Review: The Nautilus, Maldives

In a faraway land, there’s an exquisite private island, surrounded with impossibly blue crystal-clear seas and pearl-white beaches fringed by fragrant tropical plants, where majestic villas hide, and you can do what you want, when you want – each and every day. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? But actually, it’s very real – and called The Nautilus.

Located in the Baa Atoll, Maldives, famous for its incredible sea life including manta rays, The Nautilus is just a 30-minute flight from Male airport. Your VIP bespoke experience starts the moment your international flight lands though, as guests to this most luxurious resort are greeted as they disembark and driven by limousine to a private VIP lounge, where immigration and other arrival processes are taken care of leaving you to relax in comfort after your long journey. Most resorts leave you to make your own way through customs and baggage claim, which can take a while, so this is a most welcome bonus.

From the lounge, you’ll be ushered onto a special luxury Nautilus branded seaplane for a seamless transfer to the resort where your personal butler will be there to welcome you. It carries less passengers than seaplanes from the usual two main operators, is more luxurious, with more space and large comfortable seats.

Your first arrival golf buggy tour through frangipani and hibiscus flowered paths provides a tantalising first glimpse of private expansive villas, a fitness centre, gorgeous kiddies club and dining places Thyme and Ocaso, plus Naiboli and the large stunning main pool. We were thrilled to be staying in one of the resorts handful of simply gorgeous over water villas, perched above the clear turquoise shallows on a small jetty – each with its own large pool.

With high vaulted ceilings, natural woods and fabrics and tasteful hints of turquoise or lemon, the villas have a wonderfully calming ambiance, and are light and airy. Our villa was a one-bedroom overwater villa, which had a large lounge, leading to a spacious bedroom and bathroom, all open plan but separated if wished with push back wooden doors. All look out to a wide deck area with large, curved pool, sun loungers and a swinging day bed, perfect to relax on with a good book. Unlike almost all private pools in the Maldives, those at The Nautilus can be heated to your own preferred temperature.

The beauty of overwater villas like this is the uninterrupted views of the ocean, cooling breeze, peace and quiet and the fact you can snorkel and swim direct from your own deck or relax in your own pool watching a myriad of rainbow coloured fish, eagle rays and the odd small shark swim below. You can also watch the sun rise or set on the horizon, depending on which direction your particular villa faces.

There are just 26 beach and ocean houses at The Nautilus, making it one of the smallest and most exclusive and private Maldives luxury resorts. Some prefer beach villas, and those at here are rather special.

Perched on silvery sands are Beach Houses and Residences. Each is a completely private sanctuary of effortless chic. There’s a choice of those with one or two bedrooms, a spacious living room and a sparkling private pool. Custom furnishings, an expansive sundeck and bohemian design to complete the aesthetic. Plus, there’s The Nautilus Mansion. Designed as the ultimate beach home, this signature three-bedroom house occupies an enviable location on the shore and is beautifully furnished.

Some guests book a number of neighbouring villas to enable larger family groups to holiday together, and others do the same for important colleagues and business partners to enjoy a productive retreat together.

The accommodation is excellent at this small but perfect resort, and this is matched by the dining experiences and other facilities you can enjoy – again all on a ‘what you want, when you want it’ basis. We loved the fact that you can ask for your favourite dish at one restaurant to be available for you at another, and that if you were so engrossed snorkelling, you missed conventional lunch time, you can still enjoy any lunch of your choosing at an hour and any place you desire.

It’s so refreshing and liberating not being tied to any schedule. You can simply eat when you’re hungry, have breakfast for dinner and drink Champagne in bed should you wish.

Also, The Nautilus delights in veering off script, crafting bespoke culinary journeys designed just for you. You can explore intriguing infusions of Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine at the over water restaurant Zeytoun, celebrate simplicity with Japanese and Latin-American creations at Ocaso, or savour an array of global delicacies at Thyme throughout the day. No opening or closing times and no dress codes. Come as you are, enjoy great company and indulge in a shared passion for extraordinary cuisine at this luxury Maldives beach resort.

Dining in more detail…starting with Zeytoun, which is enviably positioned over the lagoon with amazing sunset views. Here you can experience signature dining in the Maldives that showcases lesser-known spices and flavours from incredible indigenous cuisines. And you can savour Mediterranean Middle Eastern flavours – from the finest pure olive oils from the Aegean, and freshly baked crusty breads, to aromatic Turkish teas. All exquisitely crafted and served in refined comfort. The lounge on the upper deck is perfect for intimate pre-dinner rendezvous, made complete by the biggest collection of gin and whisky in the Maldives.

Thyme is The Nautilus’ beachfront all-day dining venue, with a welcoming beach-house ambience. We loved having breakfast here – fresh juices and crisp buttery pasties, cheeses, charcuterie, and a raft of cooked choices too from a wide range of international cuisines.

Naiboli is the ultimate beach and poolside lounge, where guests enjoy expertly crafted cocktails at sunset or under a brilliant starry sky. During the day, if you can tear yourself away from your own private pool, you can relax here on the comfort of loungers and cabanas. Complementary gourmet canapés are available throughout the day along with thoughtful frequent ice-cold water and sunscreen deliveries. The pool itself is one of the best and largest in the Maldives and sparkles with star-like lights at night.

Ocaso offers flavours and infusions from Japan, Mexico, and Peru. Here at what is already known as one of the very best restaurants in Maldives, you can treat yourself to amazing teppanyaki by the beach – something we were incredibly lucky to experience and adore. We were also given a lesson in making a delicious local curry dish so we could bring flavours of The Nautilus back home. And there is a fantastic wine cellar offering an amazing experience for wine connoisseurs showcasing more than 200 labels of finest wines from France and beyond.

For the health conscious, you can experience the Ananda world of creative healthy cuisine at The Nautilus. Ananda’s cuisine philosophy is tailor-made to each dosha or body type, incorporating seasonal variations and local produce. As per Ayurvedic principles. each dosha – Vata (energy of movement), Pitta (energy of metabolism) and Kapha (energy of building and lubrication) – has guidelines for food groups and ingredients depending on its balance or imbalance in each individual. Ananda’s specially curated menu for The Nautilus incorporates the six fundamental food tastes of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent and combined with the three macronutrients of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, vital to good health. Whilst amazing, the pastries, ice creams and other treats available were just too delicious for us to not enjoy instead.

Dining aside, you can stay fit and healthy here as there’s a wide range of Maldives wellness offerings and gym facilities. The modern and fully equipped gym is open to guests 24/7, and you can try your hand at badminton, tennis, or volleyball on the multi-purpose sports court.

Spa fans will certainly feel at home at The Nautilus. The over water Solasta Spa specialises in the bespoke, designing wellness programmes and daily rituals that refresh and relax, pamper, and protect. There’s also an overwater yoga pavilion, providing a sanctuary of movement, mindfulness, and release. We enjoyed wonderful massages and manicures here.

Of course, being surrounded by the ocean, there’s a wide choice of water sports to enjoy such as sea bobbing, canoeing, and paddle boarding – and if it’s a bit choppy when you stay, the island has a sheltered lagoon area which is reassuringly calm on most days.

Do take advantage of a boat trip out to see the manta rays. The Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a kaleidoscopic wonderland of incredible marine life. Close to the resort is Hanifaru Bay, one of the best places in the world to see, snorkel and dive within safe distance of these majestic and beautiful creatures.

The resort is a wonderful place to dive, and snorkel – guided by wildlife-loving and hugely knowledgeable experts. For those who prefer things at a faster pace, you can explore the atoll by jet ski or speedboat too.

I’ve been lucky enough to stay at over 20 of the best and most luxurious resorts in the Maldives now, and this is honestly one I would come back to time and time again. It is small, but perfect, and a uniquely special sanctuary for body, mind, and soul.

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By Lisa Curtiss

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