Somewhere near the equator, right off the coast of an island, four friends danced to the upbeat ‘Zingaat’ from the movie Sairat, without a care in the world. They swayed and skipped to the music inside a villa supported by stilts over aquamarine waters, making a dance floor of the see-through glass tile bang in the middle of the room. The quartet stepped out onto the sun deck, now effectively a moon deck, for the occasional smoke and to muse on the infinite expanse of a calming, crystal-clear sea. The rest of the villas formed the backdrop, but at a considerable distance. This might as well have been the group’s private island. Maybe it was.
Adaaran Club Rannalhi is the kind of resort that makes everything appear nicer that it actually is. Here, you fall more in love with your beloved, you bond better with your children. And if you are a rare friends’ group such as us in a place seemingly curated for couples—candlelights, sangrias, hammocks and quiet corners—you grow more fond of each other.
It all started that morning with local boduberu drummers and coconuts carved to resemble mice, meant to welcome us at the reception. If you know the Maldives, you know a few things: atolls with tens of coral islands, most less than a square kilometre in area. Extraordinary avifaunal and aquatic diversity. Waters in more shades of blue than can be counted. And, unfortunately, island resorts that are different and, yet, identical. Each a paradise unto itself, but not quite.
Rannalhi, however, is of a different calibre. It has a history: once a transit stop, the first freshwater landfall on the journey southwards, named after gold (ran) and a unit of measure (nalhi), but immeasurably pretty. Now it is a bustling property owned by Adaaran, one of the most established players in the Maldivian tourism industry that drives 23 per cent of the country’s economy, a staple for luxury and proud of its repeat clientele. It isn’t hard to see why.
Done with the percussions and the coconut water, we trained our cameras towards a grey heron by the adjacent beach, but it swooped down upon its prey and made for the horizon. A stingray still remained, swimming close to the sea, as did a baby shark. Keep away from the shore, or so the staff say. We must have a penchant for the macabre, as, right after this, one of us suggested we take a swim.
We ditched the clear, shallow sand-bed near the diving centre and, instead, opted for the coral-strewn private waters surrounding our villas (Water Bungalows). A task to swim past the coral without getting hurt (or hurting the fragile invertebrates; what is a tiny scratch for me might be lethal for them), it was rewarding in the end: warm waters, sweet sun and dreams of piña colada.
And that evening, the wish came true. In another private beach patch en-squared by what seemed like Daenerys’ dragon eggs (of Game of Thrones fame), each glowing brightly in a different colour, we all sipped coladas and savoured seafood platters. At the nearby Cocktail Bar, a Filipino performer sang a version of ‘Summer of 69’ that would have impressed even Bryan Adams. Or was it the drink listening?
That night I dreamt of a golf cart taking me across a picturesque isle. It first stopped at a banyan tree where couples had written their names on red heart-shaped blocks of wood and tied them to the tree’s aerial roots, and then at a breathtaking swing amid a shallow patch of ocean. The vehicle drove by tennis courts and gardens, flowerbeds and hedges, thatched huts and palm trees. Eventually, it stopped at a certain Dhodhi Bar, adorned in colourful lighting, where a bartender was mixing up a lovely grape concoction, blessed by vodka.
By now, you must have realised that none of this was a dream but a rather mushy way to introduce another island-resort, Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, which I stayed at the next day. A good thing about Adaaran is that its properties are ‘same-same but different’; the laidback vibe here matched Rannahli’s, but the size did not: this island is so large, plenty of hidden spots and gems await those adventurous enough to explore. In the area surrounding my Garden Villa—a dandy corner, overlooking a canopy of trees and a surfer’s ‘wet’ dream—there was at least one hammock at the far edge where I could have sunbathed in the nude (no, not allowed).
As we ambled across the island in the evening, the sound of boduberu once again filled our surroundings. We quickly made our way to the bar from where the music emanated, and came face-to-face with a large group of drummers surrounded by dancing guests. Spotting an Indian group, that too one that shakes a leg at the drop of a hat, they shifted to an old Bollywood number. As our adrenaline level shot through the roof and we danced well into the night, much like we did a couple of nights ago, something occurred to me—the idyll island life is the best of both worlds. The one we seek in company, and the one we seek in ourselves.
Accomodation: Rannalhi- 122 rooms and bungalows. Hudhuranfushi- 205 villas