An alluring new resort in the Maldivian archipelago officially launched this weekend – Velaa Private Island. The island resort’s been built as an ode of love by Czech businessman Jiri Smejc for his wife Radka, who fell in love with the Maldives on the couples’ numerous trips to the land of the blue. The premise of creating a beautiful structure for a loved one is almost akin to that of Mughal emperor, Shahjahan’s, who built the magnificent Taj Mahal in India in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Velaa too, is reminiscent of a vintage romance in the modern world. The Smejcs desire to create a magical space for themselves and share it with the world, gave life and form to a barren island on Noonu Atoll with no vegetation and absolutely none of the wondrous elements of splendor and luxury that stand on it today. Designed by Czech architect Petr Kolar and landscaped by Alla Kohoutkova over an arduous period of two years, with an investment well over 230 million Euros, Velaa is now ready to enchant the world with its beauty and hospitality. Kohoutkova used approximately 500,000 plants from 200 local species, including 1600 coconut palms that green the island and allow for the privacy of its residents.
Velaa in Dhivehi, the language of the Republic of Maldives, means turtle, and the property was named thus, given the atoll is home to a large population of turtles in the waters surrounding the island. The design elements work around the turtle theme, from the mesmerizing black and white art on the walls to the glass windows and doors and the resort’s logo. The eyes of the turtles on the wall art, follow you around the room, in a friendly, welcoming manner.
The minute you disembark from the steps of the aircraft at Male airport and are whisked away in a sedan from the runway to the seaplane that takes you to the idyllic and exquisite island, you are a VIP – Velaa’s Important Person.
Landing onto the island, the jetty belies all the bespoke enchantments that await you as you soak in the island’s alchemy with the beach and the “oh-so-blue” ocean. Every moment from then on is whatever you want your experience to be – relaxed, romantic, familial, nothingness, sublime – it’s yours.
With Velaa aiming to provide unprecedented luxury to its guests, the rooms befit royalty, to say the least. The comfort of the bed is unquestionable, as you’ll know the morning after. The electrical switches are not complicated and frustrating as in the norm in luxe resorts, and are as easy as All On / All Off, as are the entertainment systems. The mini bar has some of the best chocolates from Ghana and a favourite, the Organic Australian Beetroot Chips, with no Nasties added! The tea and coffee menu entices you to try out new flavors each morning. Whatever your mood, there’s a shower plan to match it!
The view from every kind of accommodation on the island, be it the Deluxe Beach Pool Villa, Ocean Pool House Villa, Private Residences or the dreamy Romantic Pool Residence, is its own, but never the same, with every sunrise and sunset more magical than the last. It’s a pleasure to wake up and watch the first rays of the sun hit the ocean and then, your eyes.
Velaa has three restaurants – all day dining at Athiri (Beach) with a wood-fired pizza oven, Teppanyaki at Tavaru (Tower) and the fine dine Aragu (Essence) and two bars – CRU Champagne lounge and the Avi Bar and an impressive wine cellar with a thirty-page wine list! A 1956 Domaine de la Romanée Conti “Romanée Conti”, rare vintage Salon Champagne or a 200-year-old fortified wine 1870 Blandy “Verdelho Solera” are just a request away. Every meal is an indulgence especially when you are spoilt for choice!
Michelin-star chef Adeline Grattard from Paris looks into the culinary diversity at Velaa along with Executive Chef Bruno Contreras, who specializes in Mediterranean and European cuisine and Executive Sous Chef Gaushan de Silva from Sri Lanka who creates exceptional tasting menus with innovative presentation, marrying the finest produce with molecular gastronomy.
Velaa has a unique recreational facility, so far the only one in the Maldives, in a resort – Velaa Golf Academy by Olazabal. Swinging has never been as much fun as on the 170m of green in a swing studio carefully crafted by Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal. If your swing impresses the island’s golf pros, Peter Anthony Holland and Martin Dewhurst, you might get your swing analyzed on a split screen video with Rory McElroy and even get a custom made Velaa golf ball set present from them! Apart from golf, there’s Yoga, Squash, Tennis, an extensive array of Water Sports, Jet Skis, Semi Submarine, Snorkeling, Diving, Fishing, cruises on the Prestige Yacht or the traditional Bahtheli boats to keep you fit and active on your holiday. Staring into the blue, with a Coconut Vodka cocktail works just as well!
And after all that sun and water, a spa treatment is just what the body needs – My Blend by Clarins Spa has partnered with Velaa, and features exclusive My Blend facial products and body treatments by Clarins, created by Dr. Olivier Courtin, for a relaxing experience.
“You are unique. And so in your skin, just like your fingerprints. The story of your life, whether biological or emotional, can be read on your skin,” reads the opening page of the spa menu. You can choose from a range of therapies of Indian origin to Asian to Tibetan. Not only does the spa offer bespoke massage treatments, it’s a full service salon with Manicures, Pedicures, Blow Dries, Hair Cuts and Styling, Epilation – the works. Velaa scores big with the ladies on this! And it’s not just about the adults; the spa has a Junior Menu too for the little ladies and little men on the resort! That is, if they haven’t tired themselves with all the fun and games at the Kid’s Play Zone whilst their parents enjoyed romantic lunches and walks on the beach. The Clarins team of therapists, as you’d expect from a brand that renowned, are exceptional. Your skin is in paradise as are you with pure harmony resonating within your mind, body and soul! And the treatment beds have a wonderful window into the lagoon below that gently lull you into an even more relaxed state.
The spa also has a special room for its Cloud 9 experience – created by Viennese artist and Perception Researcher, Sha, Cloud 9 is a comprehensive and holistic relaxing experience that has a multi sensory blend of color therapy, mental acoustic therapy, lighting-video-spatial concept and a reclining swinging pod which sways and cradles you into deep relaxation. A twenty-minute session does leave you lighter from the thoughts racing through your mind. A definite to-do on the island!
Cloud 9 | Photo: Rubina A Khan
Velaa has 45 varied accommodations that range from $1,500 a night for a Beach Pool Villa to $1,900 for a Deluxe Beach Pool Villas to $6000 for a 2 Bedroom Ocean Pool House in the Turtle Season (1 June-31 July, 1Sep-30 Sep) to $14,000 per night for the Romantic Pool Residence and $30,000 per night for the Velaa Private Residence in the Celebration Season (24 Dec-12 Jan).
Velaa’s rooms are spotlessly clean, just like its white sand beaches. Everything is perfect. Yes, perfect. The staff share an easy camaraderie with each other, that is key to the island maintaining an amiable and harmonious environment overall. The butlers assigned to the villas are the wizards of your dreams – they actualize them, like Aamir. The staff is knowledgeable, pleasing and just wonderful to be around, as they all seem to love their jobs. The pools attached to the villas are not plunge pools, but full size. And when you book a Romantic Pool Residence or a Velaa Private Residence, they come with their own private Gyms, Spa Rooms and round-the-clock Chef services. All elements on the island strive to perfect the guests’ day in every way, everyday! Bespoke, most definitely!
From the time you are its guest, Velaa is the Kingdom of Enchantment and you, its imperial sovereign, albeit a paying one!
©Rubina A Khan 2014