Hotel Review: Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo in the Maldives
As steady as the gentle ocean waves that roll into the shallow turquoise lagoon at Ozen, new holidaymakers arrive in tiny batches at the jetty every few days, ready for a week – or even two – of pure unadulterated luxury.
After my own arrival, I found enjoyment watching others step off the boat, their excitement and delight obvious as they arrived in paradise after a 45-minute speedboat transfer from Male International Airport.
I saw them take in the many shades of sparkling water, the smiling staff ready to welcome them with grass necklaces and chilled Champagne and watched their mouth open as they spied the gorgeous over water villas and half-hidden beach bungalows in the distance.
It was the same look that we – my fiancé and I – had on our own arrival. Taking up an entire island, Ozen by Atmosphere consists of two small sand banks, joined by a wooden footbridge, from which two jetties spider off, granting access to the fabulous over water bungalows and a selection of top-notch restaurants.
In the surrounding lagoon we glimpsed eagle rays lazily gliding on the surface and reef sharks shepherding schools of small silver fish in the swallows.
In my humble opinion, the resort is the ideal size – with the water’s edge never more than a few metres away and the entire island easily accessible on foot. Despite Ozen being at full occupancy during our visit, it felt at times that we were the only ones there, with the individual villas so luxurious that many don’t feel the need to ever leave.
I’m lucky enough to have visited the Maldives on a few occasions, and each trip to this stunning collection of islands is special, and unique in its own way. This is because each island is a resort, and you tend not to leave your island throughout your stay. Yes, there are delicate petals underfoot, white sands and sparkly shores on each, but the hospitality, ethos and layout are all quite different.
After a speedy tour of the resort in a golf buggy, you can tackle check in from the comfort of your room and take in the stunning surrounding of your new home while a masseuse gets to work on your feet – much appreciated after a long haul flight!
In order to properly experience the entirety of the resort, we stayed a few nights in an over water villa, before moving to a beach bungalow for the remainder of the week. This is quite common amoung guests, as each offers a very different experience.
When most people dream of visiting this part of the world, they imagine the quintessentially Maldivian water bungalow. Built on sticks out to sea and accessed via a wooden getty, the villas at Ozen boast private decks from which you can slip straight into the ocean, or cool off in your own swimming pool in front of a spectacular sunset.
There’s nothing quite like sipping sundowners on the deck, watching the sky erupt into a stunning pink blaze as the sun meets the sea and listening to the calming trickle of the soft waves beneath you. Inside the villa, glass floor panels allow you to keep an eye on the ocean wildlife from every room and floor-to-ceiling windows (even in the shower!) mean you never have to turn your back on those endless sea views.
After a few days here we were almost reluctant to move to the Earth bungalow, but as soon as we entered, we felt our fickle hearts jump ship. A huge L-shaped pool hugs the bungalow and leads directly to the beach.
Hidden in the exotic foliage, these secluded properties offer a wonderful degree of privacy and the homes are so spacious, it almost feels like you’re in your own resort. An outdoor bath and monsoon shower provide an idyllic spot to relax, listening to the chirp of passing birds and buzz of nearby wildlife.
The thing that makes Ozen quite so special is that, despite being a luxury brand, you’ll find zero pretentiousness here. In fact, Ozen prides itself on the fact that you can stay here for two weeks, and never spend a penny – something of a revelation in the Maldives, where a bottle of water can cost £15 on certain islands. With its all-inclusive Indulgence Plan, the island is there for the taking, with pretty much everything free of charge – including our favourite Tattinger Champagne.
Each room houses a complimentary mini fridge packed with wines, beer, soft drinks and nibbles and is replenished twice daily. It’s a similar story with the restaurants; you can choose from the pool bar, which has a daily changing menu, buffet restaurant The Palms with several different cooking stations, RAW sushi bar and the two fine dining establishments, Peking and IndoCeylon that serve up gorgeous Chinese and South Asian food respectfully. Whatever your pick, it’s all included.
But it’s not just food and drink that you can tick off your expense list, as guests are also entitled to a host of free activities, and not just the standard snorkelling trips. All non-motorised watersports are up for grabs – think catamarans, canoes, windsurfing and paddle boarding, as well as a sunset fishing excursion and one additional excursion of your choice. We loved the dolphin cruise personally, but the turtle experience also looked liked fun.
Once you’ve been here a few days, a trip to the ELENA spa is called for. It has all the decadence you might expect of a spa in this part of the world and we enjoyed a blissful couple’s massage overlooking the water, watching the waves roll onto the sand underneath us and half-heartedly fighting consciousness.
Ozen is also home to one of the world’s few underwater restaurants. Once per stay, guests are invited to dine at M6m, which is a real bucket list experience. Being able to enjoy variety when it comes to dining in the Maldives is something of a luxury, given that you don’t leave the island! Serving both lunch and dinner, M6m is surrounded by thriving coral, so you might be lucky enough to spot octopus, turtles and sharks as well as the colourful reef fish.
This once-in-a-lifetime setting is only amplified by the incredible menu. Pick from two menus, each offering five courses of exciting and adventurous seafood, with fabulous cocktails and paired wine to accompany it.
When the time comes for us to depart – a good few pounds heavier thanks to the Indulgence Plan – we board our speedboat and a procession of Ozen staff line up to wave us goodbye. It’s a wave that’s reminiscent – and seemingly just as heartfelt – as Pocahontas seeing off John Smith. And, just like hers, it continues until we are well over the horizon.
Scott Dunn offers 7 nights at OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo from £3,400 per person. This is based on two people sharing an Earth Villa on the Indulgence Resort Plan. International flights and speedboat transfers are included. For more information please visit scottdunn.com or call 020 8682 5000.
For more information on the resort visit ozen-maadhoo.com