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Home Tourist Attraction A newly renovated resort with an intimate feel

A newly renovated resort with an intimate feel

by Staff

The villas are luxe yet understated (Nova)

In a nutshell: Sealife spotting from the shore, yoga overlooking the ocean and a scenic seaplane journey – Nova offers a relaxing way to explore the Maldives.

The neighbourhood

Located in South Ari Atoll – one of the few places in the world where you can spot whale sharks – Nova, formerly known as Vakarufalhi, is a 20-minute seaplane journey from Malé. The connection is seamless, with friendly staff on the ground to help . While the seaplane offers spectacular views of the archipelago, there are some limiting factors: there are often delays getting on and off the island due to weather conditions; the last departure flight from the airport is 4pm; and it is very expensive.

Nova island, in South Ari Atoll, is reachable by seaplane (Nova)Nova island, in South Ari Atoll, is reachable by seaplane (Nova)

Nova island, in South Ari Atoll, is reachable by seaplane (Nova)

Nova is situated on a house reef, making exploring the underwater world easy. When snorkelling, you can expect to see manta rays, reef sharks and needlefish, as well as turtles (we didn’t spot any, but heard that other guests of the hotel had been lucky).

The look

Fully renovated and reopened under new management in 2022, Nova is clean, modern and chic. With just 72 rooms, the resort has a boutiquey feel and exudes a sense of quiet luxury.

The vibe

There’s a lovely laid-back charm to Nova, making it an enjoyable place to relax and unwind. While we did see families staying at the resort, it’s not particularly geared up to hosting little ones as there’s no kids club and only one pool. As such, it’s best suited to couples looking for a romantic holiday. Owing to its small size, the resort feels intimate and exclusive.

While there are plenty of (chargeable) excursions to take part in – including whale shark snorkelling ($120/£97 per head) – those who get itchy feet might not appreciate the quiet.

Service was fantastic. Everyone was pleased to help us and the other guests staying at the resort, and the waiters in the main restaurant remember where you like to sit, as well as your drinks order.

Idyllic and laid-back, this resort is the perfect place to unwind (Nova)Idyllic and laid-back, this resort is the perfect place to unwind (Nova)

Idyllic and laid-back, this resort is the perfect place to unwind (Nova)

Bed and bath

Nova is a small island, comprising 76 villas with a range of amenities depending which category you opt for. These include family beach villas, those with jacuzzis or pools, and water villas on stilts. Equal parts luxe and understated, the villas are a real highlight. Light and airy, they offer the perfect place to unwind.

The water villas offer sunrise or sunset views (Nova)The water villas offer sunrise or sunset views (Nova)

The water villas offer sunrise or sunset views (Nova)

The water villa with private jacuzzi is situated off a wooden jetty where you’ll likely spot reef sharks swimming in the shallow waters. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors offer uninterrupted views of the ocean from the bedroom and the bathroom.

Once outside on the private deck, which has sun loungers and a jacuzzi, you can really soak up your private slice of paradise. The deck has steps directly down into the sea. While a complete oasis, the outdoor space would benefit from having a comfortable daybed or cushioned sun loungers to make it feel more luxe.

The sunset bar at the end of the jetty plays music all day. It ramps up between 4pm and 6.30pm, which slightly spoils the tranquillity.

Food and drink

There are three restaurants at Nova: Soul Kitchen, Flames and Mizu. The former is the main spot for dining, serving buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners. For breakfast, enjoy eggs, freshly-made pancakes and a selection of pastries, among a selection of pre-cooked dishes. There wasn’t a great deal of difference between lunch and dinner. The live cooking stations included fried rice and pasta.

Those on the all-inclusive package also have the opportunity to enjoy a three-course dinner at Flames, a grill house. With a chilled-out ambience, it’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner under the stairs. Don’t miss the tuna tatiki, red snapper ceviche and the lobster.

The overwater teppanyaki restaurant (Nova)The overwater teppanyaki restaurant (Nova)

The overwater teppanyaki restaurant (Nova)

Last and by no means least is Mizu, the island’s overwater teppanyaki restaurant (from £60 a head). When crossing the jetty, you’ll spot sharks and stingrays below. The good-humoured chef makes the intimate dining experience a treat. Dishes included fried garlic edamame beans, stirfry vegetables and egg fried rice, as well as chicken, beef, prawns and salmon. The showstopper is the dessert – the chef made banana flambé with pandan (a local plant) coconut ice cream.

There are two bars. Wink is the main spot, with a lovely inside-outside design. The comfortable seating makes it a nice place to be on an evening when there’s live music, DJs or entertainment. The second, Solis, is the pool bar. Serving drinks from 10am until sunset, it’s the perfect spot for keeping hydrated throughout the day, as well as enjoying sundowners.

Public areas

The scenery steals the show, but there are plenty of amenities to enjoy, including the large well-equipped gym, tennis courts, jewellery shop, dive centre for booking excursions, and the main pool with swim-up bar. There’s also a small shop, but it could do with some attention. We arrived sans luggage and were disappointed that there was no sunscreen available to buy.

The overwater spa is a particular highlight of the resort. Treatment rooms have glass panels on the floor so you can watch fish and sharks mid-massage. A steam room offers even more relaxation post-treatment. The spa is also where you can enjoy yoga overlooking the ocean. The one-hour sessions are a great way to get rid of any lingering jetlag.

Head to the water sports centre to borrow paddle boards and kayaks, free of charge. Our top tip is to walk to the end of the jetty after dinner to see manta rays and sharks. A great way to end a day of relaxing.

Nuts and bolts

Room count: 72.

Wifi: Free.

Extra charges: Excursions, electric watersports, and transfers to and from the airport.

Disability access: Wheelchair accessible.

Pet policy: No pets allowed.

Bottom line

Best thing: Quiet, calm environment. Great snorkelling and shark spotting.

Worst thing: Sunset bar music can be heard from the water villas.

Perfect for: Couples.

Not right for: People with itchy feet – the island is small and can be walked around in less than 15 minutes.

Instagram from: The beach at sunset.

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