The Taj Exotica and Spa in Maldives: An island to remember
Remember all those hypothetical questions about who you want to be stranded on an island with?
Never mind the who, but Taj Exotica is that ideal island you want to be stranded in. Something that would've made Robinson Crusoe or Chuck Noland (“Castaway”) believe that they had died and gone to heaven. An island where the “Lost” castaways and “The Others” would've simply checked into the Water Villas and got luxury spa treatments instead of fighting each other.
As the speed-boat cruises towards the island, it looks big with clear blue waters all around it. It's one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives. You could just jump off the boat and swim ashore. If you are tall enough, you just need to walk.
We are welcomed with tender coconut water by the friendly staff before our private butler drives us to our villas and we realise that from one side of the island you can see the other, just a few feet away. And then it hits you that you are stranded on a narrow patch of land, with the man-made Water Villas arranged around a bell-shaped wooden pathway over the lagoon. It looks like a colony built over water and the huge swimming pool in the middle is the ocean with harmless sharks and assorted fish swimming around. There are no railings, just don't take kids along especially if they can't swim and love to jump around mischievously.
Single women usually find someone on their bed once they've checked in. He's called Benny, a huge pink teddy bear holding a note that says he needs a place to stay. Single men should just look out for women hanging out with Benny.
The villa is as lavish as it gets in a luxury resort, well-stocked with complimentary Molton Brown products and chocolate platters. You have the option to get a Water Villa with a plunge pool and the base model looks just the same minus the pool. The Presidential Suite (where Mr. Tata stays when he visits the resort) has a man-made beach and a hammock over the water! (Psst: Rahul Mahajan honeymooned with Dimpy Mahajan there for two weeks, months before he beat her up!)
The butlers are always asked “Don't you get bored living on an island, no matter how beautiful it is?” And they do admit that it does unsettle them when they go back to the real world on “holiday” and have a tough time for the first few days getting used to the noise and the pollution.
Depending on your mood and how rich you are feeling, you could choose between eating at 24 degrees (get a quick meal there) or Deep End (for a fine dining experience) or Equator, the bar by the beach. If you are on a honeymoon or looking to get dinner right on the beach, just tell the hotel staff and they would put together something memorable with candles and barbeque based on how intimate you want it to be.
The Dive Centre takes you for guided and unguided snorkelling trips around the lagoon and beyond and it's a must do if you love marine life.
“We lead regimented lives when on holiday. Our guests really love that they don't need to do that on the island and they get a sense of relaxation. Shopping is not on the agenda. There's no scope for sight-seeing but we do take them to the local islands for them to get an idea of the village life,” says Girish Sehgal, General Manager.
The most memorable part of our trip was the Sunset Cruise on the traditional dhoni. We also did the evening fishing trip as the staff taught us to catch fish. (I caught Sweet Lips and released it immediately.)
Later that night, we went on a Moonlit Cruise with nothing but the stars above and Kishore Kumar on the music system crooning ‘Zindagi Ke Safar Main Guzar Jaate Hai Jo Makaam, Woh Phir Nahin Aatey' (Some moments just don't come back). Touche!
How to get there
There are flights to Male from Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram. The Resort has transfer arrangements from the airport to the hotel. Since it's a private island, a hotel reservation is the only way to get there.
Things to do
Get a spa treatment to the sound of the waves at the Jiva Spa. (A foot massage for half an hour costs $75.)
Wade through the lagoon, go snorkelling or swim with the fish around the resort.
Go on the Sunset Cruise and catch dolphins in the ocean.
If you're feeling rich, go on a Seaplane ride to get a birds' eye view of the islands embedded in the ocean.
Most importantly, do nothing. It's bliss.
Double Bed Lagoon Villa: $ 723
Double Bed Deluxe Lagoon Villa: $ 935
Luxury Beach Suite: $ 2975
Presidential Suite: $ 4675
Speedboat transfers: $ 110 per person
(This offseason tariff includes breakfast, excluding service charges of 10 per cent. Rack rates will be applicable between December 24 and January 8.)
For reservations, contact email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org