First things first. Yes the sea really is that turquoise and the sand is soft and incredibly white. It is picture postcard perfect.
Arriving by speed boat at the island just ten minutes after a landing from a short flight from Male to Gan, I couldn’t believe I had only left Gatwick 12 hours earlier on a direct flight - which makes a huge difference when planning a four day minibreak in the Maldives. It might sound mad, but it is actually totally doable, although of course I would have been very happy to stay longer!
It’s going to be hard not to write this review in cliches and superlatives as I do feel that I have just returned from a tropical paradise idyll that has surpassed my expectations. But here goes.
Villingili is an exceptional place.
I visited during monsoon season – mid season - with my 12 year old son on a work/holiday trip and we were very lucky. We had sunshine every day although it was a tad windy at times which made snorkelling from our gorgeous ocean villa a little challenging. There were 2 sheltered house reefs, however - with lifeguards - and we had a terrific boat trip to snorkel at a reef further out at sea where we saw an amazing array of fish and turtles. The resort even has a baby turtle hatching area and you can sign up to be alerted day or night if they start hatching! We also went on a wonderful dolphin watching cruise.
Our ocean villa on stilts was incredible - with a huge deck and hammock hanging over the Indian ocean, a large bedroom immaculately furnished including a Bose sound system, indoor and outdoor showers plus a huge bath and walk in wardrobe. Each villa has a host contactable by mobile phone who organizes whatever you need including buggies to and from the main resort. But we loved the bicycles and cycling across the jetty to a lavish breakfast featuring everything from trad British eggs to Sushi and a wide range of Chinese dishes. The resort is very popular with the Chinese and at this time of the year is fairly quiet, which I think makes it is the perfect time to go. We had sun all day, and then bang on 6pm, it’s sunset and from then it gets dark very quickly. There’s lots to do day and night- Golf, Spa, Islands Tours, Fishing, Diving and lots of Watersports including surfing, kite surfing, sailing etc. My son had a great time although he was too old for the kids club but you would have to be mad to be bored here, they even show films on the beach one night a week.
The food was amazing, even more so when you realize it is a small island but every meal was a feast with fantastic local fish, seafood and locally raised vegetables. There were a choice of 3 great restaurants and a hugely diverse menu at Dr Alis featuring Indian, Arabic and Chinese food as well as Maldivian specialties. Our favourite was Javvu on the beach where we enjoyed freshly caught Grouper, salad and chips with waves lapping at our feet.
Although the beach barbecue made for a very special occasion, and if you get the chance to have dinner in the Chef’s garden – go for it. We had a stunning meal including Wahu ceviche, fresh Yellowfin tuna and the freshest vegetables from the garden, who knew aubergine could make such a tasty salad? And the mango, papaya and baby coconut dessert was heaven. And they even got my son to eat vegetables. As someone with many food allergies, I have to thank all the F&B staff, particularly Hassan who checked every meal that I ordered was safe for me to eat. No mean feat as it is quite a long list. Incredible service.
Villingili has lovely staff and as a first time visitor to the Shangri La brand, I was really impressed with the kindness and courtesy of everyone. And I think that may be to do with the ethics of the brand. I have always been slightly uncomfortable with the idea of going away and being looked after by staff who are a long way from their own homes as is the way with all other resorts in the Maldives, but Villingili is unique. The island was a picnic island used by islanders from the nearby islands when it was developed in 2009 by Shangri La. The resort now employs 50% local staff and as one told me, this means he can go to work each day and go home at night to his family and live traditional island life. Prior to the resort opening, locals working in hospitality, the island’s biggest employer, had to travel to other islands for six months at time to earn 15 days off.
The hotel is also introducing new crops to the island and helping create sustainable food businesses, with 40% of the food served grown locally. It really is paradise. I can’t wait to go back.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- An all-villa resort, Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives offers a unique selection of accommodations ranging from private beach retreats and overwater villas to unique tropical tree house villas perched on the tree top canopy. All villas are luxuriously appointed with the best of media and entertainment technology, have spacious sun-decks and patios, and feature private swimming pools or direct access to the turquoise waters of the lagoon for snorkelling among the beautiful coral reefs. Villingili is one of the largest and most vegetated islands in the Maldives, being the venue for the Maldives' only golf course. Guests on the island have many restaurants, bars and lounges to enjoy. Those seeking a more unique experience have private dining available in locations of your choice across the island and even lunch on the equator aboard the resort's 70-foot luxury yacht. Private and blissful CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La promises relaxation with ocean views within a secluded sanctuary. Neighbouring islands are easily accessible and perfect for touring by bicycle, providing a unique and interactive experience with local Maldivians. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Shangri-La`s Villingili Resort And Spa Maldives Hotel Addu Atoll