Standing out in a sea of island resorts, OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI tailors its uber-luxe offerings to the needs of each guest and gently leads them onto the path of holistic wellness. By Sumeet Keswani. Images Courtesy of OZEN RESERVE
Right from the start, there were signs that this Maldives trip would be markedly different from all my previous ones. When I emerged out of the airport arrival gate, I was escorted to THE OZEN COLLECTION LOUNGE—an oasis of calm, privacy, and Wi-Fi in the middle of an airport bursting at the seams with honeymooners and families. The resort’s ‘boat’ turned out to be the most luxurious catamaran I’d seen. At the arrival jetty of OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI, I was welcomed by bodu beru drumming, a handcrafted palm-leaf necklace, and a choice of coconut water, mocktails, and exclusive Guy Charbaut rosé champagne. To my great delight, my hiyani (butler), Faari, instantly accommodated every idiosyncrasy and whimsical change of itinerary. He began by driving me to an Ocean Pool Suite with Slide, which perched in the middle of a turquoise lagoon and looked out to a sighing deep-blue ocean. An infinity pool and an ample sundeck, equipped with a hammock, sunbeds, and a slide that snaked from an elevated balcony to the lagoon, cast months’ worth of lockdown blues into the sea. Faari even offered to personalise the wine collection in my maxi bar, which would be replenished daily.
What guaranteed all these privileges of my three-night stay was the RESERVE™Plan. The resort’s version of ‘all-inclusive’ includes not just fantastic meals and premium drinks, but also non-motorised watersports, access to an overwater gym with a personal training session, overwater spa treatments, activities at the Kuda Koli Kids Club, and a host of other benefits. “The plan makes sure that guests don’t have to reach for cheques on holiday,” explained Simmi Pai, VP sales and marketing, THE OZEN COLLECTION LOUNGE. The resort’s general manger, Luisa Lalli, added that it ensured the staff had no incentive to “sell” guests items like expensive bottles of wine to earn service charge. “This way, we tell them, ‘You take care of the guests, and we’ll take care of you’,” she confided almost conspiratorially. And take care of me, they did!
An Immersive Wellness Experience With OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI
My first dinner was at Sangu Beach, a sandfloored beach restaurant that serves Modern Levantine and Moroccan cuisines at night. Mezze platters, and tabouleh and Syrian fatoush salads, were followed by vegetable moghrabieh and batata harra, with luqaimat and baklava ending things on a sweet note. But the food wasn’t the only thing that carried flavours of the Middle East. Kseniya Belkova, a resident belly dancer from Siberia, treated the diners to a dazzling show with colourful costume changes and LED wings that made her graceful form glow against a moonlit ocean.
The next day hummed a tune of healing. At ELE | NA Elements Of Nature, the spa that nestles in a verdant garden and spills over onto the lagoon, wellness practitioner Arun Raj led me to a garden room where I lay supine on a mattress on the floor. He made me focus on my breath before playing a crystal bowl. The sound seemed to circumambulate my body, finding its way in and ricocheting off the insides to end up vacillating between my ears and settling between my eyes, all the while amplifying in intensity. My thoughts were scattered, running helter-skelter to keep their place. But eventually, the vibrations of the crystal bowl seemed to align with my body’s, and my frenzied mind was freed of its spirals. I’d never meditated before, and I don’t know if this counted. But I could tell the crystal bowl had emptied me of stress. Arun claimed its vibrations cleansed chakras and boosted energy levels. I felt like a clean slate, and that was more than enough.
Later, I had a consultation with the spa’s director, Elise Rimbaud. Born in Lyon, she had learned meditation by walking into monasteries in Thailand and accompanying the monks in their long daily practice. A yoga and energy-healing practitioner, Rimbaud is a sea breeze masquerading as a person. She sat me down in a leafy gazebo where I faced a mirror—a decor quirk or symbolic touch, I wasn’t told—and inquired about my stresses. We discussed how the pandemic had upended life, and how I had traded sound sleep for an existential crisis. Birds, geckos, and hermit crabs—conspicuous by their absence elsewhere on the island—seemed to congregate in the spa premises, perhaps lured by the music of Tibetan singing bowls, which also started my second treatment. Having been instructed by Rimbaud, my Balinese therapist Koming led me to an overwater treatment room. Even though it was low tide, the lagoon teemed with thousands of fish that moved in unison. As Koming purged the tension out of my back muscles with virgin coconut oil made on the island, I watched crabs hop tide pools through the glass floor and descended into deep sleep. I was finally awoken by a familiar sound, the striking of a singing bowl that signalled the end of my therapy. As I left the room, the fish, too, departed the shallows on cue.
In keeping with the resort’s ‘joy of giving’ ethos, I was treated to customised breakfasts in my infinity pool and at the restaurant ORIGINE—privileges that are usually enjoyed by guests who book the RESERVE™ Experience. The floating breakfast was an instant hit on Instagram, but I couldn’t get myself to break leavened pastry over pool water. So, once I had enough envy-inducing pictures clicked, I took the platter to terra firma for a proper devouring. Lunches were a mix of buffet-style food-picking and board-menu ordering at Vista Del Mar, the all-day restaurant that serves the most colourful cocktails and global dishes ranging from Amritsari chhole to sashimi and pizza. But its elaborate dessert station always took the cake!
I had my most memorable meal of the trip at Tradition Saffron, the Indian restaurant that serves three-course dinners, with thalis featuring twice a week. My feast had a healthy twist thanks to Rimbaud, who had colluded with the chef after our wellness consultation. With the moon casting an ethereal glow and the wind making papad fly off the table, Rimbaud and I picked apart life’s bigger mysteries—and dishes like sikampuri kebab, tofu bhurji, beans poriyal, tadka dal palak, and baingan bhartha.
On my last morning, Faari set in place an in-villa pastry breakfast and a late checkout so that I could snorkel over the house reef. A lifeguard named John led me over the shallows to the edge of land—on one side, the lively reef, and on the other, the cold blue ocean with no seabed in sight. We swam this otherworldly frontier to watch surgeonfish, parrotfish, moorish idols, unicornfish, triggerfish, and an assortment of other creatures that evaded identification. It was a gorgeous end to a glorious vacation.
The staff who had welcomed me to the resort were there to see me off as the catamaran drifted reluctantly away from this secluded paradise of personalised delights towards the real world. I promised to return to the isle with my loved ones in tow, and they promised to treat them with the same care and infinite luxury.
Vistara, IndiGo, and GoFirst operate nonstop flights between Mumbai and Malé. A catamaran takes 25 minutes to ferry you from Velana International Airport to OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI, located in South Malé Atoll. Return transfers are included in the RESERVE™ Plan and RESERVE™ Experience.
Launched in December 2020, OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI is one of two properties under THE OZEN COLLECTION LOUNGE. It offers 75 villas and 15 RESERVE accommodations. Each villa comes with a private pool and direct beach or lagoon access, and the RESERVE™ Plan ensures there are no limits to luxury. The RESERVE units are vast and opulently designed holiday homes in great locations— overwater and on the beach— and come with the RESERVE™ Experience, which has additional benefits like packing-unpacking services; bespoke gifts; secluded à la carte breakfast at ORIGINE; and in-villa dining, afternoon tea service, floating breakfast, and barbeque dinner at one’s RESERVE. Price on request; ozenreserve-bolifushi.com