Our seaplane skimmed along the crystal-clear water and we peered out the window, watching as Malé’s Valena Airport fell away to the bright blues and pristine white of the Indian Ocean and the islands of the Maldives below.
The Small World Marketing team began working with Heritance Aarah on September 1, so Alice and Anita flew down as soon as possible to learn everything there was to know about the resort and to get a better understanding of its location within the iconic Maldives islands.
After a 45-minute flight up to the Maldives’ Northern Atols we arrived at Heritance Aarah in Raa Atoll. We were greeted with warm smiles and handshakes as we disembarked our seaplane (a first for both of us and such an idyllic way to arrive) this warm family-like hospitality would follow us for the next five days. We didn’t realise when we met our “butler” Preshant that we would absolutely want to bring him back to the UK with us, he was a calming presence after 15 hours in transit and immediately took control by setting us up on the Wi-Fi and a Whatsapp group with him. After that, anything we needed Preshant had in hand, from booking activities to being rushed to that dinner reservation we were already late for!
We hopped aboard our next mode of transport, a golf buggy, and were taken to our first accommodation – the Beach Villas. Heritance Aarah has their room categories split, like many Maldives resorts, into 2 main categories, beach & over-water villas. These are further broken down into the following:
Beach Villas (51)
Beach Villas, with pool (10)
Family Beach Villas (5)
Family Beach Villas, with pool (2)
Ocean Villas (56)
Ocean Suites (25)
Ocean Residence (1)
You can see more about the room categories and what they include here.
A delightfully cool, comfortable space our beach villas were surrounded by lush green gardens with and indoor/outdoor bathroom – a favourite feature. A 30-second stroll along the bright white sand and we were swimming in impossibly clear waters.
We rushed to change and headed straight for a sundowner… the only thing to do when you have arrived in paradise.
We then had our first taste of the incredible food on offer at Aarah. Our first night we dined at Ralu, a Mediterranean style restaurant also serving brunch and lunch. As we stumbled over what we should order and were thankfully saved by the bright and bubbly Markos, one of Aarah’s managers. We handed over the reins and he ordered us an array of plates to share, mostly made up of the freshest tasting seafood. For the rest of the week we would continue to have the most incredible culinary experience at all 6 of the dining options on the island. We know that almost every 5-star resort is going to tell you their food is amazing and it probably is…. But this was entirely different.
Heritance Aarah has 7 food and beverage outlets, each serving different cuisines, all equally delicious. One of the benefits of the number of restaurants (and so many activities) is that while there may be 150 villas/suites on the island, it always has an intimate feel. Complementing the food offering are sommeliers with a wealth of knowledge to impart and a huge selection of wines to recommend.
Extra special and unique food experiences for us were our Sri Lankan cooking demo. The food was mouthwatering and we loved learning the chef's cooking techniques and watching how it was all made (and then devour it after)! We also were treated to a floating breakfast, a novel experience and the perfect way to start a day in the Maldives. On our final night we experienced Aarah's Teppenyaki restaurant, a true performance and amazing chefs table style dinner.
After a good night’s sleep, we were met by Markos at breakfast, who joined Preshant in taking us on a full tour of the property. This showed us just how much we could experience while there and then had us planning out the next few days... thank goodness for Preshant keeping us on time!
Alongside dolphin excursions, diving, snorkelling on the house reef, kayaking, paddle-boarding and various other motorised water-sports, there is plenty on land to get involved with. For children there is a brilliant kids club, with hosts from many nationalities with many languages under their belts! Older kids and teens can enjoy the recreation centre with sports like tennis & badminton (for adults too), then table tennis, table football and video games. A fully equipped gym is onsite for those wanting to work off all the delicious food & drink – though I can’t say we spent much time there!
For those wanting to get involved in cultural experiences, on the island is a traditional Maldivian village set up, every Wednesday guests can take a guided tour and learn from staff a little more about Maldivian life. The “real-life” version of this happens when guests are taken over to a local island to see what 21st century Maldivian life is like. Our wonderful guide who lives on the island showed us the ancient mosque and even took us to his home where we met his mother and sisters. Sometimes hesitant about cultural experiences like this feeling voyeuristic, we found the trip so insightful and loved being shown around by a member of staff so proud of his beautiful home, this felt like such a warm and welcoming experience.
After two nights staying in the beach villas we spent three nights over the water – a quintessential Maldives experience. There are 56 Ocean Villas and 25 Ocean Suites (where we stayed) – key differences between the two being that the Ocean Suites have two-storeys and also a private pool in each. The Ocean Suite section of the resort is adult only which includes the shared infinity pool with bar.
We would always recommend a twin centre within the resort, staying on the beach followed by being over the water. In our Ocean Suite we swam with a turtle just seconds from our room and could watch the sunrise over the ocean from our bed, while walking across the soft white sand and into the ocean from the Beach Villa was an equally idyllic experience.
Prior to arriving at Heritance Aarah we had visions of getting lots of work done – by the pool, cocktail in hand of course. Meanwhile, we found almost every minute of our five days were jam packed with activities and we left thinking we could have easily spent a few more nights! The island would make such a perfect family escape, with enough activities to keep even the most active, busy for days on end… while on the other would be perfect for some true R&R, with no need to even walk to dinner if you would rather not!