TRIED & TESTED Varu by Atmosphere

Varu by Atmosphere opened last October as the fifth property in Atmosphere’s portfolio, comprising 108 beach and overwater villas. Though small, the island packs a punch when it comes to cuisine, with five restaurants. Lime & Chili serves up a buffet and has live cooking stations three times a day, and guests who stay longer than four nights can dine à la carte once in each of the speciality venues, as part of their all-inclusive plan. The overwater Elena spa

is a real highlight, and the epitome of relaxation. The glass panel on the floor of the treatment room was a small touch but made me feel even more relaxed during my aromatherapy massage, as I gazed into the sea below, to spot fish swimming by.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Water villa at Atmosphere Kanifushi; swimming with manta rays; sea turtle at the rescue centre on Naifaru;

island seaplane PICTURES: Natalie Marsh; Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives

10-minute walk away. But guests can also hitch a lift on a golf buggy, a welcome respite from the midday sun. The island is unimaginably tranquil. Sitting on the edge of the decking at the back of my overwater villa, feet hovering just a metre above the water, I could hear nothing but the waves lapping against the rungs of the ladder that led to the sea. Flashes of colour caught my eye as schools of fish swam past, their scales shimmering in the sun. We might have been on a remote island with what felt like nothing but the sun, sea and marine life for company, but there’s a rich culture here in the Maldives. The hotel opened Kaagé at the end of last year, a restaurant that serves up traditional Maldivian cuisine with a modern twist, with many of its dishes showcasing the best of the country’s two most common ingredients: coconut and fish. Before arriving, I wondered whether being on a small island might feel confining, yet it was the opposite. Being able to jump into the sea and snorkel at leisure was extremely freeing, plus the adventures don’t start and end on the island. There are plenty of opportunities to leave the resort behind on sightseeing cruises, fishing trips and snorkelling excursions to nearby reefs. Sunset cruises were a particular highlight. As we bobbed along on the waves, our island on the horizon, the sky began to project hues of orange and pink, before the scarlet sun quickly descended out of sight.

34 19 MARCH 2020 travel advice

Some cases of coronavirus have been found in the Maldives, but a temporary quarantine imposed on four islands last week has been

lifted. Excursions to other islands are limited and cruise ships are

prohibited from docking. Check the FCO website for the latest news.

33As we bobbed along on the waves, the sky began to project hues of orange and pink, before the scarlet sun descended

TROPICAL PARADISE After a morning spent snorkelling with manta rays and sailing with dolphins by our side, the speedboat driver put the pedal to the metal and we were off again, bouncing over the waves back to Kanifushi Atmosphere Maldives. There were only seven of us in the small speedboat and I was up front, taking the full brunt of the spray hitting my face – but I loved every minute. It was hard to contain my excitement as we tore

across the waves. I was holding on tight, one hand on the side of the boat and the other clasping the seat underneath me, the resort drawing closer and closer. Our initial arrival at this island had been very

different. The hotel is a 40-minute seaplane journey from Malé airport. I was a little apprehensive as I clambered on board, the plane swaying as it rested on top of the waves. Once we were on board, our co-pilot poked his head through the small opening separating us from the cockpit, telling us where the plane would be stopping, while the pilot started the engines. I noticed he was


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