal or out of place to go to dinner wearing the type of clothes you might have for a sundowner at the local bar or boat club in the summer. Some guests keep island chic very casual, others have their labels on show, both fit in as did the many of the men who borrowed a sarong to eat at Tapasake in place of trousers.
|Romance of champagne on the beach|
Bliss not to miss
Getting around the island is by bike or buggy (the top room categories have buggies provided, or anyone can pay to rent one) and the sand ‘roads’ and gardens are beautifully manicured wherever you decide to explore….one of those places should definitely be the world class ESPA spa. It is easy to see why One&Only Reethi Rah’s spa has won a multitude of awards in recent years. Whether you are a regular spa aficionado or only tend to visit whilst you are away, you are sure to be impressed. Before a spa treatment enjoy vitality pools, crystal steam rooms, lifestyle showers, saunas and stimulating ice fountain. Luxurious treatment villas, nestled beneath thatched roofs each with spectacular ocean views add to the experience of being treated by expert therapists.