All the hype about the Maldives makes sense the minute you step foot on an island in that country, actually the second the airplane descends low enough to spot groups of verdant islands and the serene blue vistas of the Indian Ocean.
Touching down at Malé’s Velana International Airport, I took a 15-minute speedboat to reach the newly launched OBLU SELECT Lobigili in North Malé Atoll. An all-inclusive adults-only haven, the 68-villa hotel opened on March 24, 2022. Ideated around the celebration of love, the manmade island’s name in the Maldivian dialect of Dhivehi translates to love (lobi) and island (gili). The Lobigili island is small, and easily traversable marking a length of 461m and a width of 76m.
All things luxury
The new hotel falls under the COLOURS OF OBLU brand, where each property separates itself by its unique experiences. This one is exclusively for adults, for honeymooners looking to spend quality time together, for those celebrating decades of togetherness to rekindle their vows and for any relationship that requires just a bit of R&R, even the one you have with yourself. The five-star resort assigns each guest with an island hostess to curate experiences, coordinate excursions and make sure a buggy arrives promptly at your request, leading to a real vacation of leisure.
Arrival at the OBLU SELECT resort was accompanied by a flute of bubbly right at the hotel’s Swing bar. Every single structure on the property faced the vast ocean, as did the bar, which is also conveniently located right by the hotel’s pool. It’s the ideal place to watch the sunset, and I witnessed one painted in hues of purple, blue, orange, and pink, all of which reflected on the shimmering pool, doubling the beauty of the setting sun. The blue of the ocean contrasted with semi-circle pink pool shades, cream two-seater rope swings and colourful hammocks where one can sink in to enjoy a chilled Wabi-Sabi, a gin concoction with lychee, or a cooling strawberry daiquiri. A post-dinner drink at the bar is recommended, as a live band performs melodic songs.
The beauty creeps into every experience of the resort, most evidently into the SunNest Water Villa, where a sumptuous king-size bed awaited me, as did a large bathroom equipped with his and hers copper basins, a rain shower, a deep-soak bathtub and a surprisingly comfortable overwater hammock. The highlight of the villa though lay in its outdoor deck. An 8m² private infinity pool, two sun loungers and steps leading down to the clear turquoise lagoon are where I spent most of my time. Another fun inclusion is the presence of transparent glass on the floor of the bedroom like a magical portal into the ocean. Through the night, this peephole sent shimmering reflections across the walls, bringing a bit of the blue waters into your bedroom.
The Ylang Ylang restaurant, where all the meals took place under the resort’s all-inclusive Lobi Plan was surrounded by counters of Indian, Asian, and Continental cuisine, alongside a cold foods section where sushi, cold cuts, gourmet cheeses and DIY salads were laid out in a fine spread. Breakfast was the highlight of all meals, a fresh fruit and fruit juice counter called my name, as did a creamy vanilla yoghurt which I topped with a variety of fixings, including cocoa puffs, sunflower seeds, strawberry compote, pecans, chocolate chips and Nutella. Live food counters serve masala omelettes, dosas, waffles, crepes and pancakes. For couples, Ylang Ylang had individual tables amidst a shallow water moat, that sat underneath the starry skies, almost cocooning visitors in a private, yet open, setting.
Two more dining destinations are set to open on the island, an underwater restaurant with 62 covers, that is being touted as the biggest one to open in the Maldives. It will offer a three-course pre-fixed menu with the option of meat, seafood or vegetarian meals, and is slated to open in mid-May. Another casual dining destination due to open in mid-April is Gaadiya 17, a food truck that will serve up grilled certified, farm-raised game meat, such as venison, wild boar, black chicken, duck, ostrich, rabbit, quail, and partridge. In addition to this, Mexican dishes will add to the open-air charm of the space. The island, however, being new, has hardly any green cover, so when outdoors, be sure to carry a large, floppy hat and sunglasses for protection against the sun.
Love, love, love
OBLU SELECT Lobigili, which focuses on the concept of love will introduce special experiences for two. Private movie nights under a starlit sky, surrounded by candles, and accompanied by canapes, sheesha and a bottle of champagne. An aromatherapy island hostess will provide personalised fragrance consultations, wherein a couple can determine their scent palette, and choose a fragrance that suits their personality that is then diffused in the villa throughout their stay. A private bonfire, body artists, who can temporarily or permanently ink guests with a symbol of love, are some offerings in store for couples. Another feature set to unveil soon is a perfectly heart-shaped mini-island close to Lobigili, where the renewal of vows and special occasions can be commemorated.
Couples can also spend time together at the relaxing open-air Elena spa, where each of the four rooms are equipped with two beds that sit atop a dais. Each room has a water feature, open-air bathroom, tub and soothing rhythmic music. I opted for a back massage followed by a facial, and my fabulous massage therapist used a traditional Maldivian form of therapy named Kashi Nashi to relieve all my stress. This method involved using heated natural Maldivian coconut shells to massage every pressure point. The facial used homegrown Maldivian products from a brand named Sugar Candy, that left my skin glowing and glistening through the rest of the trip.
On day three, we headed to the dive centre where, armed with flippers, snorkel gear and a life jacket we dove into the pristine water to spot nearby marine life. While the reef near the resort does not have much in the way of turtles, manta rays you can find schools of small fish swimming away. These can even be spotted from your room itself. I count myself as one of the lucky ones who spotted an eagle ray (easily confused for the more popular manta ray) while sipping on chai on the deck of my villa.
Excursions like the sunset cruise, are part of the all-inclusive Lobi plan, however, I would recommend enjoying the sunset in the bar or a west-facing villa. An overwater gymnasium is also available on the property which although has a range of exercise equipment, has an even better view.
Close to Lobigili, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, the parent company of OBLU SELECT is launching yet another 240-key property, on the neighbouring Ailafushi island, this one for families. Set to open in mid-May, the two hotels will be connected by a 270m jetty.
Sarah Walker-Kerr, Vice President of Communications, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts said “We are also looking at supporting local female co-ops in our resorts.” Many local women create homemade products and practice local crafts, and Atmosphere plans to sell these products through their outlets while giving back to the Maldivian women. “This encourages interaction between guests and the culture of the Maldives, local sourcing, and reduction of carbon footprints,” says Walker-Kerr. OBLU SELECT Lobigili is also set to be run almost completely by women, about 80-90% of the staff will be female, an initiative that the resort will accomplish soon.
Cost: Villas start at US$720 per night
The author was invited to experience the property by OBLU SELECT Lobigili