These twin Maldives resorts deliver double indulgence

These twin Maldives resorts deliver double indulgence

Enjoy an island getaway that’s twice as nice.

Words by Ute Junker

Photos supplied

It is hard to feel miserable in the Maldives. No matter which resort you check in to, all that shimmering aquamarine water and powder-soft white sand inevitably works its magic, bringing a dose of soothing to even the most unsettled soul.

I always leave the Maldives feeling better than when I arrived but my stay at Joali Maldives brings me more joy than any of my previous stays. There are so many moments that set my soul singing. There is the joy of ocean-fresh seafood served amid flickering lights on the Japanese restaurant floating over the water, or the serenity a private breakfast suspended in the treetops in a woven sculpture shaped like a manta ray. There is the delight of a private aqua yoga session in the waterfront pool as the sun sinks towards the horizon, or the simple pleasure of a scoop of homemade ice cream on a sun-soaked afternoon.

Most of all, there is the joy of my villa, hands-down the most extraordinary overwater villa I have ever stayed in. It is about the soaring ceilings, the expansive deck, the sheer size of the thing that is not much smaller than the house I grew up in.

There are many remarkable things about Joali Maldives but perhaps the most remarkable is the fact that it was conceived by a person with no experience of luxury resorts. Turkish entrepreneur Esin Gural Argat was prompted to make the move into hospitality when she fell in love with the Maldives. She created one of the most spectacular resorts in the country – and then she decided to open a second one.

Joali Being, 25 minutes away by speedboat, shares the same DNA but offers guests a different experience. When I planned this trip, I was actually more excited about visiting the adults-only Joali Being. The first full-scale wellness retreat in the Maldives, it is an entire island dedicated to helping fix whatever ails you. On the day of my transfer, all I want to do is stay at Joali Maldives. It doesn’t take long to realise that Joali Being is the perfect follow-up.

Many Maldivian resorts offer massages and facials but Joali Being takes things to a new level with an immersive spa experience that doesn’t just rival the experience offered by big players such as Chiva Som in Thailand – it exceeds it.

Wander the paths through the island’s verdant interior – no trees were removed during the construction of the resort – and you will start to discover the extraordinary facilities. There is Kaashi, a hydrotherapy centre that includes a Russian banya, an Aufguss sauna, a watsu room and a salt room constructed of pink Himalayan salt bricks. There is Aktar, a herbology centre where you can learn how to make your own tea blend or oil blend, and CORE, the huge Technogym fitness centre which comes equipped not just a boxing studio and Pilates reformer racks, but high-tech 3D posture analysis and the first cryo-chamber in the Maldives.

There is the Ocean Sala, where you can try your hand at anti-gravity yoga or take your place on the oceanfront meditation deck, and of course there are the treatment rooms – 39 of them for a maximum of 136 guests (and yes, some of them are overwater.)

Every element of the resort is built around wellness, from the biophilic design that echoes the island’s natural forms to the food. Chef Khuntal Kumar has created an extraordinary menu that is served from three kitchens: one plant-focused, one seafood-focused, one signature kitchen. The colourful open kitchens – one green, one blue, one pink – add a touch of Wes Anderson whimsy to the dining experience but it is the beauty of the plates, which are packed with colourful ingredients, that really impresses.

My bowl of cauliflower and broccoli with farro, for instance, incorporates three or four types of salad, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, pomegranate, enoki mushrooms, strips of carrots and beetroot, half-moons of pickled onions and a sprinkle of chopped hazelnut.

“We use close to 70 different vegetables [in the kitchen],” Kumar says. His menu gives plenty of information to guests who want it – from kilojoule count to which pillar it aligns with to any potential allergens that are included. But there is no such thing as a banned ingredient.

“Our philosophy is about moderation not exclusion,” he says. “Our dishes optimise the nourishment – you choose what works for you.” A key part of that is making as much as possible inhouse. “We do everything from our own cold cuts to medicinal teas, our jams, our homemade Nutella. We encourage guests to walk into the kitchen anytime and ask questions.”


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