Encounters of the Maldivian kind
In one of the most isolated corners of the Maldives, adventure and art combine, both above and below the waterline.
As the salt grates the air and the wind rakes my hair, I stretch up to spot any hint of land. Our speedboat shaves the tops off the crests as the Indian Ocean switches on its chop. Speed takes on a new meaning. The swell of the deep blue gradually lightens to the limpid shallows of a luminous lagoon, lulling our boat back to balance. We’re bound for the brand new Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, 230 km north of Malé. And from this slither of sand at Shaviyani Atoll, secrets are about to be spilled.
Secret Water Island, as it is known locally, appears firstly by way of a rather incongruous crane, clanking from a barge. However, beneath the anomalous structure is where the vision of world-renowned artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, is coming to life.
As we moor, I itch to discover what the crane is lowering. But I cultivate patience and clock into island time as I shake hands with Elena, the private butler who’s been assigned to me. Mounted onto a golf buggy, Elena steers us between the mangroves where beach villas hide and reside. When the forest draws back its foliated curtains, we wheel over a narrow bridge to where overwater villas wade.
Behind the door,
Glass doors swing open to a spacious outdoor deck sporting a private plunge pool and a relaxation sala with daybed. If that wasn’t enticing enough, timber steps lead directly into more than 600 ha of
I bed down with impatience and await the stars. But long before the call of my alarm, I become strobe-lit by lightning, heralding a deafening thunderstorm that sends bullets of rain, only to be silenced by my thatched roof. I desire to be nowhere else.
Early-morning squalls clear, ejecting me from my slumber. After fuelling up on freshly blended papaya, lime and honey smoothies and
From the jetty, fingers point, eyes asquint, at two tiny black smudges in the sand with flippers a-flap. A couple of green sea turtle hatchlings scurry down the sand. Clearly, it’s been a long night to be the stragglers of the clutch, scaling their cm-high mountains. Making it to the waterline, they hitch-hike on the outgoing current and then sink like mini submarines. Already, my day is made.
Bottlenose dolphins race us out to the reef. Here, we topple overboard with
The thrill of the sighting is worth the gag-inducing gulp of saltwater as my upended snorkel syphons the sea while I try to backpedal (picture that in fins), to give the paddling newborn space to map out its brand new world. It’s a precious moment.
After barking the saline from my lungs, I look down in search of the finned and scaled.
Back on dry
Dinnertimes are opulent affairs here. Contemporary Japanese flavours with a Maldivian twist are found at sunset-soaked Kata, the resort’s signature restaurant. And those with a penchant for shellfish and sushi head to
On a new morning, imaginative minds congregate at the airy Arts & Crafts Studio. Here is where creative fingers fashion pots and bowls, paint coconut shells and recycle jewellery from beached coral fragments. But most captivating are the mould casts of humans behind us – the main reason why I have come to this resort in the first place.
Being a long-time fan of figurative sculpture, I’m lucky enough to witness the world’s first semi-submerged museum being installed in the waters off Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi. And I get to chat to the brainchild of the installation, Jason deCaires Taylor, who is also on location this week.
“One of the reasons why I create underwater galleries is to promote and celebrate conservation,” he says. On planting these underwater sculpture gardens on
From the beach, an underwater coral pathway will lead to submerged poplar trees, where a staircase will climb up to an intertidal Coralarium. Encased within this six-metre-high marine-grade stainless steel cube will be hybrid sculptures of coral-dressed humans, which snorkellers will reach directly from the beach.
The walls of the cube will feature stencil-like cutouts of corals to enable tidal movement and fish migration. The gaps will allow the ocean’s critters to become squatters, moving into their
Says Jason, “On the roof will stand silhouetted figures of
In time, ocean-dwelling decorators will crochet onto the sculptures layers of algae and coral –graffitiing onto them their own artistic expression.
As the crane lowers in the first sculpture, it’s a moment for the history books – future chapters to be written courtesy of ocean currents.
Hours… could be days… then pass in a blur of eudemonia. One moment I’m swimming the lengthy lap pool that dissects the resort in two, and the next, I’m on a timber overwater pavilion stretching my muscles and mental horizons with yogalates instructor, Azu. A Japanese cooking class tantalises my taste buds one morning, and by late afternoon, I’m holding a Champagne flute on a cruise tracking acrobatic spinnaker dolphins. And after partaking in a mixologist-led cocktail-making class, I detox at Willow Stream Spa under the therapeutic spell of a Neroli Blossom Signature Massage journey. Here, I almost forget my own name – escapism at its Maldivian best.
Photography by Marie Barbieri, Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi and Cat Vinton.
Scoot flies to Malé from the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth (via Singapore), with a range of seat classes and meal options: flyscoot.com
Sirru Fen Fushi can be reached direct from Malé via seaplane transfer with Trans Maldivian Airways: transmaldivian.com
Alternatively, fly from Malé to Hanimaadhoo Island and take the speedboat transfer to the resort.
WHERE TO STAY
Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi offers three types of blissful sleep: the quintessentially Maldivian overwater villa; a mangrove-forested beachside villa; or a safari-like jungle adventure tent villa (this is no average camping – it’s luxurious!). All cater beautifully for couples and families. Features
Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi: fairmont-maldives.com