Paul Chai

People come to the Maldives for the diving, but things just got next-level with the creation of the world’s first semi-submerged art gallery by a world-famous underwater artist.

The Fairmont Maldives is located far to the north of Male – the Maldivian capital – to make sure that you can experience the unspoiled beauty of the diving that has made this region famous – as well as the crazy castaway luxury of your own private island, private butler and a world-first aqua art gallery.

 

Check-in and beyond

You don’t so much check in here as you arrive, on a small boat to a welcome on the island’s dark-wood jetty, where staff line up to greet newcomers. This tiny speck of an atoll is so far north it nudges India, but is truly in the middle of nowhere.

This island is all yours plus the other residents of the 42 water villas, hidden beach villas and the region’s first tented jungle villas. You can swim the 200-metre Infinity pool, be pampered in the Willow Stream Spa or grab a sandy sundowner at the Balinese-inspired Onu Onu beach bar. The heart of the resort is the Raha Market where you will have your barefoot breakfast or grab a simple lunch. And there is an open-air art studio.

But the art that everyone is talking about is the Coralarium – a semi-submerged art gallery by artist Jason deCaires Taylor – who has worked in Mexico and the Bahamas. The work is designed for divers and snorkelers to interact with the works, but it is also to draw attention to climate change as the huge metal walls of the gallery will show the changing tides in this part of the world – one of most affected by any rise in sea levels.

The human forms in the gallery are designed to encourage local sea life to set up home on the works since they are carved into the shapes of local mangroves and coral formations – go for a swim, then try to make your own art in the onshore studio.

 

Room type and amenities

My Sunrise water villa is insanely large with a Californian King bed, a bath that could double as a swimming pool and chic barefoot luxe touches like retro glass buoys for decoration and rough-woven rugs on the floor.

Outside, your 25-metre deck leads to a daybed, swing chair, a private plunge pool and steps leading into the lagoon. A Bose stereo allows you to play your tunes throughout the villa, and your bathroom is as huge as it is well appointed.

Beach villas are even larger and more luxurious if you can pull yourself away from the overwater options, they have large private gardens that are home to hundreds of tiny hermit crabs that part like the Red Sea as you walk.

Designed for families, the jungle tents are not so much glamping as they are canvas palaces!

 

Food and drink

Raha Market is the place for a sumptuously large brekky, a Maldivian fish curry for lunch or one of the most ridiculously large Italian buffets I have ever set eyes on.

For a more sophisticated option try Azure, a seafood restaurant suspended over the lagoon where you can spend the evening with dishes fresh from the nearby waters over a candlelit dinner for two. Kata Japanese offers sushi closer to the water bungalows. Onu Onu is ideal for cocktails and snacks.

 

The verdict

If you have a hankering for the full overwater experience, I cannot imagine you could do better than the Fairmont Maldives. It has the luxury element down pat, but has interesting touches like the underwater art gallery.

You are in the middle of nowhere, but you want for nothing; it is luxurious, but beach-chic casual; you can do nothing, but will never run out of things to do.

This is the Maldives – and overwater indulgence – done right.

 

The details

Rates: Sunrise beach villas start from US$550 per night for bed-and-breakfast option, Sunset water villas start from US$850 per night.

Facts: 120 luxury all-villa resort, 16 hectares of island and one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives.

 

Do you have overwater bungalows on your bucket list?