The very mention of Maldives always conjures up image of a tropical paradise – crystal clear turquoise water, coconut palms on white sandy beaches, amazing marine life and luxury resorts. Many of my friends even have the perception that these fabled atolls are basically romantic vacation places for honeymooners with little else to do except sun, sand and sea. They could not be more wrong. Sure, there are no theme park or megamall at any of the 1200 atolls but a trip to the Maldives will certainly brings a smile to anyone looking for vacation with a difference, to destress and reconnect with nature.
Having last visited the Maldives some 15 years back, I was truly excited when the opportunity to go on a site inspection to a few resorts with Jetabout Holidays came in March. The first resort on the trip was Lux* South Ari Atoll. It may just be a couple of days at this fabulous resort but I can assure anyone looking for a luxurious Maldivian vacation that they will be very delighted if they chose this resort.
Formerly known as the Lux* Maldives, (they have a new property opening in the North Ari Atoll in late 2017) this resort is located on the picture-perfect island of Dhidhoofinolhu. Relaunched after a complete refurbishment in September 2016, guests have the choice of 193 private villas dotted at the water’s edge along 4 km of powder fine beaches and perched on stilts above a crystal clear lagoon. You may refer to the resort fact sheet here for other details.
Enjoy the immersive resort video and be bitten by the wanderlust bug.
With 4km of sandy beaches around the atoll, this resort is large compared to other resorts. You can stroll around the lovely island but you also have the option to ride on electric buggies that ply the resort like a ‘public transport’ system. You can wait at any pick up point with no more than 15min for the next buggy or simply hop on a buggy along the way if its route agrees with you. We did not rent the bicycles (for a nominal fee of USD5) as we felt well served by the buggy. You might be pleased to know that all drivers of buggy undergo training to receive certification before being permitted to operate the vehicle. All in the name of safety in paradise.
The resort is superbly maintained by about 600 courteous and helpful staff, who goes about their task around the island adhering to the island eco-friendly stance. I believe the staff in the picture below is “housekeeping on wheels”. Low carbon footprint activities are etched into the DNA of the island.
Lux* South Ari Atoll is 104km from Malé Velana International Airport. It can be accessed via a 25min direct seaplane transfer (during daylight) or a 20min domestic flight to Maamigili airport followed by a 10min speedboat transfer (evening hours).
Arriving guests will immediately feel the warm welcome of the resort when they disembarked the seaplane. The fatigue of a long journey is replaced by a sense of excitement as the staff lined up at the resort jetty to receive the guests. For arrival after dark hours, a staff will also be stationed to receive the guests. Either way, you are in good hands.
A seaplane taxiing to the resort jetty pontoon. Maldives is essentially served by one aerial transfer company after the merger of two firms. The time of the transfer depends on how the links are organized by the company. Waiting time before departure could be as short as half an hour or sometimes even up to two hours. This waiting time could be extended in case of inclement weather or delays along various pickup points along the flight routes. The seaplane flies only during daylight. But travel via the seaplane is still a favourable option as it provides passengers with a bird’s eyes view of the beautiful atolls in the clear blue sea. Passengers also get to rest in the company comfortable lounge while waiting for their transfer.
Cold towels are offered to guests upon arrival at the resort. And the staff will handle your luggage and have it whisked away to your villa directly. Check-in is smooth and seamless to ease the start of a great vacation.
The crystal clear water are so inviting that you feel like jumping in right away. That’s the magic of the Maldives. And this surreal feeling of being in a tropical paradise is what accompanies the visitor throughout the trip, enhanced by the resort offerings and ambience along the way.
Magnificent sleep quality at the spacious Beach Villa (1021 sg.ft) which offers beautiful sea view and just steps away to the beach and lagoon. The king-sized bed are supremely comfy and the room layout is very well thought out. There is also a LED TV which I did not use a single bit throughout the stay as the scenery are just too lovely to pass up. WiFi is free and accessible throughout the resort.
The washing area is very thoughtfully designed and superb especially for a family with 2 kids. Double sinks reduce waiting time, especially during the morning.
Generously sized bath tub. Perfect for couples or a family with 2 young children.
View of the sea from the Beach Villa patio, with 2 sun deck loungers and a parasol to each villa. It’s moment like this you feel like calling in-room service for breakfast and enjoy the bliss.
A sweet start to the new day with macaroons, chocolates and tea before heading out for breakfast. You wished time stands still.
Among the rooms we were shown during the inspection was the resort Romantic Pool Water Villa. With 1183 sg.ft of breezy space looking out into the blue yonder. If this isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is.
With all that creature comforts at the Romantic Pool Villa patio, you wished you had booked a longer stay. By sunset, the scene gets even more romantic.
At the Water Villa, the 1054 sg.ft of space felt even larger, with an unblocked view of the ocean. There is no pool in this type of room. But you get to enjoy the “world’s biggest pool” just steps away down the staircase. It can’t get better than this.
You could just lounge here for a big part of the morning, afternoon or night. At nightfall, you can also stargaze here and check out the various constellation.
Some facilities at the resort
Noticed I stated above as ‘some’ facilities at the resort. As our inspection spanned just a couple of days, I was hard pressed to thoroughly turn the resort inside-out. But from what I have seen, is enough to enamour me to go slow and appreciate it better. Like the picturesque 130 seats restaurant call East Market (see below), where we had breakfast. This diner offers guests a culinary tour of South East Asia and may I add, the chefs were just perfect.
And of course, what is a resort without great spa facilities? The resort spa – Lux* Me WellBeing. There are 15 exclusive spa villas including 4 water treatment villas, which you see in the picture below. Common relaxation area with sauna and steam bath, plunge pools, spa products boutique, showers and changing rooms with separate sauna and steam bath for ladies and gentlemen. There is even a unisex hair salon.
Garden view spa treatment room. Great when you need to take a short break from looking too much at the blue ocean.
At the East Bar (50s seats, built over water), perfect place that will quench any thirst from the Maldivian sun.
Directly opposite the East Bar, the Lagoon Bar with colourful bean bags on the beach let guests chill out in total relaxation. The entire resort is relaxing, it’s only which area is more relaxing.
An epicurean adventure
For all lover of good food out there, Lux* 7 eateries will definitely satisfy your food cravings. The resort offers several options from pizzas and bar snacks to all-day dining to romantic candlelit dinners on the beach. The choices of cuisine were also diverse including International, Asian and Mediterranean. Guests who took up all-inclusive food and beverage package are entitled to their pick of all of the restaurants except for the Japanese restaurant and in-villa dining. We did not get to experience all the 7 eateries during the inspection due to time schedule but from those that we had tried, the epicurean adventure at this resort is guaranteed to thrill, excite and satiate.
East Market– offering a culinary tour of South East Asia
Umami – Tastes of modern Japanese dining. We did not dine at this restaurant but I am sure it’s definitely up there with the best.
Allegria restaurant offering Italian cuisine. There’s even an Italian manager just to oversee the dining
At Cafe Lux* right at the resort lobby, enjoy a wide range of signature coffee prepared by a barista with in-house roasted coffee beans. I like what the resort described – “excellent coffee is a must, not a luxury; that’s why you’ll find a Café LUX* at the heart of LUX* South Ari Atoll”. Talk about commitment to caffeine lovers!
Beach Rouge – Beach Club and Restaurant offering contemporary cuisines in a chic and hip ambience.
Even the delicious food at the Beach Rogue makes for a photogenic food photo. Thanks, chef, for doing a great job!
“Design and Atomsphere” said the Lux* South Ari Atoll press release. ” LUX* South Ari Atoll remains faithful to its promise of staying away from the sea of sameness, banishing thoughtless patterns hence creating something extraordinary.” And may I add, the resort certainly achieved their goals. Like this quirky and fun unisex washroom located at the Beach Rouge restaurant. Since when did you really had a fun time in a washroom?
This is a washroom? I thought I was in an art boutique.
Slick and chic are what comes to mind.
Located near the Umami Japanese restaurant, this themed unisex washroom was another amazing “out of the box” creation. Like what the Japanese always exclaim “Sugoi !”
Did someone need help up there? Hello?
Feeling homesick? need to phone home? Yes, guests are entitled to a 30min complimentary international phone call daily from this London phone booth replica. I have this notion coming to this lovely paradise is to get away from it all. We would rather be trying to avoid any phone calls. But when the need arises, you know you can use the phone. A really wonderful touch here.
In paradise but still had book addict withdrawal syndrome? no worries, there is a beautiful library with loft to fulfil that intellectual hunger pangs.
What you can do
Whale Shark watching is one of the highlights at the Maldives and this resort is fortunate to be located in the prime spot to observe these gentle giants. Their “snorkel with Whale Shark” excursions are conducted by the resort’s Marine Biology Center and offers participants a unique money back guarantee – “if you don’t see one, you don’t pay”. (Every Saturday, weather permitting) . We didn’t get to see the mammoth shark as they seemed to be somewhere on vacation. So we had a snorkelling session at the house reef just 10min away from the resort. Beside this, there also many other activities that you can do.
The skies were somewhat cloudy during the outing so it affected the underwater picture quality. The corals at the house reef are predominantly of the hard species. Marine life was abundant but overall, we would have enjoyed the snorkelling better had the weather improved. But that’s nature, we take what’s given.
A parrotfish being ‘serviced’ by a cleaner wrasse at the reef. It is interesting to be able to observe scenes of a NatGeo documentary right before your very eyes.
While the day thrilled us with so many things to do, the night skies presented another activity which we are unable to do in our hometown well-lit urban landscape, that is, star gazing. We had a lovely time doing astrophotography and shooting star trails right outside our villa.
A final word
On hindsight, vacation are hard-earned event and deserves proper planning. There are many resorts in the Maldives , each with its unique features. With the rates of most luxury resort going at a premium, visitors should all the more do their homework. Lux* South Ari Atoll is modern, trendy and hits the spot, from the decor, to the styling and to the little touches. Everything was done with the guests in the mind. The service we received at Lux* was excellent. From the time we were received at the jetty to the time we departed, we felt that we were in good hands. All of the staff were always helpful, smiling and courteous. This superlative service level makes it even more memorable for a long time to come.
Thank you for coming along for the pixels journey. I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and find it useful. Should you feel like packing your bags now and visit Lux* South Ari Atoll, you will be pleased to know that there is a special promotion by Jetabout Holidays for this resort (offer ends April 2017).
All pictures used in the article are all rights reserved and copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays.