With whatever endeavour you happen to be undertaking, it’s extremely rare that everything comes together perfectly. The film might have good actors and a great director but the script might be lacking. The singer in the band might have a stunning voice, but he looks like a drummer. The striker always finds the net, but the ‘keeper can’t catch. And so on. For hotels, it’s the same thing, because getting everything right is close to impossible, but occasionally you get one where every aspect seems to work, from the stunning natural location right down to the smallest detail in rooms and restaurants. The One & Only Reethi Rah appears to be that hotel.
The resort has only been open for three years but already it has made a huge impact, but to call it just a hotel is like calling the Sistine Chapel ceiling just a big mural. The entire island is 109 acres, with 130 stunning villas — 32 of which are over water — and each comes with your own butler, but crucially, not only are they comparable to top suites city hotels they also afford a rare secluded feel.
While other resorts in the Maldives also offer water villas, many are a little crammed and close together but the size of the island here allows the villas to be spaced out affording privacy that others just can’t offer. With around 20 metres between each villa (as well as palm trees and greenery) you get luxury in seclusion. This is one of the reasons that so many celebrities, including royalty and world leaders, chose to come here to escape the slings and arrows, and spend their outrageous fortunes. The staff refuse to comment on who has resided here and being a private island it is almost impossible for paparazzi to infiltrate, but others have openly endorsed the The One & Only Reethi Rah — Christian Louboutin was such a fan he designed a pair of espadrilles exclusively for the island’s tiny gift shop. Yes, it’s that sort of place: pick up sun tan oil, copy of Vanity Fair and a pair of limited edition holiday shoes from one of the world’s top designers. Yet despite the opulence, there’s nothing snobby about the resort.
Families are welcome and there are things to do depending on whatever your mood may be. The diving and snorkelling here is among the best on earth and boats can take you out to the most excellent reefs, but you don’t even have to get on a boat because as soon as you step into the water from the beach, the exotic fish are right there for you as bright and colourful as if created for a Pixar animated film. More energetic activities are available but trust us, you’ll mostly want to relax and they do it here in a way that city hotels just can’t compete with. The 1,400 sq ft of land that makes up the spa and gardens is a secluded corner of Nirvana, with 10 treatment rooms, outdoor jacuzzis, cabanas to relax in after massages, tai chi pavilion over the ocean and a big list of treatments to choose from. The Asian influence makes it feel like being in the grounds of an emperor but that adherence to being faultless spreads throughout.
Everything is spotless, especially on the coves and beaches. You don’t find a single stray cigarette butt, piece of litter or anything that could put even the slightest blemish in your picture of paradise. The sand is white, the sea is paint-box turquoise and every element of the environment, natural or man-made, is blindingly beautiful. The design of the resort comes from world-famous architect Jean Michel Gathy who also designed The Chedi in Muscat, but this is far more spectacular and on a larger scale. It would be easy for a hotel in such incredible surroundings to let the natural beauty sell the place, but that isn’t the case here. Despite being a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, the effort put into making sure everything is of the highest standing puts many other five-star hotels to shame.
The food and drink is a prime example. Tapasake, the Japanese restaurant, would hold its own in any major city on earth, both in terms of interior design and the food, prepared by a Japanese chef and sake master who sources the best ingredients from around the world including sushi-grade fish from Tokyo, free-range lamb from Australia and strawberries from Belgium flown in fresh.
The beach restaurant and bar, Fanditha — with carpets on the sand and day beds — offers excellent Middle-Eastern food, while the main island restaurant, where breakfast is served, has a top-class and extensive international menu. But if you want some privacy then they will organise a table on the beach for two and serve you right there. Of course it’s not cheap, but in comparable terms of what you get for your dollar, it stands up to pretty much anywhere. All food and drinks are surprisingly well priced, with a beer being US$7 for example, but if you want to spend big on food and fine wines this is an ideal place to do so.
Head Sommelier, Jean-Sebastien Azais, offers wine tastings and his incredible passion for perfection sums up the ethos of all who have made this an award-winning destination. While there are over 7,000 premium labels on the island there are many fine and readily affordable wines that make up the 18,000 in stock — ensuring drinking won’t leave you financially dry. What’s more, he’s currently updating the wine cellar with more Château Lafite Rothschild vintages so it remains one of the best of any hotel on this side of the world — incredible, considering the logistical problems posed by its isolated location. Everything about the One & Only Reethi Rah is already as close as you’re ever going to find.
For First Class magazine, July 2008
For original PDF click here – Maldives travel