Part 3: LUX South Ari Atoll
Jim and Cary report on their trip to visit various resorts and liveaboards in the Maldives. In Part 3, they visit LUX South Ari Atoll…
As you know, there are many island resorts in the Maldives, the vast majority of which are pretty formulaic in design: bungalows dotted along the beach and a walkway extending off said beach with over-the-water villas with complementing pools, bars and restaurants. It’s fine and it works but with so many resorts following the same general layout and with each being almost indistinguishable from the next, the question arises, “how exactly do you choose the right resort?”
At first glance, LUX South Ari Atoll, located on Dhidhoofinolhu Island, follows the classic Maldivian layout. Yet it’s in a completely different price bracket to the other resorts we were visiting on our inspection trip, so we started to wonder how they would justify the price differential. In other words, we would be searching for ‘reasons to go LUX’.
They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Well, LUX Resort’s first impression came long unexpectedly before we even got close to the resort itself through their Guest Comfort Lounge at Male Airport. The charming representative who met us escorted us to a sumptuous air-conditioned space where we were offered cool refreshing towels, comfy seats, free WiFi, TV, sandwiches, delicious cookies, sweets, fruit, hot and cold drinks and a genuine smile. First impressions? Gooooood!
As our seaplane came in to land we could clearly spot the classic Maldivian resort layout I spoke of earlier. However, as we walked into the lobby the first thing that struck us was that LUX décor is quite different to most other resorts, in light pastels and whites and strikingly modern furniture. Opposite the reception counter was a thoroughly contemporary coffee house, Café LUX, reminiscent of London or New York’s most stylish morning ‘meeteries’. (They later informed us that they even import three different coffee beans and grind them right on-site!) Outside under a palm tree stood a red British phone box where you could make free phone calls home should you feel a need to make someone insanely jealous (which, of course, Cary did). LUXs’ strap-line is “Lighter, Brighter”. Very apt.
As we only had the pleasure of one night on this island, we immediately took a full tour of the resort starting with the top-category ‘Temptation Pool Water Villas’, which turned out to be a rather naughty, calculated move on their part. Wow! Just wow. The doorframe of the room they showed us now has scrape marks on it where we dug our nails in as they tried to force us back out. I won’t linger too long on this room because we don’t want to rub it in and also because (let’s keep it real) there’s not a whole lot of divers who are going to fork out for this one unless they’d just received a call from the National Lottery. However, just to give you a taster: enormous private infinity pool, Jacuzzi bath on wooden deck, outdoor dining area, floor to ceiling windows, round master bed….enough said? Yep! Moving on.
I will also describe our own middle category ‘Beach Villa’ below, but will not go into the rest of the room categories as there are just too many to go through here. However, we’ll soon be adding LUX to our website. If in the meantime you’re interested in a stay at LUX, please just ask us about it and we’ll happily provide you with full details on all available room options.
Our lovely Beach Villa for the night had French windows that opened straight onto a gorgeous white-sand beach. In the room there was a large outdoor bathtub for soaking under the stars and an indoor rain shower, whilst the main bedroom featured his-and-hers separate dressing tables, basins and wardrobes, a huge comfy bed and a brilliant interactive entertainment system through the smart TV, with mini-bar and WiFi completing the offering.
As mentioned, LUX South Ari Atoll Resort is set on Dhidhoofinolhu Island. The choice of island was a clever one – it’s long at about 1.8km from end to end and very thin. So every one of their beach villas has a sea view – two lines of villas stretched along the beach and just one path between them. Four electric buggies run a constant ‘bus’ service from one end of the island to the other, looping along the path in both directions, so you step outside the villa and simply hail the next passing buggy. This provided us with a really familiar and comforting feeling, like being residents of an island village. Of course, if you didn’t want to ride on a buggy, preferring instead to feel the sand between your toes, you could saunter down the path. Look left and you could see the beach and sea between the villas. Look right, same thing. Incredibly simply in design but a brilliantly effective result.
By now we were starting to see a few ‘reasons to go LUX’. Then our friendly tour guide stopped off at the home-made ice cream bar on one of the beaches – check another reason! Then the stunning spa with over-the-water treatment rooms, complete with glass floor to watch the fish below whilst the therapist massages your stress away – check! (No, sadly, this time Cary didn’t have time to test the spa service but from the look of the facility and talking with the Balinese therapists it was clearly in keeping with everything we’d seen so far at LUX i.e. special).
We enjoyed lunch at a Caribbean-style beach bar and a delicious dinner that night at ‘Beach Rouge’ restaurant, strikingly decorated in what we would describe as ‘Bali Modern’ style complete with Buddah Bar music and a red-lit jetty with frolicking reef sharks below. Breakfast the next morning was, simply put, one of the best buffets we’ve ever enjoyed. Foodies, take note. we’ve found an island resort paradise for you in the Maldives!
Oh yes, mustn’t forget to mention the disco toilet at one of the resort’s bars (sorry, wouldn’t be able to do it justice in a written description – you’ll just have to go there to experience it for yourself), the alfresco cinema, Message in a Bottle (free gifts secreted in bottles under the sand) and by now our list of ‘reasons to go LUX’ was beginning to acquire a bit of length.
And finally, the diving. Well, we didn’t actually dive during our short visit BUT we did look around the Euro Divers centre and meet with their manager. We did, however, dive on LUX’s local reefs the next day (with Euro Divers), from nearby Vilamendhoo Resort. This is the subject of our next report, so you’ll be able to read all about the diving around LUX very soon.
LUX clearly isn’t a resort for most divers. The price alone will account for that. What we would say is that for those with deep pockets, who seek an exceptional Maldivian holiday experience, there’s really no need to look any further than LUX South Ari Atoll. She’s classy, brave, different, memorable, cool, elegant, understated and extravagant, and it’s surprisingly easy to discover the many reasons to go there. But we could sum up our whole, lovely experience in just one word: unique.
Jim and Cary own and run UK-based tour operator Diverse Travel. To find out more about the Maldivian itineraries that Diverse Travel offer, visit www.diversetravel.co.uk/maldives.