IF you’ve ever begun missing a holiday destination before you’ve even departed you have an idea of what it’s like to experience Dusit Thani Maldives.
As Mudhdhoo Island fills the side windows of the seaplane in from the capital Male you know you’re about to splashdown somewhere special.
The scenic transfer takes you to Baa Atoll, UNESCO-protected biosphere and backdrop to an idyllic retreat offering discreet beach hideaways and the over-water villas so iconic of the Maldives.
The latter reinforce a sense of connection with surrounding turquoise waters and it takes willpower not to lose days in the pool spying an art gallery of tropical fish commuting between coral.
Traditional features meet modern comforts inside the villa, including a spacious bedroom and bathroom beneath a high vaulted wooden ceiling.
Absent are wasteful plastic shampoo/shower gel bottles in favour of refillable jars, hinting at the resort’s conservation and self-sufficiency mission.
A back-of-house tour reveals an organic herb and salad garden and how the destination minimises its impact, including extracting, treating and bottling drinking water from a well, rather than importing.
Dusit Thani Maldives feels almost like an extension of its surroundings – jungle at its heart, perfect blue water and pristine beaches all around, jasmine scenting the walking and cycling trails.
This synergy extends to Devarana Spa where guests are pampered in elevated ‘treetop’ wooden pods, or ground level rooms.
Similar vibes prevail during sunset drinks at Sand Bar, dining waterside on the terrace or next to the huge infinity pool at Sea Grill.
One of the best dining experiences is Benjarong.
The over-water Thai restaurant tenders unobstructed sunset views soundtracked by playful fruit bats…it’s hard not to feel like you’re in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
British-born Rebecca Bull would agree. Part of her job is explaining why the Maldives is special and how the resort is helping keep it that way, not least by being as green as possible.
“There’s a lack of knowledge when it comes to coral reefs,” says the corporate social responsibility manager and marine biologist of the region’s famous asset, still recovering from the effects of two bouts of El Nino.
“Many people believe they just grow like plants within the year – it can take many to recover totally.
“Things like single use plastics are a gigantic problem. All the plastic that has gone into oceans is still there, it never biodegrades. It can break down to smaller particles but they’re fed on by manta rays we have visiting.”
The sale of soft toy eagle rays, placed in rooms, further highlights the plight of these graceful creatures as well as funding social projects in poorer neighbouring island communities.
Turtles are also a big draw and the Eco Centre details these, resort efforts to help nesting turtles, and fish species you’re likely to see while snorkeling or diving from the water sports centre.
Equipped with such information, you can’t help but tour the island – via mixologists at work in Sala Bar or a buffet in The Market restaurant – without pondering the creatures with whom you’re sharing this paradise. And then return to your villa to scan the lagoon for a reef shark or those rays before lights out.