Lunch at The House Lounge at Heathrow was the perfect way to start our trip to Ozen By Atmosphere At Maadhoo Island in the Maldives. We had wisely picked our flight times to make the trip as comfortable as possible and to get the maximum time in the Maldives. The outbound flight to Male with Qatar Airways was at 15.05 with a 55-minute stopover in Doha. This meant we would arrive at 9.00 in the morning at Male and have the whole day to get over the jet lag and get acclimatised.
We had chosen to spend our 20th anniversary at Ozen By Atmosphere on South Male Atoll, having previously spent two weeks in another of their resorts, Kanifushi. Despite a delayed flight with Qatar Airways, which meant we missed our connection, we arrived only two hours late in Doha and were speedily escorted in an electric cart to the only other Male flight that day.
However once arrived at Male this was soon forgotten as we were greeted by Ozen’s friendly, enthusiastic representative and escorted to the water taxi that had patiently attended our delay. That’s the marvellous advantage of Male airport, the holiday starts as soon as you land. The airport borders a single road and the sea, so you simply walk from the plane into a stunning seascape.
The water taxi itself was an enclosed, air-conditioned lounge with various drinks, mints and fruit, and large windows on all sides. Three vast outboard engines thrust the boat from the jetty into the Laccadive Sea, out past Male, under the elegant 2.1 km Sinamalé Bridge, linking to Hulhulé.
The sea voyage takes around 45 minutes until the archetypal vision of an island paradise comes into view, a large pontoon jutting outwards with a multi-coloured domed canopy, where the staff and manager greet you with smiles, face towels and drinks. You are introduced to your butler whom you will soon come to love like a family member and your baggage is whisked away without fuss as you are driven straight to your room in an electric cart over the boardwalks. No waiting in a lobby or filling in forms.
The image of a butler is slightly stuffy and anachronistic, and seemingly out of place on a desert island. However, Ozen have taken the butler concept and evolved it into more of a guardian angel, a host who cares deeply for his guests, someone whose pride lies in ensuring you share the finest possible luxury experience, with nothing left to chance. A purveyor of happiness, banishing stress and worry throughout your stay. Our butler Ramses could not have been more diligent, often seeking us out if he felt we might have missed out on something. We were frequently hard to find, either walking, swimming or windsurfing around the island, often seeing no other soul on our meanders over sand and sea.
Our Water Villa 314 lay about halfway along the boardwalk, out on the west side of the island, facing the sunset and included a balcony with pool, trampoline over the water and ladder down to the exceedingly transparent water. You enter via the bedroom over a glass panel in the floor, revealing the ocean below, with the bathroom and dressing room to the right. The balcony lay straight ahead, the view from your bed. The bath was a large freestanding sculpture set before two wide terrace doors that opened on to the balcony. The bathroom boasted double sinks with a giant shower plus huge cupboards in the dressing room. Our welcome was further enhanced by a foot massage by two ladies from the spa, nothing like it to remove the effects of a long flight.
Now what on earth is the point of having a swimming pool raised ten feet above a crystal clear sea below, that never strays from 29 °C all year round? I baulked at the idea, yet soon came to love it, for the sheer luxury indulgence it provided. My early morning routine was soon set. First, down the ladder and into the sea, swimming out the 200 metres to the edge of the reef, a constant four feet deep until the drop-off, then swim back and lounge in the pool, revelling in the unbelievable view. Nothing but aquamarine, melted glass water that undulates out to meet the horizon, rich cerulean melting into a deep lagoon blue. All seared into the eye by blazing 30-degree sunshine flecked with the odd white puffball clouds in the distance. A view of such simplicity, purity and magnificence that it will stay with me forever.
In the morning the pool temperature is around 25 °C, moving on up to at least 40 °C in the afternoon. The weather all year round varies from 27 °C to 30 °C. It might be worth rereading that last bit. Yes, the summer is all year round, with occasional storms and showers from May to November. But when it’s 30 °C out who cares if it’s raining, just go in the sea. We were there in August, there was an overnight storm and it rained once during the day for ten minutes, which was a lovely relief to the searing sun.
That first day getting to know the island was blissful, swimming around the water villas, spotting the infinite variety of fish, walking along the boardwalks over white powder sands and discovering each new inlet, bay and beach. All topped with majestic swaying palm trees. That evening we dined at the Palms, the main restaurant set on a strip of sand, and took a table on the beach, inside an illuminated red heart, sunk softly into the sand. The service is attentive and instantaneous, water is offered first, then whatever drinks you fancy, then the menu.
The Palms is a buffet during the day and a la carte service in the evening. Four adjoining thatched roofs, with both indoor marble and sand floor areas overlooking the sea, offering everything you could think of. There is a fruit stall where everything is prepared fresh on request and numerous others offering sushi, curries, nuts, seeds, local dishes, meat, fish and vegetables, all attractively laid out. The cakes, sweets, biscuits and bread were amazing. Had it been the only restaurant we would have been thrilled, but there is also the IndoCeylon (Sri Lankan, Indian and Maldivian cuisine) and the Peking (authentic Chinese cuisine), both sharing a splendid, grandiose villa, out on its own boardwalk over the sea, facing the sunset.
The next night we celebrated our 20th anniversary at M6m, the underwater restaurant, set at the far end of the water villas boardwalk with a little bar above and the restaurant below. M6m is a remarkable and exceptional experience. You are seated in horseshoe banquettes, encircling your table, in front of six large windows where glide lionfish, sharks, and all manner of sea creatures, in their natural habitat. The ambience is sublime; the attention, service, food and drinks are stellar. The house champagne (included) is Taittinger, perfect for those quenching that underwater thirst. The five-course tasting menu with wine pairing is a transcendent experience in that heavenly location. There are two menus to choose from and here’s a snippet to wet your taste buds. Cured hickory-smoked Scottish salmon with feta mousse and pickled shallots, scallops with pickled pumpkin heirloom tomatoes and sesame crackers with shisho and raspberry vinaigrette, Chilean sea bass with enoki mushrooms and millet with Romanesco broccoli, Alaskan crab with snow peas and keta caviar with squid ink tuile, prosciutto-wrapped tiger prawns with rainbow carrots and saffron aioli with caper berries and celeriac, chocolate dome with hazelnut fudge and raspberry creme with brown sugar streusel. The cherry on this already exquisite cake of a meal was the butter-poached lobster with confit tomatoes and chilli basil compote with purple potato crisps; a luscious, melting masterpiece in this sub-aquatic palace. The wines with each dish were meticulously selected, each pairing a new apotheosis of perfection. The waitress service was flawless and attentive, with the Taittinger topped up whenever the glass even dared to approach empty. The evening hit a resplendent and emotional note when they brought out a chocolate anniversary cake and sang a traditional Maldivian congratulations. There may have been a tear in the eye as I watched three sharks circle a slow-moving parrotfish thoughtfully. The experience culminated with two humongous cocktails, in angular cut glass globes the size of footballs, and a visit from the chef, author of this gastronomic extravaganza.
The memory of this evening still glows with particularly intense and vivid colours whenever I revisit it.
Ozen By Atmosphere At Maadhoo Island Indulgence Plan includes everything, there are no extra costs. You get access to all restaurants, a selection of fine champagnes, a free scuba dive and spa experience every 4 nights, free boat transfer, snorkelling boat trips twice a day, plus wine and spirits such as Glenfiddich and Courvoisier in your room.
M6m Underwater Restaurant
Holiday Extras provided transport to the airport and our lounge.
Dolphin Base diving centre and water sports
Dolphin Base dive rates
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