Arguably one of the most idyllic places on earth, luxury hotels and private island resorts have long capitalised on the natural beauty of the Maldives. But with these islands predicted to be underwater within a matter of decades, what sustainability initiatives are luxury resorts adopting to protect this fragile paradise? Having only opened in 2017, Furaveri may be a somewhat lesser-known Maldivian-owned hotel, but is already making waves for its laid-back boutique feel and five-star accommodation and all underpinned by serious eco-credentials. We sent our girl Beth to report.
Landing in Malé International Airport, a short 45-minute seaplane flight is all that separates us from our destination of Furaveri Island. Located in the remote Raa Atoll, like most of the Maldives 300 inhabited islands, Furaveri is too small to land a traditional aircraft so it’s up to Trans-Maldivian airways to get us there.
It’s my first seaplane flight, and despite the turbulence, as we dip in and out of clouds, the scenery below is more than worth the white knuckles. Island atolls and spits of sand flash by in an ocean that fades from deep to electric blue. Even our seaplane pilots seem to echo the barefoot feel of our destination, in their shorts, sunglasses and flip flops.
Set across just 23 hectares, landing at Furaveri we find ourselves in postcard-perfect scenery, white-sand shores ringed by piercing blue. Unlike many resorts, much effort has been made to leave as much of the island as possible un-reclaimed – not only preserving the natural flora and fauna but helping to give the island that Robinson-Crusoe vibe, with lush palm-lined walkways and flowering orchids.
Hidden away in the centre of this wild greenery, you’ll find the chefs vegetable garden, where as much is grown on island as possible – from the firey chillies for traditional Maldivian curries, to the fruits for their passion fruit margaritas. The neighbouring on-site bottling plant represents a huge investment in the sustainable future of the island, with up to 360 tones of water recycled here into drinking water for the guests. The next step, we’re told will be to use smaller glass bottles for guests to take with them on excursions, replacing plastics.
With just 107 private villas set sparingly across its edges, the whole resort has a low-impact feel, yet the island’s eco-credentials don’t mean skimping on luxury. Our beach pool villa is 155 square metres, with huge double-height beamed ceilings and super-chic interiors. Warming notes of wood contrast with crisp white linens and hanging lanterns to create a cool, beach house feel. Sliding doors open to the front to reveal a private 6-metre long pool with a daybed, curtained cabana and sun loungers for two. The surrounding vegetation helps to keep the pool private, but a path leads directly out onto a stretch of blindingly white sand beach backed by sapphire sea. To the rear of the villa – I find one of the prettiest bathrooms I’ve ever seen, with freestanding tub, twinkling Moroccan hanging lights and billowing white curtains. Doors open onto a private, palm-fringed courtyard with alfresco shower.
This is the perfect place to retire to after sunset on the beach, pushing the doors back as dusk draws in, watching the silhouettes of fruit bats across the sky – an ideal choice for Honeymooners or someone looking for something special.
Nosing around my neighbour’s villa, I find the new Dhoni Beach Pool Villas just as romantic as the Beach Pool Villas. The only difference being an L shaped pool and a completely open bathtub in the larger courtyard garden. The Garden villas, located a short walk from the beach are the most cost-effective option here, while the over-water villas further down the beach offer direct lagoon access from a decked verandah. The two-bedroom overwater suite with pool is the top room category, with private lap pool suspended over turquoise waters, outdoor Jacuzzi, double day beds and glass floor to watch for passing marine life.
It’s not just the rooms here that scream romance – the whole island seems to have been designed with honeymooners it in mind. Wicker cocoon chairs hang from palms and swings out in the sea provide just the spot for loved-up couples to linger.
Furaveri may be a low-key island, but one thing they don’t do by halves is the food. Mexican may be as far from the Maldives as you could imagine – but their overwater Mexican restaurant Amigos somehow manages to feel like Tulum. At Asian fusion restaurant Raiyvilla, a specialist Teppanyaki chef cooks in front of you in a theatre of knife tricks and flames – a special dinner that could rival that of top London Teppanyaki restaurants. Four different meal plans offer the opportunity to tailor your dining experience – but everyday dining is at the Jaafaeiy restaurant – a hearty buffet selection of local classics as well as themed nights to avoid any boredom.
As you’d expect of such a honeymoon hot-spot, the resort vibe is relaxed – but it doesn’t stop the after-dinner entertainment, where – fuelled by a few cocktails you can try your hand at some island karaoke (although I am sure a few guests that week had really rather we hadn’t!)
Of all the accolades that this resort can lay claim to, few can match the marine life. Located in the Raa Atoll near the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Hanifaru Bay, this is a haven for snorkelers and divers, with two house reefs encircling the island. Here, led by Furaveri’s PADI team, you can dive or snorkel with turtles, sharks, barracuda and a multitude of multicoloured reef life at one of 30 nearby dive sites. Heading out on a boat trip one day, we snorkel with two manta rays, dancing around us in the deep, and swim with a pod of wild dolphins – an experience that has even the seasoned divers among us grinning from ear to ear.
A Maldivian owned resort, Furavei champions the employment of local people. One afternoon we have the opportunity to visit the neighbouring local island R Fainu, having tea with one of the hotel employees and an amazing spread of home-cooked Maldivian food by his lovely wife, an experience most might miss but an interesting insight into a different side of these islands.
The dive team at Furaveri in particular, have an acute familiarity, as well as an awareness of the challenges facing their island paradise. Keen to safeguard the ocean for future generations to enjoy, they run programs for guests with daily presentations by an in-house marine biologist and offer daily guided snorkelling trips for anyone who would like to join their effort to protect the environment. The team also offer a full range of PADI programs from complete beginners to more experienced divers.
Actively involved in projects like the AWARE week, Furaveri’s dive professionals lead and take part in activities and courses focused on tackling ocean pollution, raising awareness about plastic pollution, and empowering local communities to take positive actions for a return to a clean and healthy ocean. As well as equipping resort staff and guests divers, with the skills needed to conduct Dive Against Debris surveys, the last AWARE Week at Furaveri saw a local island clean up and Project AWARE presentations – all in an effort to be a voice for the ocean and act for change.
Furaveri may be less well known than other international five-star resort brands, but with an eco-conscious outlook and barefoot luxe feel, this under-the-radar gem not only celebrates these islands for their pared-back natural beauty but are doing their part to conserve it.