Loama Maldives is a small luxury resort in an idyllic location with a big emphasis on local tradition.
We are on a Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane from the Maldives capital of Male to remote northern Raa Atoll.
Our pilots are barefoot and there is no doorway between the cockpit and the cabin. It's all pretty laid-back.
The Indian Ocean is sparkling below and the centre of the atoll is heavily dotted with coral patches – called giris in the local language – some submerged and some awash.
The colours range from dark inky blue to azure, ultramarine to navy and blue-green, and dozens of shades in between. The local fishermen, it is said, know exactly what water depth each colour means.
As we fly over busy Baa Atoll, home to many high-end resorts, there are dozens of boats going about their business, but then the resorts start to fade away and we find ourselves over much less-visited territory.
A private dinner can be arranged on the island's sandbar, perhaps featuring fresh local crayfish.
Our destination is Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili, on Maamigili Island, within Raa Atoll.
This remote atoll has 88 islands in total, just 15 of them inhabited, mostly by local fishermen and their families. Locals say this area, alive with marine life, has the most small reefs and shoals in the entire Maldives.
You can't miss Loama from above, with its distinctive overwater villas and almost ridiculously pristine sandy beaches.
This teardrop-shaped private oasis is billed as a perfect getaway for high-roller couples.
The seaplane lands after the 45-minute flight from Male, docking at a floating pontoon with a sign reading, "Loama International Airport". Guests are shuttled by traditional wooden fishing boats known as dhonis or via fast speedboat to the resort jetty.
The journey to this brand-new luxury resort – the first in a chain of Loamas planned by Singapore investors – really is half the fun. And it is a totally safe adventure; TMA currently operates the world's largest seaplane fleet.
Guests are greeted at the Loama jetty by dozens of staff, singing, banging drums and offering cold drinks, before being ushered to either their bungalow (all have direct beach access) or overwater villa (you can choose from those offering the best sunsets or sunrises).
What I like most about Loama, other than the unpretentious luxury, is the way the many experiences are designed to give guests an insight into the traditions and stories of the Maldives.
This is not just another place to lie in the sun and drink expensive cocktails, although you may if you wish.
The 105-suite resort has "a museum in the lobby, a contemporary art gallery over water, and a determination to break new ground".
The gallery is dedicated to Maldivian contemporary art – the first certified gallery outside of Male – while the small museum includes a replica Maldivian home, refurbished 11th-century sunken baths discovered during the construction process, and 15th-century Chinese porcelain discovered at the same time.
A history tour of the 100-hectare island is a window into the Buddhist and then Muslim-based history of the area, trading routes and local mores and customs that go back centuries.
Few resorts have their own history and culture manager, like Loama's urbane and knowledgeable Umair Badeeu.
Guests are encouraged to go fishing the local way on one of the dhonis; I caught a sizeable green jobfish on a traditional hand line and the resort chefs cooked up my catch for dinner.
Visit nearby islands such as sun-baked Maakurathu (population 1000), where you can sample dried fish, local fruits and nuts and watch locals fix their fishing boats (lobsters are common in the surrounding waters), or engage in traditional thatching and rope-making. Many of the thatches are sold to luxury resorts as roofs for their bungalows.
This is a remarkably undisturbed region. Walk out along the Loama jetty and you see manta rays and schools of rainbow-hued tropical fish – and there are plenty of diving and snorkelling spots.
Evening cruises allow guests to interact with the curious local dolphins and to take in the spectacular sunsets. New dive sites are constantly being discovered.
Loama Maldives at Maamigili is only a small resort in what is described as the final frontier for Maldivian resorts.
I preferred the overwater villas, with ladders for climbing down into the warm waters below, over the beach villas; both have outdoor decks and rain showers.
As you'd expect at a five-star resort, there is plenty of pampering to be enjoyed, either next to one of the largest infinity pools in the country, or in overwater treatment rooms, where you watch the fish as you are being pummelled and prodded.
The resort has six dining options, with Thundi, a Thai fusion fine dining restaurant, the flagship. Others include Meyzu, a Japanese restaurant with sushi bar and sizzling teppanyaki offerings; all-day dining at Fazaa; and poolside Iru Cafe, where the Ceasar salad is as good as I've had anywhere.
Cocktails and high teas are served al fresco at Marha Bar, and there are plenty of opportunities to sample local specialities such as Maldivian fish curry, spicy soups and traditional bites such as bajiya (vegetable fritters), garudhiya (clear fish soup flavoured with curry leaf and pandan) and mas roshi (smoked tuna and coconut bread).
A private dinner can be arranged on the island's sandbar, perhaps featuring fresh local crayfish, or there is 24-hour room service for those seeking a little personal time.
There is a good selection of champagnes, sakes and cocktails and a global wine list, with Rothbury Estate chardonnay coming in at $63. Both drinks and food err on the expensive side – understandable given the logistical difficulties – and transactions are in US dollars, rather than the local currency.
In addition to the spa, there are yoga and meditation classes available (held on an overwater pavilion), although I found my heart rate had dropped within a couple of hours of arriving on an island where there are no cars and limited shopping.
Guests who do not want to walk are transported around in golf buggies.
Spa treatments and therapies support the resort's ethos of using local goods where possible; the Loama Spa features only local ingredients in its glass-floored treatment rooms.
There are all the five-star trimmings: a fully equipped gym, kids' club, motorised and non-motorised water sports, business centre with Apple computers, international power sockets in rooms, and free Wi-Fi throughout.
There are several international TV and movie channels available (although the remote controls are the worst designed I have ever seen), but why you would want to watch TV in such an idyllic setting is hard to fathom.
Singapore Airlines flies from most Australian capital cities to Singapore with daily same-day connections to Male in the Maldives; see www.singaporeairlines.com.
Beach bungalows start from around $950 a night, plus local charges and taxes, with overwater villas more expensive. Loama can arrange seaplane transfers from Male when you book.
The writer was a guest of Loama.