The Noonu Atoll is the perfect place for reef snorkelling, diving expeditions, fishing adventures and sunset cruises, either on one of Cheval Blanc Randheli’s local dhonis or private yacht. For an exclusive underwater journey, the Maison’s dive butler services provide guests with private dive sessions guided by a dedicated instructor. The 5-star PADI dive centre also offers a wide range of excursions tailored to all levels and wishes, which can be captured by the talent of our professional photographer.
What is it? Put the name “LVMH” in front of the words “resort in the Maldives” and it is safe to assume you’re in for something rather special. Sister property to the brand’s uberexclusive ski resort, Cheval Blanc Courchevel, in France, everything about this brand spanking new retreat is as high-end as it gets. Cheval Blanc Randheli Maldives, which opened on November 15, claims to be the only resort in the Maldives to have its own seaplane (decked out in Louis Vuitton colours, naturellement). Despite the genesis of the property, however, there is little in the way of branding or bling, or any of the ostentation associated with LVMH labels on the streets of Central. What defines the décor is understated, elegant exclusivity. As one senior member of staff explains when asked about the absence of expensive art: “Our customers can afford their own Monets.”
OK, that sets the tone. Specifics? Set on the stunningly turquoise waters of Noonu Atoll, a 40-minute ride by seaplane from the capital, Male, and spread across five islands connected by bridges and boat rides, that stretch two kilometres from tip to tail, the property consists of 45 one- and twobedroom villas. Each has its own majordome, or butler, on hand to run baths, prepare food and book activities (although the latter can also be done via the in-room iPad, which controls the lights, temperature, curtains, television, sound system, gravitational pull of the moon, that sort of thing). Although LVMH head honcho Bernard Arnault has yet to visit the property, we are told he has been very hands-on with the design. Before arrival, guests are asked to fill in a form indicating their preferred type of pillow, as well as their shoe size, for complimentary espadrilles and flip flops. To make exploration easy, every guest is given a bicycle, personalised with their initials around the seat.
What’s the accommodation like? Each villa has a large private infinity pool; an outdoor dining pavilion; seven-metre-high interior doors; indoor and outdoor showers; and a huge bathtub, with, weirdly, two armchairs facing it (how these might prove useful I cannot fathom). The 15 Island Villas are surrounded by newly cultivated mangroves, palms and thick foliage; of the three villa options, these offer the most privacy and are fringed with a white-sand beach that gives direct access to the resort’s reef. The 14 Garden Villas are partially over water, offering direct access to the sea. The 15 Water Villas (pictured), meanwhile, are entirely over the ocean, although you don’t get the floor-windows you might expect with the accompanying mark-up. Oh, and soon to come, on an island of its very own at the tip of the resort, is the enormous Owner’s Villa.
Nice, so what is there to do? When sitting in your private pool watching pods of dolphins frolic in the ocean gets a little samey, go and join them. The resort’s five-star dive centre caters to all levels of experience and guests are taken out on the resort’s catamaran to sample the many delights the Indian Ocean has to offer. Back on land, there’s a golf simulator, and the resort has an island, Maakurandhoo – a 10-minute boat ride away – that boasts two tennis courts that have apparently just been inaugurated by Roger Federer, no less. For those who like that sort of thing, there are pilates and yoga sessions held every morning on Spa Island. Teens are catered to with their own beach-front miniresort, Le Paddock; for the little ones, Le Carrousel is well staffed and equipped with huge play areas and a pool.
Hang on – did you say “spa island”? Yes – and a very pretty one it is, too – just a two-minute trip on the resort’s dedicated dhoni (pictured) away. On disembarking and crossing the pristine white sand to your treatment villa, you are greeted with a brief foot massage on a terrace by the water’s edge before being led inside to whichever form of kneading, scrubbing, tenderising or cleansing you desire.
Twenty bucks says the food is good, too. For a resort with only 45 villas, there are a surprising number of dining options. Breakfast is served at the White Bar, where later an evening barbecue offers the chance to select the wagyu steak or fresh king prawns that take your fancy. At the marina-side Deelani, guests can nibble on anything from octopus carpaccio to pizza. Split in two – one half serving Spanish cuisine, the other Japanese – The Diptyque places guests at a long bar, from where they can watch the chef as he prepares each dish. Le Table de Partage is for private parties, and only magnums of fine wine and champagne feature on the drinks menu. For especially fine dining, Le 1947 – named after Chateau Cheval Blanc’s most sought-after grand cru – offers locally inspired French cuisine.
From January 27th to February 14th and from March 1st to March 31st, guests will benefit from 3=4 and 5=7 enticing offers to surrender to the peaceful atmosphere of Randheli.