The first thing that struck me as we were welcomed into the Constance Resorts’ lounge at Malé airport to await our seaplane, was the uplifting essence of lemongrass and the easy welcome from the Constance Resorts’ staff. We had stepped into a different world from an otherwise hot and bustling airport. A world where super-chilled flannels doused in cleansing lemongrass to mop our brows, and green tea with refreshing lemongrass, are handed to us by beautiful Maldivian people who are genuinely eager to please. I knew from that moment we were about to experience something very special. In fact, it was to be more than that, it was to be one of those experiences that resets your mind and remains in your heart forever.

Soon we were on our way, clutching super-chilled bottles of water offered to us as we left the departure lounge to our 14 passenger sea-plane. Sadly no lemongrass on this flight, but this was a totally exhilarating experience, and the faint smell of aircraft fuel just seemed to add to the excitement of it all. If, like me, you always dreamed of becoming a pilot, I recommend that you bagsy a seat right up front where you’ll be almost in the cockpit and among the action! We’re soon airborne and as the aircraft glides over the fascinating phenomenon of the raised beds of sand and coral that make up the Maldives, I begin to get a sense of the unique place we are being transported to. Our first destination is the Constance Resort, Moofushi, a short 30 min hop.

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Touchdown on water has to be experienced. It’s just cool, in a sort of 70’s Fantasy Island, Bond kind of way. As we make our way to the resort’s jetty, the aircraft’s rudimentary aircon, otherwise known as two desktop fans attached to the rear of the pilot’s cockpit, appears to be struggling with the outside temperature. But we are soon ushered off into the hands of a welcoming party who greet us like we are old friends, or even the first guests they have received in a long while – which of course is not the case as I am later informed the resort is pretty much full the whole year round. Within moments I find myself mopping my brow with another super-chilled lemongrass soaked flannel while sipping something cold and refreshing, and I think to myself, where did that come from?…but of course, our convivial hosts. Soon after we are taken across the jetty where I cannot help but notice a sign with the island’s only rule; No Shoes, No News. I don’t need telling twice and I am immediately tuned into the vibe here – which means me switched firmly to off.

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After a pleasant check-in and a brief orientation tour, bearing in mind you can casually walk an entire circumference of this island in ten minutes, I was taken to my water villa. Now, I imagine most people may have seen a photo of one of these in some dreamy holiday brochure or maybe in a Condé Nast magazine on a BA flight sometime, but seeing one in the flesh for the first time takes your breath away. Words almost cannot describe the feeling you get when you walk into your stilted residence, then throw the doors open to reveal your private decked area, which leads to steps straight into what appears to be the biggest swimming pool in the world – the waist height warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

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In keeping with the incredibly high standards of everything I have experienced so far with Constance, the room is designed to make your stay as comfortable as you could wish for. This even includes a fully stocked bar and fridge which is all part of the package here.

My body clock is telling me to sleep, but it’s the middle of the day and I am far too excited for that. So it’s straight on with the swimmers and straight into the sea. The turquoise water is bath temperature and crystal clear, with very little in the way of what you would call waves. For as far as I can see I believe the water is no higher than chest height – like I say, the biggest swimming pool in the world. Only this one is not man-made, and it’s full to the brim with coral and tropical fish. I need a snorkel to see this properly, so I venture to the dive centre, all of three minutes away, where I borrow a complimentary set. I then head to one of two ‘house’ reefs. These are coral reefs set directly off the island, which means you needn’t go on a half day excursion to go snorkelling. And oh my, this is unlike anywhere I’ve ever snorkelled before. The fish are in abundance and the coral formations are stunning. Not for the first time today I am experiencing another world.

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Later that day I make my way to meet my travelling companions at a prearranged wine tasting event by the sea. What they actually meant was IN the sea! In my other life I am a restaurateur and I have attended a fair few wine tastings, but never knee deep in the Indian Ocean, and never being gently nudged by reef sharks. I kid you not! But they are totally harmless, so I am told, so I decided to just go with it. I was all the better for standing my ground against these three feet long fish, as I was about to taste some seriously good wines, presented by a seriously good sommelier.

Then to dinner, and at this point I should mention that this resort is all-inclusive. But dispel any preconceptions you may have of all-inclusive, this is wining and dining at its absolute best. This evening’s meal was in the themed buffet restaurant called Manta. And again, I ask you to dispel any preconceptions you may have of buffets (personally, I’m not normally a fan), the food here is good. Really good. And the wine…well they have a cellar consisting of around 120 labels, all of which are very carefully selected, and all of which are included in the all-inclusive package. Having previously stayed at other all-inclusive resorts this is unheard of. Usually you have a choice of two wines, red or white, and they’re pretty poor. Which means you spend your holiday suffering in silence or paying a hefty surcharge to upgrade. Well, certainly not here.

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Our next day was spent taking a yoga class overlooking the water (very Zen), then taking a dhoni, which is a Maldivian boat, for more incredible snorkelling. This time it was around a sandbank in the middle of the sea; another mind-bending phenomenon!

Later that day I managed to fit in a visit to the spa for a massage involving some wonderfully pungent lemongrass oil – which I eventually come to understand is Constance’s ‘signature’ herbal essence. And as I was lying on a bed, with a glass window in the floor facing directly into the sea, while a very professional masseuse was untying the knots in my back, I drifted into a perfect state of calm.

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Dinner that evening was on the beach in the Alizee restaurant. The food here is seriously good and the setting is stunning – lots of candles in the sand and the sound of lapping water right next to you.

The following day we head to our next destination, Constance Halaveli. But as I wander through the sandy pathways leading to reception, I’m moved by the way in which everyone greets you with a warm smile and hello. From the gardeners to the maintenance team fixing a roof after a bit of damage from a recent storm. Even the GM, Olivier, who’s calmly in control of his 250 strong team and about half that number again of guests, manages to purvey a sense of serenity.

So, with a heavy heart we depart this beautiful place and head by speedboat to Halaveli. But as we approach our next island the excitement begins to build once more for the next experience Constance have in store for us. Once again we are met on the jetty by a welcoming party. More of those lemongrass flannels that I now find I miss almost more than anything. And a wonderfully refreshing drink to wash away the salty taste of the sea.

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I immediately get a sense of the difference between the two Constance resorts. The first, Moofushi, is what I would describe as natural. At ease with itself. Here at Halaveli there was a sense of refinement. A little more tailored, yet none-the-less relaxed.

Once again we stay in a water villa, which comes as standard here. This is unusual for the Maldives as it’s more common to have to pay to upgrade to a water villa. And the water villas here are off-the-scale! With a vast bedroom and not much smaller bathroom, complete with egg-shaped bath, the villas are wrapped around a stunning deck with your own infinity pool, and of course, steps that lead directly into the Indian Ocean. The décor is chic right the way down to the entertainment system and Nespresso coffee machine. It’s no wonder the beaches and public areas are all deserted despite the hotel being virtually full, everyone is just hanging back in their villas. Why move?

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I have to steal myself away to meet my companions for another in-sea wine tasting session followed by dinner in the beach restaurant, Meeru, where I try Wagu beef for the first time. It had been cooked on a special Japanese grill and the flavour was…well all I can say, a near religious experience.

The best thing about staying in a water villa is leaving all the blinds open – don’t worry they are designed at such an angle so that no one can see in. You wake up with a near 180 degree view of the Indian Ocean right at your feet. It’s an awe inspiring sight to awaken to. So up and out, and after a healthy breakfast we head for another session with lemongrass oil in the spa – which once again sends me into a Zen-like state of mind.

After lunch in the sushi restaurant, which if you’re a sushi fan like me doesn’t get any fresher than here, we head off on a turtle adventure excursion. Sadly we didn’t encounter any turtles on this occasion, but we snorkelled off an underwater shelf where the sea life was even more varied than that of the house-reefs.

And finally to what was the culinary pièce de résistance, dinner at Jing. The chef here, Jordi Vila, counts the once ‘best restaurant in the world’, El Buli, on his impressive CV. I wouldn’t wish to attempt a critique of his food or spoil your surprise, you simply need to experience it. And that is exactly what it is. An experience. An immensely unique and memorable experience.

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Things to know

Constance Moofushi is on an all-inclusive basis, and you will need or want for nothing! The standard rooms are beach villas which sleep 2 adults (+2 young children or 1 older child). There is a surcharge to upgrade to water villas which is well worth doing. And if you can push the boat out a little further I would recommend a senior water villa as they have double aspect windows overlooking the sea, an outside bathroom and are slightly larger with a little more privacy. There is no kids club in this resort.

Visit  Moofushi website

Watch Halaveli video

Constance Halaveli is on a half board basis, but they do offer an all-inclusive package, which, if like me, you eat three meals a day and enjoy a glass of wine or two (or three), then it’s well worth considering. Almost all of the dishes at the four restaurants were included, with those that weren’t included available at a surcharge. The package also includes a choice from 150 wines! The water villas sleep 2 people or there are a choice of stunning beach villas which can sleep 4 or more people (up to 8 in the presidential villa). The resort has fabulous kids clubs for both younger and older children.

Visit Halaveli website

Watch Halaveli video

Constance resorts and hotels have seven properties in the beautiful locations of Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and the Maldives.

Visit Constance Resorts website

We flew Emirates via Dubai on the stunning A380, which was without doubt the best experience I have had on a long haul flight. This naturally works well with a 2-3 night stopover in the magnificent city of Dubai.

Visit Emirates A380

Mark Colley

Managing Director – Sunways Travel

Call me on 01474 706 976 to personally discuss this destination or email mark@sunways.co.uk