I believe in “January blues”. As the euphoria of the year-end festivities dies down, the dreary feeling of going back to work becomes more pronounced, especially since Chinese New Year is still a month away. But I just might have the antidote for that and it comes by way of a brilliant aquamarine hue that surrounds Joali Maldives white sandy shores. Believe me: As I waded knee-deep into its waters, the picturesque setting of the resort won the battle of the blues. Just like that.
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Located on a private island in Raa Atoll in the northern part of Maldives, it’s an easy 40-minute seaplane ride from Male. Barely two months since it opened, even before the Hollywood glitterati started flocking in, Joali Maldives already had a stream of guests who have arrived, left and rebooked their next stay.
The selection of accommodation is nothing short of outstanding. In fact, our entourage stayed in two different villas — we moved from the luxurious beach villa to the equally alluring water villa during our vacation because we didn’t want to feel like we were missing out. And you know you’re off to a great vacation when you start your stay here with Ruinart champagnes, even before checking in.
When I first stepped into the room, I had to crane my neck up to look at the impossibly high ceiling — it was as if someone had said to the builders: “Higher! Higher! Higher! Ok, stop! That’s the wow-factor height. Let’s add slabs of exquisite Turkish emerald marble from floor to ceiling to truly astound.” In fact, I heard the lady boss had the first mock-up villa torn down and completely rebuilt to satisfaction. Needless to say, the villa resonates with Joali’s theme: Joy of life.
Throughout our stay, we had a butler — Nawas — that was assigned exclusively to us, where his service was available via speed-dial on the mobile phone handed to us. He was quick to arrange our schedules, escort my young daughter to the spa to meet me, and fetch my sun hat when I yearned for some cover during aqua aerobics. It just doesn’t get any more thoughtful than that.
Here at Joali Maldives, it’s the unmistakably feminine attention to detail that blew me away and made me feel thoroughly spoilt — a hair straightener in the bathroom so that there are no bad hair days; the plushest bedroom slippers so that you feel like you’re walking on clouds; and the airy day robes felt like they were made from the finest cotton in a thousand thread count. Signature rose gold highlights were everywhere, from the furniture, walls, swizzle sticks, cloth hangers, right down to the words on the Pilates mat.
The beach villa features both indoor and outdoor living areas and showers, a dressing room, sun beds, a personal lap pool and an exclusive slice of the beach. Naturally, everything is wired up in the latest technology and works seamlessly with the touch of a button. Our stay at the water villa even awarded us sightings of rare Guitarfish, reef sharks, rays and parrot fish right from the deck, complete with blissful ocean breezes and direct access to the crystal clear ocean.
Even with the vibrant ocean life, one thing stands out: Vast swathes of dead corals. But Joali Maldives is committed to making conservation an integral part of its ethos, as explained to us by the resident marine biologist who also highlighted the laborious yet promising initiatives.
Every meal we had was an exciting culinary adventure, especially when Ashley Goddard is the director of the three restaurants on the island. Case in point: My daughter Aiyana had the crispy salmon and green soup for lunch for three consecutive days because it was that good.
The Japanese fare was a firm favourite with us as was the coconut ice cream at the ice-cream parlour. My diet plan came to a very quick demise but Rony, the resident gym instructor from Mauritius, came to my rescue with regular workouts at the “techno”- quipped indoor gym. More than just working out with guests on the island, he’s even working on an outdoor gym built with recycled materials.
In a country that already has a plethora of glitzy resorts, Joali Maldives feels like an ultra-luxurious experience at a friends’ island, albeit a generous friend who has filled up an island with the best life has to offer. Your only conundrum would be choosing the type of villa to stay in. My advice is to stay as long as you can and as long as your wallet allows. And don’t leave without booking your return trip.
For reservations , head to Joali’s official website.
All photos by Iroshini Chua.