After such a crazy and disrupted year, we were so fortunate that the stars aligned to allow us to travel safely to the Maldives for my end of season break. I had hoped to celebrate my 30th but due to the travel restrictions, we had to cancel our initial plans and delay our trip to December. Fortunately, the Maldives became a green listed country which meant that coronavirus numbers were so low and controlled, that they felt comfortable to open up to tourism again. Resorts started opening but on reduced numbers and slightly altered dining options to ensure that travellers remained safe. The Maldives also required everyone to have a negative PCR test within 96 hours of travel and several forms were to be completed online before boarding the plane. We were extremely lucky that our trip coincided with the travel corridor being created and even more so that my mum and her husband John could join us on the trip too! My mum has lived in Doha, Qatar for the last seven years and during the pandemic, Qatar took serious measures to shut the border going in and out of Qatar with no exceptions. We couldn’t believe our luck when Qatar added only a handful of nations to their green list – that one of those was the Maldives! It’s always been a dream of my mum to visit and it’s something I can remember her speaking about since I was a youngster – so it felt amazing to bring her out for my belated 30th celebrations!
The Maldives has always been one of my top destinations to visit and after an incredible stay at Kuramathi Island in 2019, we decided to check out another sister island called Iti Maafushivaru. There are literally thousands of options to choose from so finding the right resort can be a little overwhelming but for us, the choice was really driven by looking for something different to what we had experienced previously. Kuramathi is one of the biggest resort islands in the Indian Ocean – so big that I could actually run around the outside of it for my training sessions. This was a big tick for me as a professional athlete but this time around, we wanted to try for a more authentic, desert island feel which is exactly what Maafushivaru provided us with. The island was also located in the south which was a big positive as I was hoping to spot some whale sharks during our stay! The South Ari Atoll is renowned for these beautiful creatures and locations across the world are very few and far between so what better chance than combining a luxurious Maldives stay with the opportunity of swimming alongside whale sharks!
Maafushivaru is only 350m. Yes, you read that correct – less than one lap around a running track! But it was exactly what we were looking for with regards to the exclusivity it provided. It felt really secluded and much more private which is really what drew us towards choosing this beautiful island in the first place. After such a crazy and disrupted year, it felt nice to just switch off a little and soak up the Maldivian rays. The island resort had also just undergone a complete refurbishment and only opened their doors to visitors in August 2020 and so it felt pretty special to see the new Maafushivaru in all it’s glory!
As soon as we stepped onto the island, we were treated like royalty. That’s definitely one of the nicest things about Maafushivaru – you genuinely feel like home. The staff were super attentive and made sure we felt comfortable whilst they checked us into our accommodation. Walking into our water bungalow was incredible. My mum was blown away with how relaxing and open it felt. A spacious room with a beautiful big bed and open bathroom which give panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. You can even hear the waves splashing underneath you and are just steps away from dipping in. We also had our own private pool out on the decking which was a really nice addition! Each of the beautifully designed luxury villas have loads of little thoughtful touches and you can choose your perfect sanctuary with uninterrupted views of the white sands or endless turquoise waters. For families, they also offer a stunning Duplex Pool Villa; built on two levels with two separate bedrooms.
Many people had told us that as active individuals, we would get bored of the Maldives very quickly but that couldn’t have been further from reality! There is a catalogue of water sports to keep you entertained for endless hours. Honestly, we were in the water for several hours each day – mainly snorkelling in the coral reefs which were just a few metres away from our water bungalows. We also went kayaking and paddle boarding a few times too which was super fun but don’t forget your suncream!
The gym was truly spectacular. It had one of the most incredible views across the Indian Ocean – one of which I don’t think any other gym will be able to top! All of the equipment was brand spanking new and contained everything we needed to get a full work out in. As I was still in heavy training, I took full advantage of the gym every day for my training sessions! The treadmills were brilliant and operated at a quick enough speed for me to do a few interval sessions too which was great. As a professional athlete, having a workable gym is really key for me and because I knew running outside would be limited – I wanted to ensure I had access to a good treadmill, cross trainer and spin bike – Maafushivaru ticked all of those boxes. Due to the pandemic, there was a booking system to ensure that everyone had a specific time slot throughout the day and that the gym was regularly cleaned after each session. These extra safety measures made me feel even more at ease during our stay – knowing that we were being so well looked after.
Our main concern was dining options on such a small island. I love my food and my whole family are real foodies so we wanted to ensure we had several restaurants and cuisines to choose from. My initial worry was that the island was so small we would be a little restricted and even more so due to the Coronavirus restrictions but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Maafushivaru had several different restaurants to choose from, for both lunch and dinner. For breakfast, there is typically a huge buffet on display at the Cuisine Gallery, but due to covid, they allowed us to order from a menu instead. This really wasn’t a problem as we had the same access to whatever took our fancy each morning! It was a difficult decision between French toast and banana pancakes for me but it’s safe to say I had more than enough time to trial them both out! The fresh juice each morning was also incredible and a nice way to kick start the day.
The Japanese Restaurant Umi was really a standout – with sunset views across the lagoon and incredible food. I genuinely could have eaten here every single night without getting bored. Every item on the menu was delicious – trust me – we sampled it all! Umi not only offered a delicious menu but they also had Japanese-inspired fare cooked in front of you by their Teppanyaki chef which was truly incredible and great fun. Cielo was their Italian restaurant – serving pizza, pasta, burgers and salads during the day, and at night it offered western cuisine imbued with Italian flavours for a Mediterranean twist. Poolside Las Tapas was where you could order some drinks, healthy bites and small plates to share in an alfresco setting whilst the coffee shop, Library Lounge, served a selection of teas, speciality coffees and hot chocolate during the day, as well as freshly-made take away sandwiches, salads and pastries for those who preferred something light. The signature restaurant of lti Maafushivaru was Moodhu Grill. It sits on the edge of the reef and offers an array of flavours to be inspired by, using chiefly regional produce from around South Asia and the Indian Ocean to create stunning flavours and unique dishes, whilst the Water Bar was the perfect place to chill out with some drinks by the pool or stargaze with some cocktails in the evening! I was still in training so it was mocktails for me but my family definitely make the most of the real drink selections!
There were several tours taking place throughout our stay. These often went out on certain days each week with everything booked in advance to ensure reduced numbers. Our top tour was definitely the whale shark excursion. It genuinely was a once in a lifetime experience and incredible to learn so much from the resident Marine Biologist! We also went on a sunset cruise which provided the most stunning views of our trip and on the way home – we spotted some friendly dolphins! Other excursion options include visiting the local island Dhangethi but unfortunately due to covid this trip wasn’t possible during our stay. Those looking for an even bigger adventure can explore life below the waves with the Dive Center, which offers PADI qualifications and courses for all levels from beginners to experienced divers. We heard the diving was spectacular around lti Maafushivaru, with several dive sites promising big fish encounters, colourfully complete with coral gardens but we stuck with the snorkelling which was just as incredible with great visibility under the clear waters. We even spotted a shark!
For those looking to seriously relax the Océane Spa at lti Maafushivaru is the perfect place to be. Alongside the gym, it had the most breath-taking views across the ocean, offering a range of treatments to relax, invigorate and indulge the mind. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to sample the spa as I was still in peak training so spent most of my time either in the gym or on the beach with my family during our short stay but if we were to return for a longer trip – this definitely would be top of my agenda!
For such a small island, Iti Maafushivaru really does pack a big punch. It has everything you require for a relaxing beach holiday and more. Even if you’re an active individual like myself – don’t be put off by how small the island is – as there are plenty of activities to keep you going throughout the day. The gym really is in a class of it’s own with the yoga pavilion provides the most ideal location for your daily workout. Located in the pristine South Ari Atoll, Iti Maafushivaru is only a 25-minute seaplane journey from Male and offers the most idyllic island, so if you are looking for an authentic Maldives experience – Iti Maafushivaru is the resort for you!
For more information, check out: www.maafushivaru.com