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.
As the only guest on a secluded island, Winnie Chung is able to relax in style
It's my first ride on a seaplane and I am not quite sure what to expect. No chickens are flapping around in the cabin, but the rickety fan at the back looks like it belongs in an Indiana Jones movie and offers little temperature control in the stuffy plane.
When the plane "lands" next to a wooden platform bobbing in the middle of the ocean, I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of my choice. Looking towards the shore, the island where I am heading looks uninhabited. As the speedboat heads towards the front of the resort, however, I am relieved to see the welcoming party on the jetty.
Seclusion is precisely what Banyan Tree Madivaru is offering, with only six tented villas - the only ones in the Maldives. "The last of our guests left this morning; you will be the only guest on the island tonight," the manager tells me as he welcomes me, explaining that it was the rainy season.
I am quickly assigned Saeed, my butler, who takes me to my villa, which comprises three interconnected sturdy tents: a living/dining/study area with a large divan and flat-screen TV, a modest-sized bedroom and a huge bathroom area that includes two spa beds for in-room massages. There's a small dipping pool but, with the ocean just 10 metres away, who needs a pool?
Each villa enjoys its own secluded stretch of beach. With rich corals quite near shore, you just need to walk up to them and pop your head in the water to see a wonderful array of colourful reef fish.
Madivaru might be a bit laidback for those who are unable to sit back and do nothing but relax, but Banyan Tree certainly takes luxurious pampering to a whole new level. It even has its own time zone, having turned the clock back an hour so that guests can maximise their hours in the sun. It's a mind game, of course but, still, it's great to have your own time zone.
Everything happens in-room at Madivaru. The only restaurant at the resort isn't open except for large groups. Meals are served at the villa or on the sandy beach, if you want a spot of romance. Until I leave, Saeed is the only person I see or speak to. Each morning, he unobtrusively sets up the breakfast I ordered the night before, just outside my bedroom. He is so discreet that I hardly hear him. By the time I finish, my room is miraculously clean, my bed made and the dead leaves have been swept away from the patio.
When you can't take a shuttle - or, in this case, a speedboat - downtown for a meal if you don't want to eat in, it's important to have good chefs at the Maldivian resorts. I'm impressed with my chef who does not disappoint with any of my meals, offering a selection of Western and Maldivian specialities.
I'm surprised to hear, when I check out, that the executive chef had been off and that it was the dessert chef who had been cooking for me. If the dessert chef could cook like that, I could only imagine what the executive chef could do.
Even before enjoying the spa's signature massages, I can feel my Hong Kong stress seeping away as I soak in the sun, the sea and the luxury.
As the speedboat takes me back to the waiting seaplane, I catch myself thinking: Here's an island I wouldn't mind being cast away on.