From Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts is COLOURS OF OBLU. Leading travel writer Georgie Bentley-Buckle visited two of the islands within the group: OBLU NATURE Helengeli and OBLU SELECT Lobigili to discover first-hand how these welcoming resorts appeal to guests from all walks of life.
COLOURS OF OBLU is a collection of four Maldivian islands that offer big-hearted hospitality to guests who travel from all corners of the globe. Serving up a slice of exotic escapism with vibrant island destinations across the North Malé atoll, the number of islands in the group has doubled this year alone from two to four. With the nature-inspired OBLU NATURE Helengeli and OBLU SELECT Sangeli already under the tenacious group’s belt, OBLU SELECT Lobigili opened this March and OBLU XPERIENCE Ailafushi in early May.
OBLU NATURE Helengeli
I began a duo island visit starting at OBLU NATURE Helengeli, a laid back, lush island abundant with nature. Accessed via an exhilarating 50-minute speed boat ride from Malé International Airport, the dense and verdant island is home to a myriad of wildlife, both above and below the water.
Its unique location in the middle of two deep channels, which form the largest water inlet of the North Malé Atoll, offers some of the finest diving and snorkelling experiences, combined with an unpretentious and welcoming island setting. Since the resort opened its shores to guests in November 2015, OBLU NATURE Helengeli has continued to welcome guests back to its shores. Guests comfortably settle into one of the 116 colourful villas, tucked in the island’s thick foliage or perched over the ocean with private pools.
Tying into the COLOURS OF OBLU ethos of generosity, OBLU NATURE Helengeli offers its guests their ‘Island Plan’ which includes everything that is needed to ensure each guest can fully experience the island in all its wild glory. Combined with the Maldivian hospitality of a warm smile and a ‘nothing is too much effort’ attitude, each person can enjoy unlimited food and drinks, gym access, non-motorized water sports, and unlimited use of snorkelling gear with daily excursions.
Additionally, to ensure guests get a real taste of the Maldives beyond the pages of a book and a beach walk, the island also brings people together with group activities. This includes sunset fishing excursions and guided island walks for a glimpse of Maldivian culture and craft.
Also offering a taste of local island life is OBLU NATURE Helengeli’s restaurant Spice. With a blend of local Maldivian dishes with international favourites, get to know the passionate, friendly chefs at their live cooking stations and sample world-class curry whilst dining with your feet in the sand at the rustic style restaurant. This sits alongside Just Grill – the speciality restaurant with a romantic, open-air seating, and HELEN’S pool bar for cocktails, pool and live evening entertainment under the stars.
A standout element of OBLU NATURE Helengeli that is less obvious is the ELENA spa, a truly tropical oasis. A hidden walled water garden, the spa is filled with water lilies and freshwater fish. Inspired by the natural elements that make up the island, treatments use only products made from natural, 100 per cent organically grown ingredients to offer guests deep healing and rejuvenation.
OBLU SELECT Lobigili
I moved on to spend the remainder of my time in the Maldives at OBLU NATURE Helengeli’s new sister island OBLU SELECT Lobigili. If Helengeli island was all about nature, then its new luxurious, adults-only counterpart endeavours to offer a romantic, fine-dining retreat, just a 15-minute speed boat ride from the airport.
It’s all in the name at OBLU SELECT Lobigili with ‘lobi’ translating as love and ‘gili’ island in the Dhivehi local dialect. Offering a castaway experience with luxury amenities, romance is the name of the game for this new adults-only island. This includes the mini heart-shaped island only moments from the shoreline for intimate wedding ceremonies and private dining.
In comparison to the mature jungle of Helengeli, the youthful OBLU SELECT Lobigili is exposed and instead showcases a bright, friendly aesthetic that can be seen throughout the long, thin island. An example of this as you first step foot is the bright, bubble-gum pink buggies that zoom from one end to the other. This fun colour scheme is a theme throughout the resort, from the fuchsia sun loungers and candy pink and white striped beach towels.
Stay on the beach or over the cerulean sea at OBLU SELECT Lobigili with 24 SunNest Beach Pool Villas, 22 Nest Water Villas and 22 Sun Nest Water Villas. I stayed in one of the 62 square meter one-bedroom SunNest Beach Pool Villas on the island’s sunset side. A vibrant colour scheme, with nature-inspired design touches, features around the king bed and a large open-air Maldivian style bathroom with a bathtub and rain shower.
Outside, greenery wraps around an intimate pool with two loungers facing the beach and ocean. After further inspection, the Water Villas feature very similar layouts. With a choice of sunrise or sunset views, each includes private overwater decks and glass windows in the floor so you can peek down at the ocean beneath you.
OBLU SELECT Lobigili’s warm-hearted charisma extends to the generous holiday package that allows for full enjoyment, without worrying about the extras. This appealing offering comes in the form of the ‘The Lobi Plan’, AKA, indulge in (almost) anything throughout your stay. From non-motorised water sports, the use of snorkelling equipment, full restaurant access and return speedboat transfers; it also includes unlimited drinks and goodies from the minibar which is re-stocked daily.
Wildlife is best seen underwater. Do this by booking in with the dive centre or exploring with some snorkelling equipment, this includes to some of the best dive and snorkelling sites in the North Malé Atoll just a short boat trip away. As part of the signature Lobi Plan, you can also choose from sunset fishing and guided snorkelling, (or beyond the plan) a chartered sunset cruise.
For active guests who prefer to stay over water is the impressive overwater gym. With unlimited access to the fully equipped gym that features floor to ceiling windows with bright ocean views – take advantage of personal training sessions and classes including beach yoga, strength training, floating meditation and Pilates.
Meanwhile, the open-air ELENA spa is one of the most beautiful (and widespread) I’ve seen. Positioned on the beach and overlooking its own stretch of sea, its concept too has been exclusively designed for adults with four secluded double treatment rooms with a couple’s bath, enclosed in a tropical garden.
OBLU SELECT Lobigili followed through with their high level (and variety) of food, including fresh platters of sushi, world-class curries (Indian, Thai and Maldivian) and impressive desserts. The main restaurant where a buffet-style breakfast and lunch is served, before a collection of globally inspired à la carte menus appear each evening is Ylang Ylang. Here the food is a total winner, easily surpassing many buffets I’ve had before.
The Swing Bar by the infinity pool is also certainly worth a visit to watch the sunset. Here you can sink into one of the sunset facing swings with a pina colada, frozen margarita or glass of wine from the sunken bar from the fun, energetic team.
Lastly, to further bolster the island’s culinary credentials, is the Only BLU restaurant, the latest addition to the island. What is said to be the new ‘largest underwater restaurant in the Maldives’, on my visit this horseshoe-shaped restaurant was still under construction. It is however an exciting addition, with front-row seats of Lobigili coral reef and an open plan kitchen, bringing its guest up close and personal with the island’s local wildlife.
COLOURS OF OBLU, a brand by Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts, curates vibrant destinations with diverse and bountiful experiences. COLOURS OF OBLU’s newest resort – OBLU XPERIENCE Ailafushi, opened on 19 May 2022. Encompassing a playful energetic vibe, this resort is all about laidback days and buzzing evenings, inviting travellers to let go, be free and experience the holiday of a lifetime.
OBLU NATURE Helengeli
Address: Helengeli Island, North Malé Atoll, The Maldives
Phone: (+960) 9596001 / (+960) 9696031
OBLU SELECT Lobigili
Address: Lobigili Island, Male’ Atoll, The Maldives
Phone: +960 400 0066