I have never been disappointed by anything at the end of a pier. The hollow tap of each step and the flashes of light reflecting off the water below, signal a treat to come. A longstanding love affair, the seed of which was sown during a childhood spent in Brighton, the iconic pier entrance always promised a plethora of delights and never disappointed. The consequent years, spent exploring lands unknown and writing about my experiences have only served to reinforce those positive associations.
In a world that now feels so accessible there are few destinations that still evoke a sense of awe, and undeniably the Maldives is one of those, deservedly so for its distinguished approach to high end luxury and desert island good looks. In a place synonymous with raised piers snaking out over white sands and crystal clear waters, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be one of the first to tread the boards at the newly opened Faarufushi resort, and that was an opportunity simply too good to miss.
Hidden away on a remote coral island in the Raa Atoll region, Faarufushi started welcoming guests in March this year. Fulfilling the Maldives ideal and then some, it’s all blue skies, uninterrupted horizons and of course winding piers from here on in.
This intimate island is home to only 80 villas of various types and sizes, but be sure to request an Ocean Retreat, the over water bungalows, the true showstoppers. These inspired free flow spaces, whose crisp modern interiors reflect the graphic lines of the seemingly never-ending horizon where the sea and skyline meet. The floor to ceiling windows ensure you never miss a sunset or sun rise (depending on your location) or even a dolphin splash in the distance. You will be forgiven for never closing your blinds for the entirety of your stay, I know I didn’t. Thankfully each villa is perfectly private, with no nosey neighbours overlooking your own personal paradise. Enjoy a drink out on the decking, dip a toe into the clear blue sea or slip into your own infinity pool that effortlessly merges into the skyline. It’s all blue from here, but the best possible kind. The bath, a freeflow art installation big enough for three, faces out to sea, and offers another perfect spot to while away the time. Speaking of bathrooms, should you opt for a beach bungalow they have a very enviable outdoor rainforest shower. Regardless of room choice I can assure you, you are not going to be disappointed.
Should you be able to drag yourself away from your villa (in room dining is available and I wouldn’t blame you), take a stroll, along another picturesque board walk of course, to Boli bar. Perched over the reefs edge and completely open, it offers unobscured views of some out of this world sunsets. Take a seat to witness crisp blues give way to candy floss pinks which then gradually fade away to a vast darkness broken only by starlight. Whatever the time of day, this view has a special refinement to it. To pair it with something as clumsy and predictable as a Pina Colada would be a travesty, trust me. With this in mind the mixologists are Faarufushi have compiled a botanically inspired cocktail list, a thoughtfully curated mix of subtle naturally occurring flavours artfully concocted. (Note: they do an awesome pina colada by the beach bar, there is a time and place for everything! 4pm every day in my humble opinion).
In the middle of the island is the lush vegetation that forms the sanctuary of the Nika Spa. A shaded cool oasis, providing the perfect spot for avoiding the mid-day heat should you need even more of an excuse to float across its threshold. A carefully cultivated calmness oozes from the space, accentuated by a spa scent so good you want to bottle it and take it home. The holistically minded team have taken care to combine eastern practices with western science. Look out for the specialised treatments designed to help you tackle the jetlag, which are an absolute godsend. Green in more ways than one, all the spas products are 100% organic, earth friendly and sustainably sourced, a must as once you have visited paradise you are all the more motivated to preserve it for future generations to see. Once you enter the spa sanctuary look up and you will see a beehive of interconnected treatment pods hidden away in the tree tops. Be warned you may have your massage rudely interrupted by a chirp from one of the islands rather vocal bird species at the window, but as intrusions go its music to my ears. Would it be too much of a stretch to class these treetop walkways as a ‘pier’ and add these luxurious spa pods and the wonders to be experienced within them to my list of favourite pier endings?
Surprisingly enjoying paradise is hungry work, I would recommend making the most of Faarufushis all-inclusive options, by drinking and dining at all three of their restaurants and two bars to ensure no opportunity is missed. As always my recommendation is to eat locally inspired dishes, the Maldivian Thali will forever be one of the most memorable meals of my lifetime. For a more unusual experience head to Athiri, the relaxed beach side spot with serves Spanish and Mediterranean small plates, expect fresh takes on classics. Where the service truly sets itself aside from other luxury resorts is the personalisation, done with the minimum fuss by the attentive team. Any dietary requirements are so effortlessly catered for, after a quick chat the chef will create a tailor made menu for your tastes so you can go back to enjoying yourself.
The crystal clear waters showcase an abundance of wildlife from the shore, including some rather adorable (and I am assured completely non-threatening) baby reef sharks, but the wealth of the ocean warrants a little more exploration. Head down to the Water sports centre at Athiri, whether it is paddle boarding, snorkelling advice from the resident marine biologist, surfing, water skiing or a private boat trip to an uninhabited island, the team have you covered. Ever dedicated to maintaining their slice of paradise, Faarufushi are committed to preserving its marine life, and in addition to their numerous ecological practices on the island (these guys banned plastic straws before it was cool) they organise weekly lagoon cleaning to protect the reef.
I challenge you not to feel serenely recharged and a little smug on your scenic 50 minutes seaplane journey back to Male airport at the end of your stay. Indeed flying over the assorted islands is an experience in itself and only serves to confirm your belief that Faarufushi is the best the Maldives has to offer. Sadly, I think Brighton pier may now be ruined for me.
Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk) offer seven nights half board at Faarufushi in a Beach Retreat with Pool including flights on Emirates from London Gatwick and transfers in resort. The price for selected departures in October 2019 based on two adults sharing is from £3899 per person, with a saving of up to £1841 per couple. To book please quote tour ref: MV0111].
Review by Lucy Coghlan