Mirihi Island Resort, Maldives

'The highlight of the evening was the appearance of a pod of at least 30 pilot whales'

Flora Ioannou finds paradise in the Maldives.

LOCATION: Looking out of the window at the heart-stopping beauty below, you feel as if you could be in one of David Attenborough’s award-winning documentaries; so crystal clear is the sea, you can spot Nemo and friends as you fly overhead. This is enough to distract even the most nervous of flyers (me included) heading to Mirihi Island Resort. It is one of the smallest of the 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives and is located in the South Ari Atoll, a 30-minute seaplane transfer from Male. 

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: “Let me take your shoes,” our host requested as we arrived. “You will not be needing them here.” I recoiled in horror, as my sweaty feet had been in my Pumas for the past 14 hours. But after a feeble attempt to keep them firmly on my feet, I eventually, and rather embarrassingly, gave in to his demand. There’s a no-shoes policy on the island, so don’t spend hours, like I did, deciding which shoes go with every outfit while packing – it’s a waste of time and luggage allowance. 

There is something therapeutic about feeling the powder-soft, white sand between your toes as you explore the 350m-long and 50m-wide private luxury island. It takes a mere 20 minutes at a leisurely pace to walk around the island, taking in the killer Instagram backdrops. 

The best sight of all is the row of wooden villas perched over the Indian Ocean, standing to attention in the calm of the resort. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I approached my villa’s front door and noticed my name in place of a number. This sight fuelled my excitement, as it dawned on me, I had arrived at my personal paradise – Villa Flora.

 

THE FACTS: With only 37 thatched villas (six beachside, 31 overwater, including one two-bedroom option) spread across the island for complete privacy, you hardly ever see another guest. The villas themselves, identical in simple yet stylish Maldivian design, have all the mod cons of their luxury counterparts on the neighbouring islands. 

My favorite features included the ocean-view shower room, walk-in wardrobe, Nespresso machine,Bose sound system, comfiest king-sized bed ever and a private deck with steps down to the sea…an endless list, as you can see. 

What they don’t have are pools and TVs, but to be honest, you never notice. With snorkelling gear, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards included, the ocean should suffice on the entertainment front, and the show put on by the underwater world day and night (all villas have underwater spotlights) is mesmerising. 

You’ll also be mesmerised when you see the choice of Asian, Sri Lankan and international food on offer at the four restaurants, each of which has a different atmosphere – although they’ve all got sand floors. 

Head chef and big character Felix and his team lovingly serve dishes incorporating freshly caught tuna, lobster and shrimps the size of your hand. If, by chance, nothing takes your fancy (which I doubt) he will tailor-make something for you. “Just try a bit of everything, it’s good,” Felix would say – and he wasn’t wrong.

Working off the amazing food isn’t hard, as there are countless activities on the island, such as scuba diving among the surrounding coral reefs (at an extra charge) and working up a sweat in the fitness centre. And if that doesn’t appeal, just pamper yourself in the spa.

But it’s the little extras that make this island resort shine – yoga, meditation sessions, a beach cinema, stargazing with one of the country’s largest telescopes or a cheeky game of football with the staff, who are more than happy for you to join in. The simplicity of the resort is its luxury.  

 

WOW: Taking the beautiful 55-foot pine yacht Thari into the deepest ocean on a sunset cruise was by far the best evening, not of the week, but of my life. 

Staff joined the cruise, with one even bringing his guitar so he could serenade us with Ed Sheeran songs. Meanwhile, one of his colleagues whistled towards the ocean from the bow of the boat to summon his dolphin friends. Within seconds, and to my delight, his friends arrived. Like a small child, I cheered and clapped as they danced and skimmed over the waves around the boat to impress us like playground show-offs. 

The highlight of the evening was the appearance of a pod of at least 30 pilot whales that hadn’t been seen around the island for several years. They gave the group a show of their own. In pairs, they gracefully bobbed in and out of the still waters, with the only sound that of their blowholes as they surfaced. Even ‘Ed’ stood in silence as the pod glided by. 

It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that money couldn’t buy – the perfect end to my week in paradise. The island’s motto is: ‘As unique as you’. And it absolutely is. 

BOOK IT: Rooms at Mirihi Island Resort start at $670 per villa per night.

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