The joy of being
An immersive journey of discovery in the Maldives
The Maldives might seem an unlikely place to go on a spiritual and wellness retreat. Though, when you think of it, the place is made up of atolls, surrounded by water, and water is an essential part of being human.
So at a post-pandemic and post-traumatic personal life moment, I find myself boarding a flight to the Maldives on Bangkok Airways, because when one is on a healing journey, extra leg room and a comfy seat are a must! Once in the Maldives, I take a 40-minute seaplane ride to the secluded island of Bodufushi in Raa Atoll, where my sanctuary for the next week lies.
Joali Being, amid crystalline lagoons, pristine beaches and lush coconut palms, immediately offers a sense of calm. The entire resort is built to ensure a journey of self-discovery and renewal, starting with the four pillars of well-being: mind, skin, microbiome and energy. The wellness resort is the first of its kind and is the only integrative retreat in the Maldives. Each programme is tailored for you specifically (I filled out a few forms before setting foot on the island) and can vary from five days to three weeks. It is as immersive as you'd like it to be and that is the best part of it.
The resort has 68 villas and all come with a private pool and a jadugar (the Urdu word for magician, or butler in layman's terms). And if you think you don't need a jadugar, believe me here you do. He is the one who will make sure you get to your programmes on time and offers his well-rounded knowledge of the island for the curious, like me. The minute I step into my over-water Ocean Pool Villa, I lose all sense of time. Such is the nature of Joali Being, where time becomes inconsequential as you soak up your surroundings, which is mainly water. I grew up by the sea, but never has the vast ocean had such an impact on me. This, if anything, attests to the serenity of being at Joali.
To further your journey, a wellness consultation at the retreat's Areka centre is a must to ascertain current state of mind, followed by an integrative lifestyle assessment. This is to ensure you are on the right path.
Joali Being is home to the Maldives' first cryotherapy chamber and though it may seem very avant-garde, it is the best way to get into the thick of things. The therapeutic application of extreme cold for two minutes promotes collagen production, which reverses the effects of ageing. Strip down to your bathers and be prepared to face the icy cold. A helpful tip to endure the chill: keep in mind that two minutes in the facility's cryo:one chamber burns 800 calories. Once out, you will feel energised and ready for almost anything.
Of all the treatments on offer, I was most intrigued by watsu, which is water therapy. Kaashi is Joali Being's hydrotherapy hall and houses the watsu oval room, with a twinkling ceiling and temperature-controlled pool designed to evoke a womb-like experience. Walls in green and blue tones further elicit a sense of enveloping water. The therapy session is led by a professional practitioner and involves stretching, massage and acupressure; to put things into perpective, watsu comes from the words water and shiatsu. Pro tip: take a sea sickness pill if you can't deal with moving around water in circles. The gentle feeling of being afloat, merged with the nurturing support provided by your therapist, allows for healing on many levels, and may lead to an emotional or physical outburst once the session is over. Do not be embarrassed as this is what you are here for. Kaashi also features Banya, a Russian steam bath, as well as the component's Aufguss Sauna and Salt Inhalation Room.
Because no healing is complete without a sense of smell, the retreat includes Aktar, a dedicated herbology centre inspired by spice markets. Here a resident herbologist will whip up herbal teas for any kind of physical or mental ailment and likewise create natural body creams, shampoos and massage oils. For those wishing to take home more than just a new you, herbology workshops are also on offer.
One of my favourite things about Joali Being is its Discovery Sound Path, an open-air site ideal for when the afternoon Sun gets too hot for lazing on the beach. Follow the secluded palm-fringed trail to this oasis, which has nine natural instruments. Restore your inner balance through harmonising vibrations and sounds, which happens to include an adjacent ocean. What more could you ask for? If this is perhaps too out in the open for you, try Seda, which offers a more private experience within a sound therapy hall.
While on this journey, I also managed to enjoy one of my many loves in life -- tennis. Joali Being has courts and with an instructor on hand, and I was in luck during my stay as guest instructor for the week was a former world top-10 player. Not only does the resort ensure you feel your best, they even provide the best.
All this activity requires bodily fuel, of course. While many wellness retreats offer strictly controlled diets in terms of ingredients and portions, at Joali Being things are done quite differently. That is, everything on the menu is a treat. Breakfast, served at Flow, offers a variety of fresh foods and juices and elixirs. Though it's not just the food that's a treat -- the view matches it, especially when you're seated on the terrace. Flow is also home to three signature kitchens, namely Plantae, B'Well and Su, and you can order from any of these three menus.
Mojo, the retreat's beach sanctuary, is a three-level sundeck and makes an ideal spot for lunch and sundowners by the pool. It's also home to Sai tea lounge, which hosts workshops by a resident tea sommelier so you learn the difference between teas and tisanes.
I was able to do most of the things I love at Joali Being, including taking a Maldivian cooking course at the Culinary Learning Centre. The cookery here focuses on an earth-to-table initiative promising ingredient traceability and fresh, locally harvested foods with sourcing that supports small farms.
From the tranquil rhythm of ocean waves to the grounding embrace of ivory sands, I left Joali Being with a renewed sense of freedom having undergone a transformative journey that still resonates with my soul.
Visit joali.com/joalibeing/offers. For a schedule of upcoming events, visit joali.com/joalibeing/co-create-wonder-wellbeing-events. To check Bangkok Airways flight schedule, visit bangkokair.com.