Oh the sunrises in the Maldives – see above, taken from villa 888 at Finolhu Fushi, the second and very-new resort from the Small Maldives Island Company SMIC, led by its highly imaginative CEO Mark Hehir. He explains how he took over Amilla, but this younger sibling has been entirely his creation. He saw an uninhabited island, started sketching, showed his business partner a 70-page Powerpoint presentation, halfway through which the partner said stop, go ahead, do what you want. The result, the fun-fun luxury Finolhu Fushi, which means ‘long naturally-occurring sandbank’, opened 17 June 2016, and the gal went to see it.
It is well known that Aussie Mark Hehir and his Laotian-Australian wife Napha, whom he met when both were working at the Tokyo Hilton, are car lovers. Here an old VW beetle is the central concierge command-post, set where everyone sees as they come out of breakfast (they have all details in their room but they need reminding, says Mark). Both are full of enthusiasm for this project, with its 125 villas, smallest size 1,400 sq ft: I am in 888, lucky number for sure, right at the far end of a raised boardwalk (signposted ‘Route 66′) and a good ten minutes’ hike to anywhere, but I do not mind, I love the exercise.
See my villa in the video below. I have, all pale blue, a Bakelite phone, a record player with a stack of vinyls, and a series of playful cards, including one showing a fat sheep wearing sunglasses, labelled Mini-BAA. Yes, on the reverse is the minibar list, a play on the fact that this resort is in Baa Atoll, one of the Maldives’ 27 atolls. This particular island is in fact a crescent-shaped series of skinny islands joined by sandbanks or boardwalks, and we take a boat across to the Fish & Crab Shack for lunch on the beach. After welcome drinks, balloon glasses filled wth a green alcohol confection topped by bright yellow passionfruit foam, the ideal is to have crab claws or curry or, in my case, delectable tempura-style chips, with fish, in a little wire basket.
This is another SMIC resort with brands, and UFC, the Ultimate Fitness Championships, will bring its kick-boxing and martial arts to run alongside QMS and Ila in the spa, and Gentlemen’s Tonic for shaves, and Louise Galvin for hair. Already there is an inside gym, open from 6 a.m., and an outside climbing frame. Already there is tennis, and soccer and a HUB centre for water sports. I wish I could head for a spa, perhaps for an I Love You, two hours of scrub, Chakra balancing massage, face massage and whatever is Third Eye pouring oil, but all that will have to wait. For now, I left my thatched villa for dinner with Mark and Napha Hehir and we watched amazed as chefs in the Asian kitchen showed their version of doing crème brûlée, and after dining in the Pan Asian, with a very talented lady chef, we went for tonight’s live entertainment, which included a fire dancer. Yes, this is a really fun luxury hotel, with a myriad of unique offerings (where else does a room service burger come with a Bloody Mary?). Now see suite 888, below: