“Does God have a swimming pool in heaven?”, I would ask my mother when I was very little. She would always answer ‘yes’ and would say that God did have the most beautiful swimming pool ever. I always loved the way she would take her time to describe God’s swimming pool. She would say the pool in paradise was clear with the bluest of blue, turquoise coloured water and that it was as big as an ocean. She would talk about how it was surrounded by white beaches with velvet smooth sand grains which would feel like soft talcum powder when you cupped it in your fist. She would talk about green swaying palm trees and coconuts which carried in their green shells, water which was sweeter than sugar.
In March , Laveena and I travelled to the Maldives. With well over 100 resort islands to choose from, we decided that we would spend 5 nights at the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. Just as very little is known about the history of the Maldives, so too are there varying opinions regarding the exact number of islands in the archipelago . Recent government data says that the number of islands total up to 1,196. This however does not include sand bars and coral outcrops which could take the figure close to 2,000.
We were greeted at the Male airport by a Four Seasons representative and within minutes were comfortably seated in a luxury van which transported us to the private Four Seasons waiting lounge at the Male Sea plane terminal. While we waited for our boarding announcement, we were immediately given a taste of the high standards of service each Four Seasons property is so very well known for. We were served a light snack with freshly squeezed juice and chocolate cookies. A little while later we were asked to board our sea plane. The propellor engines of a sea plane can be very loud and after a deafening but thrilling take off, we were airborne. Views of the water in different shades of the purest blue and aqua marine were simply magnificent. Tiny islands appeared out of nowhere and looked more beautiful than anything I had ever seen, almost like a garland of coral decorating the Indian Ocean. It was exactly how I remember my mother describing God’s swimming pool in paradise and I couldn’t wait to experience immersing myself in this pristine tropical miracle.
The atolls of Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries. Our sea plane landed in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Here is where Landaa Giraavaru offers 103 spectacular villas spread across a stunning island. We were prepared for a holiday of a lifetime. We met with the General manager Armando, a dear friend who promised that the next few days would be a celebration of our lives and that we would get to experience unrivalled luxury in paradise. Laveena shared her excitement of the world which lay below the tranquil and luminous cyan blue waters of the Maldives. She was waiting to embrace this geographical marvel and journey into a place where she had read there were more than 1,000 fish species, more densely packed than quite possibly anywhere else on the planet. Armando reassured us that the colours and the marine variety we would experience would be like nothing else we had witnessed.
We were driven in a golf cart to our water villa. The blast of the cold air conditioning, the fragrance of lemon grass and the Ila Spa CD playing softly in the background, greeted us as we stepped into our earthly version of the promised land. The view was breathtakingly beautiful. All we could see was the endless blue of the ocean. We walked out to the deck and soaked in our surroundings, elated that this is where we would be for the next few days. After settling in, we headed to Blu, the restaurant on the beach, for lunch. Located at the western end of the island, Blu overlooks a lagoon. Seated at our table, our eyes drifted off into the horizon and visually feasted on the most gorgeous expanse of white sand, blue ocean and bright blue skies. One cannot help but sigh with gratitude at the many miracles this beautiful world has to offer. For starters we ordered Romaine, Radicchio Lettuce, Cucumber, Mint, Taleggio Cheese salad and the Parma Ham with Seasonal Melon. For the mains Laveena chose the Roasted King Prawns with Baby Vegetables while I chose the Linguine Genovese Style with Crab Meat. Absolutely delicious.
After a brief nap we decided to go snorkelling. The richness and variety of the marine life in this part of the world is astonishing. As we snorkelled in the warm water we spotted baby shark, manta rays, turtles, colourful reef fish like the melon butterfly fish, the coral rabbitfish, the powder blue surgeonfish, the orange lined triggerfish, parrotfish, the royal angelfish and the clown surgeonfish. We were also dazzled by the many colours of the coral. After spending an hour in the water we returned to the villa where there was an invite from Armando to join him for cocktails at the Sea bar.
A buggy ride from our villa followed by a short sea walk brought us to the sea bar where Armando had ordered some tapas style bites and some fabulous bordeaux. As we got comfortable on the deck mattress we were asked to look down at the crystal clear water where colourful reef fish and lemon shark swam freely. This was the closest we could get to them without jumping into the water and we enjoyed the thrill of watching the lemon shark dart across the waters below, ever so majestically, ever so gracefully, feeling ever so safe in their natural habitat. Armando told us about the Marine Discovery Centre on the island. A Four Seasons initiative it worked to enrich the guest experience through education, research and conservation of the marine environment. He said that it was this centre that was the base for pioneering research on manta rays and coral reef scaping, leading to knowledge that will help preserve these at-risk species.
Dinner that evening was at Al Barakat. The authentic Arabic restaurant, open only for dinner, is built over water. It has a shisha bar on the ground level and a dining area on the roof top with both indoor and outdoor seating options. We chose to sit outside, prompted by the bright beautiful moonlight which reflected astonishing shades of white off the surface of the still ocean. For starters we ordered the Hoummous , Gebn El Maeiz (Goat Cheese with Dried Thyme, Pistachio and Sumac) and for the main course the Bedouin Feast (For Two) – Grilled Chicken, Beef, Lamb And Shrimp Kebabs and Ozie Rice with ground lamb. The food was authentic, the taste mouthwateringly delicious and everything from the way the arabic dishes were presented to the texture and consistency of the proteins and sauces made us tick all boxes of approval and delight on our gastronomical family handbook.
Tired we returned to our villa and drifted into a deep, peaceful slumber as nature treated us to an orchestral performance of the sound of the waves accompanied by light winds and swaying coconut palm leaves.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast of fresh eggs, Smoked Tasmanian Salmon, Cream Cheese, Red Onion Marmalade & Toasted Bagel at Blu, I decided to try my hand at wind surfing. While Laveena went back to snorkelling, I braved up to a sport I always wish I had mastered as it had the combination of skill and speed in measures which I had thus far only visually experienced. Although difficult at first, it wasn’t long before I had my tryst with this thrilling sport as my board and sail cut through the surface of the clear Maldivian waters and I felt like I was King of the world.
When we returned to our villa there was yet another surprise awaiting us.
Armando had organised a Dhoni Cruise for us. A little before sunset we stepped aboard a traditional wooden ‘dhoni’ and our boatman sailed us into the horizon. We were served some champagne and some delicious bite snacks from the Fuego grill. Tartar Of Beef Tenderloin with Mesclun Greens and Ginger Seasoning, Crispy Calamari with Aioli, Tomato and Citrus Essence and some Chilled Gazpacho, Smoked Tomatoes and Cucumber. As we watched one of natures many wonders unfold, we saw the island with it’s water villas come alive in a way we had never experienced before. The incredible silence, the fresh sea breeze, the many shades of orange in the sky, the white sand beach in the distance and the eternal expanse of blue water. This was a combination hand crafted in paradise. This was indeed where God and his angels came for a quiet swim whenever they needed to unwind.
That evening, dinner for us was set up on a secluded sandbank. Candle-lit with our chairs carved into the sand and covered with a soft cloth, we were prepared to experience one of the most remote, pure and utterly breathtaking private dining experiences for a couple. We continued with Champagne and skipped the starters as we had already feasted on the appetisers on our dhoni cruise. Dinner that evening was Iron Sizzling Wagyu Beef with Wok Fried Shitake Mushroom, Toasted Black and White Sesame Seeds and a platter of Maldivian Lobster, Hokkaido Scallop and Reef Fish with Asparagus and a Japanese Tartar Sauce.
The next few days at Laanda were just as exciting. From a leisurely couple massage at the heavenly spa to light water sport activities like parasailing, jet skiing, knee boarding and banana boat riding to sunset fishing and beach volleyball, we did it all. One evening when we cycled back to our villa, our bathroom was lit up with scores of candles. There was a mini bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket and skewers of chocolate coated strawberries placed at the edge of our tub which was filled with rose petals. Once again the Ila spa music played softly in the background and a scent of jasmine wafted gently through the air. We willingly fell victim to this extreme art of seduction, loving the attention, living the life and endlessly thanking God for inviting us as his guests to his beautiful private poolside in paradise.