From the moment you arrive here, serenity takes you in its arms and won’t, believe me, let you go until you leave. It’s the perfect place to rediscover yourself, get back your lost mojo, or simply be pampered, relax and unwind.
Although on the surface MAIA seems to be a couples’ destination, it is in fact, an ideal place to go on a family vacation. Kids are made to feel very welcome, with their own recreational team for planning activities and a butler on hand 24/7.
MAIA, a new breed of resort, is run on an all-inclusive basis and in doing so, doesn’t aim to skimp or practice portion control in any way. Their dining ethos is one of ‘whatever; whenever’, a brilliant concept which is difficult to pull off and yet it seems so effortless here. Cuisines vary from different countries, all perfectly cooked and presented and not a dreaded buffet in sight. But the real story here is in the rooms. Villas, all stand alone, all with their own butler, all with their own pool, and all huge, are the only accommodation type going. And there are various options: the ‘ocean panoramic’ category (19 in total); and the ‘MAIA signature’ ones (11 in total).
The ocean villas are nestled amidst the foliage on the hillside, with stunning views of the sea and the MAIA bay, whereas the signature villas are generally situated closer to the beach with direct beach access. But with that, many don’t have a view as they are hidden behind foliage in the form of added privacy. This little piece of paradise is a very ‘real’ experience. If you want to be pampered and rejuvenate without any pretentious glitz and hype, then this is the place to go, without a doubt.
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As I arrived through the resort’s entrance, I felt I had been transported to Asia where the jungle and architecture look similar. I was greeted by my butler and the guest relations person in the welcome pavilion and taken, by buggy, directly to my villa.
There isn’t a lobby, but a welcome pavilion open to the elements on all sides which feels quite temple-like. It was sparsely furnished as it’s more of a staging ground, but it did have some comfortable seating on one side and lots of water all around.
Room and suites
The villas, all 30 of them, measure 250 m² (2700 ft²) each, with the focal point being the outdoor sunken bathtub and a private infinity pool (I counted 10 strokes from end to end).
The decor is Asian throughout, dark wooden floors and furniture and yet it does not give a gloomy or oppressive feel in the slightest, probably due to the floor-to-ceiling windows and doors, in my case, overlooking the sea. Outdoors is a huge living space which is covered and where you can eat meals at the table or relax on the day-bed after a swim in your pool.
The small butler’s kitchen has a mini-bar, stocked with your choice of drinks and nibbles. The in-room technology is simple to use and there is Airplay capability with an apple device, but funnily enough this was only to be used through amps to play music. The TV has several English speaking movie and entertainment channels. There are areas on each side of the room with numerous plugs (incl. UK) plug fittings so you can easily charge your equipment. However, there aren’t any USB charging stations which would have been nice.
If you have kids with you, I would pick a signature villa for safety as the hillside villas would not, in my opinion, be secure for children under ten years due to the sheer drops from the open-sided infinity pools.
Also to note is that only one villa is wheelchair accessible, while the rest have stairs to gain access. Mine, for example, had about 40 steps to get to the door but I am sure most couples would arrive here and choose to stay put and savour the salubrious surrounds, unless the bar, restaurant, or beach beckoned.
This is an amazing bathroom, in a long, thin space with an unpacking area, ‘his and her’ large folding door wardrobes, and doors off one side to the separate the toilet and huge walk-in shower cubicle. The ‘his and hers’ sinks are in separate alcoves, on either side of the doors which lead to the outdoor area. The sinks are something special, huge granite boulders from which is cut a basin. The taps are made from bronze and are shaped like the coco de mer nut, the symbol of the Seychelles.
There are little shelves alongside for limited storage but not a great deal of space if, like me, you have a toiletry bag and a makeup bag, etc. The main downside was that the lighting was not sufficient over the sinks so you couldn’t apply makeup easily. Also, the hairdryer had to be used in the bedroom area and there was only a small vanity mirror in here which I towered above.
The outdoor tub was a delight, accessed via the bathroom. I came back one night from dinner to find the bath full of bubbles and floating flowers. Little shells guided my path from the bathroom doors. Sitting in the bath watching the twinkling lights down below as the daylight faded was magical.
Amenities are Hermes’ Eau des Merveilles range for ladies, in generous sizes. For men, there are products from the Terre d’Hermes range.
What a treat! I decided to eat in the Tec-Tec restaurant rather than my villa on my first night and I was so glad that I made the effort to get up and out. The setting was stunning with fires lit atop the pool and an intimate atmosphere in the outdoor restaurant space. Based around five different cuisines, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean and Seychellois (they have an expert chef from each place), you can choose what style you fancy or mix it up accordingly. I plumped for the Indian fish tikka to start which was delicious, served with a mint raita and poppadums. It tasted fresh and was beautifully spiced.
For mains, I went for the Seychellois coconut curry with king prawns served with a bowl of perfectly cooked basmati rice and some chutneys on the side. Similar to a Thai green curry but milder, it was simply sublime. Full, but on a roll, I decided to try the chocolate lava pudding with crème brûlée ice cream. I admit I should have probably passed on the dessert but it had been ages since I had enjoyed food so much. And to add insult to injury on my waistline, some homemade chocolate truffles and petit fours were served as a finale.
Other restaurant options
I took breakfast in my villa, beautifully prepared and served. And at lunch, I dined in the restaurant on some simple grilled fish and salad, which was superb. I travel a lot and it is rare that I rave about food, but MAIA got it just right on all counts for me. And while there is only one restaurant here, there is such a wide choice of food on offer and since you can select what you want to eat and how it is cooked, you will leave the table satiated and smiling each time, guaranteed.
Spa and wellness
The highlight for me also was the MAIA spa. An oasis within the jungle foliage, the Balinese staff here are charming and welcoming. The treatments are beautifully executed in spa cabins set in the open-air, with the sounds of birds and trickling water in the background. The yogi here holds complimentary yoga sessions each morning, a lovely way to start the day.
I had a 90-minute MAIA signature massage which was a unique fusion of consistent pressure, long strokes and gentle stretching. It transported me into a rain forest state of relaxation, being that it was in one of the three, 120 m² private outdoor pavilions, surrounded by natural rock formations with their own garden, changing room, shower or bath.
And if you should overdo the sunbathing, there is a soothing banana leaf wrap with hydrating gel available to help ease your pain.
Pool and beach
Situated inland from the beach and surrounded by dense foliage, is the resort’s large, free-form pool. Asian in influence with large Buddhist-inspired sculptures, it’s a stunning venue. There are a few sun loungers and daybeds around on different levels, affording some distance from other guests.
The beach here is a lovely half-moon shaped bay, around a kilometre in length. It is not one of the best beaches in the Seychelles, but it’s still very nice. The Seychelles does have quite strong currents during the summer, but MAIA’s beach is quite sheltered so you will not be badly affected. Better yet, it’s easy to get a drink or a snack here, anytime.
There is also a small beach club area where guests can take out paddle boards and sea kayaks and engage in other activities, including snorkelling, but that’s about all in the ways of activities. As I said, it’s limited. Guests come here to unwind, not get involved in extreme sports of any kind.
Staff and service
Every villa comes with its own butler who tends to your every whim and fancy, be it on property or off. Discreet, they will never be in your face or your way should you wish to have more privacy, but they are always a phone call away.
The service is exceptionally efficient and friendly throughout the resort. Everywhere you go people greet you with a smile and a ‘hello’.
Mainly couples and friends of all ages and a few families with teenage kids. I overheard guests from the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.
A guest services member came to my villa to handle the check-out details and help me on my way, all orchestrated as smoothly as everything else during my stay.
How to get there
30 minutes by road from Mahe International Airport