I’m hot and sweaty. I’ve just arrived at Malé airport following a long flight from Manchester – via a turbulent lightning storm in Qatar– to be told I need to wait in another terminal to finally board a third plane to get to my hotel. Is this protracted journey worth it, I think, when there are perfectly nice beaches I could visit in Europe?

Yes, as it turns out, it most certainly is.

As the seaplane takes off above the water, and the picture-perfect Maldivian islands appear like constellations dotted below me, I realise this is, in fact, quite unlike anywhere I’d been in Europe.

Everywhere you turn is jaw-dropping. Everything you do feels like a bucket-list experience.

From getting a massage while watching baby sharks swimming through a viewing platform below you, to witnessing a traditional fire dance on the beach, to snorkelling with turtles through a coral reef, a trip to Nova Maldives is just a series of saying ‘wow’ over and over.

(Image: Nova Maldives)

When you land on the seaplane, a small boat takes you to the island’s tiny jetty, where staff wave you on with a smile. You don’t carry your luggage – that wouldn’t be the way here – instead you saunter off towards the inviting white sands and gently swaying palm trees.

The island is tiny. It takes less than ten minutes to walk around its entire circumference, meaning everything is at your fingertips while staying at Nova. Indeed, the brief journey down the wooden walkway to our secluded water villa was the only thing that kept my step count above double digits during our stay.

Nova was opened two years ago, so everything feels fresh and, crucially, ultra-luxurious. Our room was one of the suspended water villas (as made famous on Instagram) that was rustic on the outside but on the inside, surprisingly spacious and high-end. Best of all, one side was entirely constructed out of glass to maximise the ridiculously pretty views outside, which could be enjoyed from both the bedroom and bathroom. There was also a hot tub on the decking, though the sea water was just as warm (the coral reefs surrounding the island keep the sea both tepid and calm, perfect for nervous swimmers). Snorkelling equipment was provided in the room for free – I got into a wonderful routine of putting my flippers on first thing in the morning and hopping straight into the sea to swim alongside the fishes before the rest of the island had woken up.

(Image: Nova Maldives)

But if the sea life around the island reef isn’t enough to keep you busy, you can go on a specialist boat trip with Nova’s resident marine biologist – spotting manta rays, whale sharks and turtles among others. We sailed off in search of whale sharks (which were unfortunately elusive) but it was magical to swim within touching distance of magnificent, gentle sea turtles. The boat trip was also a great way to see some of the rustic ‘local’ islands that are home to Maldivian families and fishermen.

Nova strives to include multiple cultural influences in life on the island. Guests are treated to entertainment every night that includes different dance shows, fire performances and live music from the in-house band and DJ. They are happy to take requests and will even encourage you to join them on stage for a sing-along (if you are feeling brave enough!)

(Image: Nova Maldives)

This cultural melting point is also evident in the food that’s on offer. There’s plenty of freshly grilled seafood and barbequed vegetables, as you would expect on a tropical island, but less adventurous palettes are also well catered to with options like pizza and pasta. Yet the culinary highlight of the island is undoubtedly Mizu, the overwater teppanyaki restaurant located within its own elevated building on a jetty in the ocean. We watched baby sharks swimming beside us while having our dinner, soon joined by a hungry heron perched on the jetty trying to poach a fish from the water. I can honestly say it was one of the most special meals I have had in my life. Chef James made our food right in front of us, fusing local ingredients with his own family recipes to make the kind of dishes that will live long in my memory. In truth, all the staff on the island were wonderfully warm and welcoming, sharing stories of their lives back home that made them feel like friends by the time we left the island.

Throughout our stay, I spent most of the trip trying (and failing) to capture the beauty of the island on my iPhone. But also included in a stay on Nova is a complimentary couples’ photoshoot with the island’s resident photographer, giving you memories of your trip that are far better than blurry selfies.

But the most jaw dropping part of our stay? It has to be the overwater spa and leisure facilities. It was far easier to engage in a yoga lesson, I discovered, when you are looking at the horizon in front of you and hearing waves lapping beneath you. And although my yoga technique needs some work, I found it incredibly rewarding to focus on my body and my breath while surrounded by nature at its finest. Getting a massage is always enjoyable, granted. But getting a massage while looking at sharks swimming below you, via a porthole in the floor, takes some beating.

It is experiences like this that make Nova unlike any holiday I’ve been on in Europe (or indeed anywhere else in the world). I’d make a journey that was twice as long if it meant I got to go back…

Beach and overwater villas are available from £403 per night on full board basis, bookable at Nova's website www.nova-maldives.com. A flash sale is currently running for direct bookings online, with up to 50% discount.

There is also a special retreat running at Nova Maldives from 31 October until 7 November, combining traditional Chinese Medicine and therapies with scientific Western Medicine diagnoses and assessments. Highly-esteemed Dr. Xiang Jun will be offering treatments related to holistic wellness, sexology, trauma healing and more. Head to the website to find out more.

With a Doctorate Degree in Acupuncture from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, and dual degrees in Biomedical Science and TCM, Dr. Lim combines ancient wisdom with modern techniques to offer a comprehensive approach to wellness. Her extensive training in Beijing under renowned practitioners, along with her expertise in Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Shamanism, and Metaphysics & Astrology, ensures a well-rounded and effective healing experience. During her stay at Nova, Dr. Lim will offer a comprehensive suite of services, including private sessions and complimentary classes designed to rejuvenate and balance mind, body, and spirit.

Head to the website to find out more.