Aerial view of the overwater villas at Milaidhoo, The Maldives

The Maldives


About as chic of a resort as they come not just in the Maldives but frankly anywhere, Milaidhoo has carved out a special niche for itself since opening in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of the Baa atoll in 2016. This is a place – no,the place – for ‘Sophisticates’ in search of an intimate Indian Ocean getaway that looks even more paradisiacal in real life than it does in the brochure.

It’d be hard to overstate how spectacular arriving at Milaidhoo can be. There are the swaying palm trees, the pearly white beach, the endless lagoon and the obligatory welcome coconut you’ve seen on the website, of course, but there are also a few surprises: an arrivals area thoughtfully laid out to resemble a traditional Maldivian village, with rustic palm tree ladders, for instance, or, as in our case, the team complimenting you on the colour of your eyes (apparently ours are the same shade as the sea), which goes some way in showing what kind of hospitality to expect from this tiny 5.4 hectare island built upon 13 acres of a breathtakingly beautiful lagoon… but more on the heartfelt and personal service standards later.

At just 50 accommodations, Milaidhoo is about half the size of many of the internationally branded resorts that make up its neighbourhood and are scattered across large parts of the country. It’s a circumstance that helps explain why this place offers a particularly relaxing atmosphere, even by local standards. There is less ‘buggy traffic’ here because the island is so small that both guests as well as butlers, whom you’ll never see rushing around with their ears glued to a phone, walk just about everywhere and anywhere. Children are welcome from age ten upwards, and even seaplanes no longer land right off the resort’s beach, but at nearby hotels, where guests are picked up by Milaidhoo’s elegant yacht, all to avoid any disturbance and retain the utterly tranquil ambience a sultan would’ve encountered upon setting foot on the island hundreds of years ago – which is just as well, seeing the inspiration behind the hotel was to create an environment fit for a modern-day sultan.

A look into the shallow waters just off the pier leading down to our villa, in contrast, revealed a much more bustling side to the island. Shawls of tiny fish frequently put on dazzling displays of synchronised swimming, interrupted only by the occasional baby reef shark approaching from one side, or a majestic heron with its feet in the water on the other. Milaidhoo’s 29 Water Pool Villas, each spanning 245 sqm/2,638 sqft, are strung together along two gently curved wooden piers, with a special, 564 sqm/6,070 sqft Two Bedroom Ocean Residence located at the far end of where the piers converge. Those who prefer to stay on land can opt to bed down in one of 18 290 sqm/3,121 sqft Beach Pool Villas or in one of just two 564 sqm/5,274 sqft Beach Residences ideal for families and larger groups of friends. Somewhat unusually for the Maldives, the overwater bungalows aren’t the top accommodation options, though that didn’t stop us water babies from opting for one, anyway.

And we certainly weren’t disappointed: with its floor-to-ceiling windows inviting the glow of daylight into an open living space and bedroom, made more luxurious via a high vaulted ceiling and a recessed lounging area ideal to get lost in the pages of a book, the interiors of our villa felt contemporary and thought-through. Each detail had been considered – an elongated desk formed the back of our bed, a closet and storage area open on two sides was near our front door yet discreetly hidden from view from our bedroom, a wall-mounted TV appeared from behind an artwork depicting local landscapes at the push of a button, and our generous bathroom boasted a rainfall shower, an enormous, free-standing bathtub and twin basins alongside Acqua di Parma toiletries. Meanwhile, a private sun deck built upon the turquoise lagoon featured a typical Maldivian ‘undhoali’ swing alongside a roofed daybed and loungers by our 42 sqm/452 sqft freshwater infinity pool (which in turn was equipped with twinkling lights adding a touch of magic by night).

Each time we returned to our sanctuary after a day out at sea, we walked barefoot across our parquet floor into our bedroom, where our kind butler Jameel would leave little treats for us, and on to our bathroom, where without fail, he’d run us a daily fragrant foam bath decked in petals and timed perfectly so that we could slip right in. This, to us, felt incredibly luxurious: although never more than a message away, butlers at Milaidhoo have a way of being near-invisible, with all the work they do to arrange the little surprises that make staying here so special remaining totally behind the scenes. Their attention to detail was matched by that of our villa’s interiors, with everything from Maldivian-made artworks, marine-themed rugs, privacy signs hand-painted by a talented member of the housekeeping team (you can buy his work in the on-site boutique!), a dedicated wine fridge with an enviable selection of bottles and, amazingly, a choice of robes – from light linen to thick cotton – that ensured we longed for nothing.

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While you’re Out There
Aside from yacht and traditional dhoni cruises bookable through the resort, there’s an epic house reef spread across a steep drop into the depths within easy swimming distance from the beach. While lovely for snorkelling, the reef is best explored on a scuba dive with Milaidhoo’s instructor Ahmed. Alternatively, head out to world-famous Hanifaru Bay in hopes of swimming with manta rays, or book a Maldivian cooking class at Ba’theli with the charming Ibrahim and Rajith. Whatever you do, you’re in for a fantastic time.

The same could be said about the resort’s dining outlets, which we found to be as diverse as they are accommodating of special requests. There’s the Shoreline Grill, where guests can choose between feet-in-the-sand romantic dining in hidden-away beach pavilions or a more experiential dinner with views of the show kitchen. If you need to work up an appetite first, a private wine tasting in the resort’s Wine Room or a water pipe in a show-stopping (and arguably sultan-worthy) shisha bar can help with that. Mouthwatering tacos and burgers for lunch are the order of the day at Ocean restaurant while the adjacent Compass bar by Milaidhoo’s main pool serves up classic cocktails at night. That said, our favourite concoction was the Siam Sidecar, which we savoured at the resort’s flagship dining outlet, Ba’theli.

Inspired by the Maldives’ role as a key port along a historical spice route that first came into existence over 5,000 years ago, Ba’theli is the country’s sole Maldivian fine-dining restaurant. It’s all the more fabulous for its setting across three recreated cargo boats that seemingly float over the lagoon. Nothing beats eating on deck, of course – not least because the restaurant’s underwater lights attract local nurse sharks that come there to sleep. One night, we tucked away at our meal while six of these beautiful animals were in full view from our table. Looking to dine indoors, instead? You won’t miss out either, as glass floors ensure everyone gets to witness the magic below their feet. Even the menus at Ba’theli, as well as Milaidhoo’s other restaurants, are physically beautiful and feature varying surface textures and details that demonstrate the hotel’s ambition to be everything but cookie-cutter down to the finest details.

Ba’theli seeking to recreate traditional recipes, it’s not the most dietary-inclusive, although the staff was proactive about this, preparing a vegan gabulhi satani and a rather sumptuous vegetable curry for us. We thought that the hotel did a truly remarkable job at catering to our plant-based diet, with several vegan-friendly options across restaurant menus, and the team never hesitating to cater to special requests with optimism and what seemed to us a genuine desire to do better than others. No wish seemed off limits (‘let’s not say we can try to do it, let’s say we will do it’) and even the menu-meets-epic-buffet at breakfast was exceptional: think nut-based cheeses, miso broth with mushrooms and wakame, sweet and savoury buckwheat bowls, scrambled tofu, flavoured drip coffees with vanilla or cinnamon and several kinds of vegan pastries and cakes prepared especially for us by pastry chef Prasad. Whether you enjoy breakfast at Ocean restaurant or have it floating in your pool (we tried both, with the latter garnering us a silly amount of Insta envy), everything is downright exquisite – even juices are tasted like fine wines before a full glass is poured.

If there was something we looked forward to even more than breakfast in the mornings, it was daily changing classes in the overwater pavilion at the resort’s Serenity Spa. There, we ommm-ed with Krutika and hung upside down with Novi during aerial yoga sessions while panoramic views of the blue sky hovering over the glistening lagoon – or, well, the other way around – would’ve easily taken our breath away if we hadn’t done some excellent breath work prior. Serenity is home to four stilted treatment suites and a solid menu of massages, facials and other therapies, which are certainly relaxing, although there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. If you’re looking for medical wellness, high-tech beauty gadgets or personalised health journeys, this isn’t exactly the kind of wellness the resort proposes. Instead, you’ll find tried and tested treatments here that are perfectly blissful and capable of taking the weight of the world off your shoulders for an hour or two.

Of the many hotels and resorts we visit each year, Milaidhoo stands out as one of those few places that have a rare quality to them that would always make us want to return. This is no doubt down its wonderful team, who would go to lengths to enquire about the correct pronunciation of our name and then make a point of using it throughout our stay. It’s those same people who will double-check your coffee order after noticing it differs from what you ordered the day before. Happy people equal great service in our experience, and the resort really looks after its employees, who live together in what’s signposted as ‘family areas’ as opposed to ‘staff quarters’. Milaidhoo being Maldivian-owned, you get the sense that the genuine brand of hospitality showcased here is that of the country itself, as opposed to that of a big international brand. For so small of an island, that’s a tremendous feat.

Inspiring Travel offers 7-night holidays to Milaidhoo on a half or full-board basis, including flights and shared seaplane transfers. With almost 50 years of experience in creating luxury holidays, Inspiring Travel’s team of specialists takes the time to really get to know you, tailoring your holiday to you – and only you. |

Photography courtesy of Milaidhoo

At OutThere, we believe in boundless travel. But we understand that some destinations can pose challenges to travellers that complicate visiting them. We advise all visitors to inform themselves about local legislation and customs, and to work with a trusted travel provider in order to ensure a safe and pleasant holiday.

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