Floating breakfasts, spa sessions and island drums, this Maldives vacation is straight out of a postcard
At the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, every day is steeped in luxury, relaxation and breathtaking views
The afternoon sun daubed the crystal clear waters in blue light as I peeked from my window, 3,000-feet above sea level. A comatose calm enveloped me as I watched the blinding blue sights, which can be dizzying when you haven't felt this level of intimacy with the colours of nature (thanks, but no thanks, coronavirus!) But perhaps the Maldives have a way of taking care of my ephemeral and ethereal needs, I tell myself. "
This splendour was just the beginning, while I waited for Velana International Airport’s arrival gate to open into the sea. Seated on a private speedboat to Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, approximately 30 minutes away, the C-shaped sofa of the boat gives me ample view of the vast ocean and its other-worldly hues. Lured by my first encounter of the Maldives, I prepared myself for a visual relish, for the next three days, at the South Malé Atoll — a seven-month-old resort, nestled amid towering palm and coconut trees, white sands and turquoise waters. But how prepared can one be?
At the resort, the tunes of the traditional Maldivian drums give me a cheery welcome. A lavender oil-infused cotton towel and a tender coconut drink — handed to me by Vicky, my hiyani (butler) — instantly unknot my troubled nerves, and my screaming feet are silenced by masseuse Edz’s warm foot massage. Vicky escorts me to the Ocean Pool Suite. As the name suggests, Ocean suites are built on water. She seamlessly manoeuvres the buggy on a wooden pathway, also built on water, and I sit mesmerised by the changing sea colours. “The turquoise portions are lagoons and the dark blue ones are the ocean,” she says, as we reach my villa.
While Maldivian drums offer a celebratory welcome to the resort, other highlights include ocean pool suites, turquoise lagoons, explorations on foot or bicycle and fire dancers to light up the night
While all the villas in the property offer guests access to water and sands, the Ocean Pool Suites house an infinity pool and two pool beds. A few steps lead you down to the ocean, where you can go for a swim (with life jackets) based on tidal conditions. My room here has a queen-sized bed, a few sofas, a walk-in closet, and a wide bathroom with a shower and bathtub. The resort offers a one-of-a-kind Reserve plan, curated to include fine dining, premium beverages, maxi bars (replenished twice a day) and a few other exclusive experiences.
Butlers and buggy rides
You can explore the 2.5-km island on a butler-driven buggy, on foot, or by cycle. I choose to walk and befriend the beach, occasionally letting the waves wash over my feet as I watch the evening rays paint a postcard picture.
After an hour of finding myself in a meditative state with the roaring waves and wafting breeze, I decide it’s time to treat my tastebuds. I head over to Ozar for high-tea where a spherical stand replete with finger sandwiches, blueberry scones, profiteroles, lamb puffs, nuts, jam and cheese reminds me of my tangible needs. Heavily nourished, I dunk into a sofa that promises me the best view of the crimson ball tucking this part of the world into bed.
Nature and food both offer intimate experiences. With the former already doing its job well, I surrender myself to the latter at Traditional Saffron for dinner. A speciality restaurant that celebrates India, I find a slice of home in their traditional thali that features welcome drinks, kebabs, curries, bread, sweets, and several cocktails and mocktails. At the end of day one, I know I have signed up for a course in the art of idling.
In contrast to the cacophonic mornings of Chennai, I have the most unusual wake-up call with the sun rays piercing through the curtains, casting a gleaming shadow on the ocean, and the loud swish-swash of the waves hitting the stilts. I start day two by cycling to Vista Del Mar, the all-day dining restaurant, greeting chefs, butlers and lifeguards on the way.
“Maldives is where you come to relax and de-stress. Eat the food and enjoy the water,” Chaitanya Sharma, executive chef of the property, tells me. Who’s to deny that? So, I submit my senses to the king-size breakfast at Vista Del Mar, which has a culinary spread for every kind of traveller. On the menu are freshly baked bread and muffins, idli-sambar, eggs (a la your wish), pancakes, waffles, dim sum, fruits, cereals, juices and Danish pastries. My breakfast is Danish pastries, pineapple juice and a cup of coffee. And it all gets burned out in the next few hours when I take a tour of the property.
Ozen Reserve Bolifushi offers 90 secluded Reserves and villas — located overwater and beachfront. Each villa comes with a private pool and direct beach or lagoon access. Their villas include Earth Pool Villas (Sunrise & Sunset), Royal Reserve, Sunrise Earth Pool Pavilion, Ocean Pool Suites, Ocean Pool Suites with slide, Sunset Earth Pool Reserve, and Private Ocean Reserve with slide. The resort offers water activities, ice-skating and is home to Kuda Koli Kids Club, where they have a different way of greeting each day of the week. On Friday, we fist-bump and high five.
The club is a few steps further from Vista Del Mar, where I drop in again for a quick bite. For lunch and dinner, the selections include sushi, pizzas, nasi goreng, Indian delicacies and noodle bowls. There is also a cold section with a display of gourmet cheese and pastries.
While in the morning I chose to gaze at the sea and experience nothingness, the afternoon sun forces me to opt for a cosy set-up inside. A few slices of pizza, some salad and a generous helping of desserts later, I wait for my spa appointment, the next chapter in my fairytale.
Shagnika offers me a cup of butterfly pea flower extract tea that is said to have a calming effect before my Balinese massage begins. I am accompanied to a hitherto unseen part of the beach that houses the spa rooms. My therapist Fa, from Seychelles, explains the three oil variants available — Tranquility, Pain Relief and Vitality. I opt for the Pain Relief oil that has strong hints of mint and other spices. I wanted to mute out the world and its sufferings for a while. The oil begins to show its magic within seconds, as my tense muscles begin to relax. Sixty minutes go by in a jiffy; I can almost feel my body floating. She offers me a glass of lemongrass and ginger tea to enhance the effects of the massage, indicating the end of my spa session. Sigh!
Energised, I cycle around to lose myself in those parts of the beach where the powder-blue sky meets blue-green water. The long day ends with a carnival-like feast at Vista Del Mar. On Friday nights, special decorations go up by the beach, tables and chairs are set up and a makeshift stage is built. There’s a strong party vibe — a fire dancer, belly dancer and a DJ to entertain the guests; waiters in sarongs groove along as they bring our order. From poultry to seafood, I am introduced to dishes native to countries like Italy, Vietnam and Maldives. My time here has sure birthed a soaring appetite for life in me.
Granola on the water
Having scrolled through endless photographs of floating breakfasts, before I arrived here, I was ready to tick this one off my bucket list. On my third morning, an attendant bearing a circular stand set up my dream meal in the infinity pool. With the sun, breeze and waves for company, I begin with my morning coffee fix and then reach out to the bowl of crunchy granola. The pita bread in the mezze platter and the buttery Danish pastries, too, get impartial treatment. After all, what is breakfast if it’s not in your private pool, right?
After my eat, sip and dip, I get ready for a heart-stopping snorkelling experience. Vicky informs me that water activities stand cancelled as there are high tides. Okay, so not all dreams come true. Having marinated my brown skin sufficiently in the sun, I head for a sumptuous lunch of Schezwan fried rice and lotus stem in garlic sauce, and cheesecake. I am only glad that food has no weather conditions to follow.
And while I am floating in this fairytale, why not check off another dream from the bucket list. I put on a pair of skates to pirouette around the plastic ice rink with the help of Naalhi, my instructor. But, two rounds of skating — read sliding — later, I am ready to hit the beach again. By evening, the waves seemed to have gained some exposure, allowing me to go pedal-boating.
My penultimate meal is at Sangu Beach — a modern Levant and Moroccan cuisine restaurant overlooking the beach. Seated under the dark sky with twinkling stars, I savour Moroccan favourites like mezze platters, tagines, shish-tawook, and grilled meat delicacies whipped by chef Mahmood. I relish my last night here on a sweet note digging into Umalin, Baklava and Muhalabya.
On the morning of my departure, I am up early to watch the sunrise and cycle one last time and kiss paradise goodbye. This time, I stop by a lane lined with plastic red hearts adorning tree barks. This is Heart Street, a Maldivian twist to The Pont des Arts (Paris’ Lock Bridge). While I did not tie a heart, a part of me will always stay at these islands — where I transformed into a beach baby.
(The writer was invited to the resort in February 2021 before the second wave of the pandemic.)
The Maldives opened its gates for tourists on July 15, 2021, following the second wave of the pandemic. Travellers will have to carry a negative RT-PCR test result (issued from an ICMR-approved lab no more than 96 hours before departure of the direct flight) while flying to the country. The governments of both countries require you to upload health declaration forms on their respective websites 24 hours prior to departure (Air Suvidha for India and imuga.immigration.gov.mv for the Maldives).