Five Best: Floating hotels
Kate Knighton leaves dry land behind for these romantic retreats
Saturday 28 August 2004
Soneva Gili, The Maldives
Soneva Gili, The Maldives
A 15-minute boat ride from Male, the capital of the Maldives, Soneva Gili comprises a string of 35 villas on stilts attached to a tiny coral island by jetties that stretch over the Indian Ocean. Seven of the villas stand alone in the water and are only accessible by boat. Spacious and tastefully decorated, the rooms are in keeping with traditional Maldivian style and all have floating sun decks and open-air bathrooms. A Padi diving school caters for beginners and experienced divers, while the Six Senses spa offers holistic therapies including Maldivian and Thai massages, and detoxifying treatments.
Soneva Gili Resort and Spa, Lankanfushi Island, North Male Atoll, Republic of Maldives (00 960 440 304; www.sixsenses.com/soneva-gili). Rooms cost from $935 (£550) per room, per night. Speedboat transfers from Male International airport cost $110 (£65) return per adult, $65 (£35) per child (up to 12 years old)
The Taj Palace Hotel, India
The former summer residence of the rulers of Mewar, the Taj Palace Hotel is the ideal place from which to explore the beguiling temples and gardens of Udaipur. Built in 1754 by Maharana Jagat Singh II, the Taj Palace appears to float on Lake Pichola. This white marble fantasy has been recently restored and has 84 rooms and 17 suites, the most decadent of which include traditional ornate swings and original works of art. Overlooking jasmine-scented gardens, a tranquil lily pond or the lake, rooms evoke a time gone by. The on-site spa offers holistic treatments that combine ancient Indian healing practices with contemporary philosophies.
The Taj Palace Hotel, Lake Pichola, Rajasthan, India (00 91 294 252 8800; www.tajhotels.com). Doubles from $387 (£228) room only
Amazon Lodge, Brazil
The Amazon Lodge is on Lake Juma on the south bank of the Amazon, four hours by road and boat from Manaus. Its twelve basic but comfortable wooden lodges (powered by solar energy and with no hot water), sit over the tea-coloured river and are surrounded by lush green rainforest. From here jungle treks, piranha-fishing expeditions, day trips to local villages and canoeing excursions give guests an insight into life in the Amazon basin. Afterwards, you can lounge beside the lodge's swimming pool or while away an afternoon in a hammock.
Steppes Latin America (01285 885333; www.steppeslatinamerica.co.uk) offers trips to the Amazon Lodge from £295 per person based on a four-day/three-night visit, including transfers from Manaus, jungle excursions and all meals
Lagoon Resort and Spa, Bora Bora
Recently reopened after extensive renovations, the Lagoon Resort is on its own islet, Motu Toopua, one mile across the water from the main island of Bora Bora. There are 44 "overwater" bungalows as well as beach and garden properties set on a strip of white sand. If you book an end-of-pontoon bungalow you'll be able to enjoy a clear view of the 2,385ft Mount Otemanu. Activities available include sea fishing and parasailing.
Bora Bora Lagoon Resort, Motu Toopua, Bora Bora, French Polynesia (00 689 60 40 00; www.boraboralagoon.com). An end-of-pontoon bungalow costs $795 (£468) based on two sharing, including transfers, water sports and use of tennis courts
Punta Caracol, Panama
From Panama City, fly to the islands of Bocas del Toro where a 15-minute boat ride across the Caribbean will take you to Punta Caracol. Here you'll stay in one of six stilted cabins with palm-leaf roofs, from where you can watch the dolphins playing in the surf. Activities include trips to the rainforest, fishing and snorkelling over the nearby reef, after which you can relax with a candle-lit dinner on the terrace.
Punta Caracol, Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama (00 507 612 1088; www.puntacaracol.com). Rooms cost $215 (£126.50), based on two sharing and including boat transfers, breakfast, snorkelling equipment and dinner
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