RETURN TO PARADISE

When it comes to overseas travel, I generally have one rule of thumb that tends to stick like mud. No return visits to familiar haunts! Life is short and the world is big. Visiting somewhere we have already been feels as though we are simply robbing ourselves of life changing experiences. With a limited amount of time to travel and much of the world still on the to-do list, I tend to feel that there has to be a compelling reason for somewhere to justify a return visit.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule and it is perhaps odd that the places I have visited the most, are the ones to which I am most likely to make a return visit. Think L.A, Paris, London, New York and most recently added to this list – the Maldives.

You see I have this rare and very strange condition (according to my husband). As odd as it may sound, I can become very emotional upon hotel check out (Yes hotels really do make me happy!). I put it down to post trip depression. I mean lets face it, returning home is hard and few people address the fact that coming home is the anti-climactic end to these life changing experiences.

Nevertheless, when I think that I will most likely never again see these kind caring people who have made my life so blissfully happy for the past week or so, it feels like a sad break up! So, I usually exchange warm handshakes or great big bear hugs and then the tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down my face. My chin trembles as it would with an emotional small child. In fact it’s actually very embarrassing! And to make me feel better, the staff usually deliver in a sweet soft tone, “Don’t worry dear, you’ll just have to come back again soon”. I nod politely, but deep down I know that the reality is I probably won’t. New places and new adventures are waiting!

When I left Lux South Ari Atoll in the Maldives in January 2016, I knew that perhaps this was going to be a case of “sometimes rules are just meant to be broken”. The island and its people had made such a huge impact that I had no doubt in my mind I would have to come back. And pronto! After all, the resort was just about to undergo a huge overhaul and I needed to see first hand its fresh new look. Well that’s my excuse anyway!

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So, exactly 12 months later, I returned back to this blissful piece of paradise that I now like to refer to as “home”. As our seaplane landed in the palm fringed aquamarine waters, we were greeted with the same big white pearly smiles and madly waving arms that I so vividly remember. My ever so slight feeling of guilt for returning to a familiar haunt was quickly squashed with the feeling that I had just been dipped into a big bowl of fluffy happiness! Not only was it time to totally unwind, It was also time to explore exactly what it was that had bought me back.

First and foremost it is the staff here that stole my heart with their warm gentle smiles and pure genuine passion for hospitality. There is something so special about the personal but unobtrusive service and attention to detail that they all deliver. Within minutes of arriving I quickly learned that this had not changed. In fact many of the familiar faces I recall from our last visit were still here and loving it! The staff genuinely do love working here. They wrap you in cotton wool and treat you like family. It’s the little things here that make all the difference. Don’t be suprised if you are greeted by name and then gently sprayed with a fine mist of orange blossom to cool you down and enliven the senses! Heavenly.

Another over riding feeling here is the real sense of zen. It’s as if time has slowed down completely and become strangely more colourful than ever before.

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There are several secluded purpose built spaces to rest one’s weary head. At the west point is a new library – light and airy with a loft style hideaway upstairs. The perfect place to curl up and catch the afternoon sun with a good book.

Hammocks, both on land and over water, swings and beach beanbags, are scattered around the island, all with direct access to the sea. Have you ever tried chill hopping? Well me neither until I found this place. You could literally spend your day slowly migrating from one incredible chill space to another. Hard to beat!

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For the ultimate guilty pleasure, lose yourself in the new and improved *LUX ME spa. It has been fully renovated to incorporate a traditional Chinese teahouse, a huge open-air relaxation area overlooking the lagoon, intimate plunge pools, steam facilities and a new area for luxurious skin and body care. Tip – If you want to go M.I.A anywhere, this is the place to do it!

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The underwater scene here is also perfect. Lagoon waters surrounding the island are clean, clear and bluer than blue. Being an expert in relaxation (yes there is such a thing!), whilst the snorkelling really is worth leaving your day bed for, I was equally as happy to float around on a gold flamingo with supersized sunglasses and a glass of rose.

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When it comes to love nests, the villas have all been renovated with a bright, crisp and airy modern aesthetic….painted in off-white and particularly striking against the hues of blue of the water and sky. Take your pick of Beach or Overwater, both with either direct access to the sea, or just a couple of leisurely footsteps. Many come with their own private pools, perfect for a pre breakfast dip, or paddle el naturel at sun down.

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Food at LUX? Well I simply couldn’t praise it enough. When you are on a deserted island I personally feel that variety is key. Here, there are seven restaurants and five bars, all a real highlight. They include beachside Italian, Indian/Arabic and international, with dedicated sushi, teppanyaki and robatayaki counters. The new “East Market” is a real standout but the absolute must is the world class “Umami” Japanese restaurant. Not only does it serve some of the best Japanese food on the planet, it also has the largest selection of sakes and Japanese whiskies in the Maldives.

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There is a new beach club concept to the island with “Beach Rouge”. It’s a personal favourite and not just any beach club. It’s ridiculously chic. In fact the grand opening night included a guest list of world-famous gurus, big-name musicians, international politicians, a handful of billionaires and the uber-fashionable editors from French Vogue, Tatler, Harpers Bazaar and Vanity Fair. Capiche?

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I could endlessly wax lyrical about *LUX South Ari. It’s a peaceful sanctuary totally removed from the stresses of the outside world. Staggeringly beautiful, amazingly remote and impossibly pure…the breeze rustling through the palm fronds is often the only reminder that you are not trapped in a postcard.

I can definitely understand why this little slice of heaven had somehow landed back on my travel to-do-list. Whilst I hate breaking my “no familiar haunts” rule, I’m so happy I got to spend another two blissful weeks of my life here. Not a day went by that the blue – that indefinable, indescribable, indelible turquoise blue – did not stop me in my tracks and remind me that life is incredibly good when I’m here.

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