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Published: March 5th 2018
When I walked into the lounge after dinner the bar tender tipped me a wink and slid a White Russian over to me… she didn’t seem to mind… (pause for laughter… yep, comedy gold!). Alongside the barman’s recollection of my drinking habits pretty much everything about Huvahendoo Island is stunning, including the price. My wife and I take pleasure in finding our inexpensive breaks, but we do treat ourselves and splash out every couple of years. The prices for holidays anywhere fluctuate seemingly randomly and this place weighs in at around the £500 a night give or take a hundred quid for even the cheapest beach apartments which we stayed in. So, is it worth it?
It’s hard to describe heaven in an interesting fashion but no matter how many boxes you have Lily Beach can tick them all. For example, on the last night my wife I and took a stroll along the sea shore, moonlight and stars, you get the picture, and then, there it was, splashing over my toes; bioluminescence. I could almost hear David Attenborough wheezing in a froth of Darwinian hyperbole. Amazing, moving, and beautiful. Yes, ever the professionals,
Lily Beach even trains shoals of glowing phytoplankton to oblige the guests every whim. Now, that is service!
The beaches are perfection though the tsunami of 2004 damaged the coral on one side of the island, but not the other. There’s more sea life to observe than you find on Morrison’s fish counter and they’re as colourful as the aquatic critters in Disney’s ‘Finding Nemo’. Even right off the beach the snorkelling is fabulous. On the last day, as well as the usual aquarium stuff, a large shark swam right by me and a couple of octopuses, each a metre across, put on an amazing light show. All this in water that only came up to my chest. It was fortunate that I took an underwater camera with me to capture this aquatic glory. It was unfortunate that I never read the instructions and none of the footage came out.
The island is small and invites restless sunbathers like myself to go on pointless strolls just soaking up the tranquillity. Every few minutes I’d stop and gaze at the horizon, the waves, a manta ray or a reef shark swimming in the crystal waters.
I may have looked like a moron, slavering and unshaven; but it felt good. The overall effect Lily Beach has is spiritual and uplifting. Maybe this is what the Maldives is about. I’ve been to many beautiful places, and count myself lucky, but there’s something primal, maybe written into our genes, that awakens on a Maldives beach and says, ‘this is it baby!’.
One treat that I savoured several times every day was the walk from the back of our room to the beach; all ten metres of it. I stepped out through the sliding doors, onto the decking and thence to the cool, soft sand. The sound of gentle waves mixed in with the caress of a mild breeze which nudged the palm leaves, creating dappled shadows as I ambled forward. Finally, I pushed the last green fronds aside to reveal a golden beach and an azure blue sea. A couple of times I went back to the room just do the journey again.
Huvahendoo is quite a distance from Mali so the transfer is via sea plane which is part of the adventure. You can look out of the window, make gunshot noises and pretend you are Indiana Jones. I did. Staying with the transport theme, there are a couple of boats trips available. A sunset cruise was OK but no better than seeing it from the beach. They gave us prosecco and canapes, but I wanted a beer and crisps. A trip to see turtles was indifferent as the water was too choppy for comfort and I had no flippers. As I dived in my snorkel breathing tube snapped off and sank into Davy Jones locker which was a bad start. Determined to deliver the goods one of our guides pointed out a turtle grazing over the coral twenty metres below in the gloom. I was unmoved. I’ve done these open sea swimming jaunts several times and I’ve yet to enjoy one; there’s a lesson to be learned here.
There are entertainments on in the bar, probably every evening, but I managed to avoid them, thank God. The restaurant and food are so good, so rich, and so varied as to be shameful. We didn’t eat, we feasted. I had to have a lie down after most meals.
The beach rooms have the shower and toilet outside which gave me pause for thought before venturing to answer nature’s call the first time, nervously peeping around to make sure I couldn’t be seen. Not that anyone would want to watch. I took a copy of The Sunday Times to squat behind lest the neighbours become inquisitive. Whilst the area was always ‘secure’, I never felt quite comfortable excreting al fresco. Showering outside was fine and played to the exhibitionist in me. Even though my body has become quite repulsive in my autumn years, I happily struck a range of erotic poses for any watching voyeur.
Should you go?
There are over 100 resorts in the Maldives so you need to do your research. We got an amazing ‘bargain’ paying less than £500 a night, I just did a search and couldn’t see it for less than £900. For people of normal financial means one can’t consider a visit to these places without thinking about cost. If you really must spend a week on Robinson Crusoe beaches, with amazing food, great booze, first class service and world class snorkelling/scuba diving, in superb accommodation, blah blah blah then; yes, my God, it’s worth it. If you have the money, then do it. However, you can book a week, fully inclusive, for two on the Red Sea for one tenth of the price. Is Huvahendoo Island better than Makadi Bay? Yes. Is it ten times better? No.
We were there six nights in Easter 2017, absolutely loved the place and have memories we’ll treasure forever. We drank heroically in the evenings and consequently I like to think Lily Beach’s profits took a savage blow. Not many guests do White Russians by the pint. The price issue cannot be ducked. If you’re lucky the question may come down to not if you can afford it but; ‘how much do you want to go?’ We went as a once in a lifetime treat. Twice. No, once. Probably.
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