Travel Review: North Male Atoll, Maldives
On an octopus-shaped island edged with white-sand beaches and carpeted in jungle foliage, just 40 minutes by speedboat from the international airport at Malé. More than 60 per cent of the island is made up of reclaimed land, making it one of the largest in the North Male Atoll.
Style & Character
When Reethi Rah (‘beautiful island’) was first unveiled more than a decade ago, it instantly set the bar for luxury hotels in the Maldives. Its appeal continues to this day: the resort has just been voted the number one hotel in Africa and the Indian Ocean for the second year running by readers of The Telegraph’s Ultratravel magazine (May 2017). The barefoot vibe is unashamedly decadent with design influences from Maldivian, Chinese and Balinese architecture.
Services & Facilities
Aside from the fabulous castaway location, what makes a stay here so special is the international team of more than 800 staff. Many are long-serving at the property, a loyalty that is not typical of other hotels across the region, and it’s this continuity that ensures the service is intuitive, warm and assured. Reethi Rah operates on its own time zone, which is set one hour ahead of Malé, in part so that guests can marvel at the transcendental sunsets for which the Maldives is renowned at a more cocktail-friendly hour.
The dizzying array of facilities and things to do includes an astonishing 12 beaches, expansive dive centre, tennis, rock climbing, FIFA-certified football pitch, boutique shopping, cookery lessons and art classes. Not to be missed is a trip out on the resort’s traditional dhoni boat to nearby reefs and dive sites, including the opportunity to spot hawksbill turtles.
A fleet of chauffeured golf buggies are on-hand to whisk guests around the resort and bicycles for guest use are assigned to each villa.
The world-class ESPA spa is a magnet for wellness awards and as such is a destination in its own right. The well-executed treatments range from massages and facials to five-day wellness programmes. There was though a sense that the spa could be a victim of its own success – I was reprimanded for being ‘late’, despite arriving just before the allotted time. The spa’s tranquil gardens make for a wonderfully calming spot.
The glorious Jean-Michel Gathy-designed villas range from generous beachside properties, with their own private strip of sand, to vast overwater beauties, featuring infinity pool and cabana bed for two. The Grand Sunset Residence, with its private beach, outdoor cinema and choice of pools, offers the maximum level of exclusivity, and has played host to celebrities including The Beckhams, Tom Cruise and Gordon Ramsay.
All villas have vaulted ceilings and are beautifully styled in wood and natural stone with cool chalk-white fabrics, elegant furniture and sunken baths. There’s also oodles of outdoor space and some boast private pools. The beach villas are best for easy access to snorkelling, followed by lazy afternoons in a hammock tied between two palm trees. Bliss.
Food & Drinks
An exceptional level of choice, including romantic Botanica, a lantern-lit spot under the trees with an emphasis on ‘garden-to-fork’ dishes; Reethi, an extraordinary space inspired by Chinese architecture, for Asian, French and Italian cuisine; and Tapasake, a great spot for sunset views – and reef sharks swimming in the water below – for modern Japanese tapas-style.
The Fanditha Bar is the place to be at sunset, with its cabana beds, shisha pipes and chilled-Ibiza vibe. Afternoon tea is available at Fanditha daily. Reethi is also the setting for breakfast, with views out across the island’s loveliest beach, for an astonishing array of options, including a walk-in cold store stuffed with fruit, fish, pastries (and more besides) and a superfoods area for cleansing juices.