White shores, and beyond that, teal waters that blend to the tranquil blues of the deeper sea, rich with colourful reef life before the open Indian Ocean. And in the other direction? Quite possibly the most luxurious resort and facilities one could fathom. These are the Maldives islands, a chain of 26 beautiful atolls that make the country one of the world’s most geographically dispersed. And, in the northern region, lies a 40-acre stretch of sand that has become one of the most stunning new openings, the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi on Shaviyani Atoll.
The resort is reached via a one-hour seaplane flight from Malé that could rival any sightseeing tour as it soars over the collection of stunning dotted reefs and resorts below. It is this palpable sense of a journey well-travelled that makes the resort truly feel like an escape, as its remote location makes this the kind of getaway that removes you from modern stresses and strains. The wide horizons and brilliantly bright blue skies will fill you with a sense of awe and wonder, and the attention-to-detail-service will make you feel like royalty – even if you feel slightly embarrassed when, stepping off the seaplane, you drop your sunglasses into the ocean, only to see a staff member dive in off the pier to retrieve them…
Where to stay
There is one clear choice to be made when booking one of the 120 sumptuous villas here: beach life or waterside. There is also a secondary thought, do you prefer sunsets or sunrises? These two factors will help tailor your perfect choice. The villas themselves are all tinged with a sleek, clean Maldivian decor that incorporates soft woods and crisp whites to give a sense of space and tranquility. These are complemented with crochet rugs, textured cushions and glass-bauble lights suspended in ropes, which is part of set illuminations that can be controlled to suit every mood and time. Though the theme flows similarly through each villa, stepping outside is where your preference can be most keenly felt.
Here, one chooses between the picture-perfect overwater villa, towering out of the waves on wooden stilts, its infinity pool looking out over open waters. The decking extends to a ladder that plunges into the sea – perfect for that early morning swim. The other choice is for those who love to feel sand between their toes as the beach villas open out to the shoreline, with a pool that nestles between tropical trees and looks out on one’s private access to the coast.
There is a temptation to bring half a dozen good books and settle into your own private retreat, mentally and physically, and this would be a blissful way to spend your time here. But for those that like to be active, creative or adventurous, there is plenty to fill the days, and every taste is catered for. For those who want to push their relaxation even further there is the stunning 200m-long infinity pool that cuts across the island and runs from the cocktail bar all the way to the Willow Stream Spa, itself a temple of relaxation with a range of soothing treatments on offer. For those who like to try something a little different, there is the art and photography studios; and for the active there is a tennis court, gym and yoga sessions scheduled to oversee the sumptuous sunsets. Families are also very welcome at Sirru Fen Fushi, with a toddler’s pool, kids club and beach hut venue complete with arcade games and retro jukebox for the teens.
The real prize of activities, however, is in the clear open waters, whether you want to take a boat to spot dolphins or snorkel to find Nemo. The waters are rich with life here and are refreshingly unspoiled, so keep your eyes out for clownfish, rays, turtles, lobsters, surgeonfish and so much more – all with the help of a knowledgeable guide.
Where to eat
The only downside to exploring the marine life is that it may make you feel slightly guilty about ordering fish, but that soon dissipates as the melt-in-the-mouth black cod hits your tongue. Though fish is arguably the resort’s speciality as it is supplied by local fishermen, Raha Market is a buffet restaurant that offers a dazzling array of cuisines, from spicy Indian, to fresh pasta cooked in front of you to a barbecue on the beach. It also serves up a breakfast selection that can be as healthy (fresh fruits and cereal) or deliciously indulgent (fresh pastries and pancakes) as you like. A special mention goes to the dietary options – gluten-free breads freshly baked for the morning, and the knowledgeable chefs are happy to talk about each dish and what they contain.
A change of pace can be found in the more specialised Japanese restaurant, Kata. This overwater venue will see baby sharks investigating near your waterside table if the conditions are right. Diners, meanwhile, will be investigating the sushi selection, taking a tipple of saki and being refreshed with a finish of homemade green tea ice cream.
The must do
British artist Jason deCaires Taylor has designed a breathtaking underwater art installation that lies offshore just enough to be visible at low tide, but can be snorkeled around when the waters are at high tide. Life-sized sculptures nestle in the water offering up an eerie yet wonderous stillness in this life aquatic feature – something not to be missed.
There is free Wi-Fi and complimentary use of non-motorised water equipment, along with a selection of free daily activities. Prices are all in US dollars, but there are no ATMs on the island so come prepared. The seaplane flies from Malé and the hotel will help organise this side of things for you.
Shaviyani Atoll 20209, Maldives. For more information call 00 960 654 8888 or visit fairmont.com
Feature by Nicole Gray