After a few months of enjoying wearing my new winter coat and hibernating on the sofa, I begin to feel that craving creep in for some real sunshine on my face. So along with most of the UK’s population I usually spend my dreary winter commute googling dream holiday destinations, and jealously eyeballing those getting off at Gatwick struggling with their long haul cases.
This year in search of a double dose of winter sun (greedy, I know!) I set off on route to the Maldives via Dubai. Already a firm favourite for all year sunshine, Dubai is fast earning its reputation for long weekends – a 7 hour flight and easy to adjust to 5-hour time difference makes this just as plausible as New York. It is also a rewarding stopover on route to the Far East and Australasia. In the past I’ve used Dubai to stop off on my way to Thailand, and can confirm that with a four-month-old baby this was the best decision I’ve ever made!
Once off the plane we headed South to JA Palm Tree Court – a relaxed five star resort with low rise buildings set amongst pretty gardens, with three pools and a spacious lawn leading onto the beach.
Being away from the main throng of beach hotels gives Palm Tree Court a peaceful secluded feel. Not crowded by neighbouring high rises and being surrounded by the golf course (belonging to its sister hotel Jebel Ali) gives it a real sense of openness, a rare feeling in this somewhat crowded city.
Waking up to watch the peaceful silhouettes of the kite surfers, I felt inspired to practice my yoga each morning on the balcony. During the days whilst soaking up that winter sun, I spent time kicking back at the beach bar restaurants – Captains was a firm favourite with its Caribbean inspired wooden al fresco vibe, meze plates and hearty salads. I gave my core muscles a workout trying paddle boarding, and melted away any aches, pains and worries with a signature massage in the spa. Sporty types can make use of the Watercooled sports centre (all inclusive except power boat activities), tennis courts with private tuition available (apparently Federer holidays here) and 18-hole golf course.
On venturing out of the resort (if you must) I recommend going upwards on the hotels Seawings plane, it’s a thrilling way to discover this sparkling city and see its prominent landmarks against the clear blue skies.
Many travellers – myself included – can find themselves craving some history amongst this shiny new metropolis, so a trip to the creek and Dubai museum was most welcome. Did you know that pre-oil Dubai’s main economy was pearl diving? From the museum, traditional Dhow boats take you across the creek towards winding alleyways which sing the tune of traditional spice and gold souks.
A flight to Male (Maldives main airport) is a mere 1.5 hours from Dubai where you can be whisked off to hundreds of Maldivian islands. Boarding our seaplane we set off to one of the Northern jewels in the Maldivian crown JA Manafaru our second dreamy location.
The Maldives must be on everyone’s bucket list (if it’s not I suspect you are lying). Some people worry they’ll get bored but I can honestly say I didn’t have a dull moment on this tiny island. Flying over in the seaplane you appreciate just how small it is – I jogged round the whole island in 10 minutes.
Made up of sand and lush jungle its greener than I expected, sprinkled with tropical flowers and yes those picture perfect palm trees on white beaches.
Arriving in my water villa I had to mask my squeals of delight from Riaz my host – each villa has its own host assigned who’ll do everything from pick you up in a golf buggy to deliver your breakfast in bed.
The floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the turquoise ocean made me feel like I was part of the Blue Planet watch team, I even had binoculars!
I eventually prized myself from the room for lunch (crab cakes with fresh mango and seared Maldivian tuna) and to discover what this heavenly place had to offer. The ocean here really is like nowhere else in the world, crystal clear it seems almost therapeutic so for me water based activities were high on the agenda. Snorkelling the reef with turtles, water sports, diving, fishing, sunset dolphin cruises (we saw four) – there really is as little or as much to do as you desire.
For those who prefer the mainland the island boasts 4 restaurants, a tennis court, cinema room, kids club, Maldivian cooking classes (Manafaru boasts the only Maldivian head chef out of all the islands) and, of course, a top-class spa.
For such a tiny island I was amazed how they could fit so much on it, and 300 staff! But what I absolutely loved was how hidden away everything was, and as I rode my bike around the winding jungle paths I discovered something new each time – a hidden cocktail lounge, 5 aside football pitch, even a wine tasting cellar!
It’s an overused word, but this place really is paradise.
Stays at JA Palm Tree Court start from AED 950 (approx. £194), subject to service charge and taxes, VAT and Tourism Dirham, per room per night on a B&B basis.
Stays at JA Manafaru start from $1,000 USD (approx. £750), subject to tax and environment fees, per room per night on a B&B basis.
Full details are available at the link below: