When it opened in December 2013, Velaa Private Island was hailed as the ultimate, ultra-exclusive, beyond luxury experience in the Maldives. With a cellar stocked - reportely - with one million dollars worth of wine, luxury amenities in every bathroom, a José Mariá Olazábal golf academy and snow room in the spa, Velaa certainly has much - above & beyond the expected - on offer.
The 50-acre island – Fushivelavaru - is located in the Noonu Atoll, a 45-minute seaplane flight from Malé. Velaa translates as turtle in the native language and the children’s club is called Lha Velaa – little turtle.
There are 47 private villas, houses, and residences, four four-bedroom residences and the Romantic Pool Residence – a 1 bedroom villa only accessible by dhoni - traditional boat – which like all the accommodations boasts a private pool - and superlative views. On the mainland, 18 of the guest retreats provide the archetypal overwater experience.
The spa provides a plethora of treatments - using Switzerlands's Dr Burgener and Japan's KOTOSHINA beauty products. On the sports front, there is squash, tennis, a wall-climbing face, gym, padel tennis, football pitch, yoga, diving, snorkelling, jet skiing and kayaking. The José Mariá Olazábal golf academy is quite special. The 1994 and 1999 Masters Champion helped construct 170 metres of lush greens and fairways, aimed at helping a player’s short game.
The resort features three restaurants, two bars and a wine cellar, offering international and Maldivian cuisine.
Situated on the Maldives’ remote Noonu Atoll, a bird’s eye view of Velaa Private Island displays the shape of the sea turtle from which it takes its name – the over watervillas as the head with the island forming the body. Velaa means turtle island in the local vernacular - as this 50-acre island has long been a safe breeding habitat for sea turtles.
It is a 45-minute scenic seaplane north from Velana International Airport, Malé - either by Velaa’s customised plane on a private charter - seating nine or on a commercial seaplane - seating 15. All guests are greeted on arrival by a Velaa airport butler and escorted to a private lounge with refreshment facilities and a place to rest before the seaplane transfer.
Private jets can also land comfortably at Mafaaru International Airport, Noonu Atoll with only a seven-minute seaplane ride or a relaxed 35-minute luxury yacht ride to Velaa.
Thoughtfully designed and conceived as a place of effortless contemporary comfort and escape, Velaa’s villas are amongst the largest in the Maldives. All have their own sun deck, private pool and terrace area with outdoor dining space. The generous bathrooms feature rain showers, dual vanities and circular bathtubs with mood lighting and unlimited sea views. The sofas in all the villas can be converted into a bed to accommodate an extra adult or a child.
The Sunrise Water Pool Villas are designed along an extended jetty with uninterrupted ocean views from every room. They feature private infinity pools and sun decks with steps extending into the lagoon. The living room is designed around a glass porthole in the floor which offers endless views of the vibrant marine life below. The thatched roof extends over and shades the outdoor dining room whilst the bedroom and bathroom open out onto the terrace, pool and sundeck. The Sunrise Deluxe Water Pool Villas are similar in feel but have a slightly larger footprint and are perfectly positioned to capture the sunset.
The Beach Pool Villas are a beachside private haven. The spacious interiors are designed with mahogany louvred shutters, high ceilings and wall to wall glass doors framing the terrace and ocean views. With an enclosed garden atrium and direct beach access, these are ideal for those who want that extra bit of privacy landside. The Deluxe Beach Pool Villas are again, just that little bit larger, offering a garden sanctuary with endless areas for relaxation.
The Romantic Residence, which is only accessible by boat, is one of the most intimate escapes in the Maldives. With uninterrupted ocean views, a personal gym, a fully equipped kitchen, a personal butler and optional private chef, meals are served over the water in a secluded dining gazebo and sunsets enjoyed from the terrace. There is also an outdoor jacuzzi to go with the infinity pool, sundeck and sunken bath.
The two-bedroom Ocean Pool House meanwhile, located on the tip of the water jetty, offers a wide-open living and dining area with 180 degree views out over the ocean and a bar area with a private wine fridge. The louvred shutters offer shade and privacy whilst the cathedral ceilings lend a feeling of space with room to roam. The similar Beach Pool House back on terra firma is slightly bigger and is flanked by tropical foliage, a sprawling terrace and a double sized private pool.
The penultimate accommodation is the Velaa Private Residence, located on a private beach for a family-sized escape - they seem to have thought of everything! Accommodating up to ten people, the four bedrooms face the ocean, two having private balconies and two opening out onto the pool area with indoor and outdoor bathrooms connected by a garden atrium. The large private beach is flanked by twin gazebos for dining, relaxing and entertaining. There is also a gym, spa room, a fully equipped kitchen area, a whole-house sound and multimedia entertainment system, a large gazebo with a pool table, outdoor cinema screen, butler’s kitchen, wine bar and alfresco dining table.
The Nika Residence by Patricia Urquiola is of a similar size and accommodates up to ten people however this has to be termed the ultimate designer beach house, furnished as it is with a chic, sophisticated touch. Vertical wall panels of raffia and natural wood, hand-crafted minimalistic furnishings, a sprawling five-metre dining table of rare black marble, custom made Taiping carpets, Craft lamps and a chandelier made from white translucent beads. Stunning.
Velaa Private Island is known to have the biggest array of water sports in the Maldives. For the adventurous, the resort offers some of the latest hi-tech water sport toys and equipment from flyboarding and hoverboarding to electric foil surf boards and the latest tandem Jetovator.
For the less energetic, enjoy snorkelling in the crystal-clear turquoise waters or diving at the coral reef where dolphins may come and play. Other activities include waterskiing, kayaking, wakeboarding and kite surfing – there is even a mini-submarine for those who want to be attuned to the marine life below the surface. Alternatively, experience the delights of an authentic Maldivian Batheli boat cruise or enjoy a picnic lunch on a deserted island.
On the island itself, take a yoga session, try out the climbing wall or play a game of beach volleyball, squash or tennis. If football is a preference, it can be arranged. Golfers too can hone their short game at the Velaa Golf Academy designed by José Maria Olazábal no less, a two-times Masters Champion. For general fitness, the latest Technogym equipment will help keep the body in working order.
The Velaa Spa meanwhile offers a serene retreat overlooking the ocean with private treatment villas and a large spa area. Experience the heat of a sauna and steam room before chilling out – literally – in the Maldives’ only snow room. There is a wide range of therapies and treatments available using the products of some of the world’s leading wellness experts such as Dr Burgener Switzerland and KOTOSHINA from Japan. There are programmes to help lose weight or to nourish vitality, training sessions to strengthen and tone, there is even a Cloud 9 pod to swing guests into a state of deep relaxation. Alongside, there is a beauty salon and hairdresser for that top to toe makeover.
The Lha Velaa Kids Club will keep four to twelve-year-olds entertained all day long. It features the most extensive children's water park in the Maldives. Expect a range of activities from playing Maldivian baseball and Koraa to participating in a talent show or a pirate ship adventure.
The staff and butlers at the resort can organise most ideas given notice so if you want to cook with the chef, learn some shaking skills from the mixologist, have a Robinson Crusoe picnic on a desert island or simply want to show an outdoor film in a villa, it can be smoothly arranged.
Perhaps the most romantic however, is to arrange a wedding ceremony or a family celebration. For key life events, the island can be bought-out and stunning beach-side ceremonies arranged.
This tiny private Maldivian island is the dreamchild of Radka and Jirí Šmejc and their family. Long term Maldives visitors, the creation of the resort allowed these savvy travellers to design their perfect retreat alongside their family.
Cherry-picking every idea, amenity and facility the owners have enjoyed elsewhere, the ultimate aim of Czech architect Petr Kolár was to create a space which communed with the island, complemented the simple Maldivian lifestyle and exceeded the requirements of a guest who enjoys the finer things in life.
The result – style personified or to use a term from Kolar himself, “polite luxury” - powered by a dedicated staff and a team of butlers trained by the world’s best. The colour palette is low key rather than showy and replicates a marine lifestyle, using a turtle motif to bind the resort with its namesake and inspiration. Some of the other design elements will go unnoticed but not unappreciated. There are paving stones that do not absorb the heat for example from the Jordanian desert, flowerpots from Indonesia, patio chairs from Italy, wood panelling sourced from Borneo, master European craftsmen working on the villa interiors – a quality aesthetic by any stretch of the imagination.
The beachfront Athiri is the main casual restaurant for all day dining and a brigade of chefs from 14 nations use the finest imported and local ingredients to serve a global menu of authentic, unpretentious food. Avi, the pool bar and lounge space, is open throughout the day as a poolside chillout zone and in the evening, turns into a convivial hangout with imaginative mixologists shaking inspiring cocktails.
Tavaru on the other hand overlooks the entire island and is based in an innovative and unmistakable three-story white tower surrounded by tropical foliage. Expect delicious Japanese teppanyaki in the intimate dining space above whilst below, there is a hidden treasure trove of wine – arguably the most exclusive collection in the Indian Ocean.
The fine dining over-water restaurant, Aragu, celebrates the wonder of the ocean with a shoal of porcelain fish swimming under its thatched roof, the room open to the elements allowing the soft murmur of the ocean to accompany the delicious European menu. For privacy, head to the table at the end of the jetty. Adjacent, guests may retire to a vintage Champagne lounge, Cru, for a little sparkle to end the evening.
As part of its environmental commitment and social responsibility, Velaa Private Island has embarked on a journey to restore and preserve the coral reef with The Velaa Private Island Coral Restoration Project.
A dedicated marine biology team is overseeing the development of the largest coral restoration programme in the Maldives. This comprehensive coral care project includes reef restoration, marine life monitoring and educational programmes, teaching guests how to look after the oceans for future generations.
Progress can be viewed on social media platforms and since 2016 over 6,000 nursery grown corals have been successfully transplanted and they have seen a surge in tropical fish since. Led by the island’s onsite Coral Biologist, the project aims to raise awareness of the destruction of coral reefs following the severe global bleaching in 1998 and 2016 which destroyed 60% of the country’s reefs. Guests may have an extraordinary first-hand experience of the project by adopting corals or even planting their corals in the “nursery” when snorkelling or scuba diving alongside with the marine team.