We fashion folk are fond of superlatives, that much is true. So when one of us – namely me – is banging on about how fabulous something is, it may well have an air of boy-who-cried-wolf about it. Humour me in this instance, then, and trust me when I say that Cheval Blanc Randheli, the 45-villa Maldivian resort set in the impossibly beautiful, very, very blue idylls of the Noonu Atoll, is quite possibly The Greatest Place On Earth. If you like perfection, that is.
For a start, it’s owned by LVMH – the French luxury behemoth also parent to Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi and Givenchy to name but a few. As such, crème de la crème is a philosophy woven tightly into its DNA, but not in the suffocating, three-bags-full manner that you might experience from the service of some ultra-exclusive properties around. No, the ethos of Cheval Blanc Randheli – and its alpine sister property in Courchevel – is a make-yourself-at-home one; if your home was a thatch and coconutshell abode with lofty, seven metre-high ceilings and its own personal butler on-call 24 hours a day, that is. But you get the gist. It might so happen to be the pinnacle of luxury – where royals, oligarchs and celebrities jet to as a private bolt-hole – but its overarching feel is that of chilled-out barefootchic. “Island time,” for example, is something that is referred to a lot. There’s no rush to make dinner at 8pm sharp, breakfast is served at The White Bar until the very reasonable 11am… moving slowly is encouraged. And obviously, something I was on board with.
Speaking of minimal movement, I was told many guests rarely emerge from their villas – of which there are one and two-bedroom options, some perched over the crystalline sea, some with a hidden tropical garden and some with their own private beach. All, however, boast a 12.5 metre infinity pool, overwater deck and a dining pavillion sunk into the floor. Given that you can essentially get anything your little heart desires delivered to your door at any time, including a carte-blanche menu where a chef can prepare a meal for you to enjoy, feet-in-the-sand, in your lush jungle garden, I understood why staying in would be quite so appealing. An unofficial motto is that nothing is too much trouble, so even when I asked if perchance they could find me a pink flamingo to float around my pool in, a fully inflated one arrived on my doorstep mere minutes later.
To remain ensconced indoors, however, would mean missing out on the unadulterated joy that is cycling from island to island on your villa’s quaint white bicycle, wind in your hair, song in your heart, bursting out from the verdant green jungle pathways onto connecting jetties flanked by the bluest lagoons imaginable. Filter? What filter?
It also means not fully experiencing the wealth of extracurricular – and tailor-made – activities on offer; from bombing around the Indian Ocean on a bigboys’ toy – think everything from underwater jet-skis to Flyboards and Hoverboards – to a starlit cinema screening of your favourite film on the beach. With cake. I took a dhoni to Spa Island – yes, it deserves its own spit of land – where I did yoga in a thatched, open-air pagoda overlooking the ocean. And not just with any old yoga instructor. A yoga master who had spent seven years training in a silent ashram in India.
That’s the thing about CBR. Over and above everything else, it’s actually the staff that make the experience what it is. Seemingly handpicked from a book of wonder, no one – from the cheery, cheeky majordome to the Guerlain spa therapist – who, by the way, told me exactly where I had tension in my back within five seconds of rubbing my feet – is in any way average. The diving instructor accompanying us on our sunset dolphin cruise? An accomplished marine biologist. The executive pastry chef? Aside from producing the best almond croissants known to man, he also spotted my travelling companion was Lebanese so presented us with freshly made manakish every morning. Not only that, but the salty, flaky, brioche dinner rolls that were only available in one restaurant? On hearing I loved them, made sure that I had them in all the eateries I dined at on the island. There are five. That, ladies and gents, is what you call service.
I couldn’t even pick a highlight, but yoga, dolphins, croissants and basket bikes are all up there, as is an exceptional nine-course tasting menu at the resort’s fine-dining spot, Le 1947 – aided in no small part thanks to the fabulous Italian sommelier’s equally exceptional taste in fun.The fact that bubbles, exotic-fruit platters, homemade macarons and passionfruit marshmallows were among the gastronomic surprises piled into our villa every day also helped, as well as presents such as traditional sarongs to wear to the White Restaurant’s Maldivian night.
It was after this that we got back to find a bubble bath drawn, candles lit, and music piping in through the ceiling’s speakers. Honestly, it doesn’t get better. So if Dubai claims to be the cradle of luxury, it really might need to start watching its back.
• Visit chevalblanc.com/randheli or call +960 656 1515 to book