Destination: Maldives – a country made up of over 1,190 coral islands formed around 26 natural ring-like atolls off the southwest coast of India. More than 90% of the country in under the sea!
The trip: 12 nights Spa and Wellness Experiences in 5 resorts – Anantara Veli, Velassaru, Kandolhu, The Residence and the Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa.
Our wellness journey actually began the night before we headed out to the Maldives at the Shangri-La in Paris. Whilst dreaming about the next day, the evening was spent relaxing in the spa, steam room and pool. Then, from our suite we admired the incredible views of the Eiffel Tower as the sun went down and the night light show began to beam and flash. Could not of asked for a more magical bed time ”good night”.
Or a better start to the day with their gourmet B-Green energising wellness breakfast. Created by Michelin starred chef Christophe Moret, this is a breakfast fit for a healthy Queen. It’s 100% gluten and lactose free and rich in vitamins and minerals. Along with a green detox juice there’s an array of organic vegan breads, superfood spreads, buckwheat muesli and the final course and centre piece – an avocado and crispy vegetable carpaccio! Voila!
Feeling well nourished and full of energy and excitement, we were ready for our afternoon flight out to the Maldives via a quick two hour stopover in Dubai.
This is the Maldives, one of the most amazing places on Earth, a dream destination that most of us will only get the opportunity to visit once. Luckily for the purpose of this once in a lifetime trip, my wanderlusting heart got to explore 5 different islands all in the name of work. Home to some of the best spas and resorts in the world, we were in paradise to experience heaven itself with customised wellness itinerary’s prepared by each resort.
The warmest of welcomes and the views of paradise awakens us after our long journey and early morning arrival.
ANANTARA VELI – 2 nights
Location: South Male Atoll. Accessible by a 30 minute speedboat from Male airport.
Spa Fact: Awarded as the ”Leading Wellness and Spa Resort” and Leading Wellness And Spa Brand Chain” by the Maldives Matato Awards 2015.
Best for: In-house Ayurvedic doctor.
Spa & Wellness Itinerary
The first thing on the list for me was a wellness consultation with the in-house Ayurvedic doctor where he diagnoses my dosha. The three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are derived from the five elements. Also known as mind-body types, the doshas express unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. In Ayurveda, health is defined as the dynamic state of balance between mind, body, and environment. Dr Avinash very accurately ‘reads’ me simply by feeling my pulse, looking at me and feeling my energy, no words needed.
My diagnosis was a dominant Vata (space and air elements) meaning I have both an unpredictable appetite and an inherent loathing of routine. This is true as I am always travelling and get bored very easily. He advises me to stick to warm and grounding foods and eat mindfully i.e not whilst doing other things which I am very guilty of. He tells me I am always full of energy, reaching for the stars and creating many projects that I give 120% to, and that I have high expectations of others who may only give 80%, leaving me burnt out. He provides me with diet and lifestyle advice, recommending that I get plenty of rest and sleep, create peaceful mealtimes and sends me some recipes for soups, juices, teas and recommended breathing exercises.
The consultation is followed by a traditional ayurvedic massage called Abyhanga, a deep pressure massage using medicated oils that focuses on the head, neck, shoulders and back to effectively release knots and tightness in the muscles where we tend to store the most stress and tension. It’s a therapy which is highly helpful for insomnia and induces sound sleep for those who have sleep irregularities and travel a lot. A winner for me!
The next day was Global Wellness Day and we celebrated it with a Strala yoga class on the ocean facing pavilion with Audrey, a teacher from Singapore, and a healthy Japanese cooking class with chef Alfie.
We stayed in an ocean pool villa, our only neighbour being the ocean that we had infinite views of, and the only visitors, the crabs that lived underneath our deck.
Still trying to get over this blue, the clearest water in the world kind of blue. And the whitest sand, just like stepping into the picture perfect post card!
The iconic Thai restaurant Baan Huraa was one of the culinary highlights.
Our first meeting with the heron, the guardian or ‘god’ of the islands. A reminder to be present in the moment and to remain still no matter what is happening around us, he sits between the elements of water, earth and air. An intelligent, determined, patient and resourceful bird; one foot on land, and one foot in the water.
VELASSARU – 2 nights
Location: South Male Atoll. Accessible by a 25 minute speedboat from Male airport.
Spa Fact: The Spa at Velassaru unveiled its new menu in April this year including the new signature massage and couples retreat ritual and body treatment.
Best for: Overwater spa palace and ocean setting.
Spa & Wellness Itinerary
I was already getting used to this blissful itinerary in blissful surroundings. Could this happen every day please? Day one consisted of a massage of our choice at the overwater Spa. I went for an Indian head massage and Boris a Swedish massage. On day two we started the day with a sunrise yoga class on the deck of the Chill Bar. The sunrises in themselves are worth getting out of bed for!
In the afternoon we experienced our longest massage ever, two and a half hours! It began with a feet cleansing and aromatic inhalation ritual, and then an exfoliating body scrub followed by their signature Velassaru massage – warm homemade coconut oil is applied, then ‘hands on’ rolling movements and wooden massage pestles (made from the islands coconuts and palm wood) are used to release tension from the shoulders and spine and stimulate positive energy. The treatments ends with an Indian head massage however I opted for a Refreshing Facial since I’d had the head massage on the first day. Time flies when you are so relaxed you fall asleep!
Once the treatments are finished we relaxed with a cooling mango sorbet shot and took in more ocean views from the hydropool suspended over the blue lagoon. One can never get enough of these views!
We stayed in an overwater villa, perfectly positioned close to the spa, which had floor to ceiling windows offering panoramic ocean views both in the bathroom and bedroom. Imagine waking up being surrounded by the ocean…literally..without having to be in a boat!
This resort is small enough to walk or run around and get a good workout and is great for snorkelling, with over 60 reefs teeming with vibrant marine life and tropical fish. One morning we were greeted by a huge manta ray at the bottom of the steps down to the ocean (wach the video) and the next day saw mother and baby white sharks!
What a view to take in whilst having dinner in the Teppanyaki restaurant!
For both of us it was the first time on a sea plane as we headed to our third resort, Kandolhu. The sea plane is the best way to see the chains of islands and coral reefs from above, attempting to gauge how much ocean they are spread across (90,000 square kilometres actually).
A breathtaking rhapsody in blue, from the dark turquoise of the Indian Ocean to the crystal azure of lagoons lapping golden rings of sand and clumps of coconut palms.
KANDOLHU – 2 nights
Location: Hidden in the North Ari Atoll of the Maldives, reached in 25 minutes by seaplane from Male airport then a 10 minute speedboat.
Spa Fact: The Varu Spa uses organic marine-based treatments provided by VOYA, the first genuinely organic seaweed-based cosmetic products in the world.
Best for: Feeling like you’re living on your own island. Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out!
Spa & Wellness Itinerary
Varu means ‘energy’ in the local language Dhivehi and forms the basis of every person, creating emotional responses and movement. When this energy is unbalanced or met with resistance due to stress, it can leave us feeling anxious and fatigued. The focus at the Varu Spa is to realign and unite the mind, body and spirit by helping to rebalance and strengthen this energy. On our first day we had a one hour relaxing massage. A relaxing massage when you are completely relaxed all ready, just from the surroundings, takes you to another level!
One the second day I was in for a real treat and got to experience their signature two hour Coral VOYage treatment. Beginning with a body brush (could my skin get any smoother?!), then a full head to toe body massage that’s inspired by the movements of the sea and a marine eye treatment that uses layered seaweed compressed on to the skin. Seaweed naturally absorbs or metabolises its nourishment from the sea. As a result, it contains countless minerals and vitamins in impressively high concentrations – higher than any plant known. The products smell divine and leave my complexion shining and my skin silky smooth and soft. All the products in the bathroom are also Voya.
Kandolhu was the smallest islands we stayed on and you can literally walk around it in less than ten minutes.
We stayed in a duplex pool villa steps away from the beach which was more like a home with two bathrooms – outdoor and indoor, a downstairs lounge with high tech facilities and the bedroom upstairs and terrace.
A wonderful thing about the Maldives is that there’s an even deeper beauty underneath the surface in the hidden world under the sea. We got to explore it and meet the creatures of the underworld with a one hour snorkelling tour.
A sunset champagne cruise shows us a spectacular lavender, orange, yellow..contrasting against the blue..
On the plane to The Residence, more magnificent colours during sunset.
THE RESIDENCE – 3 nights
Location: Falhumaafushi island, on one of the largest and deepest atolls in The Maldives. We took a 70 minute domestic flight from Male to Kooddoo airport, then a 7 minute speedboat transfer.
Spa Fact: The first and only Spa by Clarins in the Maldivian archipelago.
Best for: Overall ‘retreat’ style wellness itinerary.
Spa & Wellness Itinerary
On arrival we were both given a Wellness Consultation so they could tailor our programme to our needs and requirements. We also chose a special detox juice that we were given at each meal. In the room we each found a copy of the ‘Light On Yoga’ book by B.K.S Iyengar as a gift. Nice touch!
We started each day with a private one hour yoga class and 30 minutes of pranayama in our villa, on the deck overlooking the ocean. The room came with a pair of yoga mats so we could do our own practice as well.
As we arrived in the evening on the first day our spa treatments began the next day in the Clarins Spa. The setting of the spa is simply breathtaking and serene. We feel totally zen before we even set foot in the water-villa treatment room! We had a 30 minute neck and shoulder massage but there’s no rush to leave the room afterwards as there’s a private balcony to relax in and enjoy the beautiful view and breeze.
On the second day Boris tried a 50 minute body and face massage, aptly name ”Heaven” using heated basalt stones. I went for the Vital Light facial with pioneer plants, a super luxurious treatment that restores the luminosity and vitality of the skin. We were both given a Clarins goody bag to take away which was a lovely gesture.
On the last evening, which was also International Yoga Day, we got to celebrate it with a full moon yoga class on the incredible yoga deck of the spa. Boris captured the moment very well in this photo!
We stayed in a deluxe water villa with pool, that again had direct access to the ocean, although the pool was quite spacious and big enough to swim in! After you’ve taken a bath looking out to the ocean you can take another bath and jump right into the water!
Each villa comes with a bike to get around the island, not your average commute in the morning, along the board walks to go for our breakfast! If you are feeling lazy then they pick you in their buggies and take you wherever you want to go!
Loved their infinity pool and beach bar where they hand out complimentary hand-made ice-lollies. This was the best place to watch the sunset from with a chilled laid back atmosphere.
SHANGRI- LA VILLINGILLI RESORT AND SPA – 3 nights
Location: Located south of the equator on Villingili Island, on the southernmost tip of Addu Atoll. We took a 70 minute domestic flight to Gan then a seven minute speedboat to Villingili.
Spa Fact: The CHI spa is located in its own spa village and offers new five-day Ayurvedic programs.
Best for: Out of this world authentic spa treatments.
Spa & Wellness Itinerary
The treatments we had at the CHI spa were definitely THE best either of us had received in our lifetimes. On the first day we experienced the Kandu Boli Ritual, a treatment that’s exclusive to this resort. Our therapists used cowrie shells to draw energy from the sea and pour warm Maldivian coconut oil made by the local community on to our bodies, face and scalp. The most unexpected part is when the therapists begins to chant as the shells are held over our ears. This massage hits the spot on many levels and is really quite magical.
On the second day we tried the Shirodhara and Ayurvedic Massage which was absolutely divine. The first part of the massage was given outside by the ocean, listening to the waves. No need for spa music out here, this is the real thing! Shirodhara is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy where warm oil is poured in a continuous stream over the forehead or ‘ajna marma’, an area where nerves are highly concentrated. The pressure of the oil onto the forehead creates a vibration. The oil saturates the forehead and scalp and penetrates into the nervous system. The gentle pressure and soothing warmth of the oil allow the body, mind and nervous system to experience a deep state of rest, similar to meditation. It feels unusual but sensual at the same time and our skin felt completely brand new after this!
The Shangri-La runs on island time giving everyone an hour extra of the sun, how kind! At 12 hectares and running 3 kms long it’s the biggest island we stayed on. The resort feels more like a small village, it’s lovely to ride around on the bikes, amongst the jungle vegetation and the abundance of wildlife.
A table set for two on a golf course, and the wild ocean we discovered on our bike ride around the island.
We stayed in a deluxe pool villa right on the beach, set over two separate pavilions – on one side a living room, and on the other a bedroom.
The dolphin cruise was something I’ll never forget..we saw hundreds and they love to swim directly under the boat meaning we were this close to them! Watch the video.
On the last day we went snorkelling and had an awesome 5 minutes of swimming alongside a turtle. A lesson here perhaps, and a message to be more like the turtle who carries their home across the ocean. To trust in the flow of nature and our experiences along the way. A reminder that in life there is no absolute destination, life is all about enjoying the journey.
Our wellness journey started in the Shangri-La in Paris and ended in the Shangri-La in the Maldives, and what an incredible journey it was!
Facts and info section
$1,745 per night in an Ocean Pool Bungalow including breakfast and a complimentary wellness consultation. They also offer offer 3-5-7 days Wellness Packages and 14-21 and 28 days Wellness Retreats.
Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights with breakfast in a Deluxe Bungalow, including flights with Sri Lankan Airlines from Heathrow and group transfers from £1,427 per person, based on two sharing. To book please quote: IO0001
Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights with breakfast in a Jacuzzi Beach Villa, including flights with Sri Lankan Airlines from Heathrow and group transfers from £2,514 per person, based on two sharing. To book please quote: MV070.
Best available rates from $900 per night in a Beach Villa including breakfast. For those looking to book the yoga retreat package rates start from $1,035++ per night (with a minimum of 4 night stay).
$1005 per night in a one bedroom Beach Villa including breakfast.
I travelled with a partner, Boris Deltell who took some of the photos contained in the article. We were both hosted on a complimentary basis by each of the resorts which included accommodation, transfers (via speedboat or domestic flights), full board meal plans, spa treatments and wellness itineraries. All views, opinions and words expressed are my own.