Romantic retreat resort – Dusit Thani offers true eco escapism
Dusit Thani in the Maldives offers a lot more than your ordinary hotel stay, as David Dunn discovers…..
If you’ve ever begun missing a special holiday destination before you’ve even departed, you’ll have an idea of what it is like to experience Dusit Thani Maldives.
It has to be a fair measure of how much you’ve fallen for a place – and falling for this resort can happen very easily.
The moment when Mudhdoo Island fills the window of the seaplane confirms you’re about to land – or rather splashdown – somewhere special.
A 35-minute scenic flight takes you from Male’s Velana International Airport to Baa Atoll, a UNESCO world biosphere, and the treasured marine life backdrop to this idyllic luxury retreat.
As the propellers fall silent you arrive at a wooden jetty where resort staff await, among them your personal butler. After a welcome drink and cold towel, he escorts you by electric buggy to the accommodation.
Dusit Thani offers a mix of 94 beach and over-water villas – for which this destination is famous. The water villas reinforce a sense of location and intimate connection with the surrounding turquoise waters of the house lagoon.
Be warned, however: it takes willpower not to spend your time here fixed to the wooden decking, watching the living art gallery of tropical fish meandering or commuting between coral blooms.
Immersing yourself in the villa pool only reinforces how blessed these creatures are that nature placed them here.
The villa interior continues the strong use of wood, but intensifies luxury and comfort. A huge bed offers views out to the placid Indian Ocean, up to a high vaulted traditional wooden ceiling, or to the stand-alone tub in a generous bathroom.
The room hints at Dusit Thani Maldives’ appetite for conservation and self-sufficiency; absent are the wasteful plastic shampoo and shower gel bottles evident in so many hotels, in favour of refillable ceramic jars. Other resorts take note.
Beyond the bathroom, the pristine beaches and beautiful accommodation, it becomes clear there’s more to this island than meets the eye.
An inspired back-of-house tour reveals an organic herb and salad garden. Weare also told how the destination keeps its footprint to a minimum; extracting water from a well, treating and bottling drinking water instead of importing plastic bottled products, generating their own power and recycling waste glass into umbrella bases among other things.
Kids are catered for here, too, thanks to the Thanks to the Baan Sanook Kids club, children will be in their element and parents can enjoy some time out. Some of the fun activities on offer for young ones include cooking classes, t-shirt painting, coconut or shell painting and the option to discover the unique flora, fauna and marine life of the Maldives during a nature walk.
The more you explore, Dusit Thani Maldives feels almost like an extension of its surroundings, rather than an incursion – jungle at its heart, perfect blue water all around and an omnipresent smell of jasmine on walking and cycling trails.
The sense of calm extends to the Devarana Spa where guests are treated in one of six elevated ‘treetop’ wooden pods or in one of two ground level rooms. Treatments include massages, facials, body treatments, manicures and pedicures. Take advantage of the spa relaxation area afterwards, which includes a private pool, steam room, and sauna.
A similar vibe oozes from other spots on the island – during sunset drinks at the Sand Bar, dining at the waterside terrace, or next to the huge infinity pool, with its central banyan tree at Sea Grill. There are three high-class restaurants and two bars here, so you’re pretty spoilt for choice on where to take those sundowners or that romantic dinner.
It’s perhaps no surprise that one of the best dining experiences is Thai restaurant Benjarong – with Dusit Thani being a Thai brand. The restaurant sits over the water, with unobstructed sunset views, soundtracked by the playful cry of fruit bats. As the night closes in and the candles flicker gently in the island breeze, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in the most beautiful place in the world.
You won’t hear Rebecca Bull disagreeing. As resident corporate social responsibility manager, part of her job at the resort’s Eco Centre is explaining why the Maldives is special, and how the resort is helping to keep it that way.
The island is surrounded by coral reef, teeming with 300 species of tropical fish found in the Maldives.
“There’s a lack of knowledge when it comes to coral reefs,” says the marine biologist of the region’s most famous asset, still recovering from the effects of two bouts of El Nino.
“Many people believe they just grow like plants and can re-grow within the year. It can take many years to recover totally and things like single-use plastics are a gigantic problem in Maldives. All the plastic that has been produced and gone into oceans is still there because it never biodegrades. It can break down into smaller particles but they’re still present, fed on by manta rays.”
The sale of soft toy eagle rays, placed in rooms, further raises the plight of these graceful creatures as well as raising funds for social projects in neighbouring, often poorer, island communities.
Hawksbill and green turtles are also a big draw for Maldives visitors. The Eco Centre has details of these, and the fish you’re likely to see, while snorkeling or diving from the water sports centre.
“We do a lot to help turtles. If we find one wrapped in a discarded fishing net we cut them out and, if need be, take them to a rehabilitation facility where they will be treated and cared for until release. Last year we were lucky, we had eight turtle nests on our island. We’ve gone out of our way to protect them. We build a barrier to make sure no one is walking over the nest and to protect from predators. We’re guaranteeing each turtle laid on our island is going to make it into the ocean.”
As you scan the lagoon for a reef shark or a ray before lights out, thoughts drift far from the prospect of boarding that seaplane back to the airport.