The Maldives resort regenerating coral reefs

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  • Drenched in whitewashed sands and stylish design details, The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort offers up the usual paradise package with a twist: an eco initiative that puts planet before profit.

    As far-flung tropical islands go, the southern Dhaalu Atoll’s luxuriously appointed St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is up there with the most coveted. But it’s a pioneering coral regeneration initiative that’s put it on the map.

    The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    Why go? 

    Set in a sea of shimmering turquoise, this daringly designed hotel is a 50-minute seaplane flight away from Malé International Airport – making it one of the more exclusive, remote resorts to book. To get here, though, you’ll need to strap yourself into one of the island’s alarmingly small 14-seater TMA vessels, which sputter their way off the cerulean ‘runways’, a barefoot pilot at the toy-like helm looking enviably tanned. Yet, as the sight of white sand islets begin to surface below and we glide over strips of blue and purple and green to reveal giant turtles cruising beneath white tips, the drone of the propellers are barely audible above your own excitable gasps. 

    In essence, The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort delivers everything you dream of experiencing in the Maldives: languid, sun-bleached vistas, unabashed modern luxury and an exotic dose of adventure. Yet, it’s the venue’s ambitious coral reef regeneration vision that’s captured the next-gen crowd’s attention and proving a key draw for eco-conscious travellers right now. One of the leading Maldive destinations to kickstart a restorative coral programme, The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort aims, within 18 months, to have released its first ‘nursery’ of revived coral farms back into the wild to (hopefully) thrive and grow. Experts have already heralded its Adopt A Coral scheme a partial success, with previously semi-bleached corals seemingly restored to health under the watchful eye of the marine team. There’s still a long way to go, but the early signs are positive. And green-minded guests are being invited to get involved too.

    The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    The vibe

    In a word, boutique. The island itself can be cycled around in under 10 minutes (accounting for a few Insta-snap stops along the way), but it’s the contemporary design details and seemingly lack of guests  – it’s not until dinner that the drinking and dining spaces buzz with honeymooners and villa VIPs – that help to create this stylish slice of paradise. The resort also has a strong relationship with local and international artists, with the Whale Bar (yep, it’s designed to structurally resemble the inside of a whale) mural by Maya Burman proving particularly striking. Elsewhere, you’ll find the usual premium linen-clad day beds, designer-stocked store and wash of neutral greens, blues and ecru. However, it’s the original Maldivian wooden dhoni boat accents that add much-needed character to the lagoon-inspired architecture. Head to beachside Crust & Craft to eat fresh seafood plates from the upcycled fishing tables before checking out the Indian-pot and washed-up coral-shell lampshades. 

    The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    The rooms

    With 77 villas available, guests can choose from three categories: entry-level garden villas that fringe the jungle; peak-roof beach villas, which hug the bleached out shoreline; and the postcard-worthy overwater villas, the best of which face west towards the sunset and offer overwater hammocks and private ladders down to the gin-clear Indian Ocean. Each style of accommodation is vast by anyone’s standards and every villa comprises a private pool and secluded deck in which to settle into a sun bed and listen to the gently lapping waves. Inside, you’ll find a soothing palette of cream, cerulean and cobalt, plus your own butler. Yes, someone is always on hand to get your dress pressed, buggy you to the other side of the island or help you figure out the iPad that savvily controls the entire suite. Feeling chilly? Tap the air con icon. Missing Netflix? Hit stream. The days of stumbling around in the dark for a light switch are (thankfully) over.

    The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    The food

    Small but perfectly formed, The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort offers up no less than six separate dining spaces for guests to enjoy during their stay, which essentially means every cuisine – from Indian and Thai to French and Italian – is covered. As you might expect, impeccably cooked signature fish dishes come as standard, but even breakfast is an opulent affair. Held in the the resort’s main dining space, Alba, with views out across the ocean, you can expect everything from Maldivian eggs benedict and yellowfin tuna, to lobster omelettes and waffles with duck leg confit. Nearby eatery Crust & Craft (well, everything’s nearby, TBF) is your go-to for gourmet burgers, sourdough pizzas and tangy tacos, while Decanter – the resort’s sunken cellar with taster menus and wine-pairing – is ideal for special celebrations. Just be sure to wrap up warm (it gets noticeably chilly as you step into the hotel’s underbelly) and be prepared to learn from the best: you’ll be joined by the executive chef and chief sommelier to guide you through each of the five courses.

    The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    The spa

    Lobster-shaped, with six overwater treatment rooms positioned as ‘pincers’, Iridium Spa serves all the usual massages (hello, heavenly acupressure), body treatments and facials with expert aplomb. Treatments here come with the added treat of being able to watch passing dolphins from your pod-like room and the spa’s Blue Hole Pool is one of the most expansive hydrotherapy hits in the Maldives. Not your thing? Try one of the two Ayurvedic suites for something more holistic or head to the private steam rooms to detox. Either way, the views alone are well worth booking in for.

    What to do

    From cycling (everyone gets their own vintage-style island bike on arrival) and aerial yoga, to sailing and spa sessions, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained if you’ve hopped off the hammock for an hour. However, you can’t come to the Maldives without having a dip in the ocean and if you’re a diver or snorkeler, there’s an entire underwater seascape to explore. From kaleidoscopic clowns and cartoon-like parrot fish to mantas and majestic green turtles, the marine life here is mesmerising. What’s less impressive, of course, are the corals. Where once this part of the world was alive with vivid waves of orange and purple and pink, now the bed resembles a whitewashed graveyard of bleached corpses. In short, it’s no longer the postcard-worthy picture some brochures might have you believe. 

    That said, one of the most important – and increasingly popular – activities on the island takes place at the waterspouts centre, where guests can pay to ‘adopt a coral’ and spend an afternoon helping the marine team to select baby coral from the beds that would otherwise die before planting them onto specially constructed frames set in a protected part of the ocean. 

    The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    First up, though: a (pretty bleak) briefing about the state of the coral reefs in the world today and brutal reminders of how everything we do – from the sunscreen we wear to the amount of microbeads we unknowingly consume and discard – is harming the reefs. Guilt firmly sown, it’s time to contribute to positive change. 

    Heading out on the boat to the resort’s coral nursery, flippers and mask in hand, it’s surreal to think that the small stick of life you’re attaching to the underwater frame might one day transform its current concrete-like shell into bursts of bold colour. But after a turtle spot while snorkelling, it suddenly feels like that little rope of coral is finally giving this reef hope – and as the orange sun dips and we paddle board back in, knowing there’s still some hope makes all the difference.

    Book it

    Rates at The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, with daily breakfast and dinner at Alba, plus seaplane transfers, start at about £1,260 per night based on two people sharing. Direct flights from London to Malé International Airport cost from £728.

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