For our first international cover shoot this year, we take off with Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor and set a course for The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, where laid-back island life meets inspired architecture, holistic wellness, and gastronomic journeys. By Rashima Nagpal
Produced by Aindrila Mitra
Photographed by The House Of Pixels
Styled by Meagan Concessio
Hair & Makeup by Riviera Lynn
Assistant Stylists Ria Kothari & Ritika Sachdeva
Location The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
Before she makes the ocean her runway, Janhvi Kapoor is excited for a game of Jenga as we wait to board our seaplane at The Westin lounge in Malé.
Meanwhile, Zambe, the proactive representative from The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, initiates our check-in procedure, all the while making sure we’re hydrated. Soon, we’re buckled up in a 15-seater seaplane and flying over tiny isles that dot the bright blue Indian Ocean. Most people in our motley group of 11 have never been on a seaplane; while some shriek at the slightest turbulence and others feel dizzy, I feel like I’m gradually being cast far away from civilisation. Thirty minutes and a splashy landing later, we set foot on The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort.
Located in the south of Baa Atoll, Miriandhoo is a nearly two-kilometre-long coral island. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll is home to over 250 species of corals and around 1,200 kinds of fish. Its pièce de résistance, however, is Hanifaru Bay, a popular feeding and breeding ground for manta rays and whale sharks. While snorkelling with manta rays is seasonal—between June and October—The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort tells me of an on-call seafarer who keeps them posted about sightings. The resort keeps diving gear ready at all times, just in case. It helps that Hanifaru Bay is only 18 kilometres from the island resort. Additionally, the island of Miriandhoo itself is a sanctuary for turtles.
The resort’s understated demeanour dominated by wooden accents is evident at first glance. Its architectural inspirations are pointed out to me by Sonali Khadka, Assistant Market Director, Marketing – Maldives, Marriott International, who hails from India and has been working here for over two years now. Each structure at the resort is symbolic: the arrival jetty resembles a clamp shell, the dynamic reception lounge looks like a whale shark with its mouth wide open, and every villa comes with a second wooden roof that facilitates natural ventilation and looks like the wraparound shell of a turtle. With pristine beaches on either side, pathways flanked by thick greens, and reef-lined lagoons, the island resort ticks all the boxes for an ideal summer holiday.
A yoga enthusiast herself, Khadka speaks eagerly about the resort’s wellness philosophy. “You’ll find elements that will help you relax better, in everything you do here,” she says. It begins with small gestures. I find a lavender and chamomile aromatherapy balm on my bedside with a note that says, “To be used before bedtime to foster sound sleep.” I end up using it more often than that. There is also the open-aired shower area, the juicer in the living room, and the temperature-controlled pool in my sea-facing Beach Villa that help me cool off in the tropical weather.
If your idea of wellness means sweating it out, head to WestinWORKOUT Fitness Studio, where a trainer helps guests devise a workout routine for themselves. In the mood to unwind, Janhvi Kapoor opts for a treatment at Heavenly Spa by Westin™. The group’s signature spa in the Maldives is an idyllic overwater sanctuary that features spacious treatment rooms with views you can’t ignore. Wellness Curator Guru is famous for his personalised suggestions that go well beyond the duration of your therapy. The resort also offers guests spa treatments in their own villa.
Food, I believe, can uplift or dampen any travel experience. Executive Chef Gaurav Chakraborty probably knows this. Despite being at the helm of three exquisite restaurants—Island Kitchen, Hawker, and The Pearl—he checks in on us at every meal. I ask when, and if, he takes a break. It turns out he likes to talk about food as much as he likes to cook it. From a fresh prawn salad to a maki bowl, nasi goreng, succulent lamb shanks, and baked yoghurt, the options are diverse at the resort. I’m curious about the provenance of the ingredients, given that agriculture is scarce in the archipelago. The chef informs me that the produce is imported and fresh stock comes in every 10-15 days. “Depending on the season and availability, we have to source different ingredients from different countries, which is also why it’s expensive. The oranges we have right now are from Egypt, for example,” shares Chef Chakraborty. He hopes to find a way to make things more sustainable and eco-friendly soon.
Born and raised in the Maldives, Ali Nihad, Market Director, Sales & Marketing – Maldives, Marriott International, loves this resort for many reasons. Back from a swim with his wife and two kids, Nihad meets me over a drink at Sunset Bar in the evening. When I ask him what sets the resort apart from its competitors, he explains, “Westin is a unique brand that prioritises holistic wellness. This property is all about eating well, sleeping well, and feeling well. Most Maldivian resorts have fabulous beaches and gorgeous villas. But it’s the curated experiences here that give it an edge.”
Talking of curated experiences, some of the must-try activities at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort include night snorkelling, a sunset dolphin quest, a castaway sandbank experience, and traditional sunset fishing.
I have only begun to feel like an islander when it’s time to leave. Waiting to board the seaplane at the deck, I hear some of the locals chatting in Dhivehi. When I ask for a translation for the word ‘goodbye’, I am met with befuddled looks. Perhaps, the Maldivians do not believe in goodbyes.
Delhi and Mumbai serve regular direct flights to Velana International Airport in the capital city of Malé. The Westin Maldives Mirandhoo Resort is a 25-minute seaplane ride from this airport. Alternatively, book a 20-minute domestic flight to Dharavandhoo airport, which is located on an island of the same name and is a stone’s throw away from the island resort.
There are eight types of accommodations, including overwater villas and beach villas—with and without a pool. Any of the 70 villas, including a two-bedroom residence, help you cut off from the rest of the world and bask in the beauty of the Maldives. Price on request.