‘So, how d’ya like our dinghy?’ calls out a welcoming voice, upon our arrival at Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi, a boutique resort in the Maldives. Considering we are just stepping out of a seriously sexy motor yacht, upon which a hunky crew have just privately transferred us over turquoise seas, you could definitely say the ‘dinghy’ meets with our approval.
We have a greeting party of three – the hotel's general manager; his right-hand man and Nashath, who will be our thakuru (butler). All three are beaming from ear to ear, and generally looking delighted to see us – surely a strong early indicator of a great stay. It later becomes evident that the entire team feel as lucky to be working on Huvafen as we feel to be staying there. This makes for a satisfyingly complicit connection, and does away with any ‘us and them’ feelings that are sometimes a feature of luxury resorts. We beam back, and they lead us down the jetty and onto the island itself for a quick tour.
The island itself is a tiny dot of desert-island gorgeousness (it’s less than 100 metres long) but they certainly manage to fit in a whole lot of wow factor. Our butler leads us across the island to the main pool – a breathtaking infinity-edged square stretching out into the ocean – around which the main focal points of the hotel are set. Here you’ll find restaurants Celsius and Fogliani’s, the UM bar and Vinum, which holds 6,000 bottles as well as the Maldives’ largest collection of champagne methuselahs. These people are evidently serious about indulgence.
Assured of a good night ahead, we are ushered onto the back of a buggy and driven roomwards. Nashath drives us up a walkway to our Lagoon Bungalow, which is set over water. Our accommodation is huge. It’s modern and minimalist in style, and is decorated in warm, earthy tones that contrast nicely with the Frette-covered expanse of the centrally positioned bed. A dressing area leads onto an enormous stone and glass bathroom, complete with freestanding tub from which you can enjoy 180-degree views of the lagoon. Outside, there’s a split-level deck that provides access to a freshwater plunge pool or into the clear waters of the lagoon itself. Decisions, decisions…
Nashath takes us through the various hi-tech gadgets and gizmos – there’s an iPod and dock, pre-programmed mood lighting, and Bose speakers in the bedroom, bathroom and on the deck. Mr Smith is particularly delighted he’ll be able to listen to Bowie while he’s in the monsoon shower. Nashath goes on to point out a cordless phone by our bed, pre-programmed with his number, the direct line to the spa and one-touch access to whatever you might need, whether it’s more ice, extra pillows or a buggy to take you to the spa.
As soon as we’re left on our own, I test out the speed dial for Lime, Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi’s spa, and book myself a treatment called Essential Hands on the basis that if they say it’s essential, who am I to argue? Mr Smith, meanwhile, has uncovered the in-bungalow dining menus and is reading aloud from them in rapt tones – like an epicurean episode of Jackanory… There’s also an activity list for the week. We particularly love the idea of a guided snorkel, in which a marine biologist will take you to the best spots on the nearby reef and tell you about the sealife you’ll see. How he’s going to do that underwater is anyone’s guess. Flashcards?
That evening, tired from our long journey, we manage to stay awake just long enough to enjoy an amazing meal of freshly landed seafood at Salt, the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, before succumbing to that enormous bed. The next morning, though, we awake to a glorious day – something that Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi knows how to make a proper event of. The wall of windows opposite our bed has remote-control blinds, so that you can sit up and watch as your deck, your infinity pool, the bright-blue Indian Ocean and equally azure sky are dramatically revealed, one by one. We lazily wander to Celsius, the island’s main restaurant, for breakfast. The resident Head of Fruit (yes, really) gets us to try dragonfruit and mangosteen for the first time, and despite Mr Smith’s doubtful expression, we both decide they’re quite delicious.
The rest of the day is spent languishing lazily on our deck, although I do manage to squeeze in another treatment at Lime – this time for an Ocean Repair Facial, which, as Mr Smith points out, sounds as though it should take place in a shipyard. That evening, to celebrate our last night, we head to the island’s best-kept secret – a restaurant called Cardamom Lounge. With room for a maximum of three couples only, this al fresco restaurant, lit with lanterns and hung with Indian silks, is tucked away in a little grove, and sunk a discreet five feet into the ground for good measure. The chef, Monica, talks us through the food she’s going to prepare, and then rustles up a gourmet Indian tasting menu right in front of our eyes.
Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi’s tagline is ‘a waking dream’ and the resort certainly offers a bells-and-whistles version of a Maldivian paradise. Every aspect of the hotel has been thought through in minute detail, and has been made the best, the coolest and the most innovative it could possibly be. But while the resort is undeniably showy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s the irrepressible hedonism and infectious personality of the island that is the true source of its wow factor.
When checking out, we discover that this tiny island can be hired in its entirety for a cool $2.5 million a week. ‘Great,’ says Mr Smith, as it dawns on him that next year will be his fortieth birthday. ‘We’ve got one year to save up.’ Now that really is a waking dream.