The Shifting Shades of the Atolls

Seize Your Moment in the Ever-Changing Maldives

By Kelly Villasuso

The coral islands of the Republic of Maldives are in a constant state of change … every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year. Their very topography alters with each shift from the northeast monsoon to the southwest monsoon; their existence secured by the willingness of Mother Nature and the sand barges charged with anchoring them in place.

As the world’s lowest country with an average ground-level elevation no more than the height of a child (standing 4 feet 11 inches above sea level), the shores of its more than 1,200 atolls are being redrawn endlessly by rising seas and changing water temperatures. However, the 26 atolls of Asia’s smallest nation — and the world’s most geographically dispersed at 35,000 square miles — ushers in each day majestically, entrancing countless with its beckoning, opalescent sands and its crystal-clear waters that unveil the full spectrum of azure with each ebb and flow and proudly display its breathtaking inhabitants without one ever needing to break its surface.

Reverence for the Maldives archipelago, located atop a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean (the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge), is growing … rapidly — as can be seen in Conde Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Travel Awards 2016. The Maldives secured both the #1 spot for the most spectacular island destination in the world and the #2 spot in The World’s Top 100 overall.

As popularity spikes and sands continue to shift, now is the time to seize your moment in the Maldivian sun. The places at which you can lay your head in the Maldivian atolls are numerous and as varied as the ocean in which they reside. So, I offer several magnificent Maldivian options to provide you with timeless greetings and endless memories.

PER AQUUM Niyama … Nature’s Playground
 ♦  What Is it?
A twin-island paradise designed to soothe your soul, indulge your spirit of adventure, or a bit of both. Play Island offers high-energy activities, such as jet skiing, scuba diving, and sailing, while Chill Island offers just that … a chance to find serenity in the privacy of your own ultra-luxurious accommodations.
 ♦  Where Is It?
PER AQUUM Niyama is in the southwestern atoll of Dhaalu, which is approximately a 45-minute picturesque ride away from Malé, Maldives via seaplane or, quicker yet, private jet.
 ♦  Where to Lay Your Head?
You will find 134 gorgeous studios, suites, and pavilions on the beach and over the water. Opulence reigns in The Crescent, which consists of five over-water villas (booked as one), a private chef, two dedicated Thakurus (butlers), and a housekeeper.
 ♦ Things Not to Miss
• Dine in their treehouse, Nest, or at Edge, their fine dining restaurant set out in the ocean and only accessible by boat. Tips: Go out early to Edge to catch the sunset; request an outside table for dinner under the stars.
• Dance at a glow party at Subsix, Niyama’s underwater nightclub. Tip: Wear something white.
• Indulge in an oxygen-based facial that will have your skin looking as bright as the Maldivian night stars. Tip: Expect to fall asleep.
♦  Parting Thoughts
You will not want to leave the cocoon of PER AQUUM Niyama; the accommodations and service are that good.

Anantara Naladhu … Beautiful Island
♦  What Is It?
An uber-exclusive hideaway designed to make you feel as if you have come home to your own private island where, should you choose, you need never step foot outside once you are ensconced there.
♦ Where Is It?
Naladhu is in the South Malé Atoll in Velighandu Huraa, a 35-minute luxury speedboat ride away from where you fly into Malé, Maldives.
♦ Where to Lay Your Head?
With only 20 villas and houses on Naladhu, the pickings are deliberately and delightfully slim, each appointed with colonial furnishings and the finest of amenities. You will want for nothing … but if you do, your House Master will attend to it in the swiftest of fashion.
♦ Things Not to Miss
• Arrange for one of Naladhu’s signature intimate dining affairs in advance. Tip: The lagoon-side dining on Naladhu’s ocean breaker’s private deck provides a stunning backdrop to a bespoke meal.
• Venture out on Naladhu’s luxury yacht, Nirvana, for sunset or a half- or full-day excursion. Tip: Indulge in a romantic gourmet picnic on a sand bar of your choosing.
• Schedule in-room spa services. Tip: An open-air massage followed by a spa lunch on your deck is sublime.
♦ Parting Thoughts
Leaving Naladhu may leave you feeling socially awkward. That is because you likely will not have interacted with anyone other than your House Master for days. Reentry may be rough.

PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi … Dream Island
♦ What Is It?
The first overwater luxury resort in the Maldives that still shines
as bright as the day is long and offers cuisine on par with some of the very finest James Beard awarded
restaurants in the United States.
♦ Where Is It?
PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi is in the North Malé Atoll, a 35-minute luxury speedboat journey across the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean.
♦ Where to Lay Your Head?
There are 44 postcard-perfect overwater bungalows and beach pavilions, the most sumptuous of which is the three-bedroom, ultra-modern CUBE. This two-story sanctuary in the sand is just shy of 5,000 square feet and comes complete with indoor and outdoor living and dining spaces, a game room, oceanfront gardens and swimming pool, and a 24-hour, on-call Thakuru.
♦ Things Not to Miss
• Request dinner or wine tasting in Vinum, Dream Island’s underground wine cave that boasts 6,000 bottles of wine. Tip: Bring a pashmina as it is a bit chilly.
• Experience life in an aquarium with spa services in their underwater spa, Lime Spa. Tip: Try to keep your eyes open. The massage tables come equipped with mirrors below the face cradle to help you see the sea life all around you.
• Float in the sea water pool. Tip: Bring a waterproof camera to capture some of the most stunning views on the island.
♦ Parting Thoughts
Attachment can be a problem. The staff at PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi make you feel like family from the moment you arrive at the jetty until the moment you depart. These kind, welcoming people make it very hard to say goodbye.

Anantara Veli … Romance Island
♦ What Is It?
A deluxe, couples-only resort with overwater and ocean pool bungalows designed to provide undisturbed tranquility and romance.
♦ Where Is It?
Anantara Veli is also in the South Malé Atoll in Velighandu Huraa across the lagoon from Naladhu and a 35-minute luxury speedboat ride away from Malé.
♦ Where to Lay Your Head?
Fifty-seven overwater bungalows and an additional 10 overwater pool bungalows are at your disposal. Narrow your choice by whether you prefer a sunrise or a sunset view, which are both quite the spectacle in the Maldives.
♦ Things Not to Miss
• Make wellness a part of your journey. Tip: The Sundari Spa was named the #1 spa in the Maldives due to the Ayurvedic wellness program under the direction of Dr. Avinash R. Tiwari. Tip: You will be served a specially blended juice suitable for your Ayurvedic Dosha each morning at breakfast and receive a wellness plan via email to continue once you return home.
• Take time to learn how to cook Thai food at Spice Spoons, Veli’s cooking school. Tip: Come hungry because you eat what you make … and it is delicious.
♦ Parting Thoughts
Have your iPhone handy to add in the friends you make during your stay at Veli to your contacts. Happy couples make good friends.

The Shifting Shades of the Atolls