As quickly as I spot the ghost crab scuttling across the fine white sand, it disappears toward the shallows of the clear turquoise lagoon. Despite their sandy camouflage, I soon see another of the tiny creatures scurrying along the beach. I’m in no rush to give chase, however; if anything, the exact opposite, since everything at Kagi Maldives Spa Island is about slowing down rather than speeding up.
I have only been on the island for a few hours, but I can already feel my body and mind unfurling like a flower bud at the touch of the sun on my skin and the sand between my toes. Finding a low-slung hammock slung between two shady trees, I climb in and stretch out.
There’s not another person in sight. In fact, I’ve hardly seen another guest since I arrived.
It’s mid-afternoon, a time usually busy tying up the day’s work before my two young children burst through the door from school. Right now, however, I’m far from home, from anywhere, on a speck of an island in the Indian Ocean with nowhere to be and only the soothing sounds of the sea for company.
A breeze dances over my skin and gently rocks the hammock. I exhale deeply and flip open my book, acting on two of the items on the self-care menu I’d found by my pillow in my overwater lagoon pool bungalow. There’s not another person in sight. In fact, I’ve hardly seen another guest since I arrived.
A small boutique resort
Earlier that morning, on the 15-minute seaplane flight from Malé’s Velana International Airport to Kagi, a five-star resort the northern tip of the North Malé Atoll, we flew over islands that all resemble tropical paradise from the air, appearing identical to each other: a lush, green interior framed by thick, circular brushstrokes of white sand and turquoise water, with a curved row of overwater bungalows stretching into the sea.
There are more than 100 ‘one island, one resort’ properties in the Maldives. I can’t help wondering: How do you ensure yours stands out among the luxury crowd? At Kagi, the first part of the answer comes before I’ve even set foot on the four-hectare island.
As I transfer to a speedboat for the last five minutes of the journey, I’m greeted by Cindy, my dedicated Pure Life Ambassador. She’ll be my point of contact for the duration of my stay, she explains, organizing everything from dinner reservations to spa treatments and excursions such as sunset dolphin cruises, hand line fishing and stargazing.
“The island itself has a very strong wellness component. People just feel really relaxed, because of the beauty, the small size and the vegetation as well.” – Jorg Weytjens
“That’s something which really helps with guests’ relaxation levels because on holiday, sometimes you don’t want to think,” Jorg Weytjens, Kagi’s General Manager, tells me over breakfast the following morning. “So our Pure Life Ambassadors actually proactively plan everything for you.”
What also helps is the size – with only 50 villas (40 overwater and 10 beachfront, all with private plunge pools, garden showers and outdoor baths) – Kagi is, as Weytjens says, “a small boutique resort”.
I time how long it takes me to walk around the island: less than six minutes. The path leads me past the island’s herb garden filled with fragrant bushes of basil, rosemary, lemongrass and mint, a beachfront petanque court beneath breezy coconut trees and a pair of waterfront swing seats.
“The island itself has a very strong wellness component,” Weytjens continues. “People just feel really relaxed, because of the beauty, the small size and the vegetation as well.”
Wellness, your way
Kagi opened in 2021, making it one of the newest resorts in the country. Designed by Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki, the brief sought to highlight the natural surroundings and the wellbeing of the guests.
The overwater bungalows are angled for privacy, while, at opposite edges of the island, the Baani Wellness Reserve and the Nourishing Complex (or bar, pool and restaurant) are shaped in an airy, circular form using light materials such as pinewood sourced from New Zealand.
Replacing straight angles with flowing curves is all part of the plan to clear your mind from the moment you step ashore. The philosophy that drives Kagi is wellness, but how it suits you. So that could mean a treatment in the Baani spa, followed by a sunset cocktail.
I dip in and out of the schedule, feeling any remaining tension float away during a calming morning massage.
Or the full schedule of weekly wellness activities, from morning rise stretching to hatha yoga and sunset yoga, guided meditation, aqua aerobics and pilates – with a pause for lunch while waves lap beneath you in Spa Corner restaurant, where healthy eating comes served with a generous side of fresh flavors and exciting textures.
I dip in and out of the schedule, feeling any remaining tension float away during a calming morning massage and allowing the vibrations of gongs, chimes and rain sticks to balance my energy during the sunset Baani sound healing session.
An afternoon spent snorkeling the house reef which, free from the disturbance of motorized water sports, is considered one of the finest – and healthiest – in the whole archipelago, opens up a vibrant underwater community where social schools of electric blue fusiliers swim alongside mooching parrotfish. Only Tony, the resident reef turtle, doesn’t make an appearance.
Yamazaki has said that the right balance between the sense of solitude and socialization was crucial in the design, and he’s struck the perfect note. The dry (high) season has just come to an end, and unlike peak times such as Christmas and New Year, the resort is only at half occupancy, which means whenever I stop by the bar or pool there’s rarely more than a couple of people around.
When I do meet other guests, there’s a polite nod but little more. Discretion rules, perhaps because the majority of guests (but not all) are honeymooners. Kagi calls itself adults only – which actually translates to anyone aged 12 and over.
Unlike many other resorts, it also hasn’t chosen to follow ‘island time’ – or to move one hour ahead of the capital Malé to delay sunset. When the sun dips over the horizon just before 7pm, soft lanterns light up to guide guests around the island. At dark, a complete calm descends. This isn’t the place for fire dancers or loud music.
“Even when we’re busy, Kagi always feels serene.” – Jorg Weytjens
“There’s no cover bands or anything like that. When we do have light evening entertainment it’s a chill-out DJ, someone who really suits our remit,” Weytjens explains.
Once a week, an outdoor screen is set up for cinema under the stars. “Even when we’re busy, Kagi always feels serene,” he says.
If there’s a time when everyone comes out, it’s for dinner – although with three restaurants to choose from, there’s hardly a rush, and the atmosphere is still relaxed.
The philosophy that drives Kagi is wellness, but how it suits you.
“The owner wanted food as simple as possible, as local as possible, with flavor,” explains Executive Chef Denis Placerani from Italy.
A fresh catch of reef fish delivered by fishermen from the nearby local island of Gaafaru feeds the fish of the day suggestion. Barefoot sand dining meets Pacific-rim fusion cuisine in Ke-Un, a stand-alone venue hidden by coconut trees at the southern edge of the island.
Placerani does bring a taste of home to the resort at Nonna restaurant, serving up traditional favorites such as vitello tonnato, escalope milanese and pretty rolls of aubergine parmigiana drizzled with pesto made from basil grown on the island.
As we prepare for our seaplane departure, I learn that Kagi means ‘key’ in Japanese. I’m leaving in a much calmer, more relaxed frame of mind than I arrived in. I can’t imagine a more appropriate name for a resort that holds the key to complete wellbeing.
Getting there – and packages
From Velana International Airport, Kagi Maldives Spa Islands is a 60-minute speedboat or 15-minute seaplane ride away (seaplanes only fly during daylight hours). For an additional charge, guests can transfer from the airport to the island by luxury yacht charter.
Base prices start with bed and breakfast rates from US$657 per night for a beach pool villa (double occupancy, excluding taxes and fees). The premium all-inclusive package includes a sunset dolphin cruise, a selection of premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and dine-around options.