The thing about highly anticipated vacations, and coveted destinations alike is that they're likely to be equal parts magical and unforgettable. It's no surprise that 2020 has been a rather trying year for many of us around the world. Personally speaking, global travel is a big part of my job and lifestyle. I love it, and this year, I greatly missed it!
Having gone into lockdown in March, my husband and I were uncertain as to when we'd be able to go on our next vacation together. The pandemic turned any semblance of planning upside the head. We were staying put for a while, and that had become fairly certain.
Fast forward to August.... we found out that we were finally going to be having a baby! 2020 was just starting to turn a corner for us, and we were steadfast in our hopes to potentially plan a babymoon!
I turned to my "destinations" wishlist which Waqas and I had created almost a year ago while on a flight to New York last Fall. On it was Maldives - a place we'd heard so much about, but had never been. It ticked all the boxes you'd expect of a romantic/ milestone destination: an archipelago of paradise-like islands, endless sunshine, crystal clear blue waters, great hotels/ hospitality, and the list goes on, and on.
We were extremely fortunate and grateful for the warm luxurious welcome that Heritance Aarah extended us for 5 days. The bonus was that our best friends (my sister and her husband) were invited along for the adventure.
A good two weeks prior to our travels, our sibling Whatsapp group chat was ablaze with excitement and planning. Suffice to say, we just couldn't wait to touch down.
The fab four (myself, Waqas, my sister Amun, and her husband Zaigham) landed very early in the morning at Male International Airport with a lovely greeter waiting to usher us through. A 45 minute seaplane later, the jaw-dropping waters of Raa Atoll lured us in as the warm, friendly, and knowledgeable staff of Heritance Aarah wasted absolutely no time in helping us get our vacation started.
To mark how phenomenal this trip has been, we've collectively decided that one personal review of our stay wouldn't suffice. So the four of us pitched it to share our thoughts and gratitude.
From the moment I landed (not having slept the night before) I felt a sense of rejuvenation I hadn't in years! Sleep was nowhere on my radar as our personal butler Asif checked us in, and insisted we kick back with a welcome drink to commence Operation Babymoon.
The warm tropical climate, pristine sandy beaches, fluffy white clouds, and glittering vistas were leaving us all giddy with excitement.
Moments later, we settled into our private water villas. Having slathered on dollops of SPF100, we hit the beachside pool cabanas, and ordered half the lunch menu. Each entree was more delicious than the next, (in fact we may have beaten a personal record of the number of pizzas consumed in a single day).
Snorkeling is the one activity we all simply couldn't wait for! We got acquainted with the Indian Ocean rather fast as the four of us eagerly swam towards the drop off to personally witness the highly talked about marine life. (If you've watched Finding Nemo, you know what I'm talking about).
There are some experiences you simply can't put into words. Snorkeling with my husband and our siblings for the first time was such a surreal encounter; one I will never ever forget. Being one with nature, and experiencing something so removed from our day to day lives was exactly why we wanted to visit Maldives. Were we sunburnt an hour later? Yes! Was it going to stop us? No! We went back each and every day for more.
On the special itinerary prepared for us by the hotel was an endless gastronomic adventure of world class cuisines ranging from Thai street food, to gourmet Sri Lankan. As foodies, I can assure you we left each of the 6 restaurants licking our fingers and needing a long walk on the beach to digest.
Asif quite literally left no stone unturned, from morning breakfasts, to island tours, to hard-hitting rounds of pingpong, and relaxing sessions at their wellness spa, we did it all.
Leaving the island was bittersweet for me simply because I did not want to go back home. My time there was meaningful, real, unforgettable, and wonderful in every sense. Thank you Heritance Aarah!
My very first thought when we touched down was - "This is what heaven must be like." The crystal clear water, the beautiful white sand, and the amazing hosts only reinforced that thought again and again - I’m in paradise, taking this all in with my wife and our family! For me personally, Maldives is a unique destination in that it's quite unlike anything I've ever experienced. Anum and I have traveled a fair bit, but a tropical island has long been a gap in our travels. Looking back at the experience, my only complaint was that it wasn't long enough!
The culinary experience provided by the hotel is something in particular I'd like to point out. As a self proclaimed foodie, there was a unique adventure astutely planned for us at each and every meal and restaurant. My experience in the past at resorts has been that the diversity and authenticity of cuisines provided is usually never at the forefront of the experience. But not at Heritance Aarah! We could tell right off the bat that highly skilled and crafty chefs were behind our carefully curated meals.
Moreover, the facilities are top notch, with extensive water sports, different racket courts, billiards, and even a gaming room with an Xbox and Playstation present.
One of the highlights of my trip was that I was able to snorkel for the first time in my life! The clear waters and diversity of marine life was a great introduction to an activity I see myself doing repeatedly in the future. The experience was so therapeutic, relaxing, and instilled a lot of positivity. It's a kind of connection and remoteness we crave as urbanites.
I'd love to add that the staff was also incredibly attentive and kind, making our stay one without any worries, hiccups or discomforts. I especially appreciated the private outdoor movie they arranged for us on the beach, and the intimate time we got to spend with Chef Silva - who taught us how to make some delicious authentic Sri Lankan curries.
Overall, I could not have asked for a better babymoon with the love of my life. It's everything we wanted after such a challenging year.
The island was absolutely remarkable, and I want to thank all the lovely people at Heritance Aarah for the adventure.
It was a trip of a lifetime!
I’m still pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming after that trip to the Heritance Aarah in Raa Atoll, Maldives. Aside from the usual gorgeous vistas in Maldives, the standout for me was the incredible culinary experience and the superb, experienced staff. To elaborate, the Heritance Aarah has 6 dining options and each one presents an entirely unique experience. From Thai street food, to fusion Italian, to Japanese, to local Maldivian, each experience offered an incredible set of flavors unlike anything I have experienced in an all-inclusive hotel setting.
Now for the service - Heritance Aarah clearly has staff who are well-versed and understand the importance of balancing care and caution. Our needs were addressed (sometimes even without us knowing) around the clock, and our butler Asif was responsible for orchestrating our heavenly experience behind the scenes. The island is quite big and the property is new, and well built with generous sized rooms, a large, well stocked gym, recreation center and diving center. Thank you Heritance Aarah for a memorable experience, see you soon!
In a country littered with opulent islands, it's the small things that sets Heritance Aarah a cut above the rest. It's the strategically placed foot bowls to wash your feet, it's the small shower on your deck to wash the salt water off, it's the staff remembering what fruit you liked 2 nights ago in a different restaurant that elevates this experience unlike any other.
All this attention to detail is supplemented by an incredible staff - maybe the best I've ever been hosted by. The bartenders are mixologists, the chef's are award winners, and the butlers (shout-out to Asif) can solve basically any problem.
Our experience from the sea plane landing to sea plane take-off was full of unforgettable moments: the variety and quality of food at every meal was akin to a fine dining experience, the snorkeling was an easily accessible underwater adventure, movie night under the stars, table tennis and foosball at the rec center, the beautiful spa, the sustainable approach to life on the island (recycle bins in every room, and no bottled water!) - it makes you re-evaluate what a holiday experience should be, because there's nothing quite like this one.
Thank you to the team at Heritance Aarah for setting this sky-high bar for all hotels and resorts to aspire to!
There you have it. We can likely go on and on about every single magical moment we spent at Heritance Aarah, but I leave you here with a photo diary of our few days in paradise.