The only five-star resort in the Maldives’ southern Laamu atoll, Six Senses Laamu sits just five degrees north of the equator and feels a world away from more developed parts of the country. But its secluded location aside, the hotel scores with how it immerses guests in conservation efforts via a one-of-a-kind environmental learning centre, as well as with an all-encompassing sense of playfulness that runs through every aspect of a stay like a tropical thread.
Fans of Six Senses will hardly need convincing to book a holiday at the brand’s original Maldivian outpost, especially since the arrival of its sister resort in the Lhaviyani atoll, Six Senses Kanuhura, has by no means eclipsed the Laamu property. While the new hotel follows the more polished, design-heavy approach Six Senses has embraced in recent years, Laamu is one of just a handful or so resorts left that showcase the company’s original signature style: wooden structures, rustic interiors, and a serious commitment to not being so serious at all. The latter becomes apparent should you opt to fly in on the hotel’s seaplane, the ‘Flying Turtle’, whose hand-painted livery was inspired by an actual photo of a local turtle known to the resort team (or if you head straight for the overwater arrivals restroom, perhaps the most smile-inducing in the Maldives – but we won’t give too much away!).
Across its 97 villas, some tucked into a thick rainforest habitat while others stand proudly above an impossibly turquoise lagoon, Six Senses Laamu offers a multitude of accommodation options. At the top end of the spectrum, high-flying visitors will find the 1,728 sqm/18,600 sqft three-bedroom ‘Retreat’ with several interconnecting buildings and a 20m raised lap pool running parallel to the beach, which is just steps away and feels totally private, as other guests don’t tend to come this way. Wanting to stay on the water instead, we opted for a 126 sqm/1,360 sqft Sunset Laamu Water Villa with a spectacular, glass-fronted infinity pool jutting out over the sea. Nowhere are these overwater accommodations more ubiquitous than in the Maldives, but even here, it’s rare to come by a villa that immerses you in the elements (at times quite literally) as excitingly as ours did.
Located at the far end of the resort’s longest pier, our stilted bungalow-style residence didn’t just ‘happen to be’ on the water; rather, it intentionally provided as many touch points with the sea as aquaphiles could possibly hope to find. Floor-to-ceiling windows granting guests panoramic views of the surrounding seascape are one thing, but glass floor elements, a glass bathtub with views into the lagoon below our feet, and a heavenly open-air shower further pushed the theme in a way we just loved – so did ladders leading straight into the ocean from our outdoor space or sunken outdoor dining amenities, again made more immersive by means of a glass floor. Different types of open-air lounge areas also offered plenty of space to relax, either in the shade or in the sun, with a cosy nook built into our thatched roof being our personal favourite. It was there that we would sit and read our book while enjoying commanding views over the cyan sea, a recipe for bliss if ever there was one.
As you’d imagine, the sounds of both waves and wind extended right into our villa, and they were far from the only added ‘perks’ we enjoyed. There was a wonderful welcome of fruits, energy balls and pralines, made plant-based to suit our dietary requirements, as well as a carved chess set that provided hours of fun, and even incense sticks and a small note by our kingsize bed reminding us to practise a moment of gratitude (as if one was enough) before we drift off into sweet slumber. A jewel box of an accommodation, our villa was just big enough to feel generous, with an open layout that saw twin basins (disguised as suitcases, for no reason other than it being fun) and hanging mirrors right behind our bed, yet not so large that we didn’t feel the constant pull of the tremendously beautiful natural environs all around us. In the mornings, we woke with the sun rising on our face and at night, we would go to bed with views of the atmospherically lit waters – and the creatures swimming in them – set against the black sea beyond.
You’d have a hard time not feeling relaxed in so blissful of a setting, though there’s no harm in some additional pampering at the spa. Six Senses Laamu features a particularly pretty one, with nine nest-like treatment rooms, some of which overlook the ocean while others sit within a jungle setting. Not only was ours open towards the sea, which had us opt out of music and listen to waves crashing on the beach instead, but it also felt enormous: there’s something about the luxury of space that makes it easier to unwind, and our nest’s size and openness helped us feel relaxed the moment we set foot in it (so much so, in fact, that our therapist told us that we kept falling asleep mid-treatment, not that we’d even noticed). Because we like to take our time after a massage, we spent a good while kicking back in the spa’s beautiful relaxation area skirted by coconut palms, beach cabbage plants and a juice bar – if you’re looking to retox instead, your butler is sure to get you a buggy to Sip Sip on the other side of the island, where drinks and lazy lunches are served by the resort’s spectacular main pool, in no time.
Right on time
While you’re Out There
A cruise on the resort’s yacht, Sense of Escape, or a film at the jungle cinema, is on the agenda for many a guest. Those wanting to get under the surface of the destination, however, can quite literally do so on a scuba dive. We went diving around nearby Hithadhoo island and heard great things about the channel dive at Maavah, which is further afield yet supposedly spectacular. Don’t like to get wet? Ask to meet Michelle, Reggae and Diddy Dots at SHELL, then – and prepare to be amazed.
You could also dine al mare, at the overwater Chill Bar or go omakase at the adjacent Zen. Our favourite eatery was Leaf, which guests can opt to access via an Indiana Jones-style suspension bridge that’s all the more adventurous and fun after dinner (and a few spicy margaritas). Leaf wowed us with a dedicated and daily changing plant-based menu despite not being a vegan restaurant (yet!), and chef Raphi, who specialises in plant-based cuisine is to thank for all the intricate and varied dishes we enjoyed here: from caramelised pumpkin with vegetable caponata, coconut ceviche, kohlrabi katsu, roasted salsify on chimichurri to sweet treats like coconut chocolate mousse or pandan-flavoured sago jelly. At every turn, including on a trip to an uninhabited island in the north of the atoll, the hotel looked after us and our dietary requirements with élan and a desire to make our tastebuds tingle, which is one of the many ways it sets itself apart from local competition.
Just once, during a popular weekly buffet at Longitude, did we feel like we were missing out as the go-to options highly recommended to guests – risotto and freshly-made pasta from a designated pasta bar – couldn’t be made vegan-friendly. The team did whip up a rather tasty plate of Middle Eastern dishes and a Greek salad for us to save the day (well, night), however. Next to the restaurant, you’ll also find the Wine Cellar, which is really a spun glass tower built upon the lagoon, housing, amongst other precious wines, several bottles of Dom Perignon matured underwater at a depth of 37 metres. Should you be so inclined, private dinners or tastings can be arranged upstairs, although we headed for nearby Ice instead, savouring our way through some of the record-breaking 48 different types of ice creams and sorbets Six Senses Laamu offers guests on a complimentary basis.
Something entirely different although just as unique that’s on offer at the resort is access to its 2023-opened Sea Hub for Environmental Learning in Laamu. ‘SHELL’ is an amazing space for the whole family, featuring an exhibition area, a cinema room, a kids’ zone with interactive and educational games as well as the Maldives Underwater Initiative, a marine conservation program that lets the hotel’s own marine biologists join efforts with Maldivian NGOs to protect (and restore) the remarkable ecosystem around the island and beyond. Our visit to SHELL’s marine laboratory was enriched by the passionate team here, who invited us to look over their shoulder and learn about their fascinating work. Knowing that progress only goes so far without involving the local population, the centre even invites school classes from nearby islands to come and learn about the colourful reefs that are crucial in sustaining life below the surface.
You could be forgiven for thinking that a property so ambitious would take itself incredibly seriously. But, though the resort is remarkable in many ways, this is not the case. What we loved most about staying here was that while many Maldivian hotels try and ‘out-superlative’ one another (from ‘the biggest’ to ‘the most exclusive’ or ‘the most expensive ever built’), this place doesn’t so much put the focus on itself, and instead prioritises guests: for you to have an unforgettable holiday on property is what Six Senses Laamu is all about, and activities like once-weekly drinks with cultural performances by local artists, that allow guests to mingle with one another (and, for the more spiritually inclined, burn small sticks representing negative thoughts by the beach), attest to the resort’s easy-going and somewhat unconventional nature. It’s everything we love about Six Senses – and everything we love about the Maldives, too.
Inspiring Travel offers 7-night holidays to Six Senses Laamu 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 Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas
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