The sky is a mirage of pink, mauve, and orange. The ocean has a cerulean glaze that would make a potter weak in the knees. Even the coconut trees are in on the act. They shimmy faintly to the gentle breeze that tickles the tendrils of hair at my nape. For what seems like the nth time, I shake my head in disbelief. It’s ridiculously beautiful, fake even. Some gall the Maldives has, being this drop-dead gorgeous. I’m at The Nautilus Maldives, a place for impromptu adventure and unscripted fine dining, which makes this backdrop all the more special.
Just 30 minutes from the capital Malé, as our seaplane gently splashes down alongside an ocean-tethered pontoon, we hop aboard a luxury yacht, the final few minutes to the resort, post which we are greeted by white sand pathways, lofty palms and stained wood boardwalks. Think thatched pavilions with sand underfoot and long living walls of fragrant clerodendrums surrounding the back-of-house. There are 26 rooms, or “houses” in total. Particularly impressive is the aesthetic character of the houses and how these can be found either on the beachfront or in a shell (or nautilus, for sea-creature spotters)-shaped arrangement on stilts hovering over the water.
We loved our Overwater House that boasted of unblemished views of the ocean. Think high ceilings, wooden bead chandeliers, conical-shaped roofs covered in plaited coconut thatch. Our favourite part? The glass flooring in the living room allowed us to marvel at the fish buzzing among the stilts. It would truly be a disservice to call these ‘rooms’ and not houses.
Throughout my stay, I was told that I could ask for anything, from an alfresco film screening or a dinner by the beach, a vision of Dr Ibrahim Maniku, the late owner, the mind behind several acclaimed properties in the Maldives. His idea was to create an exclusive space where bespoke service and unparalleled privacy are actually a thing.
Another highlight at The Nautilus is its gastronomic excellence. I had the opportunity to try all the three restaurants. Thyme offers all-day dining and classics to suit most tastes — from a ravishing Truffle Mushroom Risotto to the freshest Avocado Toast, I had the opportunity to try some stellar selections. Meanwhile Ocaso offers Japanese, Mexican and Peruvian dishes. We would highly recommend the Alaskan black cod here.
Particularly special was a meal at Zeytoun, which means olive tree in Dhivehi, the common language of the Maldives, and a clue to its Mediterranean menu. Sitting over the lagoon, with a heady aroma of candles and just the moon for light, we enjoyed a ravioli while succumbing to the beauty of this destination. As if this was not enough, a special and exclusive movie screening by the beach marked by the most exceptional Indian food by the culinary mavens at The Nautilus awaited us. Festooned with some kind of fairy lights amidst the unmatched backdrop was a postcard moment waiting to take place.
The dive centre offers trips to dozens of bespoke adventures, ranging from dolphin cruises and deep-sea fishing to excursions to sandbanks and uninhabited islands. The Nautilus Maldives happens to be at the helm of coral conservation efforts and encourages you to do your bit during your stay.
Being spa connoisseurs, we would highly recommend the Solasta Spa where we had the opportunity of trying an amazing facial that utilizes products luxurious concoctions created by leading skincare brand, Omorvicza as well as the exquisite massage where nimble-fingered therapists knead your muscles into mush. While everything from the vibe to the food is great, the real stars of the show at the property are the staff. From our house-master Naafiu who was our knight in shining armour, making every moment special by arranging special experiences like the private movie screening to Mohammed from house-keeping who would attend to every detail and surprise us with little gestures like sweet treats or a splendid bath-tub setup with roses and candles emanating their glow from within us.
The final touch was a parting gift, a silken scarf and reams of special moments we mulled over as we were whisked off in style in the property’s swanky yacht. More than anything, The Nautilus lets you craft your own fairytale moments: you just have to ask and they make it happen, going beyond what resorts usually do, redefining hospitality and taking it to a whole different level. An intimate immersion into a theatrical and primordial dreamscape, you’ll be struck by how time, space, energy, alchemy, serendipity: everything mystical and magical is alive and palpable here.
Note: The critic was invited by the hotel but all opinions are her own.
Where: Thiladhoo, Baa atoll 20066, Maldives
Phone: +960 6 60 0000
Room rates start from $1,622 per night