We kicked off our shoes immediately and kicked into the island groove (even the seaplane pilot was barefoot): swaying in the hammock, slipping into the silken lagoon waters, spying on the resident Maakana (heron) as he strutted along the pure-white sand. Indoors, we indulged in the many treats that arrived as if by magic throughout the day. (Turns out the villa came with its own magician – Munaadh, our hugely engaging Katheeb (house manager) who enriched our stay immeasurably.) He proved to be a mind reader, able to anticipate our every whim, and shared his unbridled passion for the island with us. He also organised a fabulous seafood-and-champagne barbecue at home – one of many culinary highlights of our stay.
Sauntering along sandy paths through coconut groves, past ancient Banyan trees, we were amazed by the sheer amount of activities available across the small island. Sure, you can have the laziest, most relaxing vacation ever – I would gladly have spent my entire time at the sublime Javva Spa alone! But the chance go dolphin watching and swimming with mantas was too tempting.
A shout out to the astonishing array of restaurants can’t be overlooked – the amazing culinary experiences and mouthwatering menus were among the many highlights of our trip. Sunset cocktails followed by a fresh-from-the-sea meal at the over-water Feeling Koi restaurant is an absolute must; I admit to piling on the pounds during my stay.
The sheer size and sensitive layout of The Great Beach Villa Residence makes it well suited for a large gathering of friends. It’s also very family-friendly, and within the villa there’s masses to keep kids entertained beyond the beach and pools – not to mention the resort’s extensive recreational facilities and kids club.
It’s easy to lose all sense of time. In fact, ‘island time’ really does exist here, as the Amilla visionaries set their clocks two hours ahead of Male so guests can enjoy extra hours of daylight; how’s that for above-and-beyond service? A sign at the Empire Beach Club claims “Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life”. What a perfect epithet for our stay!