OHLALA was invited to visit one of the newest properties in the Maldives, Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort. A unique nature-blessed destination that Fernanda Langhammer had the pleasure to experience – it was much more than a regular stay. Check it out!
One of the meanings of paradise, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is an ideal or idyllic place or state. I would say that another short description would represent this word well: the Maldives – more specifically, Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort. I had the opportunity to experience the resort’s hospitality, incredible facilities, exciting activities, delectable dining and relaxing environment. A picturesque destination with energetic staff, always ready to go the extra mile to make you feel comfortable and pamper you in all possible ways.
To get to this piece of heaven on earth, you have to hop in a seaplane. I have to say, I was not excited about this part of the trip, but sometimes you have to go through not-so-nice things to reach wonderful outcomes. As soon as we landed at Velana International Airport in Male (Maldives capital), a team was waiting to help check our luggage into the seaplane and take us to the Minor Lounge (the Avani brand is part of Minor Hotels, a Thai multinational company based in Bangkok). The lounge was very comfortable with bites, warm coffee and tea. I needed buckets of coffee after my overnight flight, and it just hit the spot. In no time, our seaplane was ready for us!
It looked a lot less scary when we got closer. What caught my attention was the pilots wearing flip-flops, shorts and caps – suitable to the hot and humid weather and, as I noticed later, to all the hopping out and back into the plane. They are known as ‘barefoot pilots’ as the flip-flops are abandoned as soon as they start operating the flying machine. The flight was incredibly smooth (but extremely noisy), and the views were to die for! In 35 minutes, we were landing close to the shores of Avani+ Fares. A boat awaited us and, as we approached the resort, we could see some of the staff making a heart shape with their hands close to their chests while traditional drums sounded. Such a lovely reception! Riaan, the General Manager, and his team were there to introduce themselves while we sipped a cooling drink.
We hopped on one of the island’s buggies and headed straight to our rooms. The check-in was done smoothly from the comfort of my private Beach Pool Villa. Kritika showed me everything I needed to know and explained how to use the room’s facilities. I was in a state of awe with all the attention to detail. The villa was spacious, with a big super-king bed that would hug me that night and had my name written in palm leaves on the cover – such a lovely touch. The most exciting part about the resort is that you won’t find a single piece of plastic! Sustainability is taken seriously at Avani+ Fares. The bottled waters are refillable, and the toiletries are from Malin + Goetz, a company with a philosophy of fewer ingredients but better quality. Ceramic containers are filled with their luxurious body wash, peppermint shampoo, cilantro hair conditioner and vitamin B5 body moisturiser. Everything smelled incredibly good! The outside shower (a must-have in every property in the Maldives) was my favourite feature.
We were in a group of five girls, all invited to explore this brand-new hotel. My colleague and I were the first to arrive and we unwound in our rooms. We then headed to The Skipjack Bar, a restaurant located by the communal infinity pool with unobstructed views of the vast Indian Ocean. The dining spot gives the perfect beach vibes with modern and comfortable furniture in earthy tones and accents of vivid green, navy blue and yellow. Just as the pilots have casual attire, the resort staff wear comfortable uniforms in breathable materials. The print on the T-shirts is a beautiful drawing of the Baa Atoll, where the five-star property is located, more precisely on Fares island, set on the western edge of the atoll. Skipjack’s menu is vast, with lots of options for a quick bite or full meal. As a vegetarian, it can be tricky to find alternatives, but not at Avani+ Fares, they cater to all dietary restrictions and there is plenty to choose if you are a veggie enthusiast like me. Shannon, responsible for the food and beverage, ensures all restaurants’ menus have something interesting and as sustainable as possible. I opted for the Veggi Burger, a vegetable and mushroom patty in sourdough bread, and sweet potato fries – a light but filling meal.
It was time for a full-body massage from AvaniSpa. The relaxing vibe can be felt throughout the whole property, from the smiley staff to the laidback dress code. But meeting Heni, my therapist, choosing my favourite oil and changing into a super fluffy robe was the final hint I needed to fully embrace the dreamy holiday mode. The treatment started with a rice foot scrub. I then moved to the massage table, where Heni began the 60-minute therapy. She used a palm and thumb pressure technique with long-stroke movements. I finished my pampering session by drinking jasmine tea and watching the adorable fruit bats flying from tree to tree looking for Maldivian almonds.
We all met for dinner to try some items on the Tribe menu. The restaurant has a unique concept that invites you to find your tribe by offering different culinary experiences from around the world. An encounter of tribes from Northern Thailand, the plains of Colorado, the Amazon River, the Basque country, the Japanese highlands and the Middle Eastern desert. From the generous spread we had, I would highlight the Satay Gai, marinated cornfed chicken, chargrilled and finished with a spicy and coconut dip. My dining companions loved the smokiness of the chicken paired with the earthy peanut sauce. The other delightful bites were the Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Crisp Baby Squid with wasabi mayo, for which the comment was how fresh it tasted, creamy hummus and beef sliders. But the star dish for me was the simplest one, Charcoal Grilled Leeks with chimichurri and smoked almonds – they were delicate with a delicious smoked flavour. One of the main characteristics of this eatery is the molecular drinks served in eye-catching tiki glasses.
The other dining options on the island are Ocean Terrace, the main restaurant where breakfast is served; Hammock, located in the lobby lounge with comfort food and a grab-and-go corner; Smuggler’s Shack, a beach bar with seasonal pop-up dining; Charcoal, a signature restaurant with a large charcoal grill; and Petit Bistro, the first kids-only restaurant in the Maldives, located at AvaniKids. The resort also offers the option of in-villa dining and Adrift, a romantic setup and menu served by the beach or other locations on the island.
I woke up energised and headed to the gym for my daily run. I loved that it was fully equipped with Technogym equipment – no excuses to skip my routine even when in holiday mode. After a shower, I had breakfast at Ocean Terrace, where we were served an à la carte menu with all sorts of egg preparations, pastries, healthy granola and chia pudding.
Aquafanatics @Fares is the hotel’s destination for water sports. We went there for a snorkelling expedition. After collecting the equipment and listening carefully to the super energetic diving instructor, Jean, we boarded the boat and started our journey to look for manta rays. We were not lucky, but we stopped by a massive reef and saw many turtles and fish, such as fusiliers, blue surgeonfish, bluestriped snapper and many others. It was like entering an enormous aquarium – such a great experience!
Back on land, we had lunch at Skipjack and shared our impressions of our incredible time in the sea. I spent the afternoon enjoying my private pool and the beach, which was just a few steps away from my garden. I felt like the luckiest girl on earth!
At the end of the day, we embarked on the boat again for an incredible sunset trip where we saw dolphins. As we observed the last light of the day kiss the horizon goodnight, we spotted a massive raincloud following us back to the shore. It poured heavily over us in minutes, but we were under Skipjack’s roof, and it didn’t last very long. Coming from the Middle East, we loved it!
That night we were invited to dine with Riaan and ask him as many questions as we wanted – and we had many! After discussing a few topics, it was clear that all the good energy that enveloped the property came from the man himself. He is a force, on top of every detail – a passionate leader that fits perfectly in this environment. We had a delightful evening experiencing some dishes from the Charcoal menu and some off-menu items such as the pumpkin and drumstick curry (which I used to commit a delicious culinary crime and poured on top of my risotto) and the Maldivian curry made with local tuna. Flavours that played with our taste buds and that we embraced with ultimate pleasure. There was entertainment from a DJ, and the party vibe took us to the dance floor.
The next day we had the opportunity to spend some time in the Avani Overwater Villas. We took our snorkelling equipment and beach clothes and enjoyed the jump from the villa platform into the ocean, where we could continue to be amazed by the incredible sea life. The infinity pool with open views of the turquoise waters was a lavish touch to this luxurious accommodation.
We were gifted with in-villa dining with a selection of delicious curries, red snapper ceviche and salad. I had previously mentioned that I love Sri Lankan beetroot curry, which they don’t have on any of the menus, but guess what we had at our feast? Yes, Sri Lankan beetroot curry! This is an elevated level of customisation to please guests – conquering them by their stomachs!
We also enjoyed a sound healing wellness session at sunset by the beach conducted by Shalin. The whole purpose of this therapy is to promote mindfulness, focus on breathing correctly and massage the brain with the vibration of the bowls. It was my first time experiencing this kind of treatment, a way of connecting with myself and the nature that was surrounding us, a magical moment.
We ended our trip with a romantic dinner Adrift by the beach. If the sound therapy was magical, this dinner went beyond that. A beautifully decorated table was placed in the middle of a sand circle with low lights ringing the dining spot. A guitarist was playing soft music just for us. The set menu had a refreshing Char Grilled Watermelon appetiser with three main options: Beef Chalmar Tenderloin, Maldivian Tuna Fillet or the veggie Open Lasagna. I opted for the latter, and the dough was cooked to perfection with a creamy white sauce and vegetables with a touch of black truffle, a delicate and light dinner to end this fantastic experience on a high note. The dessert was a deconstructed lemon meringue with lemon curd, a small meringue bowl where a yuzu sorbet sat gracefully, decorated with candied orange, grapefruit and kumquat jam.
We were treated to two extra shows that night. The drinks expert, Sergei, prepared a special and refreshing cocktail at our table while the lovely Nisha, Director of Sales, sang two songs of her own composition in her mother tongue, Maldivian.
If you are looking for a luxurious yet down-to-earth vacation, Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort is all that and more – an ideal place to go with your best girlies or the family and not just a destination for honeymooners. We left with the whole team at the platform, making hearts with their hands (the same way they welcomed us), but this time the hearts were symbolically sent to us while our boat cruised away – and that’s a mental picture I will carry with me forever!