It’s really the little details that matter in life, from the attending VIP treatment when you step off the plane, with your limo on the tarmac waiting to whisk you off to a private lounge, to the in-villa check-in when you arrive at this island paradise by seaplane. Welcome to The Nautilus – a petite 26-villa island that’s walkable from shore to shore within 20 minutes. It’s a stunner of an island in the Baa Atoll, surrounded by turquoise waters and its own reef with a million fish, turtles, eagle rays, an octopus, a school of nurse sharks – you name it. A friendly sea master enthusiast – ours was named Soba – leads you by seabob to navigate the crystal waters and explore the reef. If a unique experience is what you’re after, I would suggest a sunset cruise to a sandbank where a gorgeous little picnic can be laid out for you and your loved one, with parasol and wind chimes to complete the perfect Instagram picture. Here, you’ll get to spend a couple of hours on your own island paradise before the rising tides wear away at said bank as you return back to The Nautilus at sundown.
But back to where it all started, which is the villa beach house that was home to me and my partner for the next five days. With our own private pool, immediate access to the beach and a separate living and sleeping space, it all adds up to 309 square metres across two thatched-roof villas. An outdoor shower is a perfect way to rinse off the day’s snorkelling adventure before you’re enveloped in aircon splendour when you step into the room. The design of the villa is best described as luxe boho – pastel shades clothe the sofas, cushions and carpet in pretty shades that Ariel from The Little Mermaid could only imagine. The massive king-size bed is all you need to laze the hot afternoons away; or you can pick one of three day loungers which are thoughtfully placed throughout the spaces – one in the living room, another at the foot of the bed and a large swing cabana by the pool for sunset drinks or a quick nap. Double basins are a must to keep couples happy, and the floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow tons of natural light to flood the intimate space, which has its own circular bathtub, a glass-enclosed shower and a separate private frosted space for the toilet.
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The one thing that stood out for me was the idea of unscripted dining – actually, make that unscripted anything. If breakfast and a massage was what your body needed at midnight, then your wish was their command. With a private house master assigned to each villa, it’s all up to you to decide which meal strikes your fancy, where you want to have it, and when. Just call up your house master, and like a genie, your wish is magically fulfilled. The three restaurants which dot this tiny island served modern international fare at Thyme, Peruvian-Japanese at Ocaso and Mediterranean at Zeytoun. All options were excellent – I have the most peculiar diet, consisting of complex carbs, lots of clean protein and a shellfish allergy, yet none of the restaurants skipped a beat. Every meal was altered to suit my diet and I was free to pick from any restaurant at any time of the day. Few would exercise this enormous scheduling freedom that The Nautilus offers, but I was told that some guests just kept to their European time-zone throughout their stay at the resort.
To you and me, that might seem completely topsy-turvy, but to The Nautilus, it’s all in a day’s work. Being a small and intimate resort allows you to interact with the staff and within two days, I was calling everyone by their first name – and we all engaged in happy banter about the ferocious afternoon sun and lack of rain. Guests got a chance to mingle by the Naiboli Poolside Bar at cocktail hour for complimentary drinks, and watch as the brilliant red sun sets before the twinkling stars take over the night sky.
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We all visit the Maldives because of the incredible ocean and sea life. But the reality is the elements and the environment in the Maldives are disappearing fast. People forget just how powerful the currents and the weather can be in this Baa Atoll. Built in 2019, The Nautilus was initially completely unprotected from the seas, which lent itself a stunning uninterrupted vista of turquoise-blue waters as far as the eye could see. But during the Covid lockdown in 2020, when the resort was shut for four months, fierce winds and raging currents swept most of the beach away. Wave breakers were built to shelter the island and the over-lagoon villas, as well as to protect the reef. Naysayers might complain that they spoil the grand sweeping views – but this necessary evil was the only form of protection from rising sea levels, increasing water temperatures and billowing winds. As with many island resorts in the Maldives, sustainable activations are needed to protect their aquatic wildlife.
There’s also a private island a mere three minutes away by boat that’s being developed into an ecological playground. I visited this tiny 5.4-hectare island called Madhidrivaadhoo, and marvelled at its wildlife sanctuary where flocks of near-extinct birds grow and flourish. Greenhouses are being built to cater to a “farm-to-table” experience for guests, while the natural lake in the middle of the island is being developed into a picturesque landscape for honeymooners and weddings. Daytime sojourns can soon be spent here, but for now, you can play a game at the makeshift beach volleyball court, have a go at the couples swing, or just take a stroll through the natural jungle.
No visit to the Maldives is complete without a spa experience. With my intense travel schedule and hectic lifestyle, sleep deprivation is a constant problem. Soso, the spa manager of Solasta, was quick to recommend a two-hour sleep inducing treatment that included products like a soft body scrub, a dip into lavender-scented bath water, and a relaxing massage which literally lulled me to sleep. Peering through the glass floors, I caught glimpses of the sea life below before my heavy eyelids got the best of me. And after two-and-a-half tranquil hours, I was gently awoken from my slumber before I hopped right back into bed for a blissful night’s sleep.
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I could very well live this island life for another week and if time (and money!) permitted, I would have chosen to do so in a heartbeat. But alas, work beckons – and before I knew it, I was boarding the lavender hue Nautilus seaplane to Male for my flight back to Singapore. Will I be back? Absolutely, and hopefully next time I can visit Madhidrivaadhoo for a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony with my loved one. Dreams really do exist, and at The Nautilus, perhaps by wishing hard enough, those dreams may just come true.
Learn more about The Nautilus Maldives here.
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