400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka and scattered across the warm embrace of the mighty Indian Ocean, lies a constellation of islands that is nothing short of rapturous—and a changing climate means it’s critical to dream this dream while we can
by Mats Meyer
It was Robert W. Service who in his epic collection of poems Rhymes of a Rolling Stone wrote:
“The Wanderlust has got me…by the belly-aching fire,” and Robert, I couldn’t agree more. As I’m sitting at my usual coffee shop sipping on an iced latte, typing away, a realization hits like a brick: I am desperately bored with the standard-issue island dreamscapes out there. This isn’t to put down the transcendent loveliness of Bali (profiled two issues ago, after all) the otherworldly glories of Micronesia, the gorgeous islands among the coral reefs just north of Australia, or…Nantucket for that matter. It’s just that I’m starved for something truly new.
The search was aided by the fact that I’m something of a fashion addict, having written articles concerning everything from the best type of bra to own and why to the sartorial stylings of Rafael Nadal and Tommy Hilfiger. And among the fashion destinations that also appeal to island fetishists, there is simply nothing to compare recently with the Maldives.
A sovereign island country and archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives is a chain of 26 atolls populated by approximately 400,000 residents, their first ancestors having arrived between 300 B.C. and 300 A.D. in the form of fishermen from southern India. Once predominantly Buddhist but now mostly Muslim in its religious affiliation (though with a far gentler touch than a number of other Islamic nations), the constitutional republic has been independent and secular since 1965. One of the most geographically dispersed countries on Earth (its 1,192 coral islands are spread over more than 35,000 square miles), Maldives geography is a sketch artist pornscape of swaying palm and banana trees, plus papaya, drumstick, breadfruit, and citrus varieties—punctuated by vibrant coral reefs and some of the most jaw-dropping emerald-blue expanses of ocean a traveler will ever encounter. This is also the globe’s lowest nation, its pinnacles sand dunes that rise barely ten feet, and with most territory a few-dozen inches above sea level. Given the currently assessed march of ocean levels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the nation is in danger of being uninhabitable by 2100.
For most, natural beauty and “now or never” impetus would be reason enough to visit, but there’s also sartorial sauce for the goose. Jessica Stein’s collaboration with lingerie powerhouse Victoria’s Secret has taken a photo shoot/marketing interest in the island nation, as has the photographer legend Cheval
Six Senses Laamu
Priding itself in using mainly island-grown organic products for both its mouth-watering dishes and award winning therapeutic treatments, the ecologically conscious Six Senses Laamu is the only resort in Laamu Atoll, and provides guests with a singular wellness and rejuvenation experience. From $762 per night. sixsenses.com
Four Seasons Resort Maldives
No newcomer to luxury hospitality, the Four Season stays true to its internationally acclaimed standard of excellence with two luxury Maldives resorts. The first option is Kuda Huraa. Only a half an hour speedboat ride from Malé, it’s the official host of the annual Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Championship, and offers exclusive activities such as shark snorkeling and dolphin cruises. A second option is Landaa Giraavaru. Spread amongst the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere reserve, the resort’s 103 five-star villas are a perfect blend of Maldivian village charm and high-end sophistication. The resort also offers guests the Four Seasons Explorer experience on a 139-foot catamaran that can host twenty-plus, providing the ultimate vehicle to the islands’ most secluded and exclusive corners. Also, check out the complimentary speedboat and seaplane transfers when booking the “Paradise Twice” package. Beach Pavilion with Pool at Kuda Huraa (seen here) from $1,150 per night. fourseasons.com
With a strict “no shoes” policy, and direct access to the resort’s private beaches, Maafushivaru’s thatch-roofed cottages and beach villas with private decks provide the perfect setting for a luxury getaway. Want to own your own private island for the night? One of the resorts biggest perks is a privately owned deserted island, known as Lonubo—a movie-like setting for a romantic dinner for two. From $770 per night. maafushivaru.com
Blanc Randheli. The fashion house RIFFATH, established in the Maldives in 2008, has led a style movement there that is gaining real traction, and, not surprisingly, the rich and famous have followed the breadcrumbs. From Blake Lively and Dita Von Teese to international sport legends David Beckham and Michael Phelps, the area provides the ultimate model of seclusion for those eager to find a capsule away from the worries of celebrity (such as they are). Even the British Royal family has succumbed to the wonders of this destination’s mesmerizing nature; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (that’s Prince William and Kate Middleton to you and I) having famously visited on holiday last year. Most recently, the unofficially-titled royal family member that is Amal Clooney met with Maldives former president Mohamed Nasheed there in September to advocate for his release from prison on terrorism charges.
With access to private beaches, nine-hole golf courses, underwater nightclubs, and over 180 luxury resorts, opportunities are positively dizzying for those who wish to indulge in the perks of high-priced travel. A perfect example came courtesy of models Alexa Chung and gal-pals Pixie Geldof and Daisy Lowe—their many snapchats of a New Year’s getaway at the W Retreat & Spa Maldives making the world quiver with envy.
There’s little reason for this place to remain a dreamscape, either, not least because of late-October flight deals, particularly from Sri Lankan Airlines and Emirates. The former lists round-trip fares from October 23-30—originating in JFK and landing in the Maldives capital of Malé after two stops—for as little as $1,212, while Emirates is offering a round-trip for the same dates at $1,310. Given the predictably sterling nature of the Dubai-based Emirates (though Sri Lankan is no slouch—consistently rated between three and four out of five stars by SKYTRAX), this represents between a 40% and 60% reduction off typical fares from competing carriers.