LUX* South Ari Atoll: where ‘lighter, brighter’ luxury comes with ‘surprises’

The moment I entered the brightly lit, heavy on white lounge of LUX* South Ari Atoll at the Maldives’ main airport, I felt lighter. The comfortable and relaxing atmosphere was complemented by the friendly staff who offered LUX* signature coffee. A few sips of the freshly brewed authentic coffee, and I was taken to the seaplane terminal for boarding.

After a 35-minute scenic seaplane flight above the Maldives’ stunning islets, the LUX* experience continued with the very first step on the resort’s arrival jetty. Greeting me and a couple who had arrived in the island for their dream vacation was none other than Glenn Daniels, the energetic General Manager at LUX* South Ari Atoll.

Dotted at the water’s edge along two miles of pure white sand beach and perched on stilts above a crystal-clear lagoon, are 193 super-spacious pavilions and villas. The seductive flood-lit over-water villas promise freedom, privacy and intimacy. Forty-six Romantic Pool Villas each have private 7m suspended infinity pools, and three Temptation Pool Water Villas boast a 14m pool and this forms the resort’s adults-only sanctuary. These villas enjoy twin showers, private terraces incorporating a unique couples’ love nest, and a deck with steps down into the sea, perfect for enjoying the turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean.

The range of eight restaurants and five bars includes a sophisticated take on a bustling night market; guests can head to East Market where they can enjoy flavours from Vietnam, Thailand and Sichuan among others. Umami promises fine dining from the open sushi kitchen, teppanyaki and robata counters as well as the Maldives’ largest selection of sakés and Japanese whiskies. Allegria, Senses and MIXE satisfy international palates with Mediterranean to Maldivian specialities and the new Beach Rouge introduces fresh beach-club dining experience to the island.

The LUX* Me spa and its overwater treatment villas set the tone for a Zen-inspired reboot of its own. The facility incorporates a traditional Chinese teahouse, a dedicated zone for brand new skin and body care experiences and an extended lagoon-view relaxation area. For those in search of the ultimate personalised spa experience, try the once-in-a-lifetime 10 hands massage. A Zen wellness pavilion accommodate a wide range of alternative wellbeing activities including yoga, meditation, pilates, tai chi and qigong, all of which are overseen by an expert wellness concierge. LUX* Me is all about a tailored approach to your wellbeing, whether it be spa, fitness, yoga, meditation, nutrition or a unique combination tailored especially to your needs.

LUX* South Ari Atoll, run by Mauritius-based hospitality group LUX* Hotels and Resorts, has been entirely re-imagined in a chic beach-house style, and reopened late last year. The relaunched resort adopts a “Lighter, Brighter” theme, which in itself pays homage to a rare combination of elements found only in the Maldives; tropical warmth, white sand, pristine reefs, teeming marine life and a great unimpeded vault of sky. With these vast Maldivian panoramas of aquatic purity coupled with the LUX* experience, the soul begins to lighten.

But every resort in the Maldives boasts similar natural characteristics such as white sand beaches and turquoise waters as well as world-class facilities such as overwater villas and so on. This is where LUX* South Ari Atoll is making a difference by offering more Reasons To Go LUX*. Spontaneity and surprises are in the resort’s DNA with LUX* South Ari Atoll presenting a unique range of Reasons To Go LUX*. 

“… It is the small surprises that truly set us apart. I want to surprise my guests. Guests can go to a resort operated by a big international chain, which deliver on their promises every single time. But as a guest, I do not want to go to a place that delivers exactly what I expect. I want to be surprised,” Glenn tells me over coffee at the resort’s beachside cafe.

“The reality is that the success of any property here in the Maldives depends on making small differences that add up to an entirely unique, personal experience for the guests. We all have turquoise waters and white sand beaches. So what is gonna differentiate us from our competitors?”

At two kilometres long and only a few hundred metres wide, the island is large enough to offer freedom and variety. Everyday, four bottles bearing messages are placed around the resort entitling the finder to a small gift: a facial, a bottle of good wine, a linen shirt or sarong, a jet-ski ride. A small, light-filled and air-conditioned Wanderlust library offers more than 120 travel books. A squat banyan “wish tree” is garlanded with the hopes of hundreds of guests inked on strips of weatherproof vermillion cloth.

The lighter and relaxed feel of the relaunched LUX* South Ari Atoll extends to the experiences offered for the artist in you as well. The resort has introduced a service called Photo Fanatics, a unique image-capturing experience that helps guests seeking to create and capture the moments that matter using a smartphone or a camera. The new Junkart Studio and Gallery, meanwhile, invites guests to have fun making one-off artworks and sustainable souvenirs from upcycled materials, providing the perfect opportunity for everyone to explore something new or revisit old skills and passions.

The reimagining of LUX* South Ari Atoll does not end with just the look and feel. The resort is one of the first properties in the LUX* portfolio to offer a unique calendar of expert-led workshops designed to inspire creativity and boost guest health and well-being. Designed in partnership with Sydney-based organisation Work-Shop, these workshops mirror latest research revealing everyday creative activities such as performing music, painting or drawing, writing short stories, songs and poetry can ward off stress, leading to an upward spiral of increased emotional well-being.

As well as being exceedingly laid back, there is very much a spontaneous atmosphere seen everywhere at the recently renovated LUX* South Ari Atoll with impromptu cinema screenings on the beach, pop-up musical performances, surprise secret bars and much more. This marrying of contemporary Maldivian hospitality with little surprises creates a new brand of “lighter, brighter” luxury, which will continue with the launching of LUX* Hotels and Resorts’ second property in the Maldives, the LUX* North Male Atoll in November.

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