Words by Juliette Proctor-Warden
With the re-emergence of the travel industry predicted to finally flourish again this spring and summer, we re-think our travel footprint and consider more mindful and thoughtful travel options.
Amari Havodda is a soulful slice of paradise with sustainability at its core. For those seeking a haven of safety, space and sunshine, the Maldives is a destination that offers all three. It’s Amari Havodda’s remoteness, thoughtfulness and commitment to caring not only for their guests, but the island itself that will resonate with conscious travellers who plan to make concerted efforts towards tourism moving forward.
Just a drop in the Indian Ocean, five-star hotel Amari Havodda is set within the serene Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, just a stone’s throw away (400km to be precise) from the Maldives capital of Male.
The Maldives is synonymous with seclusion, and the island in which you’ll reside takes as little as 15 minutes to walk around. Amari Havodda is a sanctuary for the senses, and somewhere that considers silence to be the ultimate luxury. Come sunrise or sunset, you’ll feel like you have the whole island to yourself, giving a new meaning to isolation. With every whim catered for, Amari Havodda exudes luxury with such understated ease that it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the charming island life.
The resort itself embodies laid-back luxury, and its eco-friendly efforts are reflected with the use of natural elements that feature throughout the resort. Taking particular care to maintain its plush landscape of vegetation on this pristine paradise, the island is completely unspoilt just as nature intended.
Uncompromising on their level of service, guests receive individual hosts who anticipate every request and are available through Whatsapp. Having visited in March 2020, just as the whispers of the pandemic began to ripple across the remotest corners of the world, our trip was impacted. We were unable to move on to our next hotel. Our host named Haxn went above and beyond, enabling us to stay at Amari Havodda for the duration of the trip and he had assisted us in securing return flights.
The staff’s genuine compassion and kindness made my first experience of the Maldives even more memorable. Despite the implications that the pandemic posed and the possible devastation that the resort faced, every staff remember remained effervescent, collected and professional.
So close to the equator, it was fitting to be greeted by so many burning bright smiles. I couldn’t say whether jetlag had kicked in, but I’m certain the entire team had arrived at the pavilion to heart-warmingly welcome us. It was a gesture that served as a sweet sign of what to expect, and one that left me feeling slightly overwhelmed and emotional.
Shortly afterwards, we were whisked away to our overwater villa absorbing the sound of the slightest soft wave clapping beneath us as we rolled towards our home for the next ten days. We arrived just in time for a majestic sunset. Hues of pink liquefied into the never-ending skyline like melting ice on the powder-white sand.
Perched on stilts above with private access to the ocean, a Maldivian overwater villa is undeniably the best way to spend your stay. With that said, there are 60 overwater villas and a total of 120 luxury villas that all look out on to the calm cyan sea. The sunset beach pool villas do have the advantage of a little more palm-fringed privacy; preservation of the leafy surroundings also offer protection from the elements.
With a dedication to sustainability, Amari Havodda takes part in initiatives such as ‘Tree planting and awareness session for Hodedhdhoo School Nature Club’, ‘Dinner for a Cause’ and ‘Earth Day Reef Cleaning’. Further reflecting the thoughtful design process, the indoor-outdoor bathroom features a standout bathtub, his and hers sinks and windows that open to sublime views, enabling guests to enjoy nature at its best.
Early mornings are worth waking up for as the abundance of sea life submerge in the shallows that surround the overwater villas. Ranging from reef sharks and eagle rays to the resident stingray who courteously hoovers the seabed daily, there’s no shortage of aquatic life. The house reef is just two meters away from the overwater villas, accessible from your own ‘stairway to heaven’. For those that prefer to spectate rather than snorkel, you can do so from the comfort of the net hammocks in a traditionally Maldivian manner.
The concentration on providing a calming, comforting and homely environment extends to the laidback Amaya Food Gallery where you’ll find an array of fresh and fuss-free seafood, vegetables and meat with a mostly Asian influence. There’s a good selection of wine and cocktails and a relaxed ambience to unwind in after a sun-drenched afternoon.
Evenings ended early for us which was all the more beneficial for early starts. You won’t want to miss waking at dawn where the water becomes glass-like, and the sky even more resplendent than the sunset. Honeymooners can also take advantage of dining under the stars with a four-course candlelit meal on their terrace, or with a barbeque dinner on the Ember beach.
For a change of scenery, the main pool looks out on to perhaps the calmest part of the island, making it particularly preferential for an afternoon siesta and a poolside pizza by the Pizza Kaage restaurant – something you can take unlimited advantage of on an all-inclusive package. Late afternoons were our favourite time to visit this part of the island, if not for the food, then for the dolphins you’d often spot passing by while sipping on a Pina Colada from the infinity pool.
Carted around the island in the dappled afternoon sunlight by the transport of preference in the Maldives- a golf buggy, we came across the Breeze spa with six treatment villas. Encompassing the relaxed spirit of the Maldivian’s, there’s a wide range of rejuvenating treatments to experience.
Before heading to the Thari bar to enjoy the sunset with the rest of the sundowners, I tried my first Butterfly Pea Tea. It’s magical and mesmerising with vibrant violet colour-changing abilities. You must try it if you’re a habitual tea drinker like myself.
From sunrise yoga to snorkelling, there’s no shortage of amenities on the island. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the resort at the time, a few of the experiences weren’t accessible to us, but that didn’t prevent our enjoyment by any means. The house reef is particularly notable. Renting snorkel equipment is complimentary, and it’s worth jumping in at the end of the pavilion for a close encounter with graceful turtles and colourful fish.
Innate storytellers, the characters of Amari Havodda made our trip unforgettable and the experience left me with an intangible feeling that’s stayed with me. I bottled the authentic sense of community that I hope to return to again soon. We were one of the last guests left on the island before Covid spread like wildfire across the globe, and many tears ensued as they waved us off on our final day.
In a nutshell
Happiness, here, is the only thing infectious. Make sure you leave the excess baggage of 2020 behind and forget about the case full of distancing boundaries that you arrived with. What makes Amari Havodda somewhere truly magnetic are the staff. The altruistic and attentiveness of the team alone make this luxury resort undoubtedly deserving of our support and efforts to rebuild tourism in a country that so heavily relies on it.
Getting there: Amari Havooda is located within the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll which is just a short 55-minute flight from Velana International Airport (MLE) to Kaadedhdhoo Domestic Airport (KDM), followed by a 15-minute speedboat transfer. The hotel offers a round trip domestic transfer for USD 390 per person, including the speedboat transfer.
Amari Havodda Maldives offers an in-house COVID testing facility upon request, and reports are submitted within 48 hours or depending on the regulations of the country/ airline that is requesting it.
Nightly rates at Amari Havodda start from USD 391 plus taxes (which is the ONYX Rewards Member rate. Guests can sign up for free.) Book an overwater villa for four nights (including transfers for two adults, starting at USD 1,010).
Address: Amari Havodda Maldives, Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives
Phone: +960 684-4888
Photography courtesy of Amari Havodda Maldives.