paradise found

as featured in
Nestled on a tiny coral island in the Maldives, Huvafen Fushi allows patrons to appreciate unspoilt nature from the lap of luxury
An aerial view of the entire complex. atoll, bay, caribbean, coastal and oceanic landforms, inlet, island, lagoon, leisure, resort, resort town, swimming pool, tourism, tropics, vacation, water resources, teal
An aerial view of the entire complex.

ON a stressed-out planet, experiencing nature's untainted beauty first hand may well be the ultimate bauble to attract the well-heeled tourist's dollar. But the trouble with most tourists is they come with crowds of other tourists, and even getting close to nature can have some uncomfortable drawbacks just ask any foot-weary adventure traveller. A resort strategically located miles from nowhere, on limited land, surrounded by boundless ocean, might then seem the logical way for the upmarket tourism industry to go.

Huvafen Fushi is just such a remote tropical retreat. The resort was conceived and designed by architect Carl Ettensperger and together with splendid isolation offers spas, treatments and diving, and caters to every epicurean whim.

"The developers, Per Aquum, wanted a six-star retreat for a young, hip crowd and the project completed in one short year. It also had to offer every high-tech trapping," he says. "Other than that, I was pretty much given carte blanche."

The resort has 40 guest bungalows, 16 on the beach and 24 on the water, as well as three larger, further-removed guest pavilions. There is a small lobby, four restaurants, a spa and treatment facility, a large infinity-edge swimming pool, and a flotation pool.

Individual residences offer every pampering advantage, from wireless internet and wireless lighting controls to full air-conditioning and an infinity-edge plunge pool. The resort is not designed for roughing it.

But Huvafen Fushi also offers some highly individualistic features, as if the setting and accommodation wasn't enough. A flotation pool is set out on the water, almost resembling a mini atoll in its own right. The pool's 30 percent concentration of salt allows occupants the paradisiacal feeling that they are levitating under the stars. Equally intriguing is Huvafen Fushi's treatment room, which forms part of the cutting edge spa facility. The expansive room is actually set underwater, to the ongoing amusement of local marine life. Alongside the usual steam rooms and saunas is a less conventional Cold Room, providing the perfect foil to the Indian Ocean's warm, dry climate. There is even a slow-moving ice cascade in the spa facility, allowing guests to plunge their hands into its welcome coolness.


A viewof a deluxe beach bungalow. estate, home, house, lighting, property, real estate, resort, villa, black
A viewof a deluxe beach bungalow.

To complete the circle of total relaxation and indulgence, the five restaurants offer every gastronomical and liquid refreshment, from a seafood-dedicated restaurant to a wine cellar under the largest restaurant, Vinum, offering a staggering selection of over 5000 bottles of wine.

"Creating a remote resort like Huvafen Fushi takes an incredible amount of pre-planning, particularly given the tight time frame," says the architect.

Located miles from anywhere, all construction elements had to be planned meticulously before being shipped there, as any breakages or omissions would have meant several days' wait while replacements were flown in.

"As well as the tight time frame, protecting the resort's greatest asset, the environment, was the other constraining factor," says Ettensperger. "During construction, nets were placed in the lagoon to prevent anything polluting the surrounding waters."

Equally important was protecting the land and flora. This was approached in two ways. Firstly, almost everything was barged into the lagoon in prepacked form, ready for installation, right down to the prebuilt vanities and cabinetry. In addition to this, the barges themselves were used as working platforms. The carpentry team, for example, would live on these barges, and carry out as much of the construction work as possible from these floating platforms. These factors kept impact on the land to a minimum, and what impact there was soon became covered by a rapidly regenerating natural environment.

Forethought was also high on the agenda for the underwater treatment facility and for months before construction, the water pressures had to be painstakingly calculated.

A viewof a beach bungalow. architecture, estate, home, hotel, house, interior design, lighting, real estate, swimming pool, wood, orange
A viewof a beach bungalow.

"The depth pressures were a very simple calibration, but harder to gauge was the pressures of tidal movement," Ettensperger says. "We measured these movements painstakingly over the months leading up to construction, and then effectively doubled the strength factors required for even the most impactful scenario."

With the spa standing up to the recent onslaughts of a tsunami, the calculations were clearly more than safe.

"Huvafen Fushi is also mindful of the environment in other ways," he says. "The flotation pool utilises salt from a desalination plant that purifies water for the gardens and toilets, for example, and natural resources are also used in the most straight-forward and yet dramatic ways."

The restaurant floors are made from the island's most predominant raw material sand. In fact, the architect points out that visitors to the resort are deprived of their shoes when they step onto the island, being informed the footwear will be returned when they depart but that guests won't need them while they're there.

In addition to the sand floors, the buildings' roofs are finished in the equally plentiful grass.

"Despite every electronic luxury, there is a strong feeling of being at one with the awe-inspiring surroundings," says Ettensperger. "The main pool is lit by hundred of fibre optic lights, evoking the crystal clear constellations overhead. I have sat in this pool and overheard others pointing out this or that constellation in the lighting. They do not literally mirror any specific star grouping, but given the environment, you could be forgiven that leap of imagination."

Sep 29, 2006
We know the specialists