“WHATEVER you do, don’t go to the Maldives alone.”
When my friend warned me about her own solo experiences in the Maldives she told tales of feeling conspicuously single in a sea of honeymooners and other loved up couples.
But when the chance came to go to a place I’d always dreamed of I decided to throw her cautionary tale to the wind as quickly as I threw my swimmers into my suitcase.
As I sat at Finolhu’s Fish & Crab Shack with the sand between my toes and a glass of sparkling rose in my hand I thought how my first Maldives experience was clearly not the usual one.
For starters there was hardly a couple in sight. Then there was the fact that I was surrounded by genetically blessed models who had suddenly transformed from languid to animated and seemed to be touching their hair a lot more than before.
The Fish & Crab shack.
And that’s when one of the new friends I’d made on the island whispered ‘Leonardo DiCaprio is right behind you.’ And so he was.
Over the course of the afternoon DiCaprio and his friends ate, drank and swam beside us. The sand was white, the water was I Can’t Believe There’s No Filter blue and the island’s resident DJ Jaffa was playing a perfect mix of classic tunes.
We all watched in wonder as a man did backflips in the air on an X-Jetboard, and tucked into soft shell crab tacos, buckets of prawns and other seafood treats between sipping cocktails, champagne or beer. And then we all ended up at 1 OAK.
For the uninitiated, which before this trip included me, 1 OAK stands for 1 Of A Kind and is a nightclub that started in New York and has since spread to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond. It’s a hot spot for celebrities including Beyoncé, Madonna, and Rihanna, who hosted her Met Ball after party at the New York club.
Now 1 OAK is also in the Maldives on Finolhu and the neighbouring Amilla Fushi where DiCaprio and friends stayed when they weren’t bringing the yacht over to party.
The sister resort to Amilla, Finolhu is also found in the Baa Atoll UNESCO world biosphere reserve and they’re both part of the Small Maldives Company, but while Amilla feels like a private retreat, Finolhu is more about having fun and getting out and about.
While it would be very easy to laze the days away in one of the 93 over water or 32 beach villas the beach club is the real place to be.
Here the music starts at lunchtime and continues through the afternoon as inflatable swans and acrobats dressed as mermaids try to tempt you into the pool.
There’s a swim up bar, a vintage VW kombi van serving drinking coconuts and snacks, Pac-Man and Baywatch pin ball machines, a small cinema showing classic films, and even though the resort was full there was always a spare beach cabana or day bed to lounge on.
On the other side of the pool the Baa Baa Beach Diner is where a buffet with live cooking stations provides breakfast, lunch and dinner while other dining choices include the Asian restaurant Kanusan, the Baahaa Grill with a focus on North African flavours, and about a kilometre along Finolhu’s stunning white sandbank you find the rustic chic of the Fish & Crab Shack.
While spa consultation forms are usually pretty standard, I smiled at the Cove Club spa when I was asked to nominate my Rock Star Name and saw my music choices included Disco, Divas and Glam Rock as well as the more traditional Soft Jazz and Ambient options.
At the Cove Club the pastel coloured treatment huts are all named after great female artists including Aretha, Barbra and Dolly. Mine was the Kate and featured pop art portraits of Kate Bush both at the entrance and inside the room overlooking the bed.
After selecting Divas I then discovered what it is like to be massaged to the sounds of Blondie, Shirley Bassey and Eartha Kitt. A fun experience although I did become distracted as I tried to decide if that was really Aretha Franklin doing covers of Rolling in the Deep and Nothing Compares 2 U and as soon as the massage was over had to find out if it was true. It was.
As much as it’s a playground for adults, Finolhu is child friendly and has an Oceaneers kids club, and there are water sports including jet skis, paddleboards, Seabobs and X-Jetpacks.
From June until November it is also manta ray season in the Baa Atoll when hundreds of reef manta rays migrate to the area to feed on the plankton rich waters, and both Finolhu and Amilla take guests on special snorkel trips to see them. Unfortunately I only saw one shadow in the distance, but I did speak to another first timer who saw dozens at close quarters a week or so before, so you never know what to expect.
You never know who will end up bumping into you on the dance floor either.
While the upper level of the 1 OAK beach club was turned into a VIP section for the opening weekend, it didn’t take DiCaprio and friends long to gravitate to the main dance floor below as I discovered when his moves collided with my own.
Perhaps it was the lure of DJ Cassidy who was on the decks at the time? While I personally preferred DJ Jaffa’s style some people, including 1 OAK co-founder Richie Akiva, seemed excited about him.
As I looked at Instagram over breakfast the next morning I almost spat out my tea when I saw someone mention DJ Cassidy had played Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s wedding. Turns out he also played at Obama’s inauguration and 50th. Other DJs to play in the days to come, though sadly after I’d left, included Israeli house music star Guy Gerber and Paris Hilton.
While the 1 OAK beach bar is open year round and there’ll always be acrobats and other performers entertaining guests, Akiva plans to throw special 1 OAK extravaganzas three or four times a year.
For this, the first of the events, we also had performances by American artist Kate March’s I Am Concepts, a group of women who specialise in immersive experiences and added a great energy to the restaurant, beach and bar whenever they appeared. We could also step into a colourful tent to have our tarot read by medium and theta healer Helen Regan or have mini beauty treatments on a sun lounger by the pool.
While it is safe to say that on Finolhu you won’t stand out if you’re travelling alone we did manage to meet one newly married couple at the bar. At first the bride couldn’t believe her honeymoon island was awash with models who looked like they’d stepped off the cover of Sports Illustrated. Nor could the groom.
But after getting over the initial shock they embraced the weekend and all of its surprises. I have a feeling they’ll be telling their honeymoon story for years to come, and know I’ll be doing the same about that first time I went to the Maldives and what happened when I went solo.
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