Heaven’s alive: find a slice of paradise at Finolhu, Maldives

MADE BY MEMBERS • November 2020

A Member’s guide to the Maldives

John O'Ceallaigh
John O’Ceallaigh


World affairs have felt a little… chaotic of late, but if there’s one place on earth that’ll wrap you up in world of turquoise away from all the stresses, it’s the Maldives. Writing for The Club from his sun lounger at Vakkaru Maldives, Executive Club Silver Member and luxury travel expert John O’Ceallaigh preps us for a trip to paradise...

A confession: I can’t quite remember how many times I’ve been to the Maldives. It seems an indecent thing to say about a holiday destination that, for so many holidaymakers, fits under the ‘once in a lifetime’ banner but, I promise, I’m not always there for pleasure. My consultancy and journalism work bring me back here frequently and, while on every visit the sea life is just as staggering and those palm-lined, custard-coloured beaches just as beautiful, another word frequently used is… samey. 

Turns out that the thing about ‘once in a lifetime’ destinations is that tired tropes can be rolled out repeatedly and most guests will be none the wiser. In fact, whichever resort you stay at, dolphin-watching cruises, sushi dinners and sunrise yoga sessions will almost certainly be on the itinerary. So, on the rare occasions that properties successfully deviate from the tried and tested, they deserve commendation. Ready? Here are my favourite resorts that’ll give you a bucket-list trip with a twist…

The artist’s retreat

Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi
It’s fitting that one of the Maldives’ most distinctive cultural attractions provides an immersion, literally, in the wonders of this island nation’s waters. A tidal gallery that is semi-submerged in a turquoise lagoon and showcased to snorkellers by marine biologists, The Coralarium and the sculptures it contains act as an artificial reef, becoming home to corals, sponges and countless fish. It’s beautiful to look at, but the installation by Jason deCaires Taylor also invites broader contemplation about vulnerable ecosystems and environmental responsibility. Should they be suitably inspired, guests can create their own work in the resort’s on-site art studio.


The underwater suite

Where: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island’s signature villa, The Muraka, may feature an infinity pool and yoga deck, but really it’s all about the master suite: encased by an acrylic dome and embedded five metres below sea level. As the first guest to check in, my submerged stay here is something I’ll remember forever. The highlights: watching the setting sun cast golden shards of light through the water, as I drank Champagne on the ocean floor, and witnessing thousands of shimmying silver fish flit above me, resembling the murmurations of starlings by day and streaking comets by night.


The beach bubble

You may think you’ve cocooned quite enough this year already, but a night in Finolhu’s Beach Bubble, complete with double bed and bathroom, is pure castaway pleasure and adventure, rather than some type of pandemic penance. From sunset to sunrise, guests who overnight in this transparent ‘experience sphere’ will have private access to Finolhu’s 1.5km-long sandbank and the services of a chef who will rustle up a seaside barbecue. Then it’s lights out for a night all alone and with the stresses of the world far from view and firmly out of mind.


The workation destination

Where: Vakkaru Maldives
Slightly biased though I may be (I oversaw this development through my consultancy agency), Vakkaru Maldives’ Work Well package is the ultimate remote-working concept. Complimentary for longer-term guests, it includes a villa upgrade to allow space for a standalone study, while pop-up Ocean Office and Beach Boardroom set-ups can provide a change of scene (and what could well be the world’s most envy-inducing Zoom backdrops). Also included are bespoke fitness programmes including private PT, yoga and meditation sessions; healthy Brain & Body Fuel snacks delivered deskside daily; administrative assistance from a dedicated Vacay PA; and opportunities for further CV-enhancement, such as courses in diving and cooking.

The stargazing station

Where: Soneva Fushi
The Maldives’ isolated islands are havens for stargazing, but it’s to Soneva Fushi that aspiring astronomers flock for a celestial experience like no other. The first resort in the country to provide guests with access to such technology, Soneva’s ultra-advanced Meade telescope displays the cosmos using 3D technology that creates remarkable depth of field. It means the wonders of the galaxy can be found apparently almost at hand’s reach, without even removing your feet from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

British Airways flies direct to Malé, capital of the Maldives, three times a week from Heathrow between November and March.

This article has been tagged Destination, Travel Tips