Island Hideaway is paradise on earth. There, I’ve said it. What was supposed to be a quick two-day stop-over turned into a five day mini-break as Liz and I indulged ourselves in the seven-star luxury facilities at the island of Dhonakulhi, in the northern atoll of Thilandhunmathee. This is a resort island, with villas ranging between $500 and $3,500 a night, and where the most expensive Burgundy sits smartly on the menu at $13,500 a bottle. You won’t be surprised to learn that many of the clientèle are Russian oligarchs and Chinese nouveau-riche, but it is not off-limits to non-multimillionaires.
Indeed Island Hideaway welcomes yachties with open arms, and you’re not obliged to stay at their $200 a day marina either. We made our way through the perfect north-to-south, naturally carved channel and took a mooring buoy free of charge.
The 15nm trip from Uligamu was our first proper sail in three years, complete with unexpected squall that had Esper’s gunnels ploughing through the brine, but once tied up and safely ashore, we headed over to the west-facing bar for a sun-downer.
The extraordinary thing about Hideaway is the ambiance. All staff are extremely welcoming, polite and friendly, and there is no hint of stuffiness, which I would expect from a land-based equivalent hotel. The key word is ‘relax’, with the name of the resort giving some hint as to the island’s raison-d’être. Everyone here has come to ‘hideaway’, with each villa boasting its own private beach, some with swimming pools and all with enormous baths! With the Maldivian problem of fresh water supply it never ceased to amaze me exactly how much water this island uses. I can tell you it gets through 3,500 litres of diesel a day just to run the four generators.
Liz and I were taken round the island in a golf-cart by the amiable Temy, a liaison officer armed with a bunch of keys, and stopped off at a number of different villas all of varying sizes and prices. Our favourite was Jasmine Garden, a two storied affair with large swimming and plunge-pool, first-floor balcony and enough room to house a large family. Wooden floors, wooden fixtures and wooden furniture all made on the island by locals. Stunning.
Of course we weren’t there to idle away the hours dreaming about what will never be, we were more interested in the snorkelling opportunities and the fish feeding that occurs at 7pm by the Meera Restaurant. Each evening we ogled sting rays, eels, crabs and all manner of tropical fish excitedly fighting over the lumps of meat a member of staff threw into the water. Occasionally the rays would swim right up to the water’s edge and he’d tickle their undersides as they slurped and gulped at his offerings. Any children present would squeal in delight at this display. I found it hard not to do the same.
I lost count of the amount of images I took of Esper at sunset, reverting back to travel photographer in the hope that Sailing Today will publish one of them as a cover-shot! You can’t help it though, with the white coral sand, the infinite shades of blue, the fish… it’s exactly the sort of thing you dream about as you thumb your way through a travel brochure.
Everything about Island Hideaway is exquisite. The food, the wine menu, the service, the beaches, the coral, the facilities… it all adds up to a very private, personal experience that, as yachtsmen, we had the privilege to sample.
Since you might be reading this on a cold, wet afternoon, we thought we’d put together this little video clip of what Hideaway meant to us. With apologies to Acker Bilk.
Should you find yourself there on a yacht then speak to Shujau, who is in charge of nautical logistics. A great local lad who understands the whims of yachtsmen. He’ll see you right for mooring, water, fuel, laundry services and anything else you may require. Just remember to ring in advance as they will not entertain unscheduled visits.
With much thanks to Shujau and Tom who took the time out to sit down with us and chat about the island.
Island Hideaway, Spa Resort & Marina
Dhonakulhi Island, Haa Alifu Atoll, North Maldives
Resort Telephone: (+960) 650 15 15
Resort Fax: (+960) 650 16 16