Paradise has a name.
Some weeks ago I had the pleasure to stay at the JA Manafaru, a luxurious beach resort located on an 36 acres (14 hectares) small island located in the Haa Alif Atoll, which is part of the Republic of the Maldives. The exclusive resort is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking properties I’ve ever seen; so far at least. Getting there from Vienna/Austria is a bit of a hassle though. My journey started around 10:45 pm in Vienna. I took an Emirates flight to Dubai, where we landed around 6:30 am the following day. Emirates is my most favorite airline in the world (again: so far), so the flight was really comfy. A lot of space and board entertainment – but I’ll post about that in another article. The overlay took us about 3:30 hours, then we boarded another plane to get from Dubai to Malé, where we landed around 3:15 pm.
After the very nice experience of flying with Emirates and when knowing that you’re about to stay on a super luxury island resort, it’s a bit of a shock to see the “airport” of Malé, the capital of the Republic of the Maldives. You’re walking across the airfield to get into the actual building, which is technically nothing more than a barrack. The Maldives are a region where it’s hot and damp throughout the year, so prepare mentally for being in a long queue waiting for your immigration – with no aircondition. That’s very tedious. But rest assured: The fun starts as soon as you’re through immigration and got your bags.
Two associates of the JA Manafaru already waited for our small group. One of them took care of our luggage (which we saw again in our beach villas at the island), the other one took care of us. We were lead to the JA lounge at the airport; well, technically it was in another building and we had to walk there, but the lodge – oh boy. I’ve stayed in hotels that were less nice than this lounge. They provided wi-fi, air condition, a very nice breakfast buffet, they had put together some sort of “newspaper” to give us the headlines of the day we were in the air, we got coffee, softdrinks and a goodie bag. One of our lovely associates was always around us to provide us with everything we needed. We could also have taken a shower there, but of course we were without our luggage and expecting a bath in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean soon anyway.
The reason why we had to wait at the airport lounge was that they had to prepare our seaplane and put our luggage in there. When everything was ready, we were allowed to board. Our two villa hosts, two pilots (in shorts and flipflops) and our small group of six boarded the water plane and took off about an hour after we arrived at the airport. The flight to the JA Manafaru took us a bit more than 50 minutes. I have to admit that I was really tired but still couldn’t take my eyes off the view: Underneath us we could see very tiny and a bit bigger islands, all with tropical foliage, and the turquoise water you know from very kitschy postcards.
And kitschy was also the arrival at the island. Villa hosts, associates, even the General Manager of the island, were waiting at the jetty to welcome us with music and drinks. Jessica, the most lovely person I’ve ever met in hospitality, took us with a golf cart to our respective villas. I had a beach bungalow with a private pool, a backyard that led directly to the beach and – well, the beach. There are six different types of accomodation on the property: the beach villas with a private pool, sunrise water villas with infinity pool, sunset water villas with infinity pool, one bedroom beachsuites with private pool, grand water two bedroom suites with private infinity pool and the royal island two bedroom suites with private pool. I was allowed to peek into all sorts of accomodation there.
The water villas on the jetty are really pretty. They offer awesome views to the ocean, they are of course luxury (like everything on the island), but I can say for sure: Nothing for me. I was sooo happy with my beachvilla, because it had a shadowy backyard, it was greener, cooler. I don’t really know where to start when it comes to “my” villa. First of all: Every villa comes with two beach cruisers in front of the villa. You can use them to navigate your way around the island. It’s pretty small and round, so no matter where you want to go and which direction you choose: It will take you at max 20 minutes to go around the whole island. The lush tropical foliage makes it great fun to bike your way around.
The beachvilla itself was furnished with a hallway, a living room, where my villa host had prepared fresh juice, sweets and drinks, a bedroom with the most amazing mattresses ever (William, the General Manager, chose them himself), a bathroom with a shower and a whirlpool, a backyard with deck chairs, a private pool and a rainforest shower, and another yard with a small hut to sit outside, a lounge area, a hammock and only a few steps away: the beach. And on the beach: My two private deckchairs. The villa was flooded with light, it came with two TV-sets and all amenities you can think of.
Pictures of the beach villa I slept in (No 312), not edited, no filter:
Even though the island is quite small, there are seven places where you can eat and drink; and of course I’ve tried all of them. Let’s start with my favourite one: The Andiamo Bistro and Bar at the Andiamo pool. That was my favorite place at the island because the pool is huuuuuge and it’s surrounded by palm trees and foliage and there are always a lot of birds singing. After I got a little sunburn in the ocean it was the perfect place to swim, because the trees are casting shadows in the pool. There are even some sort of deckchairs in the pool (made out of tiles of course) where you can relax. You should try the pizza there – it was simply the best. Just pizza. But so much more.
Another place to eat next to a pool is the Infinity Bar and Pool. I loved that one not only for the amazing and tasty club sandwich but also for the view. Because the infinity pool is located directly on the beach and while in there or sitting at the bistro and eating you can enjoy the perfect postcard view of a pool that somehow bleeds into the ocean. Best time to be there is around sunset. The White Orchid is for all who fancy Asian food, because there, located at the jetty, they serve japanese fusion kitchen. If I think of the sushi I had there, my mouth starts to water immediately. Next to the White Orchid is the Horizon Lounge, a place to hang out and enjoy some drinks (and sometimes karaoke) after your dinner. Breakfast is served at Kakuni, an outdoor buffet restaurant. You get EVERYTHING you want there. Fresh cut fruit, pancakes, all sorts of juices, cold cut, cheese – everything.
Pictures of food and pools 🙂 all mine, no filter, not edited
And now about two very special places on the island. The one is called The Cellar. It’s a very small dining place in the island’s wine cellar. If you want to eat there, you have to book your table (as there is only one). But it’s an experience you should definitely make. You get little bags with hot stones to put your feet on them, because it’s a bit chilly down there. And of course scarves are provided, too. They serve a very exquisite five course menu there, accompanied by the perfect wines from all over the world. Very, very romantic! But if it comes to romantic, the Ocean Grill is at least as romantic. Because if you eat there, you’re sitting directly on the beach. The table and chairs are set up on the sand. You can have your bare feet in the sand while you’re eating delicious food and hearing the ocean waves.
Okay, so I told you about the amazing food and the just perfect villa and the pools. What else is there to do? First of all, they provide all sorts of spa treatments. I had a balinese relaxing massage – even though after just some minutes of the island you feel pretty much relaxed anyway 🙂 But the massage was awesome too. And when my therapist noticed that I had a small sunburn, she immediately called my villa host who got me after sun balm from the island’s doctor and put it in my room. After I came home to my villa after the massage, it was already waiting for me. For the more active the JA Manafaru provides a lot of water sports: snorkelling, jet skiing, boat trips. And a fully equipped fitness center. And if you’ve done all of that, you can take one of their boat trips. We did the Lucky Dolphin Cruise (and we were lucky, we saw dolphins) and one trip to an uninhibited island to snorkel and hang out. And of course: Every trip comes with champagne and little snacks. Just a-m-a-z-i-n-g!
Surroundings and Dolphin Trip (all pics mine again, no filter, not edited):
Speaking of amazing: What I really liked there (sides from the very friendly and impressive service staff and the ameneties, and the food and the facilities and the villa) was the fact that they have their own organic island herb garden where a lot of the herbs that are used in the kitchens grow. Plus: You won’t need shoes there during the whole duration of your stay. In fact you don’t really need more than your bathing suit, sunblocker and sunglasses. It’s a place where dreams come true. It was so, so, so hard to say good bye and leave paradise. Because paradise does have a name: JA Manafaru.
Website of the Island
Rooms start at about USD 1,035 per night in a beach bungalow