Hotel Review: OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli Island, The Maldives
Kate Morfoot, leading travel writer from LoveToEatToTravel.com, checks into OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli Island in the Maldives.
What better way to arrive at your tropical island resort in the Maldives than by an exhilarating speedboat ride? After a ten hour direct flight from London Gatwick, we landed early morning at Valana International Airport located by the harbour. In fact, the runway is so close to the sea you may think that your holiday is going to start by having to swim!
The resort speedboat was ready to pick us up and 50 minutes later we had reached our luxury paradise, OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli Island located in the North Malé atoll. It is a paradise destination for honeymooners but now it is an increasingly popular holiday destination for scuba divers.
Did you know that the Maldives is made up of an archipelago of 1,192 islands set in 26 natural atolls? Just 188 of the islands are inhabited with 133 resorts, 504 guest houses, 17 city hotels and more than 148 LiveAboard vessels to choose from.
OBLU at Helegeli is an all-inclusive resort not to be missed for many reasons. From my experience I found that the staff are genuinely friendly and attentive, the food is delicious and varied, the spa, gym and water sports facilities are excellent and there’s plenty to do or not to do should you so wish on the island! The accommodation is excellent and it’s perfectly located for a fabulous holiday on the beach.
The four-star deluxe resort caters for families, solo travellers, honeymooners, couples and of course it’s popular with water sports lovers and scuba divers. There are 116 villas in 4 categories, 22 Beach Villas; 64 Deluxe Beach Villas; 28 Lagoon Villas with Plunge Pool and two Beach Suites with pool. There’s a fully equipped gym and a relaxing spa on the island, a picture perfect white sandy beach with lots of places to relax.
We stayed in a beautiful and contemporary beach villa which was perfectly located in the middle of the small island and just steps away from the magical ocean where the azure blue sea temperature was 29 degrees.
The bedroom was large with a comfortable king size bed, ample wardrobe space and a fully stocked fridge which was refilled daily with soft drinks, water and beer. It had a lovely spacious outdoor open-air bathroom with a tropical garden included. The outdoor terrace had breath-taking views over the beach to the ocean.
There are many activities to keep you entertained that are included in your package including sunset fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking and an excursion to visit an island. The popular activity that most people were enjoying was snorkelling in the beautiful house reef where the marine life and coral is outstanding.
The island is surrounded by two channels of lagoon water, it’s ideal for diving and snorkeling thanks to the abundance of tropical marine wildlife found there.
OBLU at Helengeli was the perfect island choice for me because I was there to discover and explore the underwater world. The Maldives is one of the best locations to scuba dive; I therefore decided to finish my PADI Open Water programme at their certified Five Star PADI dive centre.
I had passed my PADI Open water theory exams back in the UK and then finished the course by completing four open water dives at OBLU. Their dive centre is undoubtedly one of the best in the Maldives, it is run by a dedicated team of professionals.
You don’t need to, because OBLU has their own Aqualung scuba gear you can hire but if you are travelling onward or prefer your own kit then it’s easy enough to take your own.
My Aqualung scuba diving equipment included a dive computer, mask and snorkel, Mikron breathing regulator, 3mm ‘Mahe’ ‘shorty’ wetsuit, Phazer Fins with 5mm Ellie Ergo boots, the Aqualung Outlaw BCD (buoyancy control device).
This is Aqualung’s BCD scuba jacket specific for holidays because it is light and it cleverly ‘breaks up’ into sections so it’s easy to pack.
Markus Schubert from OBLU was my friendly dive professional and patient one-to-one scuba ‘buddy’ who dived with me throughout. My first dive was at the Helengeli House Reef to test my underwater skills that I learnt on my theory papers.
I went for a boat dive at Kurdu Giri and progressed to a depth of 12m. Here I saw two hammerhead sharks and an eagle ray, as well as hundreds of multi coloured fish and stunning coral.
Scuba diving with sharks can be daunting, but I was assured that they are friendly in the Maldives. In fact scuba diving in the Maldives with sharks is why people want to dive there. The type of sharks which inhibit those waters are nurse, reef, hammerhead and if you are lucky you will see tiger sharks.
They are very graceful and are seemingly not troubled by humans. Indeed, I lived to experience this incredible opportunity and to tell the tale! The most surprising thing that I saw was one of the OBLU PADI team free-diving down with us at ten metres!
Their resident free-diving champion swam down to say hello which in some ways was more breath-taking (literally) than seeing the sharks! A free-diving or what is sometimes known as ‘skin diving’ course is offered at OBLU this is fast becoming a popular trend in the underwater world! I think for now I will concentrate on getting to grips with breathing via an air cylinder tank underwater!
A depth of 18m was achieved on dive three at Fiedermaas Reef. I then completed my qualifications with a fourth scuba dive at Kuda Faru to pass my PADI Open Water! That was a great feeling and I will always have happy memories about diving at OBLU!
It’s important to mention to get good travel insurance if you are considering watersports of any kind. For my trip to The Maldives, I was insured by UK travel insurance provider, InsureandGo, and was able to enjoy my scuba diving adventures safe in the knowledge that this activity was included as standard within my policy.
With water temperatures of around 28 degrees and so much to see, scuba diving opens up another world of ocean resort holidays. There is an abundance of colourful, friendly and stunning marine life from the busy clown fish, colourful parrot fish, checkerboard wrasse, blue-striped snapper to angelfish. OBLU boasts over 20 top diving sites which are nearby, it’s a world renowned dive location.
Scuba diving at OBLU Helengeli has a huge advantage over other resorts in the Maldives as they have their own house reef close by and plenty of nearby reefs which are not busy. They cater for beginners to advanced divers and you can brush up your skills with their team of PADI professionals.
For those who just want to relax, then Helengeli is the perfect tropical island retreat. It has two ocean side swimming pools (one is adult only) with sundecks and a quiet area overlooking the sea, it has an open air bar and a relaxing spa.
The Spice is the main dining area for breakfast, lunch and dinner exceptionally good from the buffet is served here. The nearest neighbours are India, 600km distant to the north, and Sri Lanka, 670km to the east. So much of the Maldivian food is influenced by these countries.
Lavish food from the buffet is available and caters for most dietary requirements and taste buds. Breakfast is varied and plentiful with fresh juices, homemade bread, jams, grilled meat and tropical fruit.
We enjoyed dining on the grilled local fish, delicious curries in addition to choosing from the incredible amount of puddings on offer. Following on from the three years since OBLU’s makeover and refurbishment, we were lucky enough to enjoy their anniversary cake.
You can dine outside in the area overlooking the house reef and if you’re lucky during lunch you may spot a family of eagle rays elegantly passing by or even a turtle popping up from time to time.
The other restaurant to try is Just Grill, a romantically set restaurant on the beach which is lit up by the sea, perfect for a romantic night and intimate celebration. You will find it hard not to relax in this paradise haven, made even better by delicious food and attentive staff that made our dining experience top notch!
The average temperature in the Maldives is about 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year, it has two distinct seasons; dry season (northeast monsoon Jan to March) and wet season (southwest monsoon) from mid-May to November. Although a rain-free dry season isn’t guaranteed it may be best to take your holiday from November to March.
From the moment you arrive at OBLU to the moment you leave you are part of the Helengeli Island family. I am looking forward to returning to experience more underwater adventures and relaxation by the exotic ocean.
How to get there:
Parking with Airport Parking & Hotels at Gatwick Airport.
Kate flew direct from London Gatwick to Valana International Airport with British Airways.
Transfer pick up and return from OBLU by Atmosphere by speedboat to Airport.
Where to stay:
For more information about the resort, visit oblu-helengeli.com.
All guests stay on the All-Inclusive plan which includes all food and beverages, accommodation, use of facilities and a number of excursions/activities. Transfers included. Scuba diving and PADI courses are not included in the package.
How to Book:
Hayes & Jarvis is offering a 10 night holiday to the Maldives from £2,319 per person. The offer includes staying at the four star OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli, on an all-inclusive basis. The offer also includes return international flights from London Heathrow with SriLankan Airlines. Based on departures 09 May 2019.
Travellers will find that InsureandGo’s lead-in budget policy includes 50 activities and scuba diving sports as standard. An InsureandGo annual Worldwide (excluding USA, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean) Budget policy starts from £40.99. For more information or to purchase a policy, visit insureandgo.com.
More information: visitmaldives.com
Credit: Scuba Diving pictures – Marco Carè, UnderwaterCare Photography