Every honeymooner’s dream, The Maldives does idyllic island luxe like nowhere else, with bathwater-clear sea, dazzling white sand and breathtakingly romantic sunsets. But head further south to The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah for a wilder, more remote getaway that really makes the most of the country’s astounding natural beauty. No filter necessary, says Siobhan Grogan
Hidden on the fringes of far-flung Gaafu Alifu, one of the largest and deepest atolls in the world, The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah really does feel like the middle of nowhere. Too far from the capital Malé for a seaplane transfer, the resort can only be reached on a 55-minute domestic flight followed by a speedboat ride, which zips guests to an island so unspoilt, it looks uninhabited when viewed from the sea. The journey is worth the effort to truly get away from it all, surrounded only by the endless blue of the Indian Ocean and a star-spangled night sky just 13 miles north of the Equator.
At 2km long, the island itself is larger and lusher than those in the south, cloaked in dense tropical jungle for the full Robinson Crusoe experience with a sense of privacy the more developed islands just can’t match. If the urge to explore proves too great, Dhigurah is connected by an Insta-worthy one-kilometre bridge to The Residence’s sister property on neighbouring Falhumaafushi or you can choose to spend an afternoon on one of the resort’s two deserted islands, for vanilla-white sand, vivid turquoise water and utter blissful seclusion.
The Residence does laid-back luxury perfectly. It’s plush without being stuffy so you can kick off your shoes and relax from the moment you arrive. Service is attentive and friendly, but never overly formal and staff are full of smiles at every turn. If you prefer, it’s easy to feel like you have the whole island to yourself instead, cocooned in a spacious pool villa with meals served by a private chef on your own terrace. Restaurants and beach villas are well hidden amongst the trees too, so you can cycle the sandy paths through the jungle without passing anyone else at all. More sociable types can head to the spectacular 42 metre infinity pool for serious swimming and cocktails, dine at the island’s three relaxed restaurants or stroll over the bridge to the busier Falhumaafushi, for lively beach barbeques, candlelit open-air movies and a buzzing pool with swim-up bar, a trendy soundtrack and over-water cabanas.
What to Do
With brilliant blue sea all around, there are watersports galore including sailing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, glass-bottomed kayaking, windsurfing and snorkelling in the glorious house reef, where sharks, turtles and manta rays glide elegantly past vibrantly coloured fish. There’s also a PADI 5-star dive centre, island hopping tours and dolphin spotting cruises at sunset. On dry land, sign up for nature trails, cooking classes and daily sunrise yoga sessions, or be pampered at the blissful Spa by Clarins overlooking the water. For the ultimate castaway experience, book a picnic lunch on one of the resort’s deserted islands, for swimming and sunbathing without another soul in sight.
Your Room Awaits
Villas are spacious, simple and surprisingly private, with teak and rattan interiors, large bathrooms and neutral colours to frame the kaleidoscope of blues outside. Each one has its own large private pool, outdoor rain shower, bicycles and the dreamy postcard views you would expect in the Maldives. All face either the sunrise or sunset and those over water come with large sun decks and ladders so you can drop straight into the lagoon below from the privacy of your own bedroom. Beach villas are cheaper but equally beautiful, tucked amongst thick vegetation and leading straight onto dazzling white sand lapped by the Indian Ocean.
As a brand-new resort only opened in June 2019, sustainability initiatives are cutting-edge and impressive. Energy from the air conditioning units is recycled to heat water in the bathrooms, eco-friendly cleaning products are used and glass doors have sensors to disable the air con when left open. The resort also runs turtle conservation programmes and is paperless where possible using iPads instead for ever-changing menus. Most notably, unlike many Maldivian resorts which prefer the sea crystal-clear at any cost, The Residence has retained the ocean’s native seagrass around the island, which provides food for turtles, prevents climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and protects marine life.
The Star Spa Treatment
The signature Soul treatment is 90 minutes of bliss in a tranquil overwater pavilion that could relax even the most stressed-out traveller. After a deep but soothing Ayurvedic massage to promote relaxation and detoxification, a stream of warm oil flows across the forehead onto the third eye chakra during a final heavenly Indian head massage. If you need a reason to stay longer, there’s also an extensive selection of Clarins facials, anti-jet lag massages, manicures and pedicures and after sun treatments.
The Dish Not To Miss
Head over the bridge to Falhumaafushi, where restaurants are included in the Dhigurah all-inclusive package. Falhumaa restaurant is the best, set at the end of a long jetty on the edge of the reef so you can spot sharks and sea-life while dining by candlelight on the terrace. Start with the melt-in-the-mouth burrata with prosciutto, figs and heirloom tomatoes, then order lobster with homemade gnocchi and morel mushrooms flambeed in cognac. Over in The Dining Room on Dhigurah, save room for the Valrhona chocolate cake with almond crystalline, while the Cantonese food at Li Bai is seriously delicious. Expect everything from Maldivian fish curry and dim sum to exotic fruits and freshly prepared waffles at the extensive breakfast buffet.
A Final Tip
Leave the heels at home and get on your bike. Paths are sandy, restaurants are relaxed and there is nothing better than cycling the long wooden bridge between the two main islands, spotting turtles swimming in the lagoon below.
Villas start from £792 per couple per night, all-inclusive. cenizaro.com