Just when I thought our 45-minute ride from Malé International airport would mostly be a snooze, Patina’s speed boat came to a mid-emerald-sea halt. I am the first to bolt out of my seat but was back within a flash to announce to Mr Smith that ‘a bunch of highly intelligent mammals are teasing us with glimpses of their glistening bodies gliding through the water!’
Mr Smith raises an eyebrow but kicks off his loafers and leaves the comfort of the lounge to join me on deck just in time for them to show-off their mid-air acrobatics. Let’s face it, even the most seasoned travellers get insanely excited at the sight of a pod of dolphins frolicking in the Indian ocean.
After our brief meeting with the locals, we disembarked onto the golden shores of Patina, an A-lister’s playground with an achingly contemporary twist. (It’s owned by Singapore’s billionaire Kwee family who know a thing or two about modernism. Have you seen their ArtScience Museum?)
From the lounge to the eateries, bar, beach and beyond, Italian designer furniture (Minotti, Paola Lenti) fit for a private home were casually placed about. The largest of the Maldives‘ Fari islands, it is a place to see and be seen. Should you desire a more serene pace however, the island is large enough to accommodate, with plenty of routes to escape the Lululemon-clad fashionistas.
I could see Mr Smith seriously contemplating the pool table but quietly took my hand and led me to a less competitive start to our stay; an artful voyage discovering the large-scale (and specially commissioned) art pieces peppered amidst the trees and along the beach by prized contemporary artists like Jose Dávila and Hongjie Yang.
Our beach villa was a geometric delight with three of its fascias opening to reveal the outdoors. The interiors of wood, linen, rattan and stone further blurred my boundaries of the outside world.
I would have been content sitting on our bed and watching the waves lap the shore for hours but, at sunset, an outdoor bathtub, a hammock and a certain Mr Smith in a sunken pool in the sand with champagne in hand had me drawn out beachward like a moth to a flame. Now where is that Do Not Disturb sign?
The next morning, our Essentialist (Patina’s version of a butler) WhatsApped us that our ‘dive butler’ Joey was bringing equipment for a reef snorkelling session straight off our beach abode. As we swam out to the reef, Joey suddenly surfaced from the waters and gushed all excitedly.
‘That was a sea-turtle! Let me find it for you.’ We signalled back ‘ok’ but were unsure of his ability to find a single turtle in an entire ocean. We swam above schools of myriad colourful fish, grateful for the snorkelling gear that prevented me from swallowing their tiny babies. Then Joey free-dived to the edge of the reef at the point just where it disappears into darkness and just…pointed right at the turtle. Wow.
On land, via butler-driven buggy or by bicycle, the 42-hectare island feels like a safari adventure – if it weren’t for the signage. And its architects (of Studio MK27) say public places are open – open to nature, to the light, and wonderfully inviting.
The music-filled social hub of the island is Fari Marina Village. We found the walk from its dive centre to the water sports centre to have about dozen distractions.
We ate burgers from a food truck called Tum Tum. We happily sat on a swing and savoured the toppings of our scooped ice-cream from the caravan of our childhood dreams. We sipped cocktails on poolside daybeds. We tucked into traditional Lebanese fare at Arabesque, and tested our practised palate sitting at Koen’s show kitchen where the marriage of Japanese and Nordic cuisine was enigmatic and theatrical.
When we did make it to the crystalline lagoon to tick off our Maldives bucket-list activities, our inner speed demons would not be contained, and it became a full-on competition of jet ski knots-per-hour.
At sunset, we cruised aboard the moored-nearby superyacht Adastra. It can be best described as a spaceship gliding on the waters. Accompanied, of course, by champagne, canapés and a perfect breeze. When we disembarked at the 20-berth marina, we caught sight of the most arresting work of art on the island, Amarta, the ‘skyspace pavilion’ dreamt up by artist James Turrell (he makes signatures pieces for the likes of the Kardashians, you know). The gigantic interactive art installation was now mesmerically mimicking the colours of the sunset.
Our spot of pre-dinner boutique shopping had Mr Smith perspiring. For displayed openly along with the ‘usual’ designer beachwear of Missoni and Pucci were the Chopard diamond watches and Bulgari Serpenti necklaces.
‘How about a souvenir darling?’ I asked. Although, really, nothing would top the memories of our time at Patina.
For more oceanside idylls, explore our complete collection of Maldives hotels
Family physician, co-founder of award-winning skincare brand Drs Chua & Partners, jewellery designer and mother of two: Dr Iroshini Chua wears many hats. She grew up in Sri Lanka, attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and now lives in Singapore, which she calls her home and launch pad to the world. Her love for photography, food and fashion has her globetrotting frequently; and her passion project is raising funds for various charities alongside her husband, by selling their photographic prints. She is the society travel correspondent for Singapore Tatler and has also contributed travel stories for Robb Report and Billionaire.com.