Sarah Siese checks out the hottest new property in the Maldives
Location: Joali is in the heart of the Raa Atoll, which is one of the deepest and largest atolls in the world. Guests arrive at the tiny private island on an exciting 45-minute seaplane hop from Malé.
First Impressions: Art and design are the keynotes to this island. An array of pieces are spread among the resort’s 75 beach and water villas, extensive spa (by ESPA, complete with Turkish hammam) and seven dining outlets. My favourites were a manta ray-shaped treehouse and underwater coral museum.
The facts: After the Maldivian president vowed in 2017 to support the opening of 50 new resorts over a five-year period, boom time kicked off. Joali was among that group but it vowed to stand out from the crowd. Sculpted by almost 1,000 builders and craftsmen, this queen of resorts opened at the end of 2018. Every resident has the service of a jadugar (Urdu for butler and meaning skilled magician), who can arrange anything you want, from dining under the stars to diving 30 metres below. All villas come with an infinity pool and feature original artworks, and bathrooms are an indulgence, with a large indoor tub and outdoor rain shower.
The food really shines too. Executive chef Ashley Goddard has created a combo of European and Maldivian delights. Vandhoo, the main restaurant, serves up a broad menu from southeast Asia, but its showstopper is the superlative breakfast buffet, including Ayurvedic dosha shots. There’s Mediterranean fine dining in Bellinis, where I’d recommend the home-made ravioli and the house‑smoked Maldivian tuna and prosecco scallop risotto. Most exceptional of all, the overwater Japanese restaurant Saoke serves exquisite teppanyaki, sushi and sashimi, ceviches, tempura and charcoal robata dishes, along with a sake degustation. The black sesame ice cream is once tasted, never forgotten – so good I had it specially delivered on the beach too.
Explore: My treasure-box moments were diving at the nearby manta ray hang-out, and sunny day trips on a dhoni boat, with excursions to local islands to soak up some of that Maldivian culture.
Wow: The wow here has to be the sugar-white beaches, filled with tropical flowers and palms, surrounded by the shimmering blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It simply begs you to kick back and wiggle your toes in the sand, lounge around all day in a hammock or cool off with the fish.
Book It: From $1,924 per night based on two sharing a Beach Villa with Pool on a B&B basis.
By Sarah Siese