Best of the Maldives: Pancakes – Joali

Joali - pancakes

My biggest laugh this week was a gem of a line in the bio-pic flick “Judy” (about Judy Garland) which during a visit to London says, “You ever tried a crumpet?…Mm?…It’s like a pancake that’s had the living sh*t kicked out of it” (I couldn’t have put it better…if you visit London, don’t order the “crumpets” no matter how daintily British they sound). As an American by upbringing, we take our pancakes extremely seriously. I have yet to find the level of griddle cake quality in the UK that is standard fare in the USA. And, the same is true for most of the chewy circles serves at some of the resort buffets. Until we came to Joali. They have a special a la carte pancake menu including some savoury versions that are simply delicious:

  • Spiced Jaggery, fresh coconut
  • Cinnamon, prunes, honey
  • Banana, yoghurt, strawberry, mint
  • Chocolate, walnut
  • Exotic tropical fruit
  • Mixed berry, sweet mascarpone
  • Savory tuna tapenade, olives, remoulade
  • Sweet corn, cherry tomato salsa, crispy bacon

I had the spiced Jaggery (an unrefined sugar in Asia) and it was truly delicious (see photo above). Or as Lori and I would say for recipes we like, “a do-again”. A more-ish classic dish with a distinctly Maldivian twist.

 

Best of the Maldives: Screw Pine Panna Cotta – SAii Lagoon / Hard Rock

SAii Lagoon - screw pine panna cotta

The most gourmet use of the quintessentially Maldivian screw pine we have come across is the “Screw Pine Panacotta” SAii Lagoon’s “Miss Olive Oyl” restaurant.

F&B Manager Arista Arres described the dish for us:

  • “This tropical Maldivian fruit is called in locally Kashikeyo. A creamy pudding is made out of fresh extract of screw pine. ‘Screw Pines; are those surreal trees so defined by their adventitious roots that they also have the nickname ‘Walking Pines’. They are most commonly found in the Maldives.”

Not only that, but he even generously shared the recipe for anyone wanting to try it as home (and able to get their hands on screw pine fruit):

  • Ingredients:
    • 70 gm fruit screw pine
    • 50 ml whipping cream
    • 40 gm sugar
    • 4 gm gelatin leaves
    • 1 no fruit banana
  • Method:
    • clean the screw pine fruit and make a puree out of it
    • mix the cream and sugar and add the screw pine puree
    • add the soaked gelatine leaves and mix and strain it
    • chill it and garnish caramelized banana

    

Best of the Maldives: Screw Pine Soda – Amilla Maldives

Amilla - Screw Pine Soda

For that truly authentic glass of refreshment, you don’t get more Maldivian than screw pine (I’ve even add a “Screw Pine” tag now for the various tree treats). Amilla Fushi offers its own Screw Pine Soda for guests who want to slake their thirst with something straight out of their own island in paradise.

Best of the Maldives: Fitness Centre Glass Floor – LUX North Male Atoll

LUX North Male Atoll - gym glass floor

I’ve been comprehensively cataloguing glass floors in the Maldives for years, and LUX North Male Atoll’s is the first I’ve seen in a fitness centre. Years ago, all fitness centres were stuck away in some remote, claustrophobic centre of the island making one’s effort to work off last night’s pina colada binge all the more excruciating. More recently, top resorts have moved their gyms to a pride of place with an ocean view with the spectacular vista as inspiring as any video on a little screen. LUX provides not just views of the sea beyond, but also the marine life below (or the gives the fish below a framed shot at the fit bodies above, depending literally on your point of view). And it is not just a token little portal, but an expansive area that covers the entire entry area to the centre.

Best of the Maldives: Maldives Yoga Instagrammer – Cassie Foley

With all that body building, I recommend some serious stretching to keep from getting muscle bound (maybe too late for some fashionistos). They probably want to check out (as would any Maldives Instagram devotee) Cassie Foley’s @OceanYogaCas feed.

Cassie herself is clearly an accomplished practitioner who posts engaging shots regularly. All based in the Maldives where she works full time running yoga sessions for guests. But also, just as important for this online medium is the quality of the shots done by her partner Aaron. The collection is really a masterclass of shooting the Maldives – well chosen dramatic skies, impeccable lighting, aesthetic framing. The tranquil drama of both Cassie’s poses and the tropical backdrop complement each other completely.

Cassie kindly gave Maldives Complete an exclusive interview to share their world of shutter stops and shavasan.

  • Which resort are you based at?Currently based in Atmosphere’s Sangeli resort, I have previously stayed and worked at OBLU Helengeli and Constance Halaveli
  • How long are you based there? – I moved to the Maldives at the start of August 2019, during this time I spent almost 14 months in Constance Halaveli (yes, my partner Aaron and I stayed through the lockdown, patiently waiting for work to resume) In October we moved to Helengeli, we split up for a month as he was sent to Sangeli and I soon joined him in November 2020, we have been here since then.
  • What is your most popular yoga session that you offer?I actually work in the Maldives as a Scuba Diving Instructor! The days can be incredibly busy with up to four dives a day, in fact, my Christmas day was spent entirely in the ocean from 8 am to 7:30 pm – we did a night dive!  (of course, I did come up for some lunch at one point!) My yoga practice is done at sunrise almost every day, I practice on the beach, in my room, on the jetty, anywhere outside is perfect for me, then I really get that connection to nature, those deep breaths of fresh sea air – now that’s true medicine. I have yet to start teaching online properly as I have never had stable enough Wi-Fi to offer a class, but I did complete my YTT online during the lockdown.
  • What is your favourite Instagram yoga pose photo?I think the ones where you can see I am truly connected and peaceful or focused (the balancing ones!) are my favourites, that’s the essence of yoga – not to really care about the outside but to focus on what’s going on inwardly.
  • Who takes the photos?All the photos are taken by my absolute soul mate and love, Aaron. He is so talented and manages to wipe that early morning, sleepy vibe right off me and make me look fresh and glowing – he’s got the magical touch. Often, he takes the photos whilst I simply go through my early morning flow, gently waking up my body and setting my intentions for the day. 
  • Where are you from originally?Aaron and I are both from the UK, originally from either side of London. We met on a boat in the middle of the ocean in Western Australia whilst looking for a whale shark (but that’s another story!) 
  • How did you get into yoga?From 2012 I worked in London as a Marketing Manager, I lived in Camden and I was also a freelance writer. I’ve always like to have a personal project on the go as my career didn’t fulfil me whatsoever. By the end of 2012 I was having some serious health issues, undoubtedly emanating from my non-stop lifestyle, my mum suggested me to start yoga. Every amazing idea, every brave new step I took in my twenties often came from my mum – she has always taught me to reach further than my grasp, to believe in myself, I am so grateful to her for that because it has led me to constantly fulfil and exceed my dreams. She saw that I was struggling and pushed me gently towards trying yoga, she must’ve mentioned it twenty times over six months before I went to a local class which my housemate & best friend, Rachel had found for me. that was in March 2013. Starting yoga sent me on a whole new path, very gently and subtly my perceptions changed, my ambitions grew, and my confidence saw me leap into my dream of travelling in 2016. ultimately ending up where I am today, sitting with perfect health, in utter happiness, gratefully watching the ocean from my water villa in the Maldives. Now, as a professional scuba diver, yogini and content creator, I see my whole life a personal project; inspiring, expanding, creative and free and I am so in love with it. 
  • What else do you do to pass the time in the Maldives?I wake up at 5 am for yoga and meditation, I go to work for 7:45, I can be diving all morning or in the dive centre speaking with divers and guests. Lunch is between 12:30-2:15 and then it’s teaching in the afternoon, getting new divers certified or perhaps guiding a turtle snorkel or sunset dolphin watching before finishing my day at about 6:30 pm. Then there’s time for dinner, some catching up with friends, family and of course, Aaron. We will send some emails, create some content and right now, we enjoy sitting out under the stars for an hour or so before going to bed.  What more could I want? 🙂 
  • What tips do you have to guests who want to do yoga in the Maldives? Bring your mat and get into nature here – listen to the ocean, feel the breeze, try not to get too sandy if you opt for the beach, but most importantly, get up early or give yourself time in the evening – otherwise,, it’s much too hot. Yoga doesn’t have to be about following a specific sequence, it should be dynamic and appropriate for what you need each day… sometimes that might be fast, sometimes it might be slow, sometimes it may be simply to lay flat on your back in Savasana and simply breathe – there’s no wrong way, you just need to give time to appreciate yourself at that moment. (I have a beautiful travel, eco-friendly yoga mat from Yogo that I couldn’t recommend more – use my code OYC10 for a special discount on any purchase.My outfits are also sustainably made and eco-positive, from a carbon-neutral company which ship worldwide. Shop Wolven here and use code OYC20 for an amazing 20% off these beautiful artisan yoga, swim, night and daywear collections!) 

Fitness Fashionistos

More cut bulk than cat walk, a major contingent of the Maldives fashionisto brigade are the fitness fellows gramming the fine shape they are in. Here’s some inspiration for those looking to hit the gym as both lockdown eases and warm weather approaches…

  1. Simeon Panda (United Kingdom) – Hurawalhi [ABOVE]
          
  2. Veselin Velikov (Bulgaria) – Pullman Maamuta


       

  3. Jason Luv (USA) – Ayada


       

  4. Zack Rahman (Ghana) – Waldorf I – thaafushi


       

  5. Ray (OAE) – Kandima


         

  6. Klim Gromov (Russia) – Amilla Fushi


         

  7. Alessandro De Blasi (Italy)


       

  8. Guilherme Everton Ferreira (Brazil) – Riu Palace


          

  9. Lucas Michalski (Poland) – Kuredu


       

  10. Jorge Logan (Spain) – Bandos


         

  11. Roberto Ghirardi (Italy) – Paradise Island


         

  12. Viktor Stoyanov (Bulgaria) – Coco Palm Bodu Hithi


         

  13. Emi Iztueta Bobillo (Argentina) – Cocoa Island


       

  14. Vladimir Stepin (Spain)

  15.    

  16. Berkay Yazicii (Turkey)

  17.    

  18. Gunvant Urjaa (India) – Maafushi


       

  19. Gilbert Orr (Mexican) – Thoddoo

  20.    

  21. Gambadoro Simone (Italy) – Medhufushi

  22.    

  23. David Damo (Spain) – OBLU Sangeli

  24.    

  25. Evgeny Mikhailenko (Ukraine)

  26.    

  27. Jonathan Lourau (France) – Club Med Kani

  28.    

  29. Aleksandar Sapun (Spain) – Malahini Kuda Bandos

  30.    

  31. Jono Castano (Australia) – Anantara Kihavah

  32.    

  33. Sepehr Bahadori (Germany)

  34.    

  35. Artem Velikolepniy (Russia)

  36.    

  37. Samuel Davies (Australia) – Club Med Kani

  38.    

  39. Scott Shunk (USA)

  40.    

  41. Jona Ken (Spain) – Cocoon

  42.    

  43. Mike Chabot (Canada) – Kurumba

  44.    

  45. Julian Aviel Jauvel (Israel) – Club Med Finolhu Villas

  46.    

  47. Luis Ojeda (Puerto Rico) – Summer Island

  48.    

  49. Mike Chabot (Australia) – Hideaway Beach

  50.    

  51. Sergey Boytcov (Russia) – Sirru Fen Fushi

  52.    

  53. Luis Nachio (Brazil) – Centara Ras Fushi

  54.    

  55. Rob Lipsett (Ireland) – NIYAMA

  56.    

  57. Tony Nocerino (Italy) – Cocoon

  58.    

  59. Alesco (Switzerland) – Meeru

  60.    

  61. Ediam Boza (Cuba) – Fihalhohi

  62.    

  63. Francesco Caresta (Italy) – Miriandhoo

  64.    

  65. Harry Rowley (USA) – W Maldives

  66.    

  67. Nino Percy (Germany) – Lily Beach

  68.    

  69. Luca Vezil (Italy)

  70.    

  71. Kelembet (Ukraine)


  72.    

  73. Mika Nyyssölä (Finland) – Kuredu

  74.    

  75. Jackson Johnson (Australia)

  76.    
       
       

Most Heart Shaped

Heart shape 1

Hearts will be everywhere today celebrating the annual Valentines festival of lovers. But where are the biggest hearts in the epicentre of romance, the Maldives?

The fantasy of a truly heart-shaped plot of sand in the middle of the ocean is pervasive on Instagram and stock photo sites. .

Heart - shape 2

Mostly these are the fabrications of digital editing (like the one above and two below) and not natural erosion or premeditated terraforming

Heart shape 4

These flights of imagination certainly seemed like they were pulled from drone shots of the Maldives renowned for being diminutive plots of sand and a few palm trees in the middle of the ocean (and some times just a lone sand bank itself in the middle of the ocean which has also been depicted – see below)

Heart shape 3

I first mused about finding a heart-shaped island in the 1900+ in the nation archipelago six years ago in my 7th instalment of “Haven’t Seen Yet”. I noted that Jumeirah Dhevanafushi had made the bold claim to me that they were the most “romantic” island in the Maldives substantiated by the facts that (a) they had the biggest beds, and (b) they had the most heart shaped island. Well, I took a look at an aerial shot of the island, Merdahoo (which it is the new name of the property since Raffles took it over from Jumeirah) before it was developed. The island does look like an impressionistic rendition of a heart at best. Or possibly, an anatomical version (see below)…but the clinical grisliness of that version takes a little bit of the aesthetic romance out of it.

Meradhoo    Maldives heart sketch

For that matter, I think Kandolhu (see below) probably has an equal claim to Meradhoo for cardiac caricature. In fact, if they thinned out a bit more foliage on the west side to make a sharper indention, the island could be quite heart-like in shape.

Kandolhu heart shaped

A bit closer to the classic heart shape is not an island, but the inverse – a reef lagoon – featured by Dreaming of Maldives.

Heart reef

So maybe the most heart-shape place to be today is snorkeling with your beloved…

Valentines snorkel

    

  

Best of the Maldives: Ceviche – LUX North Male Atoll

LUX North Male Atoll - picadera grill

Part of the adventure of an exotic holiday can be the exotic dining that goes with it. First timers to the Maldives will relish the fresh reef fish, local curries and irresistibly fresh tropical fruit. But for longer stays or Maldives aficionado regular visitors, even that can get a bit repetitive. So the top resorts mix it up a bit with some more creative culinary options. When I treat myself to a meal out, I try to choose dishes that I can’t easily make for myself at home (so I avoid the simple dishes and go for the more unusual).

One example of esoteric eatery is LUX North Male Atoll’s Peruvian/Japanese fusion restaurant INTI and their signature dish “ceviche”. Ceviche is a South American dish of marinated seafood (eg. prawn, octopus), but INTI has extended it in fusion style to Wagyu Beef, vegetables and other ingredients. It is served with a range of sauces (eg. chimichu mushroom, rocoto chili spice, corn, beef au jus, huancaina yella chili). And if you have trouble deciding from their extensive selection, you can have a smorgasbord of a tasting platter including such delicacies as:

  • · Fish – white fish, tiger milk, raspberry, sorbet
  • · Octopus – Peruvian chili, smoked yellow paper sauce
  • · Tuna – Nikkei sauce, sesame oil, tuna, cucumber
  • · Prawns – Passion fruit sorbet, coconut milk infusion, mango, soft shell crab
  • · Salmon – Avocado, red onion, tiger milk
  • · Scallop – Orange tiger milk, red onion, yellow chili

  

Best of the Maldives: Thai/Italian Fusion – SAii Lagoon

SAii Lagoon - Tom Yam

Two of the most popular tastes on the High Street – Thai and Italian – combined for a super fusion of flavours. Mr Tom Yam’s at SAii Lagoon blends the exotic with the classic, the tropical with the Mediterranean, the Asian with the European. Some of our favourite dishes are Italian and Thai, so sampling them melded together was a special treat.

Sample dishes include:

  • Khaopad Hed Porcini: Italian mushrooms fried risotto, tomato, onion, kale, and cashew nuts with fried egg
  • Maplaow Goong Risotto: Spicy coconut risotto with lime shrimp, mushroom, tomato, lime leaves and galangal.
  • Baa Mee Noodles Moo Carbonara: Egg noodles stir fried with bacon and deep-fried pork, marinated in a dark sweet soy sauce, egg yolk, coriander leaves and parmesan cheese.
  • Piiza Tom Yam Tale: Mozarella, tomato sauce, tom yam stir fried assorted seafood, kaffir lime leaves, chili, cherry tomato and mushroom.
  • Pannacotta Kink Somo: Creamy ginger flan with pomelo.

SAii Lagoon - Khao Pad Thai Yam Heng Arracini
Khao Pad Tom Yam Heng Arrancini

Best of the Maldives: Pool Extravaganza– Hard Rock

Hard Rock - fun pool 1

There is nothing like a pool in the hot weather, and there’s nothing like Hard Rock’s pool in the Maldives. We’ve enjoyed lots of special features at various Maldives pools – floats, swim-up bar, slides – but none that had ALL of these and more. Not to mention that the “Deep Purple Slide” is the tallest land slide in the Maldives. And for the kids who want to practice or carry on their snorkeling in the pool, and the adults who want to swim some laps, the pool features underwater speakers. I’m hoping the playlist includes “Smoke on the Water”.

Hard Rock - fun pool 2