The Maldives. Clear blue waters, plentiful reefs, pristine white sand. But nothing could have prepared us for the visual splendor of our recent trip.
Arriving in the capital city Male at midnight is interesting, if not underwhelming. Transportation choices are limited after 6pm, so we stayed in Hulhumale on the tourist strip. The Maldives is a Muslim country and we arrive during Ramadan. The streets are quiet.
But the following morning, the renowned Maldivian service is in full swing as we board the Sea Plane: destination Mirihi Island, in South Ari Atoll. The plane flies low to give us a glimpse of the endless reefs and the Indian Ocean. It's a luminous mix of intense blues.
Arriving at Mirihi Island is like landing in your own private Idaho. Resort Manager Gunther and his team await you on the jetty with a warmth that never falters once during your stay.
The water villas are built over the water and it only takes a few steps to get you from your deck to snorkeling with turtles, reef sharks and other exotic fish.
Island life is simple but abundant. The environment is exceptional with photo opportunities at every turn, no filter required.
Throughout our stay we meet an extraordinary team: there are culinary chefs, yoga teachers, art makers and musicians. Everyone has a story and plays a part in the island culture.
Head Chef Felix from Switzerland, lives in Thailand and works in the Maldives; his Sous chef Fernando is from Sri Lanka. As you'd expect, the menu shows off this global mix of cultures and changes daily.
Tonight is South American night. There are spiced rum cocktails and homemade chocolate. The ocean is the backdrop, there's a tropical fruit carving and live music by local legend Mohamad Ali (yes, that's his real name).
Tourism is the main industry of the Maldives and it's protected from the top. The government stipulates that resorts must employ up to 60% of Maldivian workers and foreigners can only purchase properties if they partner with a local.
The environment is at the forefront of preservation with minimal plastic refuse, active water desalination plants and marine conservation, such as the turtle hatching program.
The pristine atolls that make up the Maldives house over 1,100 islands, a mixture of private resorts and locally inhabited.
When it's time to wave goodbye to our private oasis and head further south closer to the equator, we know we'll miss Mirihi.
But Six Senses dulls our pain. It's an expansive island with a rustic chic feel, surrounded as it is by private coral reefs and surf breaks. Contemporary eateries with fresh local flavors are dotted along the driftwood piers and all offer spectacular views.
There are plenty of activities with an emphasis on wellbeing from aerial yoga to ayurvedic treatments. An Earth Lab recycling centre and an active desalination plant provides the island with water; the resort recently won the environmental award at the 2017 Expo in Singapore for commitment to sustainability.
Personalised push bikes are your mode of transport and the super friendly staff take hospitality to the next level, complete with your very own GEM (guest experiences manager)-we get the feeling we will also long for Six Senses.
The Maldives is a place you dream to return to…. naturally wonderful, one can only wish to be marooned here one day.
Kylie Mitchell-Smith has been working in media, PR and event management for the past 25 years. She got her start as Events Coordinator for the Royal Albert Hall, London, where she coordinated events for the likes of Elton John and Eric Clapton. In 1995 she returned to Australia and worked in radio, music publicity and as a voice over artist. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @thetravellingsenorita.
DISCLAIMER: the writer was a guest of Mirihi Island and Six Senses.