MALDIVES: There was a time when the Maldives was considered out of reach for the majority of us non-celeb types — reserved mostly for newlyweds who had been saving up for an exclusive and secluded honeymoon. But as social media took hold over the years, and flying became more accessible, the nation’s cluster of islands started to attract a more diverse set of travellers; from the young and budget-conscious to the family-fun seekers.
The recently launched Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is proof that the Maldives can offer an excellent family-friendly getaway.
Formerly the Jumeirah Vittaveli Maldives, this luxury five-star resort was taken over by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts late last year and has since gone on to receive a high volume of bookings from the GCC. While travel restrictions haven’t eased in all areas, the Maldives has proven to be a popular choice with travellers based in the region due to the short-haul flights and strict safety precautions. For example, once on their hotel’s island, guests are not allowed to “hop” to other islands, and can only take a flight back home after testing negative.
But when you’re staying somewhere as beautiful as the Ozen Reserve, who needs to sail off to a neighbouring location?
Situated in South Male Atoll, the luxury resort is a quick catamaran trip from Velana International – staff are on hand to pick you up from the airport before taking you to a private lounge while luggage is loaded onto the boat. A 20-minute journey later, and you’re greeted at the resort with a traditional Maldivian welcome and water from a freshly-cut coconut.
So, what makes this a family-friendly resort, you ask? Well, the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi offers what they call an all-encompassing “Reserve” plan, meaning that almost everything is included in the price — from breakfast, lunch and dinner and all food and drink in your villa, to spa treatments, personal training sessions at the gym, and selected water sports.
What’s more, the resort is home to an open-air ice rink and the Kuda Koli Kids Klub. Judging by how much fun a couple of younger guests in our group were having, the club is without a doubt a winning attraction.
This is not one of those resorts where you just end up lying around doing nothing (although, obviously, that’s an option). There are plenty of opportunities to get active and social. Guests can make use of a beautiful swimming pool in the middle of the resort, close to an all-day lounge, Ozar, that serves snacks and drinks and has a snooker table. Meanwhile, each villa has its own bikes parked outside for riding around the resort, and the gym offers 360-degree views of the beach.
Should you want to ramp up your activity level, there’s the chance to bring some watersports right to your villa’s doorstep. All the water villas at the resort offer direct access to the Indian Ocean (via a water slide, if you like). A spot of snorkelling is perfect in the morning but for those not keen on salt-water swimming, a private pool is also available.
Inside our water villa was a large double bedroom with separate seating area and en suite bathroom. Outside on the deck was a lounge area, with stairs leading to the water.
On our first morning, we were offered something a little quirky for breakfast. Rather than making our way to the all-day dining Vista Del Mar, we were presented with a special “floating” breakfast. A tray is set up in the private pool, on the water, with a delicious spread of breads, mezze, sushi, salmon and more laid out and left for you. This is definitely one that’s more for the photos than for convenience, as you’re essentially having a bite whilst standing up in the swimming pool. Plus, direct sunlight on sushi is probably not the best idea. Still, it was definitely a novel experience.
Among the resort’s other dining options, Origine is the place for seafood lovers, while Sangu Beach serves up Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Our favourite, however, was Tradition Saffron, where we sampled a delightful Indian thali.
While we managed to fit a lot into our short stay, the 48 hours we were there flew by and before we knew it, it was time to fly back. Given its distance from the airport, high-quality service, and the fact that guests can pay a single rate for everything, the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is definitely one we’d recommend — especially if travelling as a family or a small group of friends.