THE HOLIDAY: Over-water villas and white sand beaches? Meh, I’ve heard it all before. The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives can feel so clichéd, it takes a seriously swish hotel to stand out from the rest.
Enter Cheval Blanc Randheli, a very French take on the postcard-pristine tropical idyll, owned by luxury goods house LVMH (aka Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton). They say they are dedicated to creating ultra-personalised holidays for honeymooners, and they must be doing something right: Roger Federer and the new Prince and Princess of Wales have checked in recently.
WHERE: As if one private island wasn’t enough, Cheval Blanc Randheli is spread across six in the Noonu Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane flight from Maldivian capital Malé. There’s no need to mingle with the masses at the airport though. Hotel staff speedily escort guests to a hushed private arrivals lounge for freshly baked croissants before their onward seaplane flight. The resort itself has just 45 gigantic villas scattered across the main islands connected by wooden boardwalks and sandy pathways that weave through fragrant jungle, banana trees and orchid gardens. But if you’re hoping to lock eyes with Prince William over the breakfast buffet, you’ll likely be disappointed as there’s also a separate private island with its own jetty, four-bedroom villa, beach, bar, spa and private chefs for a properly private escape.
THE STAY: These are no ordinary hotel rooms. Each villa is vast, with soaring seven-metre-high ceilings, its own 12.5-metre infinity pool and a dressing room bigger than the average London flat. Some have their own garden or patch of beach, but mine – the horizon villa – is one of a kind, perched on stilts at the very end of the pontoon facing an expanse of Indian Ocean and not overlooked in any direction. Inside, it’s so elegant, I’m afraid to unpack and spoil it, with artfully arranged coffee table books, oversized lampshades, two stocked wine fridges and splashes of the hotel’s signature yellow throughout. A bathroom-of-dreams comes stocked with everything from body scrubs to bath bombs, all in the resort’s own Island Chic scent, created especially by famed perfumer François Demachy, the nose of Christian Dior. A party-sized terrace has an outdoor dining pergola, outdoor shower, enough sunloungers and giant bean bags for an entire family and a ladder straight into the aquamarine ocean below.
Every villa also has its own personal butler to arrange anything your heart desires from baths filled with flower petals to dolphin-spotting cruises. It’s hardly surprising I barely see another guest during my stay even when cycling the full length of the resort. Most simply check in and stay in their own villa, where breakfast can be served on a floating tray in the private pool and the lengthy room service menu includes 50g of Beluga Imperial caviar at a mere £780.
Beluga caviar served on a floating tray in your private pool? A mere £780
WHAT TO DO: Leave the room. While the honeymooners stick to their own pool, the rest of this immaculate resort offers all kinds of activities besides the standard sunbathing and snorkelling you’d expect. There’s a golf putting green, open air beach cinema, boats for private diving excursions and a water sports centre stocked with seabobs, paddleboards and jet skis – I end up surrounded by dolphins when I circle the main island on a jet ski one morning. Yet another island devoted to tennis is a short speedboat ride away, where you can play on two courts hidden within a jungle built to US Open and Paris Masters standards, then cool off with a freshly opened coconut. The hotel is also the only Maldives resort with a surf simulator, which is brilliant – if slightly humiliating – fun, while there are several secluded beaches you’ll have all to yourself. Unless you hire the in-house photographer to turn up and capture the moment of course.
THE FOOD: From a poolside picnic to a starlit beach barbeque, guests can eat whatever they want, whenever they want it. But there are also five restaurants to choose from including the over water Deelani for homemade pasta and pizza and Diptyque with its live teppanyaki station and Japanese and East Asian menu. For a special occasion, fine dining spot Le 1947 is a must-do, with its own wine cellar, cigar lounge and just seven tables feasting on 12 exquisite courses. It’s also well worth booking in for the Indian Ocean night at beachfront restaurant The White for a menu of specialities from India and the Maldives.
DON’T MISS: The Maldives’ only Guerlain spa, set on its very own island with a yoga pavilion, hammam, barber shop and spa bar serving rock lobster spring rolls and design-your-own smoothies. It’s worth the brief boat trip even if you haven’t booked a treatment to lounge on a cabana on the sand for one of the resort’s best sunset views.
Visit The Maldives yourself
Room rates are available upon request at Cheval Blanc