Review of Amilla Fushi, Maldives
Shortly after landing in the Maldives, the line between reality and fantasy turns a little hazy. Despite hopeful pretensions of seamlessly slotting into this extravagant tropical resort, Mr Smith and I fail to stay cool and composed. Published on Mr and Mrs Smith November 2015.
The first squeal of excitement comes on boarding our seaplane bound for Baa Atoll, home to Amilla Fushi, several hundred kilometres south of Male. The second, soaring over the turquoise Indian Ocean, dotted with islands and reefs. The third, arriving to a reception of fresh pineapple juice and jasmine-infused cold towels. Then again, two minutes later, on spotting a turtle drifting alongside the jetty.
All overexcitable beings perform best when minded by someone more responsible; luckily, Amilla Fushi offers just that. Sophia, our katheeba (butler), whisks us across the island to our new home: a vast Two-Bedroom Beach House (number 41) with beach access and a private pool. Our bags are already in situ, snorkelling gear is at the ready, champagne chills on ice and Sophia hands Mr Smith a card, saying to be in touch with anything we need.
Accommodation at Amilla Fushi is more Bondi Beach than Bali-chic: beachside and overwater villas are stark white cubes with concrete floors, shiny wooden cabinets, wicker coffee tables and LED lights. Splashes of softness come courtesy of aquamarine fabrics and vibrant upholstery; for the tech geeks, there are iPads and docks, fridges (one for wine; one for everything else), Nespresso machines, vast TVs and Bose sound systems.
Our bathroom alone feels larger than our London flat. Beyond the cool of the villa, a terrace looks out over a private freshwater pool, outdoor shower, palm trees, hammocks, sun loungers and white, sea-lapped sand. Befuddled by jet lag, we struggle to know where to start, and end up running towards the sea, armed with snorkels and champagne.
The Baa Atoll is a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve, so Amilla Fushi’s house reef offers top-notch marine life. Just 20 yards into the bath-like water, we’re paddling into to an underwater kaleidoscope. Coral-crunching parrot fish turn a blind eye to clown fish, whilst a shifty looking lion fish lurks in shadows. A couple of eagle rays pop into view, before a wall of silver sprats darts towards us, chased by a focussed-looking tuna.
Once we hit the stilts of the honeymoon villas (potentially more eye-opening snorkelling territory) we head back. Nibbles and room service menus await us at the villa but we decide to ‘go public’, and wander along the beach to the Baazaar. Once the shock of finding what is essentially a food court (complete with iPad menus) on a Maldivian island subsides, we embrace the choice: Malaysian noodle bar, steak house, pizzeria or fish ’n’ chips? I only just resist a Wagyu burger for a refreshing sashimi platter; Mr Smith tucks into fresh-as-can-be Maldivian reef fish, with a crisp feta salad and truffle-oil fries.
The Baazaar – the island’s social hub – makes Amilla Fushi unique. Whereas other resorts emphasise privacy, here you can mix with fellow guests as much or as little as you like. After lunch, we crash out on beanbags around the huge infinity pool and look on with bewilderment as young lovers pose on inflatable flamingos, selfie sticks at the ready. A DJ fires up some gentle house music and a Havaiana-clad waiter presents us with the cocktail of the day.
Sun-kissed and slightly light-headed from potent mojitos, we saunter to the Javvu spa, a vast social space with a gym and hammam overlooking the sea. There’s free yoga and each guest gets a daily on-the-house treatment. After our couple’s massage, Mr Smith becomes quite the convert; we establish a brilliantly extravagant mid-afternoon spa routine throughout our stay.
Dinner at Lonu by Luke Mangan is worth dressing up for. G&Ts at sunset merge into wine-pairing by moonlight, as we sit in the bar and the restaurant, which are both set on stilts over the water. We devour crab omelette, snapper, spiced tuna, lavender-infused duck, and raspberry soufflé – all a notch above the food bazaar’s offer.
The next morning, we head to the watersports centre to burn off the breakfast buffet. Although banana boats, jet skis and the ilk are on offer, such brash pursuits seem incongruous, given what lives below. Instead, we opt for a gentle sea kayak. The peace of gliding over the reef, gazing through crystalline water to the underwater wildlife, is only broken by a seaplane landing offshore. Suitcases, jeans and the real world flash into view, and I realise that 24 hours already feels like a lifetime away.