Easy Escapes: The Finolhu Villas, Maldives

Suzannah Ramsdale unwinds in an eco-friendly Indian Ocean paradise

Suzannah Ramsdale unwinds in an eco-friendly Indian Ocean paradise

Why go? For sparkling cobalt oceans, palm-fringed beaches, spectacular sunsets, world class scuba diving, rest, relaxation and total serenity. Made up of around 1,200 coral islands, the Maldives is the ultimate Indian Ocean location for escaping the realities of the outside world. An ever-popular destination for honeymooners looking for seclusion and romance, as well as divers in search of colourful underwater life, the Maldives is the definition of a tropical paradise.

When? The Maldives is hot all year round, but peak season is December through to April when temperatures average between 26°C and 30°C. The rainy season begins in May through to November, but the weather is still warm and prices in most resorts are much cheaper. If surfing is your thing, head to the Maldives from March to October.

VIPs-only: The Finolhu Villas are set on the private island of Gasfinolhu

You really must: Try your hand at either snorkelling or scuba diving. As famous as the postcard-perfect beaches and stilted huts are the marine wonders of the Maldives. On our snorkelling trips we saw sharks, rays, eels, turtles and schools of tropical fish. All the luxury resorts in the Maldives have qualified instructors and equipment for hire – and if you’ve not snorkelled before, they’ll be happy to give you a lesson.

Though the Maldives are really all about endless lazy days, for the more active visitor there is plenty to do, too. For high-speed thrills there is jet skiing (from £144 for 30 minutes at The Finolhu Villas), while on boat trips there is a high chance you’ll encounter dolphins. Of course, the ultimate way to see the Maldives (you’ll get a taste of this as you cruise into land at Malé airport) is to take a trip in an iconic seaplane. The view of hundreds of tiny islands floating in the azure waters will really give you a different perspective of this country and a memory you’ll never forget. At The Finolhu Villas, a 20-minute scenic flight on a seaplane costs £125 per person.

Life’s a private beach: relax on the palm-dotted white sands of Gasfinolhu

Stay at: Club Med’s The Finolhu Villas is located on the private island of Gasfinolhu in the North Malé atoll. The 52 luxury villas (22 on the private beach and 30 standing on stilts over the ocean) that make up this adults-only, all-inclusive resort have been built to the highest ecological standards. And this USP is of particular importance when it comes to the Maldives. Ranked the third nation in the world most in danger of flooding due to climate change, rising sea levels are a clear and present threat for this tiny country. If things carry on as they are, reports show that most of the 200 islands inhabited by locals could be submerged within 80 years. With this in mind, The Finolhu Villas are built using energy-saving construction techniques and, crucially, 90 percent of the resort’s energy is generated from solar power, which is a first for the Maldives.

If you thought in any way that eco-friendly meant compromising on luxury, you would be very wrong. This five-star resort has every possible amenity you could wish for. The villas all come with their own decked terrace, pool, king-size bed, semi-outdoor bathroom, Bose sound system, mini bar and private butler. Yep, a private butler who will attend to your every need. Ours was called Ryan and he was as friendly and as helpful as can be, taking all of our pedantic requests in his stride. As the resort is all-inclusive, all drinks and meals are on the house, including champagne by the glass by the pool from 6pm (small tip: alcoholic drinks are chargeable if you order them as room service).

If you do manage to tear yourself away from your private villa, the main infinity pool is the perfect place to spend a lazy day. With good music playing, ultra-friendly staff and free drinks flowing, it’s a slice of pure heaven. The view of the sunset here is a nightly, and breathtaking, spectacle.

The totally tropical taste: an all-inclusive package means cocktail hour can go on and on…

Dine at: The resort’s restaurant is called Motu. Set on stilts over a shark-filled lagoon (don’t worry, they’re harmless) with a glass-floored bar, it is quite an experience. At lunch, the chefs prepare the day’s catch in front of you, creating some of the freshest sushi we’ve ever eaten. By night, it’s on to the four-course à la carte menu which changes daily but tends to be a balancing act of European and Asian cuisines – we enjoyed everything from Korean-spiced lamb to crab salad to Moroccan tagine. If you fancy a change of scenery, a mere five-minute speedboat journey across the lagoon lies Finolhu’s sister resort, Kani. It’s nothing like its luxe, couples-only neighbour – children are allowed here, for a start – but it’s lively, the all-inclusive buffet has huge variety, the drinks are free and the nightly entertainment can be very amusing.

Bring home: A sense of serenity and a killer tan. But if you want something more tangible, I suggest stocking up on the ILA spa products used at the resort’s spa. They’re also provided in the villas, so be sure to sneak some home in your suitcase.

Book now: British Airways (ba.com) flies direct from London Gatwick to Malé from October to March, from £769 return. Alternative year-round routes from the UK are via Dubai with Emirates (emirates.com), Abu Dhabi with Etihad (etihad.com) and Colombo with SriLankan Airlines (srilankan.com). A seven-night stay in a one-bedroom (maximum two adults) villa at The Finolhu Villas (clubmed.co.uk) costs £7,515 in June including international flights from London and transfers for two people. Transfers to and from Malé airport take 40 minutes by boat and are included if you book a package. 

Info: Maldives (£14.99; Lonely Planet) covers the islands while Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventures in the Real Maldives (£10.99; Nicholas Brealey) is an entertaining travelogue that visits the corners most tourists never see. Useful websites are visitmaldives.com and sevenholidays.com.

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