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Joali Being review: The first immersive wellbeing resort in the Maldives

Nestled on Bodufushi island in Raa Atoll, this barefoot luxury retreat promises guests a holistic and transformative journey

Yes, Joali Being has all the Maldives requisites: powdery beaches, crystal-clear lagoons and expansive overwater villas. But this retreat is a little different – it’s the first ever wellbeing resort in the region, with a huge spa and wellness centre that combines ancient knowledge with modern science. Here, you can as equally indulge in hydrotherapy, cryotherapy and herbology as you can lie in a hammock with a cocktail or go snorkelling. For a sun-drenched holiday that offers rejuvenation and renewal as well as relaxation, here’s why you should make Joali Being your next destination. 

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Arriving at Joali Being in their smart seaplane from Malé is like being transported into a dreamworld. As we descend, breaking through the clouds, I spot these tiny palm-fringed atolls surrounded by the clearest blue-green water. It is such a world away from my life in London, it almost feels unreal. As we land at the Bodufushi island resort in Raa Atoll, the first thing I notice is the majestic pavilion structure by sculptor Seçkin Pirim on the jetty; it is like an art installation, its soft, rounded wooden curves setting the tone for the biophilic design throughout.

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Joali Being (not to be confused with sister resort Joali Maldives which is in the same atoll) is the first nature-immersive wellbeing island in the Maldives. After a busy time with work, I am definitely in need of a real rest, and this place is all about relaxing and recharging. There are 68 villas dotted around the resort and I’m in an Ocean Pool Villa, perched above the water. Though the room is spacious, it doesn’t feel impersonal; instead, the warm woods and taupe tones bring a comfortable elegance and the turquoise bathroom, with its woven panelling and mosaic tiling, is stunning. Glass doors slide open onto a big deck with an infinity pool.

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Everything at the resort centres around four pillars – Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy. Most guests spend their days at the wellbeing centre Areka, which plays a central role in island life. It is huge and carefully considered. Therapists are hand-picked from across the world, and there are no less than 39 treatment rooms and a series of ‘transformational spaces’, including a sound therapy hall, a Discovery Sound Path, a herbology centre and a hydrotherapy hall featuring pools, a banya, an Aufguss sauna, Turkish hammam, salt inhalation room and more.

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Following a wellbeing consultation and assessment, a programme of therapies is drawn up for you for the duration of your stay; alternatively, many guests sign up to specific five-, seven- or ten-night programmes, which address everything from Gut Reset and Tranquil Sleep to Women’s Wellbeing and De-Stress. Or you can just pick and choose from the extensive spa menu, which covers facials and body treatments and experiences – whatever you need, they will guide you, from reiki to reflexology, Shirodhara to cupping.

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I have a series of amazing treatments, but my absolute favourite is the Watsu, a form of aquatic bodywork to induce deep relaxation. The Watsu room is stunning. As the therapist performs a series of gentle stretches on me, while I float in the warm water gazing at the twinkling lights above, it’s like a 90-minute dream. I also have one-to-one sound healing, which I’ve never done before. You lie on a treatment bed while the practitioner uses 14 different therapeutic instruments to create music and vibration, which imbues an incredible sense of calm and wellbeing in me.

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The massages are equally excellent. I opt for the Thai and Hot Stone; the former is performed fully clothed and without oil, with the therapist combining acupressure to really dig into my tight spots with a series of yogic stretches – that night I definitely sleep more soundly. Another day I choose the hot stone massage and I can literally feel the heat from the stones melting away the tension and muscle knots.

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I must also tell you about the gym, Core, which is not what you might expect in the Maldives – it’s like being in the most high-tech situation, with state-of-the-art equipment including a cryotherapy chamber, a 3D scanner that measures fitness and a D-Wall for precise movement analysis so you can go totally bespoke with your training. And there is a rolling programme of activities including anti-gravity yoga and meditation, as well as padel, tennis and scuba diving for the more active.

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This holistic approach to wellness and wellbeing is incorporated in the restaurants too, where the menus are curated by nutritionists. But don’t for a minute imagine this is a place where you have to do a restrictive detox diet.

Whether you’re in Flow, a dining space that has three kitchens (one pescatarian, one vegetarian/vegan and one featuring meat and poultry options) or Mojo, the laid-back beach spot, or the beautifully-lit Ocean Sala, the food is always healthy, yes, but it is also absolutely delicious. And you’ll find pastries, desserts and wine here for sure. I am a big breakfast person, and the buffet deserves a special mention with every kind of fruit, bread and breakfast dish imaginable. I spend one afternoon at Sai, a tea lounge where the resident tea sommelier talks me through the many different teas – it’s fascinating.

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After a few days at Joali Being, I feel a world away from when I arrived. It’s hard not to wind down – the whole vibe is geared towards optimum relaxation. This is wellbeing but not in a punitive, medical sense, rather in a holistic, supportive and – most importantly – enjoyable way. Essentially, you can make it what you want to make it. You can equally lie on the white sand beach, swim with sea turtles and snorkel as you can have amazing treatments and eat healthily. 

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Whatever you choose, this place is 100% about being good to yourself and you’ll come home feeling fantastic (and not at all bloated, despite all the amazing food). There is no other place like this in the Maldives – it’s a truly unique proposition – and I will definitely be back.  

Villas start from $3,300 per night based on two people sharing a Beach Villa with Pool on a bed & breakfast basis. 
joali.com

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