3. Ozen by Atmosphere, The Maldives
Atmosphere have just about got it right with the concept of Ozen. This bran new 'all inclusive' Maldive resort has pretty much everything you may want from an island paradise. Holidaying in The Maldives is an expensive business and choosing the right resort for you is of paramount importance, with so many little variables along the way. For instance, an island's size, location, distance from the airport and facilities, can all make or break your dream escape. Seaplane transfers can add a packet to your budget and also come along with baggage restrictions, but too close to Male Airport and a short boat ride away, and your horizon will be filled with oil tankers and uninvited guests, and this brings us back to Ozen. It is the perfect distance from the main island and is a complimentary 40 minute speed boat trip away. It's exactly the right distance and lays in the perfect spot for a mainly clear idyllic horizon. If you then couple with this it's size, then it really starts to come together. It is quite large for a Maldivian resort, but this is a good thing. It means that there are ample facilities, plenty of dining choices and lots of space to roam and to find your spot. Although there are precious few of those little touches that other smaller resorts may have, like secluded sun-loungers, hammocks suspended between bending palms or on-water retreats, but I am sure that these will come with time. They seem to have thought of everything else and as Ozen only opened in July 2016, I'm sure I can be generous enough to let them find their feet.
Ozen has several Eateries, as mentioned earlier. Everything from a waterside sushi bar, Indian and Chinese inspired restaurants, the main restaurant which serves a large buffet breakfast (other foods made to order) and caters for special event evenings and feature dining, and also the poolside bar, which caters for more conventional but no less tasty, snackier foods like Pakora, Pizza, Chicken Goujons, Meatballs etc. Beware however, the Sushi, Indian and Chinese restaurants do book out quickly so make sure you reserve your table well in advance. Having said that, as your villa of choice comes with your own Butler, they can often pull a few strings and get you in, should you forget to book ahead. Added to all of these, there is the M6m underwater reef restaurant. Here it is essential to book early, even before you arrive on the island, and here they take their food very seriously indeed. The dining room 6 metres under water and surrounded by a newly created reef, is a spectacle in itself, long before the degustation menu is served to your table. The restaurant, which is shrouded in an eery pale blue light, delivers on every level, and the local sea life is regularly fed so you are never without a school of reef fish or the occasional Moray Eel providing the stage show. The food is excellently conceived and prepared and nothing is too much trouble. It really is a different world down there on so many levels and well worth a visit.
All inclusive means all inclusive. All the alcohol on the island is complimentary and readily available, and although this is not unusual, I have never experienced a place that is so keen to pass this luxury on to its guests. At no point is there a reluctance or hesitation in serving a drink or two... In fact, it is actively encouraged. The bar staff are attentive, eager to please and friendly and again, it is all about the guests happiness. Situated right by the pool make cocktails in the afternoon are very difficult to avoid. If you further add, that your In-Villa bar fridge, wine fridge and chosen bottle of spirit are refreshed twice daily, you begin to get a picture of what I mean about the booze. This is no place for recovering alcoholics or Puritans.
A spa treatment is also included in the price and again, this was well worth taking advantage of. The only problem being the guilt - If you need a relaxing massage while staying at Ozen, then you haven't been doing it right. It was still very enjoyable however, and I soon overcame any guilt I may have had upon entering.
Kayaks, diving and fishing trips, even the Ozen submarine, will allow you plenty of opportunity in and on the water should you tire of the pure white sand beneath your feet and the complimentary drop and go bicycles make peddling the island a joy. I saw many people getting ferried around the island in the chauffeured golf buggies but couldn't help thinking that the occupants were missing a trick. Whether it was cycling back and forward to the main pool, the bar, the moonlight beachside cinema, the restaurant or to the beach, it added an extra element of happiness to the whole proceedings. I can't help thinking that some folks take luxury too far and miss out on some of the more simple pleasures in life.
All of the staff are wonderful, the facilities superb, the location and size are perfect, and the villas are clean and vibrantly decorated. I chose a Wind Villa with a private pool and it was the right decision. Other guests said that the beachside villas were a little too hot and were more likely to attract mosquitoes. Not major issues at all, and to be expected, but all these little things are what help turn a great trip into an amazing trip.
If there are any minor niggles about Ozen, they can be attributed mail to teething problems.... For instance, I don't think the main restaurant is quite right yet. I couldn't put my finger on it but they may be trying too hard, offering too much variety and just missing the mark as a result. I'm sure that this will sort itself out as the resort matures or it might just be that everything else is so wonderful in comparison.I don't think it's a particularly great family resort. There may be better options found elsewhere. There don't seem to be any children's areas per se, and if a child needs certain foods at certain times, the options are limited. I don't have a real problem with this, as I see it very much as an adult resort; If there are so many other options available to parents in The Maldives, why should a transparently obvious grown up resort have to caters for everyone?
By far the greatest problem with Ozen by Atmosphere has absolutely nothing to do with the resort itself, or the staff, the owners, managers, designers or location however. It is something deeply disturbing and completely out of their control. It is a certain type of modern traveller that I am experiencing a lot on my travels. The island had about a 80% occupancy of those not wishing to enjoy themselves. Instagram travellers only there because they want to be seen to be there, and in no way want to make use of the facilities provided for the use they were provided for, do not and will not mix or acknowledge other guests, spend every meal sullenly searching their phones, heads down and uninterested. He with a tripod, a selfie stick and a drone, she in a summer dress posing in mock satisfaction and happiness for the various cameras and he dutifully reeling off thousands of fake shots to send back to their friends and family.
At one point, a couple got into a kayak, floated out about 5 metres into the lagoon, took 100 pictures on a highly lofted Selfie Stick of them suddenly smiling and then floating back into shore. This was only bettered by the same thing happening two days later but with the use of a drone. They are all over the island taking pictures of themselves all day, every day, apart from when they are reviewing the photo's on their phones or cameras. Every horizon ruined by the narcissism of this ever encroaching breed of annoyance. Instructions shouted out between amateur photographer and model all day long, breaking the natural peace and tranquility of such a wonderful resort. They hide from the sun, don't drink, don't mix, they play forlornly with their food with a dangled fork from a limp, uninterested wrist.
They don't smile or laugh, unless they are documenting their fake happiness, they don't swim, or snorkel, or sunbathe. They don't say thank you or please and they are lost in a mire and world of their own, ignorant of the impact they are having on other guests. The 20% that weren't this type of traveller were all in agreement and came from every walk of life and every continent, all mystified as to why you would spend so much money, effort and time, on pretending to enjoy yourself for the pretence. It affects your time in paradise. It is paradise after all, so why spoil it for yourself and for others. Ozen should take full credit for acknowledging the problem, on top of every other delightful thing that they did for us. HDT's (High Definition Travellers/Tourists) like these are becoming an ever increasing problem, and for the old school traveller, it's difficult to understand why paying guests just can't enjoy the moment. It's very difficult to know how Hoteliers and Restaurateurs will overcome the problem but Ozen have everything in their power to create a paradise for us..... the least we can do is to enjoy it.
Ozen and it's friendly 'family' of staff help put aside any minor failings and present one of the finest opportunities to experience paradise that you may ever have, and, let's face it, when you are confronted with one of the finest 360 degree sunsets you will ever see, it's hard not to just let the misfortune of others just wash away.
Ozen by Atmosphere - Paradise indeed.