Thank goodness the Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat, a new four-star resort in the Maldives, decided not to compete with Mother Nature for show-stopping fabulosity.
Instead, Drift (a good name for a holiday destination of this kind) let the natural world’s sights, sounds and colours take centre stage, while the resort, on the southern Ari Atoll, blends into the background.
Not that Drift isn’t luxurious. There are 20 wooden villas with thatched roofs on stilts over the ocean (half of them face sunrise, half sunset) and ten villas, all of them huge.
Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat is a new four-star resort in the Maldives with 20 wooden villas over the ocean and ten villas on land
Mine is so well disguised among the glossy leaved banana trees and palms that even though the island is tiny (you can walk around it in the time it takes to listen to one song on your iPod) I still take the wrong sandy path – and there are only two – on my way back after breakfast. Twice. That’s some seclusion, some drift.
The hotel hasn’t imposed international standards of luxury onto the island, such as marble bathrooms, personal butlers hovering outside your door to ferry you 12 yards on a golf buggy to your fresh sushi lunch, or Albert Hall-quality sound and light systems in every room.
It has, however, opted for its own time zone. When I arrive, the manager, Thau, walks the wooden gangway with me and says we are now one hour ahead of Male, the capital.
‘It’s so our guests can enjoy an extra hour of sunshine,’ he says.
Fine with me. There are few distractions – no televisions in the rooms, no movie screens pulled down in the bar at night, no gym and no swimming pool.
Villas at the luxury resort are decked out with natural materials, subtle colours, and driftwood-inspired touches
They’re not missed, though it’s probably not the place if you need to be entertained.
The vibe is informal. I’m permanently barefoot and I don’t see other guests often enough to recognise their faces.
Only once do I hear a shriek, when a young woman catches a starfish, which she is quickly advised to put back.
There’s a spa, where I just wish they would open the doors so you can hear the real life soothing sounds of the sea rather than piped music.
There are few distractions – no televisions in the rooms, no movie screens pulled down in the bar at night, no gym and no swimming pool
Divers will enjoy the daily boat trips, but there’s so much to see by staying local and snorkelling the reef from the beach.
As I’m fiddling with my mask, the man organising the rentals tells me to swim out to the darker blue sea. I mention that deep water scares me.
So he escorts me and even holds my hand while pointing out the fish. Bless.
We see riotous colour combinations of surgeonfish, clownfish and parrotfish, as well as iridescent grey fish with a yellow stripe, and others with what looks like an orange topographical map detailed on both sides, pearlised greens, blues and pinks, and black and white stripes; it looks like the maddest, most flamboyant underwater carnival.
Mother Nature and Drift work so well together, enhancing each other like all the best partnerships. I just wonder, if they can arrange their time zone to give us an extra hour, why can’t they give us an extra day. Or two?
Rooms at Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat are from £213 per night half-board.
Angelfish Travel (angelfish.travel, 01580 712690) offers seven nights’ full-board, from £1,825 pp, based on two sharing a Beach Villa and including Sri Lankan Airlines flights (Heathrow to Male, via Colombo) and seaplane transfer.