Dhoni Island (formerly Dhoni Mighili) is unique in the Maldives. No other resort offers you the chance to design and live out your own fantasy holiday the way Dhoni Island does.
The original concept is a super-premium all-inclusive holiday, where each couple is given a boat and a room onshore. Adapting to demand, guests can now book either just the boat or just the room. They can be all-inclusive or they can be on full-board. With just the six land rooms and five boats, they can also book the whole island and really let their imagination rip. And plenty of clients have done just that, pre-arranging two volleyball courts, a certain cider, a certain Chablis, different themes for decoration each night and printed menus.
The all-inclusive package now includes just the one bottle of champagne and charges some other premium drinks and for spa treatments and diving but apart from that it is all at your disposal. The island is owned and run by a Maldivian family and the atmosphere is as relaxed and friendly as the best of family reunions.
Soon after your arrival you will meet Shah, a vastly experienced and widely travelled master chef. He loves to talk food and soon works out what you like and how you like it. There are no menus here or set meal times. Shah will work to your menu ideas or to your general preferences and you have the meals wherever and whenever you want them. The restaurant area is, in fact, only usually used for breakfast. Lunch and dinner will invariably be served on a beach somewhere, or on an isolated sandbank in a lagoon, or on your boat.
Each guest is assigned a butler, here called a thakuru, who becomes your right-hand-man who not only makes things happen but also suggests ideas for the day’s activities and pleasures. One of the absolute key pleasures here is time spent as a couple cruising the extraordinary waters of the Maldives archipelago.
Even time bends to your whims
Slipping anchor and cruising away under sail you might find a lonely reef to snorkel in the morning, have lunch served on a desert island, sunbathe and nap, then visit an inhabited island or two in the afternoon before puttering back at sunset through a channel frequented by dolphins.
The variations on this theme of slacking in paradise are myriad and limited only by the hours of daylight, for the boats return to base every evening. In that time the hundreds of islands and hidden reefs of Ari Atoll are all within reach. So too is the hammerhead shark point on Rasdhoo Atoll. For diving, the excellent Hassan will be at your side with all you need, in terms of equipment and information and diving buddy.
For snorkeling you don't have to go far for one of the country’s highlights. Truly prime snorkelling is available on neighbouring Kandholhudhoo island that somehow was untouched by the coral bleaching event of 1998.
Thoroughly spoiled by day and night
The sea is calm for most of the year and like glass for much of the high season. Only at the turn of the seasons and the odd summer week is it choppy and rainy — that's May into June, and November. So apart from those weeks, life onboard is almost always serene.
Onboard, the king-size bed has Frette linen and a goose down duvet, the bathroom has Philippe Starck fittings and the 20" LCD screen is accompanied with Bose DVD Surround Sound Theatre. A galley kitchen and a minibar are at your disposal. On deck big cushions provide comfortable support for lounging, sunbathing and gazing out to sea. The boats are getting on in years now and some of them are beginning to betray their age in one way or another.
Back on land, the beach bungalows are frankly nothing special — small, square and solid with heavy, ornate furniture. It’s a shame they don’t come up to the mark of the rest of the resort. The iPod is always a good idea, providing immediate access to thousands of tracks to suit your mood. And the plunge pools in the courtyards are a good size.
After your return from sea and before repairing to the bar for cocktail hour you might revel in a spa treatment. I happened to have one of the best massages I've ever had here. Then it's the stroll across the beach again at the end of the day for your evening meal, either on your own somewhere private or communally with your few fellow guests. The restaurant, the bar, everywhere has beautiful, deep, soft sand. Kick off your shoes and live the dream.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville