Best of the Maldives: Bird Blind – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - bird blind 2

Not all enchanting water creatures in the Maldives are under the water. Soneva Jani has a dazzling display of creatures on the water.

The air above the Maldives is regularly filled with both the colourful plumage of various tropical birds as well as their distinctive songs composing the melody line of uniquely Laccadive soundscape. The songsters are often hidden in the lush foliage, but Soneva Jani has the best place in the Maldives to see not only the water fowl varieties, but also a range of other birds drawn to its expansive mangrove lakes.

Such an avian attraction would be distinctive on its own, but Soneva has gone ahead and made this nature preserve a special feature with an inspired bird blind. First of all, the blind allows guests to get a good view of the flocks of ducks, terns, koels, herons, etc. without disturbing them. Then, for an even better look, the resort has set out a pair of binoculars at the blind for guests to use. And if you do spot a feathered friend that you want to know more about, they have posted an array of laminated bird identification posters (with 80 different birds) for reference. On top of all that, the blind is constructed with characteristic flair with the “wood scrap” aesthetic used at the Crab Shack and elsewhere.

Our butler Aysha told us that she has seen birds there that she has never seen growing up in the Maldives. And while we were there, we spotted a dramatic Glossy Ibis (see photo at bottom).

Soneva Jani - bird blind 6

 Soneva Jani - bird blind 3

Soneva Jani - bird blind 5

Soneva Jani - bird blind 4

Soneva Jani - lake birds

Soneva Jani - bird blind 1

Best of the Maldives: White Long Tail – Amilla

Amilla - white long tail 1

Maybe this distinction should be “Cutest Bird Resident”. Amilla Maldives not only features a micro-flock of the rare Long Tailed Tropicbirds (more colourfully named “Dhandi’fulhu” in Dhivehi), but the resort island is also a nesting spot for them. We enjoyed watching them darting around the skies with their flowing tail feathers like some sort of mini-Banshee from “Avatar”. Special thanks Khateeb Shaba and Marine Biologist Chiara who captured these pictures of the latest arrival along with proud mom strutting her own tail feathers.

Amilla - White long tail 2

Amilla - white long tail 3

2021 Tour Review #18

Tour 18 - seaplane

What this tour limited in (barely) post-COVID constraints it made up for with long anticipated visits. Tour #18 was short (with even fewer resorts covered due to COVID monitoring alerts), but in a number of different ways included a triad of 3 of resorts would most want to visit:

  • · Biyadhoo – The longest standing, most anticipated and probably cheapest resort we haven’t visited.
  • · Soneva Jani – The most coveted and probably most expensive resort we haven’t visited.
  • · Amilla – About the only resort where we will break our rule to not re-visit resorts.

General destination observations:

· Local Island High Rises: Transferring to Biyadhoo in the South Male Atoll I was struck by the number of “high rise” (over 2 stories, up to about 8 stories) buildings on local islands. Of course, with horizontal acreage at a minimum, going vertical makes absolute sense. It does erode some of the primitive vibe to the surroundings, but the Maldivians obviously should not be trapped in some yesteryear nostalgia for primitive aesthetic of huts on islands.

  • Inter-Island Transfers: The whole COVID process has gotten so much smoother than when we came late December. And the process is massively easier than our trip to another archipelago, the Azores, that we visited in July (17 pages of forms required). Now, BA has a methodical app to check out your COVID credentials and the Maldives has the IMUGA website. Once those forms are completed, the desk agents and passport control simply check your QR code and that’s it. But, inter-island transfer limited by any COVID outbreaks.  Bit like having region or even town-specific lockdowns.  Multi-island visits (like my tours) are a bit of a dice roll though there is low incidence of problems and they are dropping.  Our mixed itinerary was affected but a bit of juggle and it all worked out.
  • Conditions Conventional Wisdom: Specific medium-term weather was never a perfect science, but some general rules of thumb did apply to different months which on average would affect the general balance of conditions across a given week. In fact, speaking to a Maldivian during our stay, he said that he used to be able to have a general feel for how weather was going to be in a given period as he was growing up, but now he admits he simply doesn’t have a clue and just about anything can happen any time and the weather has gotten much more unpredictable. So just about any historical conventional wisdom about weather and house reef conditions (two major concerns of prospective visitors) is getting increasingly outdated in recent years
  • Wind, Wind, Wind: We have tended to travel in more “unsettled” periods of Maldivian year when it comes to weather – mid-summer and late-autumn. Especially, Lori (being of a “certain age”) quite enjoyed the gentle ocean breezes. However, this week’s trip was not wafting, but downright windy. And not just in gusts or periods in the day. But non-stop throughout the day. And through the night…so much so that we were regularly wakened by the howl of the blustery conditions outdoors.

Google mpa of resorts visited

The Interview Game

Dianna and Steve Interview game 1

Luxury is not about buying expensive things; it’s about living in a way where you appreciate things.” – Oscar de la Renta

Happy Thanksgiving. Today is a day for celebrating gratitude especially first and foremost the company of family and friends. As the pandemic resides, appreciation for such company has never been so strong. Last Thanksgiving, Lori and I were huddled around our small kitchen table with a Zoom session to our children. We can’t wait to all be together sharing thanks for so many blessings we cherish all the more.

Appreciation is also a traditional part of our family travel experiences. Also around a dining table (typically the final meal of our stay) we play something we call the “Interview Game”. The exercise derives from my journalistic inquisitiveness and consists of a number of very simple questions (as a opposed to deep, philosophical ones) which I find to be very illustrative of the highlights and impact of the adventure. Regular followers here will recognize many of the questions used in my interview profiles. The activity is really an exercise in reflection, appreciation and sharig. And that is the heart of Thanksgiving.

On my recent tour, I had the serendipity to meet one of the esteemed TripAdvisor Destination Experts, “Dianna53” and her husband Steve. Their extensive expertise derives from decades of regular Maldives visits dating back to their honeymoon in 80s (!), as well as the fact that their daughter ended up living in the Maldives (Addu) for a stint.

Actually, we’ve now met 5 Tripadvisor Destination Experts while in the Maldives (except for MioraD)

  1. Dianna53 – Met up at Amilla this tour.
  2. Turquoise23 – During visit to Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo
  3. ActiveGirl – Met at Mirihi.
  4. HideawayKatRetired DE and we remain friends now she is in the UK
  5. MoiraD – We worked together in the 2000s and she helped advise on the construction of Maldives Complete during its inception

Our meet up took place at the end of their couple of weeks at both Reethi Beach and Amilla so we decided to share the Interview Game with them. Below are their responses as well as Lori’s and mine from the end of our stay:

  • What is omething you packed that you didn’t use?
    • Dianna: Torch
    • Steve: One shirt
    • Lori: A dress, a top, some underwear and some shoes
    • Bruce:   Several button shirts and some books I brought to read.
  • What is something you wished you have packed?
    • D: Extra backet of biscuits for tea in my room.
    • S: I had everything I needed.
    • L: A small satchel to carry my phone, room key, etc.
    • B: My good razor from home (thinking my disposable one would be good enough…it wasn’t)
  • What most exceeded expectations?
    • D: Coral regeneration at Amilla (especially by the jetty).
    • S: Transfer efficiency (we were quick off the plane, there was no queue at immigration, our bags came off first and it was a total of 35 minutes from landing to being at the seaplane).
    • L: The diving in general as had lots of great sightings and in the past, many times, we have seen anything on some dives.
    • B: Soneva Jani design details. I knew from the pictures that it was a stunning property, but being there you can see and appreciate the tiny details put into nearly everything.
  • What didn’t meet expectations?
    • D: Didn’t see any turtles.
    • S: The sea conditions were so rough the entire time with all the wind.
    • L: We’ve been disappointed in recent years by the quantity of coral seen during our snorkeling, and now there is (naturally) a real sense of the fish populations being noticeably smaller.
    • B: The Biyadhoo house reef was renowned to be one of the top ones in the Maldives years ago so its state of dead coral and limited fish was particularly painful to see first hand.
  • When did you laugh the hardest?
    • D: When we emerged from the sea from snorkelling and trudged along the beach in the torrential rain and it was so heavy we couldn’t see where we were going so I donned my full face mask (wishing it had windscreen wipers!).
    • S: When a Titan triggerfish swam straight through Dianna’s legs.
    • L: When Bruce said “Gee, thanks” when I commented “That man over there is quite handsome. He looks like you (Bruce)…when you were younger.”
    • B: Lori’s first slide at Sonevi (which you can witness here and I will be playing daily for the foreseeable future).
  • When was your most stressful point?
    • D: 3 days before arrival, Reethi Beach were on monitoring.
    • S: 3 days before arrival, Reethi Beach were on monitoring.
    • L: When my mask broke during the dive. It kept filling up with water and I couldn’t clear it. Fortunately, the dive master was able to fix it good enough to finish the dive.
    • B: When we got word that Soneva Fushi was on monitoring which was going to cause us to rejig our entire itinerary.
  • What was your best bite of food?
    • D: Good ole “fish & chips” at Reethi Beech
    • S: Grilled lobster at Amilla
    • L: Prawns a la Plancha at Soneva Jani’s Crab Shack
    • B: Prawn Burger at Amilla Fushi’s E Beach Club
  • What is something you learned?
    • D: That the Maldives has passed a law prohibiting the interference of baby turtles (even measures intended to help them survive).
    • S: “Bondee” (coconut and coconut milk cocktail wrapped in a coconut leaf) tastes very nice.
    • L: What a “Sponge Snail” is.
    • B: Using a torch for dive photography can scare off fish.
  • What was your favourite avourite Sighting?
    • D: Octopus (both at Amilla and at Reethi Beach).
    • S: Lemon Shark (never seen one before).
    • L: Spanish Dancer Nudibranch (video)…though I loved the bats at Soneva Jani in their arbor.
    • B: Manta on the Amilla dive.
  • What would you do if you had an extra day?
    • D: Go on a turtle excursion/.
    • S: If the weather was calm enough, go to Amilla Fushi’s Blue Hole.
    • L: Do more diving.
    • B: Spa treatments (Biyadhoo so good and such value)

Dianna and Steve Interview game 2

Tour 2021: Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - Sonu

I might have to break my own advice with Soneva Jani.  My most frequently asked question is “What is the best resort?” and my steadfast reply is “There is no ‘best’ resort overall…just the ‘best resort for you’.”  Each resort has its own individual personality and distinctions that appeal differently to different people.  The question is like asking, “What’s the best ice cream flavour?”  But, I’m afraid that after 20+ years of visiting the Maldives and 100+ Maldives resorts stayed at, Soneva Jani might just be my “best resort” (or at least “best” in the “big island” category).  It is my “Rocky Road” (my favourite flavour) of resorts.

When I make that “best” assertion, I am not really talking about the most desirability because that is so individual and so subjective.  For starters, Soneva Jani doesn’t have the classic house reef and that is an absolute deal breaker for many Maldives afficionados.  Secondly, Jani is one of the most expensive standard villas (not talking about the special “Presidential” one-offs often found on islands) which is a wallet-buster for many.  Finally, the property is not quaint, but expansive and imposing.  It is in the top ten of largest islands and the two sets of jetties extends its reach even further.  Not great for the people who come to the Maldives for that diminutive plot of sand in the middle of the ocean experience.

When I talk about the “best”, I am really talking about the resort as a creation.  As an almost artistic rendition of the paradise experience.  Like the art-world itself, the collection of tropical styles found in the Maldives is quite varied – sleek post-modern, traditional artisan, baroque ornamentation.  Soneva’s style would best be described as neo-rustic fantasy.  It takes the primitive naturalism of a Swiss Family Robinson mystique and propels it into the future with imaginative innovation.

The Soneva group has long been a standard bearer in the Maldives for creativity and innovation especially with aesthetics, wellness and sustainability. Like most masterpieces, the property is the culmination of many studies (many of which are themselves considered prized works, for example Picasso’s 42 studies for “Guernica”).  In the water villa, you could certainly see the layout, material and other design features that germinated in the early works of Gili Lankanfushi (originally “Soneva Gili”) and Six Senses Laamu.  But the Jani product is expanded, refined, updated and innovated.  Soneva Jani is to Maldives resorts what Segrada Familia is to cathedrals – futuristic and primal at the same time.  The apotheosis of the craft in a jaw-dropping, whimsical tour de force where nothing is ordinary down to the finest detail.

As much as I adore all of the inspired aspects of Jani, it does cause me a bit of inconvenience.  So many of my heretofore “Best of the Maldives” posts are made obsolete by Soneva taking so many heretofore leading features just a step further: eg. Crab Shack (Finolhu), Honey (Gili Lankanfushi), Swing Chairs (Malahini Kuda Bandos).  Jani hasn’t just outdone others, but they’ve leapfrogged Soneva itself in some areas.  For example, Soneva Fushi pioneered the outdoor cinema, but Soneva Jani takes it a step further with an overwater, even larger screen version.  It’s like Soneva is a catalogue to “Best of the Maldives” features.  Soneva Fushi already has the notoriety of the most “Best of the Maldives” posts – 76 (the next closest being Reethi Rah with 68).  Soneva Jani is like a “Best of the Maldives – Water Edition”.

A final treat to our stay was that I not only got to see *the* resort, I also got to meet *the* man behind the resort – Sonu (see photo above with Commercial Officer Carissa Nimah – unfortunately, the woman behind the resort, Eva, was not available at the time). For creativity and distinction, Soneva Jani is a bucket list resort in this bucket list destination.

Tour 2021: Amilla

Amilla - 2021 masks

I have two hard and fast rules about the resorts I will visit on our tours:

  1. Never repeat a visit to a resort.
  2. Always repeat visiting a Jason and Victoria Kruse resort.

Before their Amilla posting, I made the same exception to their Kurumba property visiting there 5 times. Hence, Tour 18 brought us to the Amilla for our 3rd stay and a chance to see the Kruse’s and their latest creations.

Why do I never repeat? Because I need to use my limited time in the Maldives to gather as much fresh material for the website and extend my first-hand experience of the destination as broadly as possible. I also love discovery and adventure which drives me to seek out and explore new places.

Why do I make an exception for Jason and Victoria? Because they are our soul mates in their love of the Maldives and how we manifest that adoration with creativity and contribution to others:

  • Genesis Soul Mate – Back in 2007, I had dabbled with throwing my collected research onto the web, but it was a visit to Kurumba which inspired me to put some real effort and investment into making the site more extensive. We were on a family holiday at Kurumba when one of the Maldivian servers came up to me and exclaimed, “You’re that Maldives Complete guy. We love your website.” On the heels of that, Jason reached out and invited me to come back to Kurumba and visit the other Universal properties and write about them. This was 2009, before social media (and before annoying “Influencer” types had flooded the web with lifestyle porn and annoying requests to resorts). That visit kick-started a supply of material and impetus to make Maldives Complete into the extensive compendium that it has become. The real launch of Maldives Complete was Jason’s embrace and encouragement.
  • Creativity / UX Soul Mates – From the outset, I never wanted to write that same old, palm-tree pablum that most travel writers churn and hosted celebrities spew out about the destination getting all gooey over the sunsets, pina coladas and blue waters. Yes, those are wonderful aspects to this paradise, but they have been so done to death. I wanted to dig out the truly distinctive and individual touches that each resort added as their bit of spice to this bucket list essential. Similarly, Jason and Victoria have never settled for just palm trees and pina coladas for their properties. Like a Golden Ticket “Got Talent” singer, they take an island and “make it their own” with their special touches, creative offerings and staff-friendly management.  They got Kurumba to punch-above-its-weight and have similarly transformed Amilla. The key reason that I shun re-visiting properties is that I want the adventure of discovering new things. And the key reason that I re-visit a Kruse place is that it always has new things. As much as I like spotting creatures (on land and underwater alike), I also like spotting distinctions. Special touches of care and creativity. And Amilla is one of those top spots where you can keep returning and be assured of lots of great and satisfying spottings. This trip, I identified 20 items to do “Best of the Maldives” posts about (in fact, I spotted 4 within 15 minutes of setting foot on the island). Their resorts are like the proverbial Zen river – you never spend the same day there.
  • Destination Soul Mates – We have met in Jason and Victoria a couple who love the Maldives as much as we do. As with Maldives Complete, you get the sense that their motivation is not about the money or career, but the sincere love of the destination.
  • Soul Mate Soul Mates – Jason and Victoria share a distinctive partnership collaborating to pool their energies and expertises to the best resort. In a similar fashion, my soul mate Lori is an essential partner to building Maldives Complete helping with input, insights and her equally extensive experience of coming to this destination.

Tour 2021: Biyadhoo

Biyadhoo tour

I have yearned to get to Biyadhoo for longer than any other resort I’ve haven’t seen yet. When I first started going to the Maldives in the 90s, it had a reputation for one of the best house reefs in the Maldives and terrific value. I never went because the apartment block lodging didn’t really appeal to the family, but we finally fit it into our post-pandemic return tour..

The value is still there and accented by a special promotion to induce people back in the early days where uncertainty remained high. I paid less per night for bed and breakfast than I sometimes pay for my bar bill at luxury properties. For about £100/nt, we couldn’t buy our dinner in the UK never mind A DAY IN PARADISE! It was the Lidl/Aldi of resorts – super cheap but limited choice, service and aesthetics. Nothing fancy, but still couldn’t really fault it for anything.

The premises on land significantly exceeded our expectations. I guess at those prices I was expected run-down and limited infrastructure, but instead the facilities and rooms were mostly smart and appealing. Mind you a few more licks of paint in certain places (like the duplex stairwells) wouldn’t go amiss, but the rooms were very attractive, clean, fresh and comfortable (they had a bit of a refurb a few years ago).

And there were plenty of expectation exceeding pleasant surprises. Their spa is brilliant with treatments cheaper than we can get at home (£50 for 50 minutes) and quality as high as the fanciest facilities. Lori even got a bonus creative little hair braiding by her therapist which she really liked (see below).

Some aspects were a bit of a mixed bag. The sand throughout the island – beach as well as interior paths and common areas like the bar – was exceedingly soft. Unfortunately, it was not possible to circumambulate (a word made for Maldives islands) the entre island as the far side was blocked from access. The dinner was superb (BBQ one night), but the lunches were quite mediocre. The whole place could do with a customer UX make-over to fix a plethora of small but annoying oversights and issues. For example, when we arrived a single woman handled the prolonged (over a half hour) registration of about a dozen guests that had arrived while three idle men stood at the registration desk doing nothing.

Unfortunately, the house reef (like so many in the Maldives) is a shadow of what its former self must have been. Hardly any live coral, and (not surprisingly as the obvious knock-on effect) very modest marine life. Still, the diving is great. We did a couple of dives with the resort’s Dive Ocean dive center where we enjoyed another serendipity encounter. As our dive master was registering us he looked at Lori’s PADI card and shouted to his manager, “Hey, Antonio…you certified this woman 20 years ago at Coco Palm!” The small world of small islands.

Biyadhoo - lori hair braid

BA Direct to the Maldives (Sort of)

BA Direct flight

Last January, BA resumed it summer direct service to the Maldives, the only UK direct service available. Until then, it was only offering a winter sun service. But when the lock-down relaxation roadmap was announced then, it was key that vaccination penetration was one of the main considerations of whether UK would give countries the “Green” light. At the time, the Maldives boasted one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world so it seemed a sure thing that they would be at the front of the pack. While others like dithered about the risks, we jumped on the opportunity for a direct flight for our annual July tour. As a result, we were even able to use Avios points to pay for our booking. Everything was starting to look up.

And then a few months later, the “Delta variant” hit. And as its erstwhile moniker, the “Indian variant” would imply, it hit the Indian Ocean destination early and hard plunging the Maldives into the Red list. Fairly soon after, we received notice that our flight has been cancelled. So we called BA to see what to do.

On the plus side, despite being an Avios trip which usually has considerable booking date restrictions, BA let us change our flights to any date we wanted. We thought of just moving the whole thing to the following summer during our traditional July period. But BA informed us that the summer direct service would be discontinued (again) in 2022. So we settled for November which is usually a relatively lighter month for resorts.

Despite the COVID flexibility, the run up to the departure was a bit fraught with difficulties.

  • System glitches: We paid hundreds of pounds for extra-leg room seats (given my height). A week before the flight, I went to double check that everything was all okay in the “Manage My Booking” section. For some reason, it would even let me see seat selection. I assumed that it was because we had already chosen our seats. Then, when we started the pre-flight COVID paperwork a few days before the flight, we could see our seats an they were no longer extra leg room at all.
  • Terrible Customer Service: I tried for two days to get through to BA customer service on the phone to try to fix the problem. I got the now ancient “due to usually high call volume” (that has been that “unusually high” for decades now), you may have to wait. But after running through the barrage of menu selections (where they try to foist you off to a computerised recording), I final got to the point where they said, “Unfortunately, no customer agents are available right now. Please try back later.” And line went dead.

As a courtesy for their mix up, the gate agent offered us complimentary access to the BA Lounge which saved us a bit of money from going to Gordon Ramsay for a pre-flight nibble. Their replacement to their buffet (due to concerns over COVID spreading) was intriguing as you ordered your food online and gave them the number of where you were sitting and they brought the food to you.

In the end, we were stuck in the very rear of the plane for the long (10+ hour) red-eye flight. Extra legroom seats are sort of “poor man’s business class” which we were disappointed to miss out on. But we did luck out on “impoverished man’s business class”…a 4-seat row to ourselves. When we booked our seats, we saw just a couple empty rows at the back of the plane. We each took an aisle seat in the hopes that being sat n the middle between us would be the last place subsequent set bookers would choose. And it worked out.  Another bonus is the BA in-flight wifi which is allowing me to post this piece from 30,000 feet.

Our flight was a pretty much typical of post-COVID traveling – lots of changes and complexities that aren’t always handled that adeptly, but with a bit of perseverance and luck, you can be back traveling again.

To compare airline experiences, I have now added the tag “Flights” to the blog.

 

  

Maldives Packing List

Maldives packing list men

WTM was a great way to whet our appetite for our overdue return to the real Maldives this week. Tour #18 will take us to Biyadhoo, Amilla, Soneva Fushi, Ritz Carlton Maldives and Pullman Maamuta.

One new item is a face mask. Required for the duration of our BA flight. Having done a few long flights over the past year, you really want one that is comfortable (and for me, one that doesn’t cause my glasses to steam up).

I take a computer (and charger and case) for my work taking notes, researching, logging photos, etc. as well as for keeping in touch with the office back home (which makes it easier to stay longer and means I have less urgent work piled up when I return). We can also use the computer to watch Netflix, and it is an easier tool to use for managing and editing our photos and videos.

As a get our bags ready, and sort out all of our COVID19 requirements, we pulled out our Packing List to make sure we weren’t forgetting anything. I thought I’d share it here as a reference for people going to maybe for the first time or even for veterans to prompt them for items they might not have thought of:

Category

Item

Min

Recom

notes

CLOTHES

Swimsuit

1

2

2 allows one to dry for frequent use

Shorts

2

3

3 provides more choice and they’re small

Shirts

5

5+

Can go thru two a day with the hot weather, but also nice to change into fresh one for dinner

Flip Flops

1

1

Underwear

5

5

Easy to wash with hand soap in the sink

Belt

1

2

A couple gives me a choice

Socks

1

2

For wearing on the plane though I guess you could wear flip flips…many do

OTHER

Phone+Charger

Lightweight backback or satchel for carrying items on excursions or to the beach, etc.

Sunglasses – Goes without saying, but for completeness

US Dollars Cash – A good rule of thumb is $50/day. Probably much more than you need, but provides safety for contingencies and you can always bring it home.

Beach Wallet – A simple, water-proof, pocket sized wallet for room key and a few dollars that might be needed for serendipity tipping

Passport – included for completeness

DIVING

Rash guard – to protect against sun snorkeling, can use tshirt

Fins/MaskSnorkel – most resorts lend these for free and they do take up lots of space packing, but it is handy having your own that you are comfortable with.

Diving Items (eg. log book, certification cards)

Underwater Camera – you can rent these, but we have a GoPro which works great with underwater housing (also, great to have a red filter for diving)

OPTIONAL

Camera – many people are happy with the hig-res camera phones, but I bring an SLR as well

Sun Lotion – available at the resort boutiques but the price is high and selection limited

Reading – resorts typically have a library, but always great to bring what you want to read if that’s how you pass the time

Fish ID Card/Book – You can find most fish information online now, but we find our fish ID cards and a fish book (our favourite is Rudie H. Kuiter’s “Fishes of the Maldives”) to be much easier to use.

Headphones – Noise reduction for better listening on the long flight and so I can listen to stuff without disturbing Lori if she is napping

My Maldives Complete partner in all adventure, Lori (an accomplished blogger in her own right and regular contributor and editor) has agreed to go through her suitcase and share her tips as well (photo at bottom):

Category

Item

Min

Recom

notes

CLOTHES

Swimsuit

2

4

2 full-coverage 1-piece swimsuits and 2 rash guards for sport (diving/snorkelling). We snorkel and/or dive every day. Two pretty ones/ bikinis for lounging. (I actually pack several more swimsuits.) You will need cover-ups for breakfast and lunch dining.

Shorts

2

2

It’s personal preference here, but I prefer floaty dresses or floaty trousers with natural fibre tops, because it’s hot. (I highly recommend natural fibres, if possible). Shorts can be useful for transferring on sea planes, though, because you have to climb in and out and go up and down small stairs, sometimes to small floating docks. The breeze could trip you up if you have a long floaty dress on. I prefer longer shorts so my legs don’t stick to the seat (no air conditioning) and I take basic ones (jean/white) with multiple tops. Here, I’ve packed 1 pair white shorts.

Shirts

3

3+

These go with your shorts, plus extra in case you need a fresh one. Here, I have packed 3 tops to go with my one pair of white shorts.

Flip Flops

1

1

I take one pair of nice ones to go with shorts and swimwear.

Underwear

?

?

If you are happy to wash your smalls, or don’t mind sending them to be laundered, then you can just pack a few. But, they are so small and I don’t like to be bothered whilst on the holiday of a lifetime, so I pack one for every day, plus extra. Here, I have 4 bras with matching knickers, plus extra knickers (not pictured).

Belt

0

0

It’s hot, so I avoid garments that are tight at the waist.

Socks

1

2

I wear sports shoes on the plane with socks, if I plan to work out in the gym. Sometimes I do; this time I won’t. Which brings me to shoes:

Shoes

2(3)

2(3)

Gym shoes (if you are a gym bunny and just can’t go a week or two without exerting yourself on the treadmill); flip flops; 1 pair nice shoes, in case you need them for fine dining indoors. Many (probably most) resorts offer all dining on sandy floors, so check your resort to see if you need any shoes at all. Some resorts are “No shoes; no news” and take your shoes from you when you arrive.

OTHER

Hair Care – Salt water is a natural cleanser and will remove old layers of conditioner/product from your hair. This is ok if you are not an avid swimmer, but if you are in the ocean every day, you will want to bring along some good conditioner/barrier products if you are concerned about maintaining the colour or texture of your hair. I have found that even the best resorts often don’t have conditioner that is adequate for my long, thick hair. You may wish to bring a hat to protect your hair and face from the sun. Don’t forget any styling brushes and clips/bands you may need.

Sun cream – goes without saying, but for completeness…

Jewellery – as you wish. I used to just wear all my jewellery on the plane (simple and goes with all my clothes) but this time, I’ve packed extra pieces to go with some of my nice dresses, because we are going to some really special resorts. All resorts have safes in the rooms.

Reading – resorts typically have a library, but always great to bring what you want to read if that’s how you pass the time

Evening wear – I like to dress a bit nicer for dinner, so I wear floaty dresses (one pictured)

Maldives packing list - women

(For future planning reference, I’ve now added a tag “Trip Planning” with all my posts concerning getting ready for the big trip.)

World Travel Market London 2021

WTM 2021 1

Another milestone in the return to normality is the resumption of the World Travel Market this week at London’s Exel Centre. A traditional opportunity for me to escape the increasing Blighty chill and immerse myself in all things Maldivian for a day.

Despite the broad-based enthusiasm for this big step of some face-to-face time with the opportunity for serendipity of connections and information sharing, the WTM was a more muted affair than previous years. The crowds were much smaller. This made the queues for coffee a lot shorter, but also made the event less advantageous for the participants. Next to the Indian Ocean (and I didn’t see Seychelles or Mauritius there), was the “Africa” section which had only a half dozen sub-Saharan countries.

The “Maldives” hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and its Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) arm made a huge effort to make a dominant presence. In addition to its usual pole position stand location at the entry to the “Indian Ocean and Asia” hall, it had filled the Exel centre with floor markers and video billboards (see photos below). With the lower attendance, I suspect that the WTM was selling floor space more cheaply which the Maldives took advantage of by doubling its stand footprint and removing the cost of its traditional two-level stand build.

I filled my day meeting long-standing friends, associates and supporters (like Pullman, Emerald and Ritz Carlton’s Scott Le Roi in the photo with me above), as well as made new acquaintances and introduced more industry folk to the website. I got a chance to learn about some of the newest resorts (eg. Cora Cora, Rita Carlton) as well as a some other players I hadn’t met previously (eg. Hummingbird Travel).

As a bonus, for the first time ever at WTM I have included a video tour of the stand.

WTM 2021 2

WTM 2021 3

WTM 2021 4