A Visit to the Maldives – Jumeirah Vittaveli and Dhevanafushi – Reviewed
Who hasn’t dreamed of a trip to the Maldives? Sleeping in over water villas and snorkeling untouched coral reefs…lazy days spent napping in a hammock and finally catching up on all that reading or just more napping, whatever.
I recently visited two different islands, swam naked in the Indian Ocean and chased a tiger shark with my Go Pro (I’m not good at relaxing). So here is the 411 on how to get there, where to stay and what to do.
Getting to the Maldives:
The Maldives are actually a collection of almost 1,200 islands located quite literally in the middle of nowhere. The best way to get there from New York is to fly through Dubai (one of my fave destinations), from Europe the trip is MUCH easier. The flight from NY to Dubai is 14 hours, you then fly another four hours to Male, the capital of the Maldives. I will tell you, Business Class on Emirates does not suck.
Each resort occupies its own island, there are over 100 resorts, 30 or so of which define themselves as luxury. Once you arrive in Male’ you will either take a domestic flight on Maldivian Air to your resort island or be whisked away by private seaplane or boat. The Maldives are Islamic and as such I recommend dressing modestly on your trip through the capital city.
Where to stay:
Since each resort is truly its own island, resort hopping is not the easiest. I reviewed two different resorts and had to transfer back through Male’ each time. Do the research to find the resort that’s best for you. Many guests choose their resort based on whether or not there is a “house reef”. This is a coral reef that can be reached by free swimming from the beach. Other considerations would be size and activities offered. The two resorts I visited were very different though they were both Jumeirah properties.
This was the larger of the two resorts I visited. Vitavelli is an easy 20 minute boat ride from the airport. We literally rolled our luggage down the jetty and off we went.
This is the resort of choice for families, they offer two different kids’ clubs, one for teens and one for younger kids. I was only there for a short time and did not get a chance to tour them. They also offer babysitters for $15 per hour. The resort has four different restaurants and will even set you up with a toes in the sand, or toes in the pool dinner (I know, right?).
Room to Book:
I stayed in my own private over water villa, the Ocean Suite. This was a two story house on stilts perched in the middle of the Indian Ocean, actually a lagoon, but you get the idea. Mine was the middle one pictured, the only way to get there? By boat.
Can we talk about the see through floor in my living room?
This was my private balcony. I thought – “they left me champagne and I’m all alone – why wouldn’t I skinny dip and drink from the bottle?” Side note, drinking champagne while swimming is surprisingly tricky.
My bedroom with a view, the house has a full living room with walk out bathroom on the first floor and a romantic loft bedroom up a spiral staircase. However I was so excited about sleeping in the middle of the ocean I dragged my duvet down to the sun bed on the deck and slept with the sound of waves crashing under my head.
What To do:
Sandbar picnic. Yes, this is what they call a “sandbar” and this is how they define “picnic”. They took us by boat for about a 20 minute ride. I was expecting sandwiches on a quiet shore somewhere, when we pulled up to this I almost fell over. It was like a mirage appearing in the distance. For lunch they served sushi and champagne. We went snorkeling right off our private island, and in a moment of pure joy I was offered a glass of champagne before I jumped in.
They have bikes for loan all over the island. It’s a bucolic ride and if you hit the cocktail bar and can’t get your bike back, someone will help you out.
Curl up and read a book:
We took the boat back to Male’ and hopped on a one hour flight to the remote resort of Dhevanafushi. This resort is about 1/3 of the size of Vitavelli. In fact I took a paddle board and rowed around the island in about 40 minutes. Apparently not many people do this as when I was headed back there was a flock of Chinese tourists snapping my photo. I felt like Malibu Barbie.
Room to Book:
I stayed in the super swank Beach Revive. You’d think the over water villas would be more appealing, until you see this outrageous “room”. It’s really a compound, that comes with private pool, multiple rooms, the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen and of course, your own butler.
What To Do:
You can walk from your room to the beach and in moments be floating over the most gorgeous coral reef. I recommend doing a guided snorkel trip as they are excellent at pointing out sea life you might otherwise miss.
Have you ever drifted off while getting a massage and imagined you saw sharks? Turns out, I really saw sharks. These are tiny, they won’t bite, and make getting a massage hard to sleep through.
Private Yacht Sunset Ride:
The resort will happily book you a glorious sunset ride through Best Dives Maldives, the “boat” comes with staff and they can also stock it with all the snacks and champagne you might want, or need. When I asked how much this adventure would cost a guest I was told it was “prohibitively expensive”. This is now my new favorite term. Turns out it’s just over $ 1,000, which while expensive, could absolutely be worth it for a honeymooning couple, a proposal, or just a damn good way to spend a grand (or so).
Romantic Sand Couch Dinner:
I’m sure there’s a fancier name for it other than “sand couch”, but they set this fabulousness up for me and the other journalist on this trip, a chick, so while it wasn’t romantic, it was unusual. They had a large party going with buffet stands that offered local fare, seafood and traditional island type dishes. Again, a brilliant idea for someone on a honeymoon or proposing.
Like all good things, my Maldivian getaway finally had to end. The journey home started with a flight to Male’, another flight to Dubai and then finally the journey back to JFK. It’s a long way to go for some sun and relaxation. I would not do this trip unless you have at least 10 days to spare, if you can get away for that long however, the Maldives are everything you’ve ever dreamed they might be.
Sadly, they won’t be around forever. Some of the islands sit at a mere four feet above sea level.
In March and April 2012, the Maldivian President stated, “If carbon emissions were to stop today, the planet would not see a difference for 60 to 70 years.” “If carbon emissions continue at the rate they are climbing today, my country will be under water in seven years.” It is almost guaranteed that the Maldives will not exist by 2100.
I was the guest of Jumeirah Resorts for review purposes, they covered my airfare and all expenses. My print review will run in Greenwich Magazine in December 2015.