Real honeymoon: Barefoot luxury in the Maldives

I’m rather chuffed about to be featuring this real honeymoon today as it’s written by Emma of Cake For Breakfast fame. Emma and Nick spent two weeks in the Maldives, during which they stayed at two very different resorts. I love that Emma has written so beautifully about their trip and really captured what each resort was like, while being really honest about their experiences. A warning though – these pictures may make you sick with envy.

A lot of people rolled their eyes when we told them that we would honeymooning in the Maldives. We had been there three times before and a lot of people thought we were being a bit boring about it. My argument, however, was why would you risk going somewhere you might not love as much as somewhere you know you do on what is meant to be the pivotal holiday of your life?

We first visited the Indian Ocean destination in 2005 after the tsunami. The reason we love going to the Maldives is because we live and work in a busy city centre pub and are surrounded by people for at least 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, so what we look for in our time off is total isolation and the chance to do as little as we please for as long as possible.

For our honeymoon we decided to shake things up ever so slightly by spending each week of our fortnight at different resorts, instead of just spending the whole time in one place. We began with the Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu resort for the first week. This island is probably the original ‘no shoes, no news’ island that most people envisage when they think of the Maldives. The resort has not been conglomerated by any multi-national hotel chain and therefore gives guests a much more authentic flavour of what the Maldives are like, beginning with the Maldivian mariachi-esque band who serenade you on arrival (and at dinner every night thereafter!).

We stayed in one of the beach villas (water villas are also available on the island), which was a typical round thatched hut complete with four-poster bed and outdoor bathroom. The room was spacious, well-equipped, air-conditioned and only occasionally prey to creepy-crawlies. Depending on the package you get, there are a few dining options available. The main restaurant is an open buffet for inclusive meals with a wide selection of foods for starters, mains and desserts from around the world to appeal to everyone’s tastes. They also have ‘live food’ stations ,which are where the chefs prepare the food in front of you – not where you have to eat food that’s still alive! Nick tried some great dishes from these stations, including kangaroo noodles and ostrich risotto.

As with most Maldivian resorts, there are various water sports and excursions on offer for those who don’t want to sit on the beach all day. We, however, are bone-idle and were recovering from eighteen months of preparation and a manic wedding day and as such we went on just one trip to do sunset fishing.

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu was the perfect start to our honeymoon as we needed a week to totally detox our brains and chill out. The resort were kind enough to provide us with a fruit basket and champagne on arrival because they knew we were honeymooners, and we also loved having our own name plate carved into driftwood hanging outside the front door.

After a morning of seaplane-hopping, we transferred to our second resort for the final week of our honeymoon. As usual, we had booked our trip through Jim at Maldives Direct, and he had played a blinder this time by negotiating us a very sweet deal at a little place called Angsana Velavaru. Velavaru was the first island we visited back in 2005 and we thought it was very romantic to revisit it for our honeymoon and investigate the changes that had been made by the Angsana/Banyan Tree franchise.

I knew we were in for a treat when we were ushered into a separate, private lounge at the seaplane airport specific to our resort. What luxury!

We were staying in one of the Premier In-Ocean Villas which are located a kilometre off the island, standing alone like an individual resort on the reef. The sight of them from the air is a little odd because obviously they look so out of place but as you come into land and skim past them with their plunge pools and roof decks, they really are spectacular.

We were greeted by Serge the resort manager and ushered into the bar/restaurant whilst our room was prepared. The customer service at Angsana Velavaru was second to none, and I liked each and every one of the members of staff we encountered who felt like friends by the time we left.

Words cannot express how luxurious the ‘rooms’ are – they’re bigger than our actual flat! Inside, the rooms can be portioned up into a living room, bedroom and bathroom with sliding doors if you want to create privacy. The whole place is bathed in light with floor-to-ceiling sliding French windows. Outside there is a large deck, a pool, a hammock-cum-trampoline thing and a pier out to yet another sun-bed with access steps down into the sea. And if that’s not enough space for you, there’s also the roof terrace with further sun-loungers and a large sofa under a storm protected canopy. Suffice to say, it’s the nicest place we’ve ever stayed in!

In case you’re not feeling pampered enough with your opulent surroundings, there is then the wonder of the restaurant. With an interior more akin to a hipster restaurant the likes of which you’d expect in Los Angeles rather than the Indian Ocean, the restaurant has a buffet two nights a week and a la carte menu the rest of the time. This menu wholeheartedly wants you to eat it, offering an enormous SEVEN courses and yes, that’s for an inclusive dinner. I’m actually quite a fussy eater but the produce coming out of the kitchen was so thoughtfully prepared and excellently cooked that I literally ate whatever was put in front of me.

When we weren’t too busy trebling our weight, we went on a snorkelling trip around the Velavaru house reef. As with all snorkelling adventures, results may vary! The weather was pretty grim for our week at Velavaru and as such the waters were quite cloudy and there weren’t too many fish to see, but c’est la vie!

In fairness, we knew that September wasn’t the greatest time of year to visit the Maldives as it is the tail end of rainy season, so we weren’t expecting perfect weather. That being said, I probably would have been a lot less relaxed about being couped up in the bad weather if we hadn’t been staying in such an amazing resort. We spent many of the stormy days up on the roof protected by storm shutters and still enjoying the heat even without the sunshine.

The bad weather was also the perfect excuse to book in at the spa. I’d had a facial at Coco Palm the week before but we were informed on arrival at Angsana Velavaru that we were eligible for a complimentary thirty-minute neck and shoulders massage because we were on our honeymoon. On the back of this, and with the storm clouds gathering, we subsequently arranged to have a two-hour full body massage where we were both able to ‘order’ different aspects to tailor our treatments to what we wanted.

As much as I adored our stay at Angsana Velavaru, I have to say that I don’t think it’s a particularly great representation of what the Maldives are like. If your first trip was to the InOcean Villas, you could essentially be staying in any boutique hotel anywhere in the world. that just happens to be surrounded by sea. Admittedly, there is a boat that runs hourly between the InOcean Villas and the real Velavaru island, where you can have a bite to eat in either of the two other restaurants, investigate the water sports centre or even spend some time in the marine biology/dive centre, but quite frankly the atmosphere is not nearly as nice on the island.

Part of me was quite sad to go back to the island and see how commercialised it has become since we first visited. It seems the uniqueness of the island has been sacrificed in order to shoe-horn extra accommodation in. On the other hand, our week in the InOcean Villa was phenomenal and I don’t think I’ve had a happier week in my life! So I guess it’s that fine line between cultural authenticity and commercial viability, and as such I would recommend mixing things up and trying out more than one resort if you’re going to visit the Maldives.

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