Experiencing paradise and unparalleled service at Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives

Much has been said about the Maldives and its beauty but a visit to the country’s islands is still highly recommended.

I was lucky enough to have visited twice; I first went to the Maldives in 2015 and have not forgotten my stay. About nine years later, here I am, again.

My destination this time: Cheval Blanc Randheli.

Owned by the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) group, the Cheval Blanc name is synonymous with luxury and exceptional service.

Established in 2006, Cheval Blanc has five hotels and resorts around the globe that are visited by the discerning and well-heeled. Britain’s Prince and Princess of Wales, when they were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge then, were said to have stayed at the Cheval Blanc Randheli in 2014, just a few months after the resort’s opening.

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One of the villas on the resort’s spa island overlooking the gorgeous ocean. Photo: Cheval Blanc Randheli

Cheval Blanc’s hotels and resorts are located in Paris, St-Tropez, St-Barth, Randheli and Courchevel. Cheval Blanc Randheli opened its doors in November 2013.

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Girls trip

While the Maldives is traditionally seen as a place for couples to holiday in, I brought my mum along, since it was her first time. The experience was just as magical.

Before our trip, we were given a comprehensive questionnaire to indicate our needs and wants during our stay. This included our meal preferences, clothing and feet size (for bathrobes and slippers), pillow preferences, and even down to our preferred side of the bed.

It was on a balmy March afternoon that our journey with Cheval Blanc Randheli officially began.

Upon arriving at Velana International Airport in Male, we met with a Cheval Blanc representative who helped to settle our tickets for our seaplane and whisked us to the Cheval Blanc lounge.

While waiting for your flight, the Cheval Blanc lounge is a place for you to relax in the meantime. Located on the third floor of the seaplane terminal, the lounge offers guests a preview of what’s to come. The space comes with a shower area, a mini spa with Guerlain Orchid Imperiale products (but of course), a lounge area including a sofa and day bed, as well as a kids club, called Le Carrousel. Refreshments including dessert and beverages are also on the menu if you’re peckish.

Cheval Blanc has its own fleet of seaplanes although it uses the services of Trans Maldivian Airways sometimes. We took Cheval Blanc’s seaplane to the resort and flew Trans Maldivian Airways back to Male. Earplugs are provided at the lounge for the ride.

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After a 40-minute plane ride, we caught our first glimpse of Cheval Blanc Randheli. It was postcard-perfect with brilliant turquoise waters surrounding the resort.

Located in the pristine Noonu atoll, Cheval Blanc Randheli houses 46 villas — including the exclusive four-bedroom 2,200 sqm villa on its own private island. The remaining villas are split into six categories — island villas that come with tropical gardens and private beaches; water villas; lagoon villas; garden water villas that come with a private garden and overwater deck; lagoon garden villas which also come with a garden but with access to the lagoon as well as the only horizon villa that is located at the very end of the pontoon facing the Indian Ocean.

One of the one-bedroom water villas at Cheval Blanc Randheli. Photo: Cheval Blanc Randheli

Cheval Blanc Randheli is also accessible from Maafaru International Airport, which welcomes tourists travelling by private jet. From there, the resort is a 25-minute ride via speedboat or a 45-minute ride by yacht.

Apart from its main island and private island, there is the spa island that offers exclusive Guerlain treatments that were developed specifically for the resort. It is also home to the house reef, a fitness centre, a pool, a hammam, a sauna and areas to relax in. To get there, you will have to take a dhoni, a traditional Maldivian boat. The trip will take only three minutes.

As the resort is some distance away from Male, Cheval Blanc Randheli operates one hour ahead of Male’s time. According to our majordome, Aminath Ashra, this is common practice among the resorts that are further away from Male. This way, guests will get to enjoy an extra hour of sunlight, she adds.

A majordome is essentially a butler or chief of staff who oversees everything guests will require during their stay. Each villa has a dedicated majordome who will be in charge of arranging meals, transport around the resort, as well as other needs like packing. No request is too big or small; to be sure, Ashra has never hesitated to fulfil our requests such as having breakfast delivered at a certain hour or delivering our snorkelling gear just before our group session.

The rest of the staff at the resort were equally thoughtful. Remember the questionnaire we filled in before the trip? Every single one of our preferences was noted and remembered.

Utterly spoilt

Mum and I stayed at one of the garden water villas for four days and three nights.

On our first day, a bottle of Ruinart was waiting for us in an ice bucket with handwritten welcome notes from the staff. A spread of chocolate and sweets was also presented. I knew, then and there, that we were about to be utterly spoilt.

We spent the rest of our day resting and getting to know the villa better, mainly through its infinity pool and outdoor lounge.

At night, we had appetisers and a bottle of 2008 Veuve Clicquot with the resort’s resident manager, Rico Haus. The 2008 was a nice vintage, according to chef sommelier Caroline Marquis. She was right.

After appetisers, my mum and I had dinner at Deelani, the Italian restaurant. We also tried the truffle risotto and the catch of the day.

The resort’s Diptyque restaurant. Photo: Cheval Blanc Randheli

There are four other restaurants at the hotel. There is Le 1947, the resort’s fine-dining restaurant; La Table de Partage, the private dining area; Diptyque which serves a Japanese and East Asian menu; and The White, which is the main restaurant and serves island-inspired flavours. There are also three bars, The White Bar on the main island; The Spa Bar which serves healthy eats on the resort’s spa island; and the wine museum and cigar lounge with a well-curated menu of cigars.

The wine museum is an experience in itself. Wine connoisseurs will appreciate the sheer number of wines here, which includes several rare and exceptional vintages. In-cellar flights and sommelier-led masterclasses are also available.

At breakfast, guests are, again, spoilt for choice. While there is the option to dine within the villa, I would recommend guests visit The White, where breakfast is served, at least once. Beyond its a la carte menu which offers a variety of cuisines, you’ll also get to choose from 120 items offered at the harvest table. Honestly, if you have enough room for both, why not?

The LVMH experience

Throughout the resort, a fragrant yet gentle scent from Guerlain made specially for the place permeates the air. Each of Cheval Blanc’s hotels and resorts has its own signature fragrance designed by Guerlain, except the group’s flagship Paris hotel, where the fragrance is designed by Dior.

Within each villa, coffee table books from LVMH’s stable of brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Hublot are artfully placed to give the semblance of home. The resort is also filled with striking pieces of art from French artist Vincent Beaurin including the arch at the jetty, as well as the couronnes (French for crowns) in each villa.

Sheer pampering

There were so many highlights from our trip that it was hard to pick a favourite.

During our stay, we indulged ourselves – from opting for relaxing massages on the spa island to cruising with the dolphins.

We also went snorkelling at one of the nearby reefs on one of the days, where we saw countless schools of fish, coral and stingrays — a first for my mum and an unforgettable memory for us.

There are also other activities on offer such as the surf simulator, as well as water sports like waterskiing, jet surfing and going on a catamaran. Guests can also opt to go fishing, sail into the horizon on the resort’s Azimut yacht, or stick to the tried and tested like yoga, tennis and golf.

Catch a wave or two at the resort’s FlowRider, the only surf simular in the Maldives. Photo: Cheval Blanc Randheli

Families with young children can rest easy with the activities at Le Carrousel. The club has a daily manager on duty as well as daily programmes designed to keep the children well entertained.

Paradise on Earth

People don’t call the Maldives an island paradise for nothing. Our stay at Cheval Blanc Randheli was all that and more.

According to Haus, the resort sees a lot of returning guests, and we can understand why.

Apart from the gorgeous views, we were very well taken care of by our majordome and the rest of the staff at the resort. Service was efficient, warm, personalised and always offered with a smile.

Each villa also comes with extensive amenities that ensure you’re never in want. Need a tote for the beach and snorkelling trips? The villa offers a chic one for all your essentials. Need a pair of slippers or espadrilles to explore the island? Request for a pair in your size. Each villa also comes with bicycles for guests to visit the rest of the island at their leisure.

And if you ever find yourself in need of anything, the resort’s boutique is well-stocked with a wide selection of apparel, watches, jewellery, accessories and more.

The pampering never ends. Even before our departure, we left on a sweet note — quite literally — as we were given boxes of macarons for the journey home.

Though it has been about three months from our trip as I write this, a glance at the Cheval Blanc luggage tag and my beach tote makes me feel as if we never left.


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