Lap up the luxury at Maldives’ Cheval Blanc Randheli resort
It has become the go-to destination for Bollywood A-listers
“I’m the local Robinson Crusoe”, said Ivo Fonseca, Cheval Blanc Randheli’s resident tennis coach, as he emerged from the foliage on Maakurandhoo, the resort’s very own tennis island. An entire island dedicated to tennis in the middle of the Indian Ocean? It’s the kind of over-the-top luxury that puts this paradisiacal getaway in a league of its own, even in the highly competitive Maldivian resort market, which sets the gold standard in luxury tourism. But in the digital age of Instagram and Snapchat, it is increasingly difficult to tell one five-star resort from the other. Thankfully, the people at the LVMH group’s hospitality venture are acutely aware of this, and even seasoned luxury tourists would be blown away by the experience of staying here. So how do they do this? The answers are subtle and spectacular in equal measure.
An aerial view of Cheval Blanc Randheli’s Spa Island
First and foremost, it is art de recevoir. I have stayed at a number of hotels around the world and experienced exceptional service and hospitality, but only here have I seen it raised to an art form. It began as soon as we arrived at Malé International Airport, where we were immediately whisked away to an exclusive lounge to await our seaplane ride to the island (it is possibly the only resort with its own seaplane).
On the island, there is an incredible level of personalised attention, and it begins from the very top: I lost count of the number of times Laurent Chancel, the resort’s resident manager, backed up Sea, sand, serenity, and a whole lot of luxury—Supriya Dravid hesitatingly returns to reality after a jaunt to a sun-kissed private beach resort in the Maldives his buggy simply to enquire how our day was going. By breakfast on day two, the staff knew exactly how each member of my family liked their eggs cooked. We never had to repeat a request and no demand was ever denied over the course of our stay. The staff ’s attention to detail borders on the obsessive.
The resort, designed by the award-winning architect Jean-Michel Gathy, has only 45 villas; each the size of a three bedroom flat laid out in a spacious open-floor scheme. And every aspect, from doors and window shades to even the lighting, can be controlled by a tablet.
The main pool
The resort realised early on that the greatest luxury lies in a sense of belonging, of feeling at home even when you are on holiday. So, it boasts not only a one-of-a kind kids’ club called Le Carrousel, which comes with its own pool and stunning array of activities, but also a club for teenagers, Le Paddock, with a billiards table, foosball table, multimedia station and excursions tailored to keep the young and restless well occupied. And unlike other resorts in the Maldives, families with children feel as feted as do honeymooners.
It really is a testament to the amazing staff that never once did I feel that our (rather loud) family was intruding upon the privacy of others, or that others were intruding upon ours. Somehow, they managed to make us feel that we were in our very own cocoon. Indeed, Cheval Blanc Randheli has a strict policy of not disclosing the names of its guests. And this premium on privacy means that it has become the go-to destination for Bollywood A-listers when they want to get away from Insta-happy selfie hunters.
For city-weary folk, the separate spa island, which can only be accessed by boat, is a sensory experience on its own—the range of treatments conceived by Guerlain will bring your tired bones to life.
The absolute pinnacle, however, is the Owner’s Villa—yet another private island, on which sits one of the most expensive digs in the world. Previous guests include royalty, the kind who often travel with their own food tasters and chefs. I really never could figure out why anyone would want to bring a chef along, because the dining here is on par with the very best. There are four distinct gastronomic experiences: White, the all-day dining restaurant, is a gourmet level take on brasserie-style cuisine. Delani, an overwater Italian restaurant has an exceptional collection of wine. The Japanese and Asian-themed Dyptique, for curated teppanyaki. And finally, Le 1947, named after Chateau Cheval Blanc’s most prestigious and soughtafter wine vintage, a once-in-a-lifetime fine dining experience in itself.
But if I had to put my finger on the one thing that made the experience truly memorable, it was the ability of the ambassadeurs to create moments that were truly magical.
My family has been on numerous dolphin and whale-watching cruises, without much luck. I had given up on ever seeing any in the wild. But they made it happen. We encountered a pod of spinner and bottlenose dolphins leaping out of the water and doing backflips while chasing a school of flying fish. When we returned to our villa, the bathtub was ready for the kids, with its very own dolphin, fashioned out of foam. We had never seen anything like it.