#BTExplores Gul Panag Tells You What To Do In Maldives

Fresh from her Maldives sojourn, the actor tells you why the island of Maadhoo is a must-visit luxury retreat.

Clear blue skies and even clearer, brighter blue waters – Maadhoo, an island in the Maldives had long been on my wanderlust list. And, my recent trip to Maadhoo was just the trip I needed to truly unwind.

Travelling with a 14-month-old baby Nihaal is never easy, so we decided on Maadhoo courtesy the proximity to Malé. A two-three hour-long plane ride later, we were headed in a luxury sea boat to the all-inclusive luxury resort OZEN by Atmosphere, just 30-minutes away.

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I had heard quite a lot about this place and wanted to try the all-inclusive concept at a luxury level. All-inclusive stays are very popular in international tourist destinations such as Cabo and Acapulco, where you pay a fixed fee that does not vary with what you eat and drink. So, you can eat at any restaurant, drink at any bar or visit the spas – it is all-inclusive.

That was win-win for me because usually on holidays, you are always thinking at the back of your mind if I should order this or that. It’s like being in a candy store with no limitations.

Switch-Off Island

The minute I landed in Malé I put my phone on aeroplane mode and did not turn it on till I returned to India. And, I suggest you do the same if you want to truly enjoy Maadhoo.

The resort itself was gorgeous – surrounded by the cleanest beach I have ever seen, there was a pool inside our villa, and we spent on an average from 8 am to 12 noon in the water. There was a baby shark on the beach just outside our villa! Nihaal was super enthused about it and would keep screaming – Shark! Shark!

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But one of the biggest plus for me was the absolute absence of people! OZEN has 90 villas – but I hardly saw any soul on the island. It was a far cry from the usual vacay scene when you go down for a breakfast buffet and see it swarming with people. De-stressing is all about reducing human contact, and it felt like there were only 10-15 people on the entire island.

I ended up asking the General Manager of the resort about why there aren’t there more people on the island? And, to my surprise, he replied – We are running at full occupancy, madam!

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Another reason what made the experience more memorable was the personalized service that we received. Small, thoughtful gestures really do make a difference… for instance, when we entered the villa, there were photographs of me all over the place with different captions such as biker, mother, pilot, actress and so on. The island follows a no-plastic policy and so, all our luggage tags were switched with wooden ones with our names on it and so were the bicycles in our room. The team even remembered little quirks like I have my coffee before breakfast while my husband has it at the end of his meal, despite servicing 90 villas.

Water, water everywhere

Snorkelling is must in the gorgeous reef and we had almost shelved our plan because of Nihaal but our butler (also nicknamed Shark) came to our rescue. He invested time in bonding with him on the first 2-3 days so by the time we went snorkelling on the third day we were able to leave Nihaal without a thought for an hour.

When I came out of the reef to see what Nihaal is doing on the boat and he just said, ‘Bye, Mama!’

It was just as well because we ended up seeing a five-meter large Manta Ray – to put in perspective; an Innova car is 4.9 meters. That was just surreal!

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Another unique thing about this place was the submarine for those who are uncomfortable with snorkelling or can’t swim or dive. So, you sit under the hull and there is water all around you. We saw fish and like hundreds of dolphins. It was as if they were performing for us!

We also had a quite an adventurous kayaking session because my son decided to stand up and walk the length almost toppling it over. That was pretty nerve-wracking but then peace prevailed yet again on the dolphin cruise on a dhow.

The dhow is a traditional Maldivian wooden boat with a big horn in the front like a rhino and it was quite mesmerizing.

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On some days that I wanted to just switch-off and unwind from all the activities, I headed to the spa on the property. It was on stilts! And, when you put your head through the face hole of the massage table you can see the wave gently lapping because of the glass floor. That was so soothing and almost hypnotic that I emerged feeling so refreshed.

Can I eat the island?  

Even though the island is must-visit for all the water babies, the foodies and health freaks can keep busy too. While there are a ton of restaurants that you can eat at in your all-inclusive stay, my favourite was the underwater restaurant – M6m that means Minus Six Meters.

Apart from the fact that it felt like eating in an aquarium (fish don’t stare at you eating!), the restaurant has an 8-member all-women crew from all nationalities. I thoroughly enjoyed my 5-course lunch though a special mention has to be made for the bellini whipped up by Nisha, the Indian member of the crew. 

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Eating healthy is my second nature and the fresh produce at the resort just blew my mind. They had the most amazing collection of meat and salads. So, I gorged on fresh vegetables and fruits especially tropical fruits such as dragon fruit, rambutan – a lychee type of fruit with hair on it. It almost looked like a creature and you may feel eww but when you start eating it, it’s amazing.

I felt so satiated that I did not even feel like eating anything else after the meal. Can you imagine I rarely ate a dessert after my meal?

On the last day, the staff planned a surprise dinner for us on the beach. It was really beautiful with a floral archway like you see at weddings, and a flower-laden pathway leading to the table. For me, that was the icing on the cake, and I cannot wait to visit again. 

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I just feel this would be the perfect romantic getaway sojourn for a couple – as long as they switch off their respective phones. Please do not go here if you are going to waste your time being glued to your phone, it is just too beautiful to do that.

The resort is also very child-friendly, so anybody who has kids should think about visiting this place. But I do want to issue a statutory warning…your kid may just turn into a water baby as Nihaal did.

I have been back for two days and have been taking him to the pool or else endure endless rant of ‘Swimming! Swimming!’ sharp at 4 pm every day. 

But that’s a small price to pay for a slice of paradise, no?

(As told to Arpita Kala)

 

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