WALKING IN PARADISE

    Living large for the uber-luxe.
    We discover the Velaa Private Island, undeniably ‘beyond luxury’.

    Imagine you’ve had your share of success in business and are at a stage in your life where you can think about undertaking one of those ‘dream’ projects. You just happen to love the Maldives and have visited most of the über-fabulous 5-star islands to get a taste of the ‘competition’. At this point you have the chance to buy your own island and create your own perfect hideaway. This is, in summary, the story of Velaa, private island. The beauty of this island is that luxury vacationers are invited to actually come and stay.

    The owner, Jiri Smejc, has had a long-standing love of the Maldives and Maldivian culture, having spent many vacations and stopovers between business trips in the islands. The idea to actually build a restart on an island was made over dinner with his wife, who’s equal measure of enthusiasm for the project ensured the deal was done. 

    When we had the chance to visit this island, we didn’t second guess for a second. Having already visited four other Maldivian five star resorts previously, we were extremely excited to discover what an independent thinker and an entrepreneurial spirit, rather than a large hotel group, could dream of and actually create on a remote pile of sand. We were not disappointed on any front.

    Visiting the Maldives in any case has a majestic allure – the crystal clear and almost unreal turquoise shade of the water, the sense of peace and serenity, the warmth of its people. Entering the world of Velaa in the Noonu Atoll, was simply, the cherry on top. This world has all that one could possibly desire, while ‘stranded’ on a desert island.

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    The name, ‘Velaa’, means sea turtle. The island has been home to many sea turtles for generations and as they are the true inhabitants, the owner felt it was an homage fit to pay. Czech architect, Petr Kolar, took many ideals from the shape of the turtle in his design. The resounding forms of the shell of the turtle are echoed throughout the common areas of the island and the actual planning of the water villas is also based on the organic shape of a turtle’s body. His take on Maldivian living is contemporary and chic, but equally exudes warmth and comfort. Yes you will find the typical offering of beach or water villas on Velaa, but the overall design of all interior and dining spaces is luxurious in its’ craftsmanship while being uncomplicated and refined in its’ simplicity.

    The concept of the hotel, ‘beyond luxury’, brings together refinement of contemporary elegance with Maldivian culture, ensuring the interior spaces have an uncomplicated and unapologetic sense of barefoot elegance. Although contemporary is most definitely the tone, the natural finish and warm hues of the interiors, down to the charming bamboo mobiles hanging in the bedrooms that create a gentle melodic sound, ensure that the luxury element of the island is balanced with a true grounded and soulful inspiration that allows anyone to truly unwind.

    The whole island is welcoming and there is an underlying sense that the owner has somehow invited you into his life through his meaningful design choices. It’s a beautiful and unique touch to the island that’s unlike another.

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    Within the name of the island is the term, ‘private’. While the staff will tell you that this refers to the fact that while staying on the island, one should feel somewhat as though they are alone on the island, to me the sense of privacy was more regarding this private world that only exists on Velaa, and the journey within this space that this holiday allows.

    To take this to another level is the incredible ‘romantic’ villa, situated in the middle of the atoll accessible only by boat or your own private jet ski. This villa allows a couple to stay remotely, enjoying all the services of the hotel but with it’s own gym, jacuzzi, pool, sundeck, sunken bath and spa treatment room. One can almost hear the ‘why not’ of the owner resounding in the lapping waters of the atoll surrounding the villa.

    So if the accommodation is unique then what about the dining experience? Of course Velaa does not disappoint. Velaa houses and incredible five story structure, within which is fine dining restaurant, as well as unique lookout point from where the whole island can be overseen. Here you will find cuisines of China, Japan and Korea defined by a Teppanyaki chef working on a set menu for a small seating.

    We were lucky enough to enjoy a feast at Aragu (meaning ‘essence’), the gourmet experience at the larger fine-dining restaurant by the master chef Gaushan da Silva, where fusion cuisine played with our tastebuds and we enjoyed sitting above the water lapping on the reefs while the moonlight lit the way to the neighbouring island, that just happened to be Cheval Blanc.

    Our handpicked menu danced between unexpected flavours of the Meditteranean and was a true culinary delight. The ambiance of this restaurant alone was worth the trip. Each table feels private and the pianist’s gentle caress sets the tone for only the most important of  conversations.

    But Velaa is not all-out romance and stolen moments, in fact this island is designed to keep even a diverse family occupied during their stay. Literally every stage of child’s life has been thought of. For the younger ones there is an incredible kids centre with water play, slides and an awesome selection outdoor activities and arts. For teens there are volleyball, squash and tennis courts, an incredible array of water sports, bikes to get around the island and an incredible submariner experience for those channeling their inner James Bond. Everyone will enjoy the evening sting-ray feeding at the beach edge guided by the knowledgable marine staff.

    Something unusual and incredible though is the nine hole golf course and golf academy on the island that is unheard-of and adds a unique layer of possibilities to your stay on Velaa. Yes you did just read that there’s a golf course and it’s truly state-of-the-art, impeccably kept and designed by two-time Masters Champion José María Olazábal.

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    I don’t think any trip to the Maldives is really complete  until there has been at last one day spent in a spa. If you are missing some royal treatment in your life then head to the Spa. Here you will find an array of facials, massages and body treatments however, what you would not expect to find is the only snow room in the Maldives and the Wolke 7 Cloud 9 relaxation pod, just to up the ante.

    Today’s ideals of luxury are more commonly drawn comparison with the notions of having time and enjoying experiences rather than material goods. A trip to Velaa is full of first-time and memorable experiences that will stay with you forever.

    On our final day on the island, I laid on the beach and gazed up at the blue skies above. Not only had this island surpassed any ideas we could have had on how a Maldivian experience could be better, but I felt like it was a place that would be an ideal annual vacation, the perfect blend of warmth, hospitality and just enough surprises to keep even a fussy traveller on their toes. If you are planning a long weekend – you need to try Velaa.

    To book your stay, please email

    reservations@velaaprivateisland.com

    or call +960 6565 000

    www.velaaprivateisland.com

    @velaaprivateisland

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