Two weeks ago the Maldives celebrated the 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain. In that short space of time – relatively speaking – it has gone from being a remote and unknown area, into one of the world’s most luxurious holiday destinations.
On 3rd October 1972, the first paying guests arrived on an island called Kurumba – named after the Dhivehi word for coconut. This, the first Maldivian resort, was a very basic affair. Mohamed Umar Maniku, Chairman of Universal Enterprices recalls: “We had nothing in the Maldives then, nothing. No Banks, no airport, no telephones only ham radio or Morse code contact with Colombo. Even the UNDP experts said that tourism would never succeed because there were no facilities, no infrastructure.”
Drinking water was actually rainwater from a well and meals were a repetition of tuna curry, rice, coconut and bananas. The island and surrounding area though was spectacular. “We knew nothing about tourism,” said Maniku. “It was tourists who helped us build the industry here. We listened to them and gave them what they wanted. Luckily for us, they wanted simplicity in natural surroundings and that was what we had to offer and all we could afford.”
That simplicity of the “no news, no shoes” philosophy of the 70’s remains today with the Maldives’ reputation as the ultimate private paradise getaway remains.
One of the very best islands in the Maldives, particularly for those with a penchant for design, is Cheval Blanc Randheli. Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, who also created One&Only Reethi Rah, Gathy has created a stunning series of 15 island villas, 15 water villas, 14 garden water villas as well as a 4-bedroom Owner’s villa with a typically exceptional level of attention to detail.
Set in the beautiful Noonu Atoll, Cheval Blanc Randheli is a quiet and contemporary haven of peace and luxury located just 40 minutes north of the capital Male. Guests arrive by the exclusively designed sea plane which combines the brand’s signature taupe with Randheli’s solar yellow. Prior to take off, a private lounge awaits guests to relax and freshen up before flying away to Randheli.
From the moment you set foot on the island – probably sporting a pair of new traditional espadrilles, courtesy of Randheli, you’ll be warmly welcome by an ambassador who will whisk you off to the privacy of your villa.
The island villas with the lush jungle behind, open out onto the stunning Indian Ocean. Jean-Michel Gathy designed the villas with a cathedral-esque template that ensures the space is light, airy and relaxing. Huge doors open up to partition the space up into three distinct and private areas: a light-filled living room and a sumptuous bedroom with its dedicated walk-in dressing room that leads up to a generous in- and outdoor bathroom with its own salon de bain.
Every detail has been considered and works perfectly – the white bicycles for getting around the island are a lovely touch, and the whole space looks endlessly welcoming and comfortable.
A simple wooden pontoon leads to the entrance of the water villas. Inside you’ll find a living room, a bedroom with walk-in closet and a bathroom that follows on, all with the most stunning views over the lagoon or the Indian Ocean.
So once you’ve had a lovely day relaxing in your water villa, you can head out for dinner to one of five restaurants including Le 1947 fine-dining signature, La Table de Partage private dining room, the White contemporary restaurant, the Diptyque offering the best of Japanese and East-Asian cuisines and the Deelani Mediterranean al-fresco venue.
Named after a Maldivian breeze, the Deelani is a lively Mediterranean restaurant. Throughout the day, home-made gelati, sorbets and granita can be enjoyed on the deck, before the restaurant’s atmosphere begins to buzz at cocktail hour.
The evenings bring delicious tapas and fresh seafood cooked on a Mediterranean style grill. Menu highlights include Mediterranean Mezze, langoustine Prosecco risotto and crisp pizzas.
No luxury island getaway would be complete without a spa – and Randheli is no different. The Cheval Blanc Spa offers an ideal getaway for those seeking to indulge in a full day of pampering. Alongside exclusive Guerlain treatments, guests can enjoy a traditional hammam bath or a yoga session in the dedicated pavilions as a prelude or interlude to their treatments. A Leonor Greyl hair spa and a make-up studio complete this sensory getaway. The Spa bar offers a selection of healthy snacks for a relaxing break next to the infinity pool.
As with any island in the Maldives you can except a raft of water based activities such as water skiing, catamaran sailing , windsurfing and canoeing. And of course, diving.
Home to turtles, manta rays and pinecone soldierfish, Noonu Atoll is an ideal playground for snorkelling and diving excursions during the day, at sunset or at night. The 5-star PADI-certified dive centre offers excursions adapted to all levels and wishes. A team of expert divers escort guests in the discovery of the most beautiful spots.
Cheval Blanc Randheli is without a doubt the most perfect private paradise getaway. For more information click here or contact Cazenove+Loyd who create tailor made holidays to Randheli and lots of other amazing locations all over the world.