You don’t need too much of an introduction to the Maldives, do you? It’s the kind of place you drift off to on dreary British days, daydreaming of a network of perfect white and emerald islands in a sea of sapphire. The chain of atolls is also home to more than its fair share of luxury resorts, including the phenomenal Velaa Private Island…
Perched 127km north of the Maldivian capital of Male in the Noonu Atoll, Velaa is close to the tip of the island chain. Like anywhere in the Maldives, that means year-round warmth and calm, azure water. It’s a little drier between December and April, but even the rainy season can be pleasant. Rather than a resort per se, Velaa takes up the whole of the island – and plenty of the water, too. In fact, as you fly in via seaplane, you’ll see that the water villas make up the head of a giant turtle, which is the resort’s local inspiration.
Space and privacy are the true luxuries here. Not only is there no chance of riff-raff finding their way to the island, but the suites are beyond extravagant, whether they’re hovering above the Indian Ocean or nestled in the trees. Private infinity pools are standard and every angle allows flawless panoramic views of the lagoon or ocean. Rather than gilding and mahogany, the villas are built from local materials; don’t start thinking that means Spartan, back-to-basics living though. It’s just a more relaxed kind of luxury, one that matches the laid-back feel of island life.
Name something to do with water and you can do it at Velaa. First off, scuba diving and snorkelling in the Maldives are the best in the world. Reefs teem with colourful fish and there’s schools of spinner dolphins in the hundreds – it’s an archipelago full of rare wildlife. If you’re done with the depths, there’s every kind of watersport, too, from windsurfing to jet skis to line fishing. You can really make a meal out of that last one. Yoga at sunrise on a deck, a few private tennis lessons, cruises around the islands – the Maldives may be sleepy but there’s still plenty to do. Most impressively though, Velaa has its own golf course, designed by José María Olazábal, so you can, as they say, practise in paradise. There’s no other tee-off quite like it. I’m not much of a golfer myself, but the instructors even managed to teach me a few things.
Start with a beach-front breakfast at Athiri with fresh fruit and a flawless menu to choose from; relax by the pool with an in-house DJ and some seriously good cocktails at Avi throughout the day; experience panoramic views and perfectly-grilled, mouth-wateringly fresh teppanyaki at Tavaru, and romantic, European dining on the water at Aragu. If you’re a wine connoisseur, you can’t miss the largest cellar in the Maldives with 500 bins, including the spectacular 1956 Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée Conti. Once you’ve indulged physically, do so spiritually at Velaa’s holistic spa. Don’t bother reading the menu; just let them create an entirely bespoke, Asian-inspired experience tailored to you. You won’t regret it.
Culture is, not to put too fine a point on it, a little lacking across the Maldives. At Velaa though, everything from the design and materials of the villas to the local ingredients in the food is Maldivian. Granted there are no great monuments and no cultural history to speak of, but Velaa provides a truly authentic experience, particularly if you go out with some of the local fishermen to catch your dinner. If it doesn’t go in a Maldivian fish curry, it’s very much a travesty.
- Velaa is one of the only islands in the Maldives owned by a single individual, Mr Jiri Smejc
- The resort shares its home with generations of sea turtles, from which architect Petr Kolar drew inspiration for its design
- Velaa Private Island is just under 20 hectares in size, around half a kilometre in either direction
- The resort comprises 43 private villas, houses and residences and four fourbedroom residences, 18 of which are built over the water Make your reservation at Velaaprivateisland.com
- Beach Pool Villas from $1,815, book now at www.velaaprivateisland.com