Encounters Winter 2012
From the blue waters of the Maldives to the natural bounties of Mozambique, our regional travel magazine, Encounters, takes readers on rich journeys that are up-close and personal.
Winnie Chung's butler is always on call at this resort on Dhonakulhi Island
My butler is upset. I've neglected to call him and tell him that I was strolling down to the main restaurant for lunch. It hadn't made sense to call the butler to call the restaurant to tell them I was coming, especially considering the restaurant wasn't likely to be full and was just a two-minute walk from my villa.
But the butler service is apparently an important aspect of the Island Hideaway at Dhonakulhi Spa Resort & Marina. When I checked in, the staff had taken pains to explain that my butler would be my shadow, on call for anything, including being my snorkelling partner. So, guilt courses through me when he pleads: "Next time you can call me first."
So, for the next couple of days, he and I are best of friends. I call him to make my dining and spa arrangements. But, by the third day, I was beginning to suspect that he was two-timing me with a new arrival as he became little more than a voice on the phone and, for my final meal there, replaced himself with a new face.
I wasn't devastated, however. The butler service is just an upgraded concierge service and, unless you are planning island-hopping trips or need a babysitter or a snorkelling companion, anyone can navigate the small islands with little difficulty.
You can leisurely cycle around the whole Island Hideaway in about 15 to 20 minutes. The villas are all secluded and offer a high degree of privacy. Most of the guests I encountered were young honeymooners from the mainland, with a few Western families. The facilities appeal to both.
Located on Dhonakulhi Island in the Haa Alifu at the northernmost tip of the Maldives, Island Hideaway is about 400km from Male and accessible by a 45-minute domestic flight followed by a 30-minute speedboat ride.
Like every island in the archipelago, Island Hideaway is picturesque. The open-air Hideaway Spa is on a secluded part of the island where the resort's water villa is located. On busy weeks the other water villa normally used for the spa is converted into a guest villa. The more basic Funa Pavilions enjoy better proximity to the main part of the resort but thicker foliage makes the "sandy beach" area very limited.
But the villas themselves are comfortable, with a big bedroom and living room, and an outdoor shower and Jacuzzi.
Unlike some of the other islands, very few fish swim near the shore, so one has to snorkel out nearer the reefs to see them. It's probably one of the reasons why the 7pm feeding of the manta rays at the Meeru Bar is the highlight of the day, especially for children.
"It's uncanny," one staff member tells me. "It's like they can tell the time. They start appearing at about 7pm to wait to be fed."
When I check out, my apologetic butler tries to explain his disappearance. Some guests from the mainland have required a little more attention than expected it seems. You can't help but be laid back in the Maldives, so I forgive him and give him a nice tip. We part ways, best of friends again.