Experience a paradise of abundance at Joali Maldives

Step into a picture postcard and immerse yourself in endless horizons of blue

Nothing and I mean nothing prepares you for the Maldives… and I grew up by the sea. Long known as a romantic spot for couples, in a post-pandemic world, the Maldives is seeing a lot of changes to its tourism. It’s a spot for families, friends and IG-driven people.

First Impressions

Since the flight time from Bangkok to the Maldives is four hours and then some, Bangkok Airways is the best way to get there because no one says no to extra leg room! Since Joali Maldives is about 45 minutes from Male, once you’re through immigration and baggage collection, you’re ushered to the Trans Maldivian counter for a sea plane ride. You may have to wait for a transfer but fear not, Joali has you covered. Their lounge is comfortable, has Wi-Fi and a view of the sea plane “runway”,  You are also spoilt with pastries and drinks while you wait. 

The sea plane, which carries around around 12 passengers and and three pilots is an experience, with every seat getting an intimate look into the cockpit. Pro tip: Make sure you get a window seat for the breathtaking views of the atolls down below.  The minute you touchdown on the water, you’re welcomed in traditional Maldivian style, with a drum ceremony and a Maldivian coconut! 

Though once, you exit through the jetty, the view of the sea hitting the shores of the white powder sand beach is stunning. There is nothing like it! The shades of green and blue that the water takes on is unbelievable. I couldn’t take my eyes off the water. 

Staying In

Boasting one of the longest jetties in the Maldives at 1,3m -long, the “manta ray” leads you to water villas on each side of an infinity (rather apt) or a double-helix design, which winds around coral reefs to protect the marine life. The  first overwater villa appears after 300m, so as not to disturb natural ocean currents and ecosystems. You can either cycle along the jetty to get to the main island or ask your butler to pick you up in an eco-friendly electric buggy. 

Two Bedroom Ocean Pool Villa Pool.

The water villas are spacious and private, each with its own lap pool, a sundeck, a hammock over the water and direct access to the sea. Though beware of the currents at certain times of the day, so as not to be swept away. And since we are so driven by gadgets, the entire villa is controlled with an iPad. The main Muravandhoo Island is in the Raa atoll, in the north of the Maldives archipelago and is in one of the largest and deepest atolls in the world. It houses beach villas, the spa, activities and four restaurants offering varying cuisines. The main island is also the only island in the Maldives where  I heard bird chirping and saw a few crows, but that could be due to the 1,000 trees that were persevered during construction. 

Luxury Water Villa with Pool Bath.

You are spoilt for choice at Vandhoo for breakfast, where every whim and fancy is catered to, if you’re fussy and don’t want what’s on offer. I did specify exactly how I would like my tea to be brewed, and lo and behold, it did appear as ordered! A+ to the “chaiwalla”!  The breakfast was unmatched and can easily outshine the poshest of spreads. It does help that a few tables are set on the beach for those who want to feel the white-powdered sand between their toes first thing in the morning. There’s even a swing to gaze into the vast ocean-sphere, while sipping on a beverage of your choice. A blissful start to the day, anyone? 

Dinner at the Italian restaurant, Bellinis is wonderful under the coconut fronds, with glimpses of the starry night sky. Though while looking up, don’t forget to look down — and I ain’t talking about your phone! The flooring is quaint vintage tiles that design people would appreciate. The restaurant serves fine Italian dining and is dedicated to the art of perfect Bellinis and housemade limoncello, all under the watchful eye of chef Theodor Falser.

Bellinis.

Though the highlight of my stay (food wise) at Joali Maldives was dining at the Japanese restaurant, Saoke. Designed by world-renowned restaurant architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu, the restaurant has it’s own jetty, with the most incredible ocean views. The bar takes centrestage at Saoke, though the beauty is in it’s wood “jenga” ceiling. This floating haven is only open for dinner and serves modern Japanese from Grand Chef Hidemasa Yamamoto; a selection of sakes, cocktails, sushi, a choice of teppanyaki and even has kotatsu seating for iron-griddle enthusiasts. The main event, though, is in the waters below and kitchen side. At night, a plethora of nurse sharks come here to rest for the night and it’s a sight to behold! 

Saoke.

Mura Bar is your all-day dining place and also home to the main swimming pool. Cabanas and infinity pods make for good spots for sunset rituals, such as IG photos. Order a fresh coconut and the Maldivian fish curry and coconut rice for lunch here, while soaking in the sun and views. The best bit of Mura is that it is next to a sandbar where the waves form endless shades of blue and green. If you’re lounging by the pool, you will be refreshed hourly with smoothies, popsicles or fresh fruit.  

Mura.

Going Out

Technically there is no "going out", mostly because you're pretty far out, if you get my drift. In the Maldives, going out is managing to get out of the luxuriousness of the villa.

If you’re in need of some stimulation other than the blue skies and water, use the Art Map to walk around the island and ponder on the many artworks strewn all over. A few are focused on the child in us and are interactive. If you need to be guided, there's an art tour on offer. As the first and only art immersive resort in the archipelago, Joali Maldives has an Art Studio and Gallery, where one can do short workshops and interactive projects.

My time was best spent in the spa by Espa, which apart from the usual wellness packages, there is a healing garden, which is home to the “corner of cure” where most of the spa ingredients are grown. The spa is also home to a hammam, which is a Turkish baht, where one can indulge in the traditional bathing rituals from Turkey and the Middle East. Or just relax in the vitality pool and then enjoy the steam and sauna for free.

If you want a more active lifestyle while on holiday, there is a fully-equipped fitness centre and a sport that is all the rage these days — game, set, Padel! The spanking new padel tennis is a racquet sport that combines the best parts of tennis and squash.

The resort also offers scuba-diving experiences, motorised water sports activities and a semi-submarine ride to discover the underwater world. There is also a guided tour of marine life by a marine biologist.

Final Thoughts

Though designed as a luxurious art-immersive island retreat, Joali Maldives is focused on sustainable glamour. And it is easy to see that being implemented throughout the island. If you're thinking of a Christmas holiday retreat, there is a three-week pop art-themed festive calendar being hosted from Dec 21 to Jan 8, 2023. The resort will debut the "Rejoice Of Colours" pop art-themed festive celebrations, with the art-filled island being vividly decorated. Other festive celebrations include a Tree Lighting Ceremony, Christmas Eve dinner served at Bellinis and Vandhoo, followed by a retro-inspired pool party, a Christmas Day brunch followed by a five-course dinner and a New Year’s Eve celebration. Visit joali.com/joalimaldives. To check the Bangkok Airways flight schedule, visit bangkokair.com.

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