Above & Beyond

Among our favourite Smith stays are those made even more special by seamless service and generosity of spirit – where going the extra mile is not the exception, but the rule. As well as going above and beyond expectations (a drink on the house, a special table for two), the winner of this award knows all about feel-good factor – they’re natural hosts.

Winner: North Island, Seychelles

Our judges say ‘No wonder turtles live for two centuries on North Island: life here is exceedingly good. And we can see why Wills and Kate came here for their honeymoon, too. We were cosseted like royalty from the get-go, and could only admire the lengths staff would go to protect their paradise – from sustainable fishing and an absence of single-use plastics to an admirable project that’s reintroducing native critters to the habitat’.

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, British Columbia

Everything is executed with familiarity and friendliness here on Canada’s wild west coast. Founding family the Murrays might not like to shout about it, but the benchmark for exclusive, experiential travel was set on the Broughton archipelago some 40 years ago – and has been surpassed on Nimmo Bay every day since with all-action expeditions to spy orcas, dolphins and whales, bear-spotting in the rainforest and kayaking through glassine waters, rounded off with hearty home-style meals.

Sequoia Yacht, Indonesia

Aboard Seqoia Yacht, you can sail to the reefs of Raja Ampat, the dragon-roamed shores of Komodo and the storied spice isles of the Moluccas in the gently bobbing confines of sheer luxury. It's available for your entourage only so there’s absolutely no chance of being stuck on a ship with someone makes you want to walk the plank. Indeed, your only other deckmates are a 10-strong team of PADI-certified dive masters, private chefs and masseurs, who’ll craft one-off stops for snorkelling and scuba-diving, volcano hiking and birdwatching, plus lavish sandside lunches on secluded isles and decktop dinners beneath the stars.

Alila Fort Bishangarh, Rajasthan

The hard work has definitely paid off – today the 240-year-old Alila Fort Bishangarh rises atop a fanciful granite mound, with 360-degree views of age-old havelis, villages and temples. Inside, interiors are clean and uncluttered, but the commitment to treating mere mortals like maharajas remains, with a traditionally-minded chef who cooks on an open fire or in hot sand, an entire turret given over to cognac drinking, banquet lawns where you can bask inthe building’s new-look beauty, and an unbeatable spa.

Bullo River Station, East Kimberly

Here, within a vast 500,000 acres of Outback wilderness, rivers trace through red-stained earth and bulbous baobabs line croc-roamed billabongs. As well as passing emus, wallabies and buffalo, you’ll share Bullo River Station with 4,000 Brahman-cross cattle. Beyond that, guests can get their hands dirty with walkabouts in the bush, cattle roving by horseback, fishing expeditions, boat rides along river gorges and heli tours that snake over precipitous escarpments. But what’s far from rustic is the provision: from the verandah breakfasts to the ranch-riffing rooms.

Kudadoo, Maldives

In the local language, 'Kudadoo' means ‘small island’, which gives some sense of how this mindful new stay is setting itself apart from the mainstay of megawatt Maldivian resorts. Previously it was deserted, until Swedish entrepreneur Lars Petre set about styling it into a bijou adults-only hideaway. Recruiting Japanese-American architect Yuji Yamazaki, the pair masterminded a 100-per-cent solar-powered stay with scrupulously sourced materials and instilled in it a triple-A service mantra of ‘anything, anytime, anywhere’.

View previous winners

Above & beyond award criteria

SUPERSTAR STAFF

Sometimes, it's one individual who makes the biggest impact. The sommelier who helps you discover a new favourite wine; the concierge with an unbeatable book of contacts; the chef who keeps the kitchen open a little longer because your flight was delayed.

BEYOND GOOD

Does this hotel go above and beyond in terms of products or services – full-size bathroom products, free laundry, transfers by speedboat? Flexible and helpful whenever possible? Was your every need anticipated, your trip improved beyond measure?

TEAM EFFORT

Consistently exceeding expectations, the winner of Above & Beyond has a dedicated staff who love what they do and who excel at enhancing your stay, whether it's a one-man band or a crack team of assistants. You're among friends

ULTIMATE IMMERSION

These hotels offer transcendent experiences that elevate yourstay from the everyday to the exceptional with a cleverly-crafted programme of off-book adventures that can’t be confined to a simpleactivities list.