The over-water villas are built directly on the lagoon, offering access to the inviting water
Lying on the sundeck of our over-water villa at Hurawalhi Island Resort, it’s hard to remember just hours ago we were rushing through busy Malé to catch the seaplane to paradise. And what a paradise it is! In front of me is an ocean of turquoise and indigo stretched to the horizon, where fluffy white clouds mark the border between sea and sky. In the distance, the island’s beach gleams under the brilliant sun as palm trees sway in the gentle breeze. It’s exactly how you picture the Maldives.
Opened in December 2016, Hurawalhi is a private coral island set in the north of the Lhaviyani Atoll. Getting here requires a 40-minute seaplane flight from Malé plus a five-minute speedboat ride. After a scenic journey over the Indian Ocean, you arrive at the resort welcomed by smiling staff, a glass of bubbly and a leisurely rhythm played on traditional Maldivian drums to set the pace of your great escape.
Check-in is a relaxed affair. At the open-air reception with a refreshing drink in hand and toes dug into cool sand, I sit back and take in the postcard-perfect view. The realisation that I am indeed in the Maldives, a world away from the skyscrapers, traffic jams and deadlines finally sinks in.
In no time we are ready for breakfast at the Canneli Restaurant (you will be taken to your villa if you arrive in the afternoon or if your villa is ready), which serves an international buffet thrice daily. My growling stomach urges me to devour the pancakes as quickly as possible, but there’s something in the air that tells me to slow down and savour every bite. Perhaps it’s the lulling sounds of the waves lapping against the beach? Or maybe it’s the egret standing on rocks nearby, waiting patiently for a crab, like it has all the time in the world?
Later we settle into our home for the next few days, and decide that instead of packing activities into the afternoon, we’ll simply laze around or take a dip in the clear lagoon. While all 90 Ocean and Beach villas share the same chic, natural design and modern furnishings, the Ocean Villas and Ocean Pool Villas are built on the lagoon, giving you direct access to the inviting water through a staircase from the sundeck. The villa is spacious and homey, and the door of the shower opens to the sundeck, which is convenient after a swim.
At the beginning of monsoon season, the sky can go from sunny to stormy in minutes; but the lagoon is a constant, mesmerising robin egg blue. It’s a soothing sight even when dark clouds approach. If you look closely enough, you can see different marine creatures zoom by below the villa, although it’s difficult when the sea is rough.
With little wildlife on land (aside from bats, geckos and egrets), the spotlight is on the rich sea life here. Strolling around the island we frequently spot fish and blacktip reef sharks swimming near the shore; but the real treasure lies deeper under the sea.
Thousands of fish species thrive around the island, so grab your snorkel or scuba diving gear and get in the water. There are half-day and full-day trips to discover the atoll’s colourful reefs where you may encounter sea turtles and manta rays, and the resort’s house reefs are also not to be missed. With regular introductory sessions and snorkelling sites for different levels, even less confident swimmers can get a glimpse of the mysterious world below the surface.
A knowledgeable instructor will guide you through the basics and accompany you during the tour, ensuring safety and showing you what to look for. There is nothing more peaceful than the quietude underwater, and nothing more exciting than swimming alongside a reef shark. The farther out to sea, the more you will see: funny-looking sea cucumbers, majestic stingrays and all sorts of exotic fish – if you’re searching for Nemo, the colourful sea anemones are where the orange clownfish call home. Remember to capture some of this magic through the lens (you can rent a GoPro from the diving centre).