Can the Maldives heal me?I’ll find out

Can the Maldives heal me?I’ll find out

Monday, February 20, 2023 at 1:36 pm

“This is the first dedicated wellness resort in the Maldives,” they said. “Nonsense,” I said. Every Maldives island and their dog has a “good thing” on their website. After petting a dolphin, what else is there to do but the therapist promises to repair, rearrange, reconnect, restore and rejuvenate? “I can’t take it,” I thought. “But I’d better go and see.”

Airplanes, seaplanes, golf carts and me are most people’s definitions of paradise. Calm sand, softer than sifted flour, whiter than a baby’s conscience. A thousand shades of clear blue. Kaleidoscopes of coral shelter schools of fish brighter than Jon Snow’s tie. A dewy, emerald green heart.

Bodufushi Island in Raa Atoll, Maldives is part of a love letter to nature that is slowly disappearing. A vertigo that speaks of rehabilitating stillness and letting go of everyday chores. Hidden amidst the island’s blossoming flora is humanity’s best attempt at emulation: a series of luxurious wellness sanctuaries that offer guests a ‘weightless’, mind-body experience.

Bodufushi Island in Raa Atoll, Maldives

Joali Being has 68 villas, four restaurants and Areka, a 39-room spa built according to ‘biophilic’ principles that prioritize connection with Maldivian nature. A palm-leaf rug and miles of white wood rattan help set the concept, and muted shades of teal and pink create a fresh vibe. Victims meet sci-fi health cathedral. Epic stuff.

Just before my arrival, I spent 24 hours on another, older Maldivian island, Joali, in one of its delightfully luxurious (and sprawling) beach villas. The style is members’ club dark. The exterior is dominated by expanses of expensive wood and Norwegian green marble. But the old world luxury and the gout cure it brings is at odds with my current mission; so it’s just a bottle of blanc blanc before heading to the health village.

I feel like a newcomer. I feel like a new woman. I really dribbled.A perfect pearl of saliva fell out of my mouth

A week ago, I was asked to complete a very detailed questionnaire. My rather disturbing answer – about 94% of the diet is bread – set off a chain reaction across the island. This, combined with a “nutritional counseling assessment” using Star Trek-esque diagnostic equipment when I arrive, will inform everything: food, treatment, activities.

I find some long-term advice a bit basic: “Eat less red meat”. Although it was fun to learn that I should steer clear of garlic: “But I’m half French!” And oats. I can have eggs of any kind, though, and there’s nothing in it about overdoing bread. Praise it.

With the help of Professor Gerry Bodeker from the University of Oxford, Joali Being’s philosophy of wellness is built on four pillars: mind, skin, microbiome and energy. Since my mental health red line is close to “WTAF”, the obvious inclination is “Mind”. (For more proactive opinions on how travel affects mental health, check out my Instagram.) The “microbiome” (read, belly) will be its supporting act because of their secret connection. This brings me to Joali Being’s food offerings. Four restaurants – all housed under the same massive, wavy roof – have menus so organized that you’ll be a breeze to stand on a column.

One might imagine, as I do, that these foods are unpleasantly wholesome. Lentils for a few days. Luckily, Joali Being’s knowledgeable executive chef, Kuntal Kumar, has developed a menu that combines an Ayurvedic background with his own Earth-to-Table initiative, which promises traceability and (some) locally grown ingredients . Let’s not kid ourselves that luxury tapas on an Indian Ocean island is sustainable, but it’s at the level I’d expect from a starred restaurant. Artful mosaic of salmon and tuna (mind and microbiome); exquisite Dover sole consommé (skin and microbiome); bijou wagyu beef with truffle jus (energy and skin): very elegant and, goodness, good for you!

An affable Spanish man took me in his arms and rocked my fetal body in the warm pool like a Disney prince

In a light-hearted cooking class on the second day, Kumar spoke eloquently about the sanctity of food and its healing power: “Overall well-being is 85 percent food, 15 percent lifestyle and 1 percent God,” he says. I agree, 101%. So is my gut feeling. Accompanying me on this wonderful journey was Vladimir, my Jadugar (butler). He knows where and when I should be and always takes me there. Like a hard-working soccer mom, he reminds me not to forget things — and then drives back to get those things once I do. He even agreed to privately photograph the sunrise. ‘Gram needs feeding too, amirite?

One of the hotel water treatment spaces

On the way back to my private pool water villa – “No no Vlad you go honey I’ll be fine” – I stumbled upon the resort’s Sound Path tour. What at first reminded me of a grade school garden actually kept me hooked for an hour. Gongs and pipe bells that require zero talent make lovely soothing sounds. I like musical instruments.

We should probably talk about treatments. I have so many. However, the four pillar signature massage is the best I have ever experienced. No, to be honest, I mean it. Yes, I know I always say “this is it”. But I mean it. It’s amazing. I feel like a newcomer. I feel like a new woman. I really dribbled. A perfect pearl of saliva fell from my mouth. His divine hand carried me somewhere. In my head, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto played as I walked through the jungle naked, with monkeys, to a better place. With each knead, the stress of being a luxury lifestyle reporter melts away through my skin like a passata through muslin.

Maldives at night

Halfway through, I was convinced he was making me a better person. It’s as if his petrification is so esoteric that even deep moral corruption can be erased with a knuckle. I looked down at the flower in the bowl and it started to spin – a Buddhist Dala coming in and out. Enlightenment, so close. Then there’s the hammam. And the sound therapy sessions, where I lie on a beautiful wooden table and it hums a tune of mercy every time I pluck the strings beneath me.

And it goes on… I experienced a therapeutic freeze in the first and only cryotherapy chamber in the Maldives, followed by a “private exercise session” at the gym’s high-tech D-wall (balance score 8 out of 100 point). Between several other memorable massages, there was watsu (water; shiatsu), a weightless hydrotherapy treatment in which a kind Spanish man held me in his arms, making my fetal body resemble Disney Shaking like a prince in the warm pool. The lights on the domed roof shone like stars in my eyes. i love it. Almost like playing football with the staff on the island’s futsal court.

Private Seaplane Landing at Maldives Resort

For the first time in a long time, I felt comfortable traveling without my partner. We all know that traveling solo to the Maldives is usually the preserve of those who have been jilted but don’t want their wonderful honeymoon to go to waste. Joali Being seems to have created a concept to meet the needs of the solo traveler looking to fix it.

“This is the first dedicated wellness resort in the Maldives,” they said. Yes, yes – you have made your point.

Can the Maldives heal me?I'll find out 10

Visit the Maldives for yourself

Villas start from £2,810 per night, with two sharing a B&B in high season, December to April. Low season prices from May to November start from £1,764. The immersion program is based on the five-night Discovery Program and starts at $1,400.

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