After falling under its spell on her honeymoon, Cairo-based travel blogger Farah Hosny returns to the magical Maldives to explore its newest resort - but the forces of nature had plans of their own...
The first time I went to the Maldives was on my honeymoon. When I told my soon-to-be-husband that I wanted to go to those magical islands I’d always fantasised about with pellucid blue waters and palm trees that swayed in the breeze, he replied saying, and I quote, “that sounds boring,” to which I said I would be going with or without him. I told him that on my honeymoon, there would be an overwater villa in the Maldives with a pool and there would be me in that pool with a glass of champagne in hand, and there would be a husband. Whether or not he was that husband was up for debate.
He eventually conceded because my reasoning was, well when else will we go to the Maldives if not on our honeymoon? Except it turns out that honestly the Maldives should be for all the damn time. It’s gotten a steller rep as a honeymoon destination for good reason, but it’s just a great holiday spot, full stop. It’s a far closer destination than many tropical getaways - only a hop and a skip to Dubai from Cairo and from there it’s only three hours to the Maldives. And it’s got everything you need for the perfect escape from your hectic daily life.
My latest venture to the sprinkling of islands we know as the Maldives was to visit the newly opened Oblu Select Lobigili, on a luxurious three-day trip arranged by travel gurus Travista. A part of the Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts family, Lobigili, nestled on its own small island, is a decadent five star, adults-only resort.
I emphasise adults-only because that shit’s important. Kids are loud and raucous and if you’ve paid a pretty penny to fly into paradise, get away, and relax, then a bunch of children throwing food and sand makes it distinctly less paradisiacal. Don’t get me wrong, children are the future yada yada and they have great cheeks and whatnot, and I love my niece and nephew and my little cousins very much, but quite frankly I can’t wait for the day that they’re teenagers and think they’re too cool to talk to me instead of what they do now, which is demand my attention and everyone’s all the time. The only thing I want demanding my attention during a relaxing holiday on the beach is my book and my glass of wine.
The resort is only a short boat ride away from the Malé airport so if you’re the type of person who gets seasick or if you don’t feel fully comfortable getting into a seaplane, which let’s be honest, is really just a tuk-tuk with wings, then this is probably perfect for you.
We’re greeted by a saxophonist waiting on the deck playing modern pop songs, à la Bridgerton. We’re also greeted with a glass of champagne and though it’s 9AM, I gladly accept because truly, there is no wrong time for champagne. We’re taken to our room in an adorable little pink golf cart driven by our hostess - each guest at Lobigili gets their own hostess for the duration of the trip and she’s essentially your go-to person for any needs or questions you may have. You’re in direct contact with them through WhatsApp and they’re like your little fairy godmothers for your holiday.
Our room is an overwater villa with a pool, one of three types of rooms at the resort; the alternatives are an overwater villa sans pool, and a beach villa with a pool. The room has one of those sections of glass floor - it’s a small touch but it makes the space all the more magical because you can see beneath you into the water without ever even going outside. The villa gives way to a deck on one side with a glossy blue pool that looks over the Indian Ocean, and a bathroom on the other side, which is an absolute stunner. It’s a sort of indoor/outdoor combination which comes complete with a huge soaking tub, a rain shower, and an overwater net. You can see sections of sky and wispy clouds from the slits in the roof, and the waves bobbing lazily beneath you from a chunk of open floor.
I spend the day being a useless lump by the water, which is just what I like to do on vacation, before we head to dinner in the evening. Oblu Lobigili doesn’t do a big open buffet dinner spread, which I am actually delighted by because dinner is just a much more refined experience when you aren’t piling five different types of chicken onto your plate because your husband asked you to get the chicken while he gets the seafood and carbs so you guys can conquer the entire buffet.
Instead what the hotel has done is create 4 carefully curated menus, each based on the cuisines of a specific culture or country (Italian, Thai, Indian, and Mediterranean) and each menu encompasses its own options of entrees, main courses, and desserts. I opt for the Italian menu two nights in a row because spinach and ricotta ravioli, glazed lamb chops with asparagus, and tiramisu are my love language. They do have an underwater restaurant - set to be the largest one in the Maldives - but it will be open later this year.
At some point in the middle of the night I’m suddenly awakened by the sound of an angry ocean and an even angrier wind factor. The Maldives is a tropical destination and part of that is tropical weather - and that comes with rainstorms. Their wet season is typically from May to October but people still flock there during this time because the hotel deals are better and the rains in the Maldives are usually short lived anyway. Most of the time it’s rainy for an hour and then the sun creeps back out and life is good again, ad infinitum, because that’s just what tropical weather is. But this time the rain is lashing down so hard that I’m scared to go pee in the open air bathroom lest I be swept away into the ocean and then I’m just that cautionary tale of the girl who went to pee during a storm in a swanky Maldives hotel and was lost at sea forever. Her husband now roams the sands of the islands looking for her. It would all be very dramatic. But I digress. I get up to pee and shockingly, the bathroom is completely dry despite the raging sea below and the angry sky above. Go figure.
The next morning, the skies have shown mercy and cleared out and we head out bright and early for a snorkeling boat trip - the hotel has its own house reef so this ‘trip’ is really just a short distance from the overwater villas (if you have one of them, you can just pop on down into the water and do your own snorkeling - we saw various neighboring couples bobbing about with their snorkles in the water every morning from our villa). On certain days you can spot rays, baby sharks, or turtles swimming along - and you can see them from the deck of your overwater villa too if you’re hesitant to actually get in the water (though they’re perfectly safe to swim with). Lobigili lets you borrow snorkeling equipment free of charge, and the same goes for kayaks and paddleboards (a stark change from some other Maldives hotels who charge you a hundred dollars every time you so much as look at a kayak).
Lunch is also a chic affair; they’ve once again ditched the open buffet plan and opted instead for live cooking stations where everything’s whipped up in front of you and the meals are switched up daily. Over three days we have freshly caught reef fish, artisanal pizza, handmade veggie burgers, asparagus risotto, chili garlic shrimp, and myriad other tasty little lunchtime snacks that prompt my husband to mutter under his breath how lousy the food I make at home is in comparison to this.
It starts pouring again on our walk back to our room. At this point I’m starting to feel personally victimized by Rain-gina George (GET IT?). We spend the rest of the afternoon indoors, which is like, romantic when it’s your honeymoon but when you’ve been married for three years and your husband has demonstrated a steadfast inability to pick up after himself and takes all his work calls (and there are a lot of calls) basically yelling at the same decibel level of your 80-year-old grandpa on the phone, is somewhat less romantic. But our saving grace is that first of all Lobigili’s food is amazing so eating becomes our new favourite activity, and second of all, they have their ‘Lobi Plan’ which all hotel guests are automatically a part of.
Their ‘Lobi Plan’ is more or less an all-inclusive format so the drinks are flowing all day long - and the food doesn’t stop either. Usually the term all-inclusive makes me cringe because it brings to mind cheap plastic wristbands, sunburnt men with beer bellies walking around in speedos, and some kind of wine slash poison on tap (that’s if alcohol is even included). Except Lobigili’s version of all-inclusive is none of those things. It includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner and an endless array of nice booze.
Alcohol is a huge hidden cost at hotels, especially hotels in the Maldives where a bottle of wine costs as much as a fresh kidney. And for the type of vacation that the Maldives is, one based on relaxation and decadence, odds are you’ll want a glass or five of your favourite drinks. They have a huge selection of wines and spirits and it just makes so much more sense to have your alcohol built into the total price instead of paying per drink (I'm fairly sure the alcohol charges on our honeymoon rivaled what we actually paid for the room). Also, for anyone who has never visited the Maldives, do not attempt to enter the country with your own alcohol - it will promptly be confiscated in the airport (though you can collect it again when you leave).
Moral of the story is, when you’re in the Maldives and it’s raining, the best situation you can have is an all inclusive one, because the best thing to do is sip wine, eat good food, and wait for the skies to clear up.
Their Lobi plan also includes a fun little array of perks you don’t usually get free of charge at a hotel. It comes with one complimentary spa service, and once Only BLU their underwater restaurant opens, guests get one fine dining experience as well.
For our last morning of the trip, the sun has blessed us with its presence and we’re treated one of the floating breakfasts of Instagram fame, where a large heart-shaped wicker tray is placed atop the water in our pool, laden with fresh fruit, croissants, smoothies, salmon and avocado poppy seed bagels, and accompanied with champagne. Instagram may have popularised this ultra-decadent way of doing breakfast but once you’ve tried a floating morning feast, it’s hard to return to eating off a regular old table or really, to even remember who you were before this came into your life.
Except we don’t really get to indulge in the full experience because about three seconds after they set up the entire gorgeous tray, we get in the pool to start enjoying our morning feast and the rain gods are like nope; the skies rip open and start pouring it down all over our precious breakfast. My husband and I are now running around like lunatics trying to get all the beautiful dishes on this painstakingly prepared tray back inside (one by one, because of course the giant tray doesn’t fit through the door) while the wind howls angrily at us and whips our watermelon cubes into the ocean. I will say that the mimosas help lessen the sting of the fact that my avocado salmon bagel is now soggy and I’m eating it on the floor.
We end our trip with a couples massage at the Lobigili spa. Let me preface this by saying I don’t like massages; my back is ticklish and I jerk around like a fish out of water while I’m getting them because the masseuse will accidentally tickle me and it’s just an awkward experience for both of us. But Lobigili’s spa is open air and right on the beach, so you can hear the waves crashing around you and I peruse the menu to make sure and select a massage that has minimal back time, but includes a facial and a head massage so it’s perfect. Meanwhile, I can hear my husband snoring as he falls asleep on the massage table next to me.
All photos courtesy of Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts.