Last week saw an epic first for me, a trip to the sandy white shores of the much sough-after Maldives. The trip, which started with a lovely flight with Sri Lanka Airlines (a comfortable and much cheaper alternative to Emirates) via Colombo, begun at the beautiful Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. #NOFILTER!
Wrapped by a white-sandy beach, over-looking a stunning coral reef, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru is a site for sore eyes. Upon arrival, following a speedy 25 minute transfer from Malé airport (this is dependent on weather conditions of course), we were welcomed by the bluest, crystal clear waters I’ve ever seen. A small secluded island, which you can easily walk around in ten minutes, is covered in lush green palm trees and bushes with beautiful pink and white flowers – a postcard in the making! After a swift check in, a ginger and lemongrass iced-tea and an ice cold towel (covered in Banyan Tree’s signature unforgettable scent), we were escorted through the resort and to our Oceanview Pool Villa, our resting place for the next two nights.
The 48-villa resort is made up of thatched beach-houses, all uniquely designed to reflect the spiral of a seashell. The understated elegance of the conical thatched-roof of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru imparts a sense of traditional Maldivian magic whilst the seashell shape resembles L.O.V.E. On entering through the double wooden doors of our villa, we were welcomed by a private pool, hot tub, outdoor shower and cosy love seat for two. Walking through to our room, the circular shape had a four-poster bed draped in white in the centre, with an outdoor/indoor bathroom attached complete with a shower, his and hers sinks and large wardrobe. At the end of the bedroom, double doors opened onto a small garden with a private pavilion and dining table, a choice spot for sundowners or dining à deux. Following the sandy path, the private villa then opened up onto the sandy shores with lilos on hand for a quick dip and sun loungers for long afternoons of reading. Each villa on the island has its own beach access as well as their private pools.
The marine aspect is an important factor of life at Vabbinfaru. With a diving school, Marine Lab, and many other conservation activities available, this was definitely a highlight of our stay. Under the leadership of marine biologist Steve Newman, Banyan Tree has certain initiatives in place to not only look after the sea world, but also the coral that surrounds the island. We took part in daily manta ray feeding at 5pm and assisted with turtle feeding throughout our stay. Steve Newman, now Director of Marine for Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, also encourages guests to participate in the not so usual Maldives activities, from reef clean-ups to in-room letters inviting guests to marine conservation talks, ensuring no one passing through the resort leaves without being aware of the environment that surrounds them.
Diving also plays a big part in island life, and with a its own reef just off the resort, we could easily swim from the shore straight into the underwater world. The team were very helpful in guiding us through the dive to spot everything from clown fish to reef sharks, turtles to stingrays. Those who don’t’ dive, don’t worry – snorkelling kits are available free of charge, and with map in hand many hours can be spent swimming around the circumference of the island.
The retreat offers the choice of two restaurants, Ilaafathi for Maldivian or international cuisine, and Sangu Garden for barbeques and themed buffets. Ilaafathi is where you will find the breakfast buffet, complete with an a la carte egg menu, fresh coconuts and Bucks Fizz. Lunch happens daily at Sangu, with generous barbeque buffets and a la carte options complete with stunning views of jade green palm trees and turquoise waters. Dinner happens at both, which is magical especially when the night is clear and the stars come out to play. Post-dinner cocktails can be had at Naiboli Bar (the concoctions are fantastic!) which puts on a show in true Maldivian fashion every Friday evening. Following dinner, late night walks can be taken to the welcome pavilion, where the reef sharks swim, transfixed by the lights.
Another highlight is the famous Banyan Tree Spa, tucked away in the heart of the resort. Six tranquil pavilions offer a plethora of body and beauty treatments, where the experience starts the moment you enter the small double doors. After fresh juices had been drunk and preferences had been recorded, we wondered down the cobbled pathways of the spa to our Couples Room, complete with outdoor bathtub and shower. After a soothing food scrub, I embarked on an hour long revitalizing massage to relief my tired (and sunburnt!) skin, ending with a dreamy 15 minute head massage. After the hour was up, papaya cream was rubbed into my arms, chest and back before I settled down to a ginger and honey tea accompanied by a fresh fruit pot with natural yogurt – all very healthy and feel-good!
After what had been a blissful 48 hours, I was somewhat depressed to be leaving island life behind. The friendly staff, cosy surroundings and intimacy of the island made me instantly feel at ease and the convenient ‘island time’ (an hour ahead of Male) meant days were long, sunsets were later and swim and sun was enjoyed for over 12 hours a day. The ideal beach getaway, Banyan Tree is a great spot for couples seeking seclusion, families pursuing a break and friends looking to switch off.
For reservations and further information, please call +960 664 3147 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.