- A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to travel to the Maldives and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Everyone has seen pictures of the Maldives online. You know the ones. The unique wooden huts on stilts above azure blue oceans; white sands and fabulous snorkelling. It’s on so many bucket lists so to go there myself was a dream come true.
Why the Maldives?
I’ve written articles in the past that talk about the battles my husband and I normally have when choosing holidays. He likes adventure and roaming around, doing something death defying and achievement focused such as climbing mountains. I love to switch off my mind and body. I’m not some princess that wants to be waited on hand and foot but I do like to have relax and not have to make so many decisions for a time.
Two months ago, I lost my dad really suddenly, something I still can’t write or talk about too freely. After his death I was trapped in a horrible cycle of grief and felt like I was sinking. Coupled with that I was caring for my mum who has advanced dementia (he was her carer) and trying to keep my new business afloat. Most of the time I felt like I couldn’t’ breathe. I was in terrible mental and physical condition and needed to get away yet felt wracked with guilt for feeling this way.
I write about wellbeing and like to think I know myself now and when my mental health is threatened. Never before have I needed a break to improve my mental wellness as much as I did at that moment to simply repair.
Going away somewhere that required me having to socialise, problem solve etc just wasn’t what I needed so my husband suggested the Maldives. We wanted somewhere exclusive where we could just have time together and take a break from life– that’s why we picked the idyllic luxe resort of Amari Havodda.
The Maldives may not seem like the obvious choice as a wellbeing destination but I want to show you that it’s not all about honeymooners and destination weddings, but offers a wealth of opportunity to help you expand your mind, relax and feel grateful for the life you have.
How to get there
Amari Havodda is a small resort based on an island in the Indian ocean around 30 minutes from the nearest island Kaadhedhoo by boat. The journey isn’t for the faint hearted. We flew to Dubai for 4 hours and then Dubai to Male for another 7. Everything went pretty smoothly to be honest. Flying with Emirates was a pleasure in terms of entertainment (though the food was a little bit dubious – WISH I could afford the first-class menu).
At Male airport we were met by a hotel representative who took us to the business lounge while we waited for our next flight to Kaadhedhoo. Don’t expect a salubrious airport at Male. I don’t think I have ever seen toilets so gross so being take to the lounge was welcomed.
If you don’t like flying then be prepared that you’ll be in quite a small fixed wing plane to get to Kaadhedhoo but the flight itself was smooth and comfortable.
From Kaadhedhooairport we hopped on our James Bond style speedboat and bounced across the Indian ocean like superstars until we got to our little jetty and the start of our adventure in relaxation.
Arriving at the resort was magical. Approaching the trademark long wooden jetty, we arrived to a smiley waving welcome party of Amari staff. Indeed, everyone we came into contact with was warm and wonderful. Our main contact throughout our stay was Ishan who looked after us so well. He went out of his way to always ensure we had everything we needed and if we did have an issue, it was resolved immediately.
Amari is small and semi exclusive which is part of its allure. It’s also very eco-friendly with the owners caring strongly about recycling, minimising waste and plastic use to ensure the Indian Ocean stays beautiful – this kind of environmental responsibility is something I always look out for. Many resorts in the past have made me uncomfortable with the attitude to waste and pollution.
Our accommodation was an overwater villa. The villa was absolutely beautiful and waking up to views of the expansive ocean each morning will never be forgotten. I slept so well while I was there as the bed was not only absolutely huge and comfortable but the sound of the waves lapping was like an underwater lullaby. The villas are furnished to a really high standard and you will have everything you need from hair conditioner to great coffee.
The villa had lots of lovely little quirks such as an outside bathroom that boasted two showers and a bath. There’s something pretty special about showering while fish swim underneath you. Each villa has steps into the ocean which makes it easy to snorkel whenever you feel like it. A top tip is to do this first thing or last thing when the fish are coming into feed.
The nets outside the villa were great (if a little uncomfortable) to lay on. With Rays and even baby tiger sharks swimming underneath, I was able to start repairing myself in absolute (and I don’t use this word often) paradise.
If you don’t want to stay in an overwater villa then Amari offer some great secluded bungalows and beach villas – some have their own plunge pools and private beaches. Owing to this, people tended to sun bathe where they stayed meaning there were always available sunbeds around the bar. **top tip** Some of the villas are quite a walk from the bar and restaurant so ask for one close by if a 10/15-minute walk bothers you.
Food and Drink
There is one restaurant and two bars included in your price if all inclusive. The restaurant is a buffet style which I normally dislike owing to the noise and clatter that generally goes with it. However, owing to the exclusivity of the place and the number of guests (plus few children) the dining experience was chilled. Much of the cuisine is aimed at the oriental guests but generally food is typical of the area.
There’s lots of fresh fish, delicious curries and healthy salads. More importantly the desserts are to die for. I had some of the best cheese cake I’ve ever tasted at Amari. If you’re vegetarian/vegan you may struggle with choice but I have heard that if you let staff know of your dietary requirements then they will do everything they can to accommodate. I struggled at times with the meat quality but only because I am British and used to chicken breast in curries. In other parts of the world, quite rightly they use the meat on the bone/less quality meat for flavour and the Maldives is no different – just be aware if this bothers you. My absolute favourite dish was a paneer curry the chef made – INDREDIBLE!
If you fancy a change of scenery food wise then the hotel has an ala carte restaurant. The venue serves fantastic Asian fusion food. We had a set menu that started with the freshest home-made sushi followed by miso fish and a delectable dessert. The tables are on the beach so you are eating while listening to the waves in candlelight – what’s not to love.
The drinks on offer were exceptional. In your all-inclusive, you can have branded drinks but only certain brands so be aware of this before you order. For example, you can have Smirnoff vodka but if you have a taste for Goose or Belvedere then expect to get charged. Cocktails are made to perfection and with all fresh ingredients. If you fancy learning how to make them yourself then take a cocktail class – the bar manager has one endless awards for his craft!
What is there to do?
The beauty of this resort is that you can do as little or as much as you wish. Remember you are on an exclusive island in the middle of the ocean so trips are limited. Our days were mainly spent sunbathing on the beach or by the pool with regular breaks for snacks and drinks as that was what we needed. I read around four books and just enjoyed the natural beauty of my surrounds.
Snorkelling isn’t something I am particularly good at but the hotel provides all the gear you need from life jackets to snorkel gear. To get you used to the sea, the hotel offers a reef trip for free. This is worth doing as the dive instructors show you where all the cool stuff lives! My husband saw sharks and turtles during his trip which was pretty awesome. I regret not buying a full-face snorkel for the trip as these are much easier to breathe/see through rather than using the old-fashioned mouthpieces provided. I also recommend you bring a long sleeved top and a high factor sunscreen (50+) as it is so easy to burn in the water. The Indian ocean is unrivalled for the amount of life living in it. If you have a go pro, bring it or invest in a cheap version. I spoke to people that had dived all over the world including the great barrier reef and they felt the waters around Amari Havodda and the colours it contained beat these hands down. You’ll be swimming with Tiger sharks, rays, turtles and rainbow fish – amazing right?
The water sports centre at the resort offers other services as well as snorkelling. If you have a PADI or want to learn to dive then this is a great place to go. For the less adventurous, i.e. me, there are some excellent boat trips. My husband and I went on a sunset cruise to find wild dolphins. I was a little concerned to be taking part in an animal focused activity as I’d heard stories of boats hunting and chasing dolphins in other countries. However, the guys that took us really respected the ocean and its inhabitants. Our boat was out for half an hour before turning off the engine. Suddenly we were surrounded by dolphins who had sought us out. They were chasing the boat, jumping, spinning and laughing. It’s a sight I’ll never forget. Seeing dolphins jumping out of the water and playing against the setting sun is something special.
On the sixth day Amari gave me the best massage of my life! The heath centre at the resort offers a wide range of treatments. From the moment we stepped into the spa we were treated like royalty with chilled mint tea and towels. The therapists matched the oils to our needs/moods/to my husband’s sunburn. I had a knot in my shoulder pushed out that had been bothering me for ages and left feeling like I was walking on air. I slept even better that night!
Every evening I loved watching the sun set at Uri bar. Sunset over water is like nothing else. It looks like this big molten ball of fire is melting into the waves. Uri bar is only open for a few hours a night simply for sunset. With a cocktail in hand and tunes playing in the background it was a very café del mar Ibiza feel – so relaxing.
Yoga is a huge part of my life but owing to recent events I’ve neglected my practise. Amari offer sunrise and sunset classes. I’m not going to pretend that I regularly made the sunrise class but saluting the sun as it rises to light up the day made me feel uplifted and hopeful. I did my own practise on the deck of my villa or on the beach each day and would often close the practise off simply by sitting in the surf, looking out to the horizon and being thankful for my surroundings and grateful for my life.
I went on holiday under quite sad circumstances. When I arrived, I was in a bad way. My skin was flaky, I was overweight owing to neglecting my diet and I had no enthusiasm for anything. The Maldives didn’t cure my grief, there is no cure. But, it did make me remember that there is still beauty in the world. It made me take some time out from a really hard situation and spend it in a place where there was nothing to do but relax and be selfish. The self-care I opened myself up to there made me leave feeling stronger and more focused on what I needed to do to support myself and my family; and most of all to make my dad proud. Never feel guilty (I did many times while away) for self care as it makes you a better person, more able to care for others through caring for yourself.
Thank you Maldives
Amari Havodda Maldives is currently offering an All-Inclusive package for £397 per night double occupancy in an Overwater Villa.
Book by 31 July 2018. Travel until 31 October 2018. T&C’s apply www.amari.com/havodda-maldives
**Amari Havodda offer a beautiful range of resorts across the Indian Ocean and Asia. Please note I was not paid for my review of the hotel.**
**No airbrushing was used/harmed in the making of the pot** #sorrynotsorry