The luxury resort company One & Only has spent a phenomenal amount of money turning the beautiful island of Reethi Rah into their flagship property.
It has been conceived and built quite brilliantly and stocked with the world's finest food, drink and equipment (to say nothing of the staff). It will take another year or so, however, before the natural environment approaches the attractiveness of the built environment.
Three quarters of the present resort is man-made. The vast extension of the original island to create curves of new beaches with widely spaced villas – and water bungalows extending from the 'headlands' – was a staggering project and is unique in the country (and probably anywhere else). Its final success requires time for nature to blossom in Maldives' unhelpful soil.
As I entered a room for the first time, I had an involuntary intake of breath. Like a private royal chapel the sense of space, height and luxury lifts your spirits and calms your mind. Extending away in front of you, under a high vaulted ceiling, the bedroom and lounge flow through to the open bathroom and on to the shower room, where, on the back wall, a 4-metre mirror seems to double the space again. One moves from the 30" flat-screen surround sound home cinema and the broadband Internet connection to the satin finished Egyptian cotton linens of the bed, on to the utterly romantic double bath of shaped and polished terrazzo and ends with a choice of rainforest shower or power shower on alternate sides of this exquisite rectangle.
On the land are 54 Beach Villas, 6 Duplex Villas (twin villas for families) and 5 Grand Beach Villas. On the water are 30 Water Villas and 2 Grand Water Villas, on 8 separate jetties around the island. The first numbered rooms, particularly for the beach villas, are the best located because the vegetation in this southwest corner is well advanced and the beaches are finer too.
Built from the ground up, the opportunity to design in spectacular sightlines all around the island has been truly grasped. Combining those sightlines with grand opulence, the striking main restaurant and bar building is reminiscent of a temple. A floor to ceiling glass cube – the cold kitchen – lies at the centre. Off this are 3 themed seating areas utilising soaring painted pillars, carved columns, 5-metre long teak tables, water features and blue glass tiles.
The bar connects to the restaurant but looks out to the free-form swimming pool. It boasts the largest collection of champagnes in the country and 20 types of bottled water. Perhaps not for the simple at heart, even the breakfast comes from a crafted à la carte menu.
One specialist restaurant is Middle Eastern with an outrageous "boho-chic" setting of carpets on the sand, giant cushions and crystal chandeliers hung from the palms. Great fun and given drive by the resort's terrific music selection - the best I have come across. The other specialist restaurant is an ultra-sophisticated Japanese place, also on the water's edge, with a mother of pearl bar and tables of arresting beauty.
One & Only look after children better than anyone. The fact that there are only 6 family villas indicates that not so many are brought along, but those that are must have a great time here. A KidsOnly club for 2-11 year olds sees them constructively entertained all day and a ClubOne for teenagers is a loosely structured hang-out packed with good things. In the neighbourhood are the water sports centre, football pitch, tennis academy and dive centre.
The spa, run by ESPA and occupying an extensive waterfront area, is as thoroughgoing as would be expected. The mental, spiritual or just physical journey starts with a personal consultation to define a tailor-made programme of treatments and, if desired, dietary plans. The options are myriad and the staff highly trained. For a stiffer workout, the gym next door wows you with the very latest in modern equipment (Kinesis).
The built environment, as I have said, is quite wonderful. Nature is not so well served up. The house reef is not accessible for snorkelling and there is little in the lagoon to excite. The beaches do not approach Maldives' finest and the water in the cup-shaped 'bays' is not crystal clear. Cultured orchids are pretty and profuse, but the planted palms and flowers are only slowly transforming the hot, open interior. It will be a while yet before we can design nature as successfully as everything else.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville