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With its soft white beaches, sparkling turquoise lagoon and luxurious accommodation and facilities, Velassaru is a bright new star in the Maldives’ constellation of superlative resorts, says Catherine Beattie.  Scattered like precious gems across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is one of the world’s most sought after and romantic...

Perfection in Paradise

With its soft white beaches, sparkling turquoise lagoon and luxurious accommodation and facilities, Velassaru is a bright new star in the Maldives’ constellation of superlative resorts, says Catherine Beattie. 

Scattered like precious gems across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is one of the world’s most sought after and romantic destinations. Nowhere else epitomises paradise on Earth quite as perfectly as these tiny coral islands basking in year-round sunshine and surrounded by warm translucent seas. 

We fell in love with the Maldives on our first visit in the early 90s when there were fewer resorts, no spas and most visitors arrived on charter flights. Today, more than 90 resorts have been developed, nearly all have spas and direct scheduled flights operate between the UK and the capital Male. 

Tourism is growing rapidly in the Maldives, but is carefully controlled to safeguard the unique beauty of these paradise islands for future generations. Older properties are being renovated with indigenous natural resources and materials, while pioneering infrastructure and eco-systems are helping develop new resorts in remote undiscovered atolls. 

We are staying on Velassaru, the former Laguna Beach, now called by its Maldivian name and transformed into a beautiful five star resort. Velassaru opened in March 2009 and is situated in the South Male Atoll, just 40 minutes from the airport by luxury speedboat. After an overnight flight, it is a relief to arrive without delay. What bliss to kick off my shoes and feel that fine white sand between my toes again!

Our luxurious water villa has dark timber floors, a sumptuously large white bed and a bathroom with a freestanding tub surrounded by pebbles. Glass sliding doors open onto a spacious sun deck with cushioned sun loungers and a double day bed. We have our own private plunge pool for cooling off and steps down into the lagoon so we can snorkel and enjoy the colourful marine life directly from the villa. 

We quickly unpack and change into our swimsuits for the first of many dips in the warm ocean. Then we have a buffet lunch at Vela, one of the resort’s four excellent restaurants and chill out on our sun deck for the rest of the afternoon, recovering from the jet lag. 

Velassaru is a triangular shaped little island with lush vegetation and soft white beaches surrounded by shallow warm seas. We walk and swim around it several times during our stay, enjoying the different beaches and seascapes. The warm coral seas are teeming with marine life – just crossing the lagoon walkways from our villa to the restaurants or beach is like viewing a giant aquarium with shoals of colourful small fish, turtles, baby sharks, crabs, needle fish and other species. 

For such a small island there is no shortage of things to do – island-based activities include treatments and yoga sessions in the Aquum spa, tennis, a superb beachside infinity pool and a fitness centre. The well-equipped dive shop offers scuba diving lessons with PADI qualification and dive trips for both novice and experienced divers. You can book deep sea fishing trips, water sports and offshore explorations or take an excursion to Male, the bustling capital of the Maldives. 

When Alec goes for an early morning scuba dive, I find myself people watching while having breakfast under a shady parasol. The mix of guests is fascinating – honeymoon couples walking hand in hand along the beach or snuggled up in oversized hammocks under the tall palms, groups of friends holidaying together, young families from Oz, even some older marrieds like us with wanderlust. 

The clear warm water, abundance of tropical fish, coral reefs and interesting wrecks make the Maldives a scuba diver’s paradise. Unfortunately neither of Alec’s dives (both taken with one other guest and an instructor) quite lives up to expectations. On the first, the dive site is only five minutes from the jetty, but once in the water there is a problem with the current and everyone has to climb back on the boat. Luckily, a nearby site affords good sightings of colourful fish, napoleon wrasse and large moray eels. The second dive is on the Bolifushi wreck, where there is little marine life. A further setback is that the other diver is inexperienced and wants out of the water half way through the dive, so an in-depth exploration of the wreck isn’t possible. 

We have no such disappointments when we visit the over water Aquum spa with its ten exotic and spacious treatment pavilions set on stilts over the lagoon. There’s a small pool and a yoga pavilion, both with ocean views and a boutique selling a range of Pevonia and other spa products. Aquum’s extensive spa menu includes signature treatments using indigenous ingredients, spa baths, body wraps and massage for two.

After a short consultation to discuss our needs, our treatments begin with a warm footbath. We have both opted for individual Balinese massages. This traditional Indonesian treatment uses a combination of gentle stretches, acupressure and aromatherapy oils to stimulate the flow of blood, oxygen and “qi” (energy) around the body. It is an intense and therapeutic massage that boosts the circulation and eases aching joints and knotted muscles. As Ramita, my sweet Nepalese therapist applies the warm essential oils to my body, her unusual massage techniques like skin rolling, kneading and stroking induce a feeling of deep relaxation. 

We feel so spaced out after our treatments that we spend the rest of the afternoon lazing on our sundeck. We snap out of our lethargy in time for dinner, where an entertaining culinary experience awaits us in the Teppanyaki over water restaurant. Personable chef Alfie Leoncio cooks us a veritable feast of freshly caught sushi and other delicacies all beautifully presented. We finish with a dessert to die for – crepes with fruit and sorbet, which Alfie calls ‘Fire and Ice.’

One of the joys of staying on a small secluded island is that there is no light pollution, so the night skies are clear and unbelievably starry. Sunrises and sunsets are also spectacular. One evening, we join four other couples for a sunset cruise on the deck of a large restored dhoni (Maldivian boat). We loll on oversized bean bags sipping champagne and nibbling canapés as the sky becomes a magnificent kaleidoscope of fiery red, orange and pink and the sun slowly disappears over the horizon. The attentive crew are on hand to top up our glasses and accede to photo requests so we can relive these precious moments when we return home. 

Romantic dining is an intrinsic part of the Velassaru experience whether you eat alfresco under the stars or in the stylish restaurants. Sands’ modern fusion cuisine served on a little jetty above the waves and Etesian‘s delicious Mediterranean menus, amazing décor and ‘wine library,’ are our favourites. 

On our last evening, we have dinner on the beach cooked to perfection by our own personal chefs Vamsi Krishna and Pankaj Bhandari. After the meal, we are escorted to the jetty for a romantic night cruise for just the two of us. The heavens are filled with millions of stars, the night air is still and balmy and the only sound is the lapping of the waves as the boat glides across the ocean. We are moved to tears by the sheer beauty of it all. 

We reluctantly depart Velassaru after breakfast, saying farewell to the lovely staff who have looked after us so well. We have one further night in the Maldives before flying home. We are visiting Kurumba, the Maldives’ first ever resort – but that’s a story for another time! 

Kuoni (01306 747008 or offers 7 nights on room and breakfast basis at Velassaru Maldives in a deluxe bungalow, including flights with Sri Lankan Airlines from Heathrow with transfers in resort. Prices for late October and November 2010 from £1255 per person based on two sharing or £1503 per person half board). 7 nights on bed and breakfast basis in a water villa with private pool, including flights from Heathrow from £2,194 per person sharing or £2,432 per person half board.Velassaru is a Universal Resort
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