There are many private islands in Maldives, but only very few of them are truly private, owned by one person.
Velaa Private Island is such a case. The owner, Jiri Smejc, has spent countless weeks in Maldives both on holidays and while taking his business trips from Europe to Asia.
The islands became his true passion: many of them being beautiful, but each of them coming short on some part of the visitor experience he valued. That's why he decided to build the Velaa Private Island. An island meeting his ideas what a luxurious private resort should be. An island keeping a real privacy for its guests but at the same time versatile enough to provide a number of first-class enjoyment opportunities. After all, the owner is the one who will spend the most time on the island and wants to enjoy it for years, not only for a week or two...
“I did it my way”. This is a personal story of Jiri Smejc and his wife Radka, who fell in love with Maldives and decided to build a resort of their own. The result is Velaa Private Island which fulfills their dreams about a perfect place on the Earth...
This 43-villa Maldivian resort is one of the latest ultraluxurious property to debut in the world’s most exotic archipelago. Velaa, which is the size of about 25 soccer fields, was built from scratch for $200 million and is designed to attract the world’s most discerning travelers.
Situated in the Noonu Atoll, a 45-minute seaplane flight north of the Maldivian capital of Malé, Velaa is the passion project of Czech financier Jirí Smejc and his wife, Radka.
The 43-year-old Smejc had a vision of owning his own private island. A regular in the Maldives since the early 2000s, he shared his dream for what eventually became Velaa, over a bottle of wine with a friend. “Since then, he claims it was the most expensive bottle of his life,” his friend jokes.
The two men eventually turned that vision into what they hope to be the most luxurious and exclusive resort in the Maldives. And even though there are more than 100 destinations to choose from among the country’s 26 atolls, they make a compelling case. When Smejc purchased the 50-year lease on Velaa from the Maldivian government in 2010, there was nothing but thick bush and papaya fields. All the construction material and equipment had to be brought from overseas, a veritable United Nations of luxury–wood paneling from Borneo, stone pavement from the Jordanian desert, which you can walk on barefoot even if the sun is shining on it all day, flowerpots from Indonesia, patio chairs from Italy. Even the palm trees had to be transported from neighboring islands.
Today, in addition to the main villas, many of which are built over the water, there are five four-bedroom residences, each with a private infinity plunge pool, gym and spa room. Then there is the exclusive Romantic Pool Residence, which is accessible only by boat and comes with its own outdoor dining gazebo.
“This is not about business. This is a dream come true,” Smejc insists. Still, a night at Velaa ranges from $1,500 for a one-bedroom Beach Pool Villa in the low season to $30,000 a night for a four-bedroom private residence during the holiday season.
Beyond the sumptuous rooms, there is much to do on the turtle-shaped island. “Velaa” means turtle in the local language. There are magnificent snorkeling and diving at the coral reef where dolphins may be inclined to stop by. You can also swim with giant mantas and even baby sharks–who, in theory, eat only plankton. And if you prefer not to keep such dangerous company, watching an evening stingray feeding on the main jetty is still quite the spectacle. There is also plenty of waterskiing, kayaking, wakeboarding and kite surfing, as well as a minisubmarine for those who want to get in touch with their inner James Bond.
Back on land, Velaa has a yoga pavilion inside a two-story wooden watchtower, a kids’ club and beach volleyball and squash courts, right next to the only shaded tennis court in the Maldives. Golfers can practice at the Troon short-game golf academy, designed by two-time Masters Champion José María Olazábal.
The waterside Aragu restaurant, one of three on the island, aims to make Velaa a dining destination as well. The kitchen is overseen by executive chef Adeline Grattard, a veteran of two Michelin-starred restaurants–Hong Kong’s Bo Innovation and L’Astrance in Paris–who earned a star of her own at 32 for Yam’Tcha in Paris.
The resort also boasts the largest wine and champagne collection in the Maldives, all housed in the otherworldly 37-foot Tavaru tower with a teppanyaki grill at the top.
Tavaru, the ivory structure with panoramic views of the island, also features private dining inside the wine cellar. It sits only a few steps away from the gate to Smejc’s own four-bedroom villa, which has a conference room for business and a living room ideally positioned for sunset.
But of all the luxuries that Velaa has to offer, Smejc understands that privacy is perhaps the greatest–which is why the resort is designed for a maximum of 142 guests at one time.
“Our goal was to bring new meaning to a private escape, where the essence of Maldivian culture, lifestyle and landscape meets limitless opportunities,” he says. “A place where no request is too much and each guest will ultimately feel this is their own private paradise.”