We set sail from the jetty of Fairmont Maldives on the resort’s yacht a little before sun down, cutting through the crystal clear waters of the island’s tranquil turquoise lagoon out to the waves beyond the surrounding reef. We’re not just heading offshore to see the sunset over the ocean; we’re also going in search of the dolphins that famously pass through these waters. Sure enough, it only takes moments for these marine mammals to make their appearance, just meters ahead of us, with the island still in sight. The marine biologists on board start clapping zealously. “You know, if you clap the dolphins begin to jump,” one of the hosts says behind me. By now I’m at the bow of the yacht, leaning towards the edge to get as close as I can to the dolphins swimming through the water beside us. Everyone on the boat starts clapping vigorously and on cue the dolphins start jumping, staying with us until the sun begins to sink towards the horizon, casting golden light across the ripples and waves of the now deep-blue water.
The dolphins’ reliable presence in these waters is one of Sirru Fen Fushi’s hallmarks – when I wake up early the next day in my overwater villa, which is on the side facing sunrise, I can see the dolphins again, leaping in the waves on the not-so-distant horizon. Here, dolphin sightings are almost guaranteed on sunset cruises in search of them. Of course, the underwater environment is equally as astounding, as snorkeling and scuba diving trips transport you to a marine world with extraordinary visibility that’s like looking through an aquamarine gemstone with shoals of colorful, patterned and characterful fish dashing and swirling amid bulbous sponges and otherworldly coral formations. And at Sirru Fen Fushi this well preserved environment is being complemented further with the installation of the environmentally beneficial underwater sculpture museum, the Coralarium, by the acclaimed artist Jason deCaires Taylor. As well as putting Sirru Fen Fushi on the global art map, this underwater sculpture garden will provide a habitat for coral and marine life, within the lagoon of this private island.
Sirru Fen Fushi’s natural beauty is harmoniously tied in with the resort’s barefoot chic design, from its light-filled foliage-enclosed beach villas and ocean-facing overwaters villas to its beachfront Balinese-inspired bar Onu Onu and ambiently lit overwater Japanese restaurant Kata. Natural materials feature throughout, with each villas’ stone floors, textured white walls and tall archways complemented by turquoise carved wooden doors, light-wood furnishings, woven rugs and a large circular bed. Lights mimicking buoys wrapped in bleached rope trail down from the ceiling. In the beach villas tall glass doors open onto private sundecks complete with their own plunge pools and cabanas, and overwater villas come with sundecks and plunge pool, as well as catamaran style nets for sunbathing on the sunrise side and a patch of sand on the sunset side. While there are variations in design between the overwater villas and those onshore, the same barefoot chic runs throughout the collection. You can split your time in one of these with a couple of nights in the safari-style tented jungle villa, which is tucked into the rainforest in the middle of the island, promising complete privacy on your sala with outdoor dining area and private pool. Whichever villa you’re in, a dedicated butler is part of the experience.
At least one night on the island treat yourself to an indulgent meal at the lantern lit overwater restaurant Kata where the plates of sushi, tempura and grilled skewers from the robata demonstrate the chefs’ expertise in contemporary Japanese cooking, fusing classic Japanese recipes with Maldivian ingredients such as mango and the local seafood. Another evening should be spent on the sand in front of Onu Onu beach bar with the chef cooking up fresh seafood on an outdoor grill, and on the beach in front of Raha Market where chefs showcase fragrant Maldivian curries, grilled seafood and traditional sweets. Honeymooners can arrange starlit destination dining and castaway picnics, and chefs are on-hand to host Maldivian cooking classes.
A 200-meter infinity pool stretches from the beachfront by Onu Onu across to Willow Stream Spa on the other side of the island. Light, bright and airy, the serene spa takes on elements seen in the villas’ interior design, with sweeping arches and carved wooden doors distinguishing the white high-ceilinged space. As well as individual treatment suites, the spa incorporates relaxation areas that draw on the energy of the spa’s natural surroundings, including an aromatic herb garden, sea view lounge area and outdoor serenity pool. While you’re here, breathe in these fragrant surroundings in guided meditation and yoga sessions, and indulge in a range of treatments that draw on Asian culture and island life, from the Ayurveda based treatments of Australian brand Subtle Energies, to the spa therapies by the Swedish wellness specialist that takes inspiration from nature, Kerstin Florian. Treatments range from full-body Willow Stream Signature Expressions, which aim to relax and restore energy through exfoliation, massage, aromatherapy and hot stones, to anti-aging purifying and lifting facials (including one with caviar), body treatments such as skin nourishing body wraps, and a selection of head, full-body and foot massages. The magnesium massage helps detoxify the body and replenish essential magnesium through dry exfoliation, aromatherapy, massage and the use of hot stones – this treatment is said to help with jet lag.
In the Water Kayak, paddle-board and jet-ski around the lagoon or take a seabob out for an hour or two, join snorkeling and diving excursions to explore the underwater world, and as each day comes to a close set out on a sunset fishing or dolphin watching tour on board the resort’s yacht.
On Land Get a glimpse of local life and Maldivian culture by joining a tour to a nearby inhabited island, take inspiration from the sculptures here by creating your own artworks in the island’s art studio, and make the most of the resort’s sports facilities – in addition to having a tennis court and fitness center, the resort hosts fitness sessions such as sunrise pilates and beach warrior workouts.
Underwater Sculpture Museum This semi-submerged tidal gallery is the latest art installation of environmental sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. Now officially named the Coralarium, this newly completed space features a collection of sculptures positioned above the water, on the inter-tidal waterline and on the seabed, providing a different experience at each level, whether you’re snorkeling, swimming or staying above water on the elevated viewing platform. By following a poplar- and coral-sculpture lined pathway leading into the ocean from the beach you’ll come to a submerged staircase that leads you down to the semi-submerged building. Made from non-corrosive steel, the cube-shaped building’s walls are permeated with laser-cut coral-shaped holes letting the tide and marine species pass through. The sculptures within this space are hybrid forms — part human, part plant (the designs reflect native plant-life such as the island’s banyan trees) and part coral — and are designed so coral will naturally settle on them. This means that with time the installation will provide a habitat for marine life here in the lagoon. You can explore the museum by day with the resident marine biologists and see it illuminated each night.