Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Vakkaru

Maldives

Simply paradise, overwater or on the beach

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Special Offer

Vakkaru 2021 offer:

 

Enjoy significant saving on standard room rates, complimentary half-board and discounted transfers. Stay 7 nights + at 35% discount and compliemtary upgrade to half board.

Stay 7 nights + at 40% discount on room and complementary upgrade to half board and 50% discount on return transfers for up to 2 adults per room.

Family Benefits of Kids eat, stay and travel free up tp 2 children below 12 years of age per room.

 

Book between 1 December 2020 till 31 March 2021 for a travel window between 11 January till 22 December 2021.

 

Extended free cancellation for any guest travelling tests postive Covid-19 within 7 days prior to arrival.

 

Contact our concierge for more details.

 

Rates vary with season. T&Cs apply.

 
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Vakkaru
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Vakkaru

Location

Located 68 nautical miles north of Male, in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Baa Atol.

Travel Information

If you plan to travel during daylight, the hotel can arrange seaplane transfer from Velana International Airport to the hotel. If you are arriving in the evening you can take a domestic flight to the local airport in Baa Atoll (Dharavandhoo), a journey of 20-minutes, followed by a 30-minute speedboat ride to the island.

Top Tips

Combine an over watervilla and a beach villa to find out which version of paradise you might prefer. The diving is exceptional. The restaurants are excellent. Kids and parents just love the Parrotfish club and, if you are into wine, splash out on some grand crus...

5-Star X-Factors

The pristine reef, the gorgeous villas, the 5 restaurants, the Spa, the Wine Reserve, but most of all Vakkaru's lovely people

Vakkaru - paradise island

Vakkaru is a heavenly multi-layered confection, with a perfectly sized coconut-covered island at its centre, wrapped in castor-sugar white beaches, surrounded in turn by iridescent turquoise waters which reflect the sand and coral reefs, resting in a majestic outer layer of deep blue Indian Ocean.

Vakkaru was once a coconut plantation and still retains 2500 coconut trees, which is no bad thing if you’re in search of tropical paradise. Nor is the geographical location of this tiny island, sitting in isolated splendour within the Baa Atoll, which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The Maldives has seen an explosion of new luxury resorts over the past decade, for the obvious reasons that it’s only a few degrees north of the equator, and far more accessible for European and Middle Eastern travellers than its closest equivalents in the South Pacific. This has inevitably led to the creation of wide range of differing quality hotels and resorts, only a few of which would ever be featured in Luxury Explorer. Jut two years old, Vakkaru is one of the few that fits beautifully into our Maldives collection.

Partly this is due to its stunning natural beauty, but there are many more reasons to justify Vakkaru’s position as one of the finest resorts in the Maldives. In fact so many that I thought the most useful way to describe my overall impression of Vakkaru was to divide it into several loosely connected topics, in no particular order.

People

I would deliberately give first mention to the People of Vakkaru. It is a bit of a cliché to say that it’s the people who make the difference, and I think it would be true to say that the people throughout the Maldives are exceptionally kind and friendly. However, the team at Vakkaru - that comfortably outnumbers the guests - are clearly as well chosen as they are trained. There is that rare sense of 'ownership' amongst staff at all levels, which doesn’t just make you feel genuinely welcome, it allows staff to make snap decisions on issues such as changing an item on the menu by adding or subtracting a particular ingredient. Vakkaru operates a butler system and from the moment we stepped off the seaplane to the moment we stepped back on two weeks later, our charming and flawless butler, Mughni, looked after our every need, most of which he anticipated with an almost telepathic concern for our welfare and enjoyment.

The Parrotfish Club

The second topic, which also relates directly to the people, is one that we didn’t actually experience first-hand. We met a delightful English family while we were there, which included three children under the age of nine. When I asked their parents what they liked most about Vakkaru, they immediately said that it was The Parrotfish Club. This is the kiddies club that their children clearly adored, which is an absolute  game changer for parents. We heard of tales of pirate galleons and treasure hunts, within immaculate facilities, under loving supervision. This allowed the parents to do their own thing, such a diving, without the slightest concern. There were a number of young families on the island, almost certainly because of the Parrotfish Club, but as I’ll cover in the next point, apart from at the restaurants, you would have no idea that they were there at all.

Privacy and Space

The third topic is Privacy and Space. All villas, whether beach or over the water, are generously sized and sufficiently far apart to allow for that very particular luxury of privacy. We developed the glorious habit of walking half way round the island to get to breakfast and then completed the circumnavigation after breakfast. It took all of half an hour in total, which helped to lessen the guilt of breaking our fast so excessively (of which more later), but with guests spread so thinly, it felt as though we were walking along the beach of our own private island paradise, with a resident grey heron and several juvenile black tipped reef sharks keeping us company.

Spa and wellness

Whilst on the subject of 5-star luxury, I should mention the Spa. Entirely suspended above the turquoise water, the Spa at Vakkaru offers the full range of treatments you would expect, in well-specced treatment rooms with glass floors, which allow you to watch fish swim by as you receive a deep tissue massage. But I particularly liked the gym and wellness centre, partly because they were available free of charge. The fully equipped gym was a glass box suspended over the sea with a deck in front that is used for yoga classes each morning. The wellness centre has a sauna and a steam room along with a 12º C plunge pool and a 38° C jacuzzi, both cantilevered over the sea. To step out of a sauna into a freezing cold plunge pool as you watch an eagle ray glide past is my new definition of luxury.

Water

Next is Water, which is a big part of what makes Vakkaru so special. As it happens, Vakkaru is blessed with a bore hole and can therefore produce its own bottled water, which many nearby islands cannot, and have to rely on imported water or desalination plants.

But the water that I was really referring to is obviously the sea. Vakkaru is surrounded by a deep coral reef which delivers three distinct features. The first is that you can walk from the finest sandy beach into a shallow turquoise sea, like a vast swimming pool, from virtually anywhere around the island.

The second is that the reef offers a wonderful playground for snorkelers. In less than four minutes we could swim from our overwater villa to one of the best snorkel sites you’ll ever find. There are two ‘blue holes’ off Vakkaru that are surrounded by coral, which attract a vast array of reef fish. If snorkelling on a coral reef is of particular interest, the villas that are closest to the best blue hole are villas 255, 258, 260 and 262, which have no pool and villa 256, which has. All but villa 255 are also perfectly positioned for mesmerising sunsets.

However, the third, and the main attraction for us, was the deep blue sea beyond the coral reef. The dive school at Vakkaru is called Splash and it is the best we have ever come across. A superb team of people, from dive masters to the boat crew, are supported with excellent facilitates and equipment, including the finest dive boat I’ve ever been on. Kati was our gorgeous Italian dive instructor throughout, and she showed us some of the finest dive sites in the world. The really great news is that there is still an abundance of pristine coral in the Baa Atoll and a bountiful fish population, from the ‘Big 5’, as we called them (reef sharks, turtles, manta rays, moray eels and dolphins, all of which we saw), to the most abundant and varied population of reef fish we have ever seen.

At Splash you can complete your PADI Open Water in three days, or for people who just want to experience the magnificence of scuba diving in the Maldives they also offer a DSD (discover scuba diving) course that allows you to go diving the same day with an instructor.

Food

My next topic is Food, partly because by the time we disembarked from the dive boat we were always starving, and at Vakkaru you have a wide and varied range of dining options from five separate restaurants. You start the day with breakfast at Amaany, with your feet in the sand a few metres from the sea. It is a buffet breakfast, although the staff are happy to bring you anything you need, and it’s as good as you’ll find anywhere. It reflects their highly diverse client base, with an extensive Chinese, Middle Eastern and European offering as well as a focus on local, with an impressive fresh fruit and juice bar. Perhaps not surprisingly, the challenge of not over eating at breakfast was one I never managed to rise to! Amaany is also the location used for occasional evening extravaganzas that were of the highest quality. We had an Indian Ocean evening and a Beach Barbeque that were both outstanding.

The other restaurants are an Italian called Isoletta that offers a standard Italian menu, with some excellent seafood, beautifully located by the main pool. A thin and crispy pizza went down a treat after a double dive in the morning. There is then the Lagoon Bar, suspended over the water and offering a Japanese / Polynesian menu with a range of Sushi, Sashimi and Poke bowls. The combination of its exquisite location, perfectly positioned for sunsets, and excellent freshly prepared food, made the Lagoon Bar our personal favourite. Deep in the jungle there is then Onu, which had a Thai /Chinese menu that we also enjoyed, and there was the thrill of being in the jungle with giant bats flying overhead, but we found that we were more naturally drawn to the sea.

The final restaurant is Vakku, which has a stunning sunset beach location, but is in transition as a restaurant. It is destined to be the signature restaurant of the Island, but the prices seem to have arrived in advance of the new menu. On the subject of pricing, it does take some getting used to, with their own water costing around £6 a bottle (although free in the villa) and, for example, a plate of two large and delicious prawns costing £88 at Vakku. However, the value for money on the island does vary significantly. As is the case across the Maldives, it is expensive everywhere, but at somewhere like the Lagoon Bar, with the sun setting over the ocean, a perfectly seasoned, locally hand caught Tuna sashimi feels like it’s worth every penny.

Apart from the restaurants there are also three bars, one of which is the Lagoon Bar. This is the spot for a sundowner and they have an excellent cocktail menu. There are then two other bars, the first is called Cabana, which is a classic cocktail bar, located next to Isoletta, overlooking the vast main pool.

The other is called Vakkaru Reserve and is a quite extraordinary. This is clearly a passion project for the oenophile owner (Vakkaru is privately owned) and it is a magnificent temple to epicurean indulgence. Set deep in the jungle it is an imposing high ceilinged wooden construction that has the subdued lighting of a London club, is intensely air conditioned, and has floor to ceiling wine racks. There is even an additional Reserve Room, within the Reserve, that contains their finest wines, including Pétrus, Château Margaux and all the Super Tuscans. For the devoted Luxury Explorer this will be something of a Holy Grail, but with a price tag to match.

The villas

The final topic is arguably the most important because, at a practical level, it is what sets Vakkaru apart from other resorts on beautiful tropical islands – it is the Villas. They are superb, and what makes them so is the generosity of the space and the exceptional style. OT Design of the Netherlands designed the entire resort, including the public spaces, and the quality of materials, the attention to detail and the sheer style they have brought to Vakkaru gives you an immediate sense of luxury at the highest level.

There are several different categories of villas available. Apart from some being over the water and some on the beach, they vary in terms of size and features. At the apex of the collection is the four bedroomed overwater villa simply called The Residence. It holds a commanding position at the far end of the overwater villa jetty and is the full package, as you might expect for the astronomical cost, which seemed to start at $20,000 a night. It has four bedroom suites, its own spa, maid’s quarters and a vast central hall, which leads onto the terrace and a full sized swimming pool, with the requisite jacuzzi tucked in the corner.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are single-bedroomed beach villas without a pool, but they are in exactly the same style and obviously allow the occupants to enjoy everything else that Vakkaru has to offer. We stayed in a single-bedroomed over water villa, without a pool for the first week, and a two-bedroom beach villa with a pool for the second. There is something magical about being over the water, and stepping down onto what is effectively the reef. However, even at high tide the water is shallow, and the seabed is covered with dead coral, making it suitable for snorkelling, with easy access to the drop off, but not ideal for swimming. For this reason alone, I preferred the beach villa because of the immediate access to the beach, the sandy bottomed sea, and the rest of the island.

I found it surprisingly difficult to bring together all these topics to form a single concluding comment that adequately summarised our two weeks on Vakkaru. It is a big experience and it made a deep impression on us. This was partly because of the astonishing natural beauty, but it was also because the combined Vakkaru experience meant that we really did enjoy every second of being there. Vakkaru has been designed to ensure that you get the best the Maldives has to offer combined with the best the World has to offer. This meant that there were no compromises and no rough edges. We seemed to fill our days with one indulgent luxury seamlessly merging into the next, from strolling along the beach to breakfast, to diving deep into the ocean, from being pampered at the spa, to sharing a perfect sunset with some beautifully prepared food. Would I return? In a heartbeat.

 

Toby Marchant
Toby Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer