Hotel Review: Mirihi Island Resort in the Maldives
Mirihi Island Resort is a picture postcard of paradise. From the moment the seaplane’s roaring engines judder to a halt and the pontoons splash into the serene, azure waters and glide to a stop, life slows down. Mirihi is all about peace and tranquillity.
We were greeted by a rainbow of bare-footed, uniformed staff in colourful tunics with refreshing coconut water. As soon as we reached the end of the boardwalk we kicked off our shoes and didn’t wear them again until it was time to walk back along the jetty towards the waiting seaplane three days later. Sand runs throughout the hotel and everyone is encouraged to wander shoeless for the duration of their stay.
The tiny, sandy island – in the South Ari Atoll, 30 minutes from Male by seaplane – draws all of its charm and allure from the setting itself. Every villa, restaurant, bar and relaxation area frames views over the sea. Staff want guests to feel connected with the island. Each day, a card featuring a fact about the island or one of its inhabitants greets you at the breakfast table. And each villa takes its name from a local fish or creature and vivid artwork depicting the native sealife adorn the walls.
Our ocean villa was the perfect base for our three-night stay. With a super-king bed at its centre, the stilted bungalow wrapped around a sheltered terrace with views out to sea and down onto the coral below. A small dressing area connects the main bedroom with a beautiful bathroom with open shower and Perspex doors offering views from every angle.
We arrived at Mirihi on my birthday and staff had pulled out all the stops with a beautiful floral design and birthday message on the bed, and bubbles on ice. Not a bad way to start the celebrations! Homemade chocolates are delivered with the maid service every day and fresh fruit and bottled water are available for guests.
The island is the entertainment here. There are no televisions, no computers. Guests are encouraged to embrace their setting and enjoying being there in the moment. Mirihi inspires reconnecting with people and the things you love. Wifi is only available in certain zones on the island and, when in the restaurants or bars, you’re encouraged to make conversation over the flickering candlelight and a bottle of wine.
The ethos of this resort is going back to basics and creating an atmosphere where love and intimacy can flourish. By day, it’s all about swimming in the sea with the reef fish and feeling the sand between your toes. By night, it’s all about enjoying good food and gazing up at the blanket of stars that twinkle above. The mellow vibe runs throughout the island from its restaurants and bar to its activities.
Mirihi offers a packed rostra of activities and excursions from night diving to yoga, big game fishing to sunset cruising. We opted for the weekly whale shark encounter excursion aboard the beautiful wooden sailboat. Little is known about the elusive whale sharks – the biggest fish in the ocean at up to 10m in length – and the Maldives is one of the best places in the world to see them in the wild.
The sun was blazing as we climbed on deck and settled on a sunlit daybed on board and prepared for a long cruise to whale shark-friendly waters on the other side of the atoll. Iced drinks were readily available and we relaxed, taking in far-reaching views across the calm sea. Soon we were nearing the chosen spot and the stretch of sea became busier, small yachts and big diving vessels all jostling for the best spot.
The crew clambered on top of the cabin, gazing out and searching for the vast shadows moving beneath the surface. Sadly, it wasn’t to be for us and we had no whale shark sightings. After a delicious picnic lunch of seafood, cold meats and mezze the ship turned and we headed back to Mirihi. We knew were had only a small chance at this time of year so, if seeing these majestic creatures is on your bucket list, try to time your visit with their migration.
The boutique island retreat – named after the native mirihi flower – is proof that heaven really is a place on Earth. Simplicity is the essence of Mirihi and is what makes this island – believed to be one of the smallest resort islands in The Maldives with just 38 villas – so special. Time stands still on this island. There are no clocks, no timings, no reservations. You help yourself to a table when you’re ready to eat, head to the bar when you’re thirsty, or grab a stand-up paddleboard when you’re ready to explore. If you need something you can call the 24-hour concierge service.
Staff encourage a slower pace of life away from the hustle and bustle of home. But there’s still plenty to do on this small, sandy outcrop. We tried our hand at most of the water sports on offer. Snorkels are available from the dive centre and it takes just a few minutes to paddle off the beach and out to the shallow reef where an abundance of sealife hide in the coral and nibble on the plants. Baby black tip sharks shadow the shoreline, parrot fish shoal in the shallow rocky areas and turtles surface for air before diving back down to the seagrass below.
To venture out further into the deep we took the resort’s kayaks for a paddle. It took us just 25 minutes to kayak around the whole island (at a leisurely pace!) and we enjoyed watching the daily seaplane come in to land while also taking in alternative views of the island. We weaved between the boats moored off shore and circled the island’s over-water restaurant, Muraka.
Muraka (which translates to ‘coral’) – the resort’s fine dining restaurant and al fresco cocktail bar (as well as the name of the island’s own house rum) – offers guests near 360’ panoramic views of the crystal clear water with an open-air gallery at its core so diners can watch the fish below. Muraka’s veranda is the best spot to enjoy the beautiful sunset each evening shortly before 7pm, as the skies turn stunning shades of red and the sun sinks below the horizon.
Mirihi’s nightly buffet in Dhonveli Restaurant would be fit for a Royal banquet. From fresh seafood to local delicacies, there’s something for all tastes on offer. Chefs prepare different cuisines each night from Italian to Maldivian. We headed to Dhonveli to sample the local cuisine and the buffet was bursting with spices and smells, showcasing the country’s finest foods from fresh salads and curries of coconut and tuna, all served with spicy pickles, hot jams, chipati and rice.
Some of the local dishes include wax curd walomas curry, Maldivian roast chicken, spicy pumpkin salad, snake gourd salad and copyfai salad. The waiters – all dressed in striking traditional robes – end the night with a beach performance of customary drumming, singing and dance.
Whether you’re sat on Muraka’s decks, enjoying breakfast in Dhonveli or grabbing a light bite beachside at Anba bar you can be sure the island’s abundant wildlife or sealife won’t be far away from the majestic fruit bats who swoop between trees above, the playful juvenile black tip sharks who stalk the shoreline inquisitively, or the sure-footed lizards which scurry from rock to tree.
No matter where you go on the island you’re sure to feel relaxed. Duniye Spa is an oasis of calm and serenity. I checked in for a soothing, sensual massage and could have spent all day there. If all my cares in the world hadn’t floated away within an hour of arriving at Mirihi, by the end of my Balinese massage they certainly had. If the spa isn’t really your thing then there are plenty of sunbeds, beanbags, hammocks and quiet, private spots around the island where you can while away the hours and unwind.
As I reflect on my time at Mirihi (sitting on the deck of our ocean villa listening to the waves breaking on the coral and eating the sweetest mango I’ve ever tasted) it dawns on me that this is what this place – that feels a million miles from anywhere – is all about: escape. I realise for the four days we’ve called this beautiful and idyllic island home I’ve not once thought about the chaos of home, checked my emails or thought about the pile of work mounting on my desk back in my everyday life.
Here it’s about experiencing and embracing life on a tropical island where it’s all about the simple things and remembering how to enjoy them. It’s about eating the sweetest mango you’ve ever tasted while listening to the waves breaking on the coral and realising you can hear nothing else and you think of nothing else. It’s all about being in the moment, in the now. And it’s not so bad being in the moment when you’re spending that moment in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
For more information or to make a reservation, visit mirihi.com or call +960 668 0500.
Nightly rates at Mirihi Island start from $600 (£457*) per villa, on a B&B basis, based on two people sharing. Prices are subject to 10% service charge and 12% GST.
Address: Mirihi Island Resort, Maldives
Images courtesy of Mirihi Island Resort