Hanging bats, bigger than legs of jamón, chatter above a peep of chickens casually pecking away at a bleached white sandy path, which meanders through Robinsons’s new Club Noonu resort. But there’s no hint of foul play.
This Swiss Family Robinson-esque island, one of 1,200 in the Maldives, previously belonged to a chicken farmer. As part of the buy-out clause, the owner made sure his precious feathered friends (the ones too old to travel at least) would be well looked after by their new owners – and that they are.
Their revamped home is a plush five-star family retreat situated on the tiny island Orivaru. Surrounded by the cling-film clear Indian Ocean, it looks like an idyllic heavenly island canvass (turquoise sea, sugar-white sand and a slightly-off-leaning palm tree). The sort of thing a tacky mate would hang on his wall at university. It’s Bounty’s paradise island advert. And it’s only a hop, skip and jump (or rather, a plane and a speedboat) away from the Maldives’ capital of Male.
Made up of 150 apartments (90 villas and 60 private water bungalows) everything here is pristine. From the meticulously-combed sandy floor in the bar to the minimalist beach-chic interior.
Pinewood sea villas float mystically above sharks, stingrays and parrot fish. Rooms are decorated in subtle blues and vibrant yellows and walls that are whiter than Ross Geller’s teeth in that famous episode of Friends.
Each bungalow has its own private infinity pool looking out to sea. Wooden steps alongside invite you to the tepid ocean below. And a bath, big enough for four, allows you to bathe beneath the stars whilst listening to the swishing of waves against the jetty. It’s like nature’s very own Headspace.
Aside from the usual room-side refreshments, each guest is presented with a rustic bag made from corn. It reads, ‘Save the Maldives’ and is a sobering reminder that this group of aesthetically serene archipelagos, home to around 420,00 people, is at war with plastic.
Bottles wash up on the shores here more frequently than supplies. To combat sea pollution, Robinson asks guests to take all one-use plastics home (empty shower gels, water bottles etc.). Not quite the traditional fridge magnet your mother expects. But recycling on the Maldives is sparse, so it’s a simple but thoughtful touch.
One island in the Maldives, Thilafushi, a stunning coral reef less than 25-years-ago, is devoted purely to rubbish – earning the unimaginative nickname, ‘trash island’. It’s made up of plastic bottles, stacked higher than coconut trees, and smells of burning garbage. Not exactly what you imagine from the Maldives. Sadly, it’s the harsh reality of island life.
However, German-owned hotel group Robinson are refreshingly sustainability-minded and have an ambitious, forward-thinking approach to waste management.
Charismatic, well-travelled, General Manager of Robinson Club Noonu, Adam Szkop explains:
“The topic of sustainability is of great importance to us. We actively seek to reduce waste, for example in the reduction of plastic bottles using our own drinking water system, which fills the fresh mineral water directly into environmentally friendly glass bottles. The subject is not only part of our corporate philosophy but is also very close to my heart personally and my employees. This attitude is reflected in all areas: from the cultivation of herbs to the responsible preparation of the food we focus on a sustainable use of our resources.”
Adam also informs us that because, ‘80% percent of stomach issues are caused by bad water’. Robinson has removed this concern entirely by introducing a unique water filtration system – that they monitor round the clock – to ensure all water is safe to drink.
Nothing on the island, that you can skip round in under 15 minutes, hasn’t been thought of. The staff, 60% of whom must be local Maldivians by law, have been well looked after too. Aside from living in paradise, they have access to cutting-edge gym equipment (the same as offered to hotel guests) and an infinity pool the size of a five-a-side pitch.
All food, from the bread rolls to goulash, is cooked fresh and with minimal waste. They only get food supplies shipped in here every two weeks. And as much fish as possible is sourced from Maldivian waters. There’s an on-site tailor, artist and doctor. A gym, eight spa rooms, a football pitch, plus water sports (with glass-bottom kayaks) and a cutting-edge diving centre. They have regular classes like yoga and the terrifyingly-named Police Attack, which I can’t confirm isn’t as brutal as it sounds.
For those who like to get up and shake it a little, there’s nightly entertainment – often choreographed by experienced dancers and presented by staff. It’s a little too Butlins in paradise for me. Although I admit to singing along and tapping my two left feet after a couple of beers. Or rather, dancing like a drunk uncle at a wedding. If dancing is not for you, there’s an internationally-acclaimed celebrity singer on the island. Christine Martiashvilli, for those unfamiliar, was on the final of well-known talent show Voice of Georgie.
There’s also a Gala night every Tuesday where guests dress up and tuck into an impressive five-course menu delivered by executive chef, Saji. If like me, you prefer things a bit more casual, there’s a street food festival (complete with London-style food-vans) each week. Here you can get stuck into anything from a pork loin to a tuna salad (locals eat tuna for every meal). Each night smiley Sammy, the villa dining manager, will ensure your belly is full.
The teppanyaki restaurant nestled on the jetty – away from the hustle and bustle – is the star of the culinary show. Here you can sit back, spot sharks and watch the talented chef, Rajan, throw spatulas around like a veteran circus juggler. The food is delicious. Beef that melts in your mouth like coconut oil in hipster’s hot pan. And fish that could have just been pulled from the water below. It could well have been. Most locally-caught fish is only a day or two old.
That’s one of the wonderful things about the Maldives: you’re never far away from nature. Be it the sharks that swim below your bed, the bats that hang from the coconut trees above, or the chickens that roam freely.
Aside from the overly-enthusiastic, well-intentioned dance routines, for me, Robinson Club Noonu has got everything here about right. Okay, the name could do with some work.
This place is more a Claude Monet oil painting than a pound shop canvass. And as I look back towards Orivaru from the speedboat destined for Male, I can’t help but think the chickens got a pretty good deal.
Accommodation: Prices for a week stay all-inclusive at Robinson Club Noonu start from £1046 per person for more information go to www.robinson.com
Flights: In-direct return flights with Emirates available from £746 (prices may vary) visit www.emirates.com to find out more
Direct return flights are also available with British Airways from £1112 (prices may vary)