WORDS BY PAULO MEIXEDO
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There is a place in the middle of the Indian Ocean where time stands still. Where our mind and body find calm and serenity and the days become lighter. For a brief moment we don’t believe in the existence of such a place, but it does and probably the only place I visited and found no flaws. None. The journey was long, starting in Portugal. Direction: Maldives. This idyllic place that we always associate with images of paradisiacal beaches, white sands and transparent waters. Honeymooners, sunsets and cocktails. But the Maldives is much more than that, it is indeed a paradise for the body and mind, but also an awakening of the senses. It doesn’t matter if it rains or shines, with or without waves or dark skies for dramatic landscapes, if paradise on earth exists, it will certainly be here. It is called Joali Being and it is the only nature immersive wellbeing island retreat of its kind in the Maldives.
Few weeks before our trip, we received a survey from the hotel where they asked several questions, including our eating and sleeping habits and with these data, the hotel is able to provide the best stay for each guest, designed exclusively for each of us. The beginning of a transformative journey. As soon as we were approaching the destination I looked out the plane window and saw immense shades of blue and green as far as the eye could see with small, medium and other tiny islands. Nature showing its art. It’s my first time in these islands and I’m super excited and full of expectations. After two long flights we finally land and right at the exit of the airport we have a JOALI Being staff member waiting for us to receive our luggage and also to help us to buy the tickets for the sea plane that will take us to the hotel. While we wait for the sea plane, we are taken to a lounge dedicated exclusively to the hotel where we will be able to do the check-in, rest from the previous long, long flights, or take a shower if we wish. There is also a healthy snacks and drinks menu. The entire space is beautifully decorated and already gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. A luxurious but unpretentious lounge, a calming color palette and inviting sofas. We are very tired from the trip but at that moment our eyes are open to everything around us, they absorb all the details and they are anxious for more.
A few dark clouds in the sky tell us for sure that we are in the rainy season but that is not a reason to be discouraged. We are then taken to the sea plane that will take us to this new paradise with a flight duration about 45 minutes and is also my first time on a see plane. And here we go. We took off from Malé towards the Joali Being and my eyes are perplexed. My mind doesn’t want to believe what it’s seeing. It’s the most beautiful flight I’ve ever taken in my life. These islands beneath us emerge from the sea like eyes full of color and life in different shapes. They look hand-painted in unique colors never seen before. I feel like I’m flying to another world. I lost count of how many pictures I took or how many videos I made. As soon as the plane landed my heart started to beat faster. We finally arrived at the secluded island of Bodufushi in Raa Atoll, amid crystalline lagoons and coconut palms. We are welcomed with smiles and open arms and without being able to explain, our body and mind merge with that place immediately. We are part of it, we are a whole. A feeling of starting over, of embracing nature in a different way while embracing ourselves. We arrived under “Ground Zero”, a massive sculpture inspired by the semazen’s flared white skirt, which represents letting go of the ego, cleansing the soul and arriving at ‘zero’. The undefinable point at which true introspection becomes possible.
“Unbeatable service and unparalleled quality make this place one of the best hotels in the world.”
Joali Being has 68 villas, each with its own butler or “Jadugar”. Our Jadugar takes us on a tour of the island to get to know all the areas. The energy here flows in our bodies differently and nature takes care of feng shui with its own sounds and smells in perfect harmony. I can’t wait to see the villa where we’re staying. And that wait ended when we opened the door of what would be our refuge in the following days. Our villa was facing the sea, extremely spacious and very well designed. With sea, sun and sky all around us and featuring a 35 sqm infinity pool, rain shower and outdoor sunken bathtub. This villa is everyone’s dream, from the extremely relaxing color palette of greens and beige to soft old pink touches here and there. But the real surprise was the bathroom. I’ve never seen anything like it. It flowed perfectly with the room: spacious and well decorated with pyramidal ceilings and even a door that leads to an outdoor shower carved in stone. We have just arrived but already feel totally relaxed. We have a program for the next few days that was designed to rebalance the Four Pillars of Wellbeing: Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy. A customized journey after an Intelligent Movement Analysis and an Integrative Health Assessment. I am particularly curious about the Watsu massage therapy that I have been assigned. To be brief in explanation, Watsu is a form of water therapy, which is also called hydrotherapy. It involves stretches, massages, and acupressure in warm water. The term Watsu comes from the words “water” and “shiatsu.” But I will explain later the experience after discovering the food of this unbelievable place.
“Joali Being is the only nature immersive wellbeing island retreat of its kind in the Maldives.”
We took our bicycles and cycled through the indigenous nature to ‘Flow’ restaurant. Here All food and drink options have been expertly curated with the help of the retreat’s nutritionists, offering a selection of flavors and cuisines with healthy yet indulgent dining options. Within Flow you also have three signature cuisine options: Plantae offers vegetarian and vegan cuisine, Su serves ocean-to-table pescatarian fare, and B’Well features a signature JOALI BEING menu, including a selection of Earth-to-Table meals. The food is simply delicious, extremely well-prepared and creatively presented. My rating is definitely 10/10 and it’s in my top 3 of the best hotel food I’ve ever tried. The products scream excellence and freshness, and every bite is a moment of pure pleasure. At Joali Being the staff is very friendly and makes us feel at home, always with a smile on their face. After finishing our delicious dinner our butler is waiting for us to take us to the room as it started to rain. During the rainy season temperatures and humidity are higher and that night it was 29 degrees Celsius at 10:00 PM and our plans were not to sleep right away but to swim. Swimming at night in the Indian Ocean while it was raining. Feeling total freedom and being in communion with nature and everything around us. And so it was. We felt like happy kids again. We went back to the room and after a good shower we could finally rest from the long day of travel and all the emotions of the first day in paradise. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I do remember waking up without any alarm, to the sound of rain falling outside. I felt like I had slept for days and my body had recovered in a way I had never felt before. I felt light and my body and mind were in a visible transformation in just one day.
The sunbeams are peeking shyly through the dramatic gray clouds as we walk to breakfast. You can smell the raindrops that come down the trees and you can see the bats spreading their long wings across the sky, hunting insects from branch to branch. An almost untouched nature and a pure energy that is felt and not explained. That morning, the wind blows through the dense forest and brings us the melodies of sound sculptures scattered around the island. A melody of the gods that vibrates and soothes our mind. Breakfast is a treat. Everything we desire is carefully prepared in order to nourish our body. It’s one of the highlights of this stay: a wide variety of fresh products, fruits, pastries that won’t make you feel like a sinner, fresh juices and different elixirs. This is a real temple for our body and I couldn’t be happier. Today is the day I have my Watsu treatment. I’m expectant and also anxious, it’s something new for me and I don’t know what to expect. This treatment takes place in the incredible spa at Joali Being. A true architectural temple where energy flows and our eyes are delighted. The watsu treatment room is magical. An oval room with a star-studded ceiling and a round swimming pool underneath. Green and blue tones paint the curved walls and fill me with a powerful feeling of comfort. The therapist explains the whole process of this treatment to me and in the next hour I just have to let go. Slowly I’m floating with the help of some elements strategically placed under my body while the therapist moves my body through the water as if it were a dance choreography. Little by little, I lose the sensation of gravity and I feel that I have left my body, that I am in contact with everything, with the universe. I am a whole. It is completely impossible to explain the sensation of what I felt. But it was something totally new, a feeling of having returned to my mother’s womb, I have no memories of that time but if I had it would be like this. I’m floating with my eyes closed and the therapist continues to move me in choreographed circles and suddenly tears start streaming down my face, tears of relief. Of happiness, of emotion. For moments I knew what it felt like to be totally connected with everything. Be part of a whole. Only those who experience this treatment will be able to understand. I am very grateful to Joali Being and the therapist for the transformative experience that I will never forget. It was certainly an intense and emotional day that left me feeling light and full of good energy.
During my stay I also had the opportunity to learn more about myself with the help of a therapist. I managed to find out more about my energy and what could help me improve the quality of my daily life. I was also able to reflect on certain situations that could help me improve my diet, lower my stress levels and improve my sleep. And I can say that I was quite surprised by some things that I didn’t know about myself until then. Day after day our body and mind were no longer distinct but one. Time had stopped, emotions were calmer, sleep had recovered and the digestive system was like never before. There were many walks we took along the white sands of the island, simply enjoying the beauty of this place or chasing tropical storms. A truly immersive experience that breaks down barriers and preconceptions about spas and resorts. And we couldn’t leave this place without a massage made with essential oils created exclusively on the island. Four days totally immersed in nature and well-being in a place that breaks the barriers of hospitality. I didn’t find any flaws, which even today I am perplexed just thinking about. An architectural gem that houses the biggest and possibly the most beautiful gym in the Maldives. A master piece designed for total immersion with nature. Joali Being is a true jewel of the Indian Ocean with transformative powers in our mind and body. Unbeatable service and unparalleled quality make this place one of the best hotels in the world.