If you’re a fan of Thai travel, the Dusit Thani is an enclave of gracious hospitality on Mudhdhoo Island in Baa Atoll – a 25-minute flight from Malé. The resort is made up of 94 villas, three restaurants, two bars, a water sports and a diving centre, a gym, a kids club and a traditional Thai spa. Phew!
Villas are either on the water, or hidden in the tree line along the beach. An interior designer spent eight months living on the island during construction, and all of the rooms, restaurants and the spa are finished to a very high standard. Crisp clear whites, light greens and blues give a cooling, calm finish that blends with the trees, ocean and sky. From family-sized villas with two bedrooms, a large dining area and living room, to single room villas with a beautiful outdoor bathroom, each feels private with a very sheltered garden looking out onto the beach and ocean.
Snorkelling takes centre stage at Dusit Thani. The Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the only place in the Maldives to have this recognition. The Biosphere Reserve status shows the credential for sustainable development; managing biological and cultural diversity with economic and social development. The resort itself has a 360-degree reef – it surrounds the whole island. Check out your snorkelling equipment from the water sports centre and marvel at the colours and abundance of marine life. There is a current, so be careful when estimating how far and how long you swim for.
Much gentler swimming can be found in one of the largest infinity pools in the Maldives, just near the Sea Grill. The Lagoon is also perfect for less confident swimmers; it’s a sheltered body of water which is much shallower than the open sea.
The spa is at the centre of the island with treatment rooms atop the coconut trees.
Devarana Spa – Devarana is derived from the Sanskrit meaning ‘a garden in heaven’ – really is a piece of Thailand transported to The Maldives. All of the therapists are Thai and you’ll find a mixture of very traditional Thai treatments and more accessible treatments which use Western or a blend of Eastern and Western techniques. Six treatment rooms sit atop stilts in the woodland each finished to a very good standard with wide treatment beds, fret work dividers and Thai art. They also have individual changing areas, showers and bathrooms. There are two more treatment rooms at ground level which have traditional Thai mats rather than treatment beds.
There’s a shallow pool, a very hot steam room, traditional wooden sauna, a Jacuzzi and cold plunge pool if you overheat! As with the hotel, the finishing touches are beautiful. Just through the entrance there’s a circular pool of water which cools and calms as you leave the jungle and find a sense of peace. Silver artwork from carefully constructed leaves to larger abstract pieces give the eyes a reason to rest and admire. When you arrive at the spa you will be given a cold Roselle tea, and taken to an air-conditioned consultation room – a welcome reprieve from the constant heat.
Devarana is a Thai brand that works with Dusit – so you’ll find Devarana Spa in different Dusit hotels around the world. Therapists have to have a minimum of five years’ experience and government certification in Thailand before they can apply to work with Devarana. Our therapist was skilled, confident and very polite.
We had a Mangosteen exfoliation and Devarana Signature Massage (90 minutes, $180) and the Harmony of Tad Si – Traditional Thai Medicine (120 minutes, $210).
My therapist for both treatments was Surupa. She met me in the consultation room, took me up to our treetop treatment room and asked me to settle on the wide and comfortable treatment bed. Below the head hole there was a bowl of cut oranges and limes arranged in the shape of a flower – the citrus smell was very refreshing and a beautiful finishing touch. The Mangosteen exfoliation was prepared fresh for me; straight out of the fruit. Surupa covered my skin in oil and then used the Mangosteen to exfoliate my skin. I quickly showered off before we moved onto the massage.
Surupa placed a hot towel onto my back, warming and relaxing my muscles. She used a mixture of strong thumb pressures, deep tissue massage with her elbows and forearms, and stretching moves to massage me from head to toe. At the end of the treatment she asked me to sit up and worked her way up my spine, pressing either side of each vertebrae. I felt relaxed and comfortably stretched.
The next day, we used a traditional Thai treatment room with large mats on the floor. The Harmony of Tad Si starts with hot herbal compresses dipped in oil best suited for your body type. After consulting a calendar, mine is apparently Earth so Surupa used jasmine oil. She pressed the hot compresses into my skin, allowing it to soak up the rich herbs and oils.
I changed into a pair of Thai pyjamas (wide, loose trousers and a plain cotton top) and settled onto the mat. Thai massage is very different to European massage – if you’re looking for relaxation you’re in the wrong place. I laid face up on the mat and Surupa moved my legs into different stretching positions, sometimes straight, sometimes crossed and sometimes curled up. She used her thumbs, elbows, knees and feet and moved along either side of my spine, up both arms and then worked on my flat back. She stretched high up into my neck and face before moving my legs into some final stretches; picture laying on the floor in different yoga positions but with someone assisting you into a deeper stretch. I sat up and Surupa finished by using thumb pressure along my spine.
My body felt a little tender but much looser than a normal Swedish or relaxation massage could achieve.
Choose from The Market restaurant which serves breakfast and a themed buffet each night, the Sea Grill for lunch and dinner with a menu that includes everything from very fresh fish to pizza, or The Benjarong which hangs over the water and serves authentic Thai cuisine. As part of its commitment to limiting its environmental impact, there’s a chef’s garden on the island which grows herbs and vegetables for use in the food – there’s less to import from overseas.
• Families - There’s a kids club available from 10am-6pm (with a break for lunch) and we saw all staff members engaging happily with the children. Even better, there’s no charge for children under 12.
• Those looking for a very serene stay. The villas are so well equipped, and each has a butler. You could stay in your villa, snorkel off your hidden beach and spend a very peaceful time here.
• The Thai spa treatments. Brave Thai massage if you want to try something new and unusual, if not go for the signature massage and soak up the relaxing Thai vibes.
• The very fresh fish in the Sea Grill. There’s a board at the entrance with the freshly caught fishes of the day – this is what the Maldives is famous for.
Good Spa Guide travelled with Visit Maldives – find out more about the islands at: www.visitmaldives.com.
24th August 2016
Warmth and sunshine; spas which take me away to another country; fruit infused waters; beach-worth pedicures; deep tissue massages.
High footfalls; treatments that over promise and under deliver; heavy lunches; loungers drapped in used towels.
Behind the scenes