Hamming It Up For the Camera

 

With Hammock Day upon us, Maldives Complete brings you a break from our regularly scheduled Tour programming so a flirty thirty collection of the languid lounging lovelies to lighten up the day….

  1. Angela Martini (Albania) – One & Only Reethi Rah [ABOVE]
  2. Alana Mamaeva (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Alana Mamaeva (Russia) - One & Only Reethi Rah
  3. Linzi B (United Kingdom) – Constance Moofushi
    Linzi B (United Kingdom) – Constance Moofushi
  4. Est Are (Nigeria) – Kurumba
    Est Are (Nigeria) - Maafushivaru

  5. Anastasia Barashkova (Russia) – Constance Halaveli
    Anastasia Barashkova (Russia) – Constance Halaveli
  6. Belén Rodríguez (Argentina) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Belén Rodríguez (Argentina) - Constance Halaveli
  7. Full Time Mamy (Thailand) – W Retreat
    Full Time Mamy (Thailand) - W Retreat
  8. Zemfira Jemchujnaya (Russia) – Taj Exotica
    Zemfira Jemchujnaya (Russia) - Taj Exotica
  9. Marinella Bezer (Romania) – Kurumba
    Marinella Bezer (Romania) - Kurumba
  10. Jenny Phm (Vietnam) – Six Senses Laamu
    Jenny Phm (Vietnam) - Conrad Rangali
  11. Lily Maymac (Australia) – Vilu Reef
    Lily Maymac (Australia) - Vilu Reef
  12. Maddison Lambert (Australia) – Anantara Dhigu
    Hammock Day - top
  13. Anna Pavlikova (Russia) – NIYAMA
    Anna Pavlikova (Russia) - NIYAMA
  14. Ksu Paris (Russia) – Anantara Dhigu
    Ksu Paris (Russia) - Anantara Dhigu
  15. Anna Tataeva (Russia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Anna Tataeva (Russia) - Sun Siyam Irufushi
  16. Justine Gallice (France) – Summer Island
    Justine Gallice (France) - Summer Island
  17. Lilly Williams (United Kingdom) – Finolhu
    Lilly Williams (United Kingdom) - Finolhu
  18. Siobhan Mcauley (Ireland) – Sun Aqua Vilu Reef
    Siobhan Mcauley (Ireland) – Sun Aqua Vilu Reef
  19. Zeina Alalami (Jordan) – Sheraton Full Moon
    Zeina Alalami (Jordan) - Sheraton Full Moon

  20. Ylianna Dadashi (USA) – Huvafenfushi
    Ylianna Dadashi (USA) – Huvafenfushi
  21. Mailis Penttilä (Finland) – Vilu Reef
    Mailis Penttilä (Finland) - Vilu Reef
  22. Alisa Ilieva (Ukraine) – Soneva Fushi
    Alisa Ilieva (Ukraine) - Soneva Fushi
  23. Ocean Bloom (Canada) – Gili Lankanfushi
    Ocean Bloom (Canada) - Gili Lankanfushi
  24. Natalia Tkalina (Russia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Natalia Tkalina (Russia) - Paradise Island
  25. Annette Rian Skjølberg (Norway) – Anantara Kihavah
    Annette Rian Skjølberg (Norway) – Anantara Kihavah
  26. Mirjams Roth (Israel) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Mirjams Roth (Israel) - Sun Siyam Irufushi - Laisha
  27. Isabeli Fontana (Brazil) – Anantara Dhigu
    Isabeli Fontana (Brazil) – Anantara Dhigu

  28. Janie Tienphosuwan (Thailand) – Anantara Dhigu
    Janie Tienphosuwan (Thailand) – Anantara Dhigu
  29. A Liss (Russia) – Baros
    A Liss (Russia) – Baros
  30. Raphaella Sanches (Brazil) – Taj Exotica
    Raphaella Sanches (Brazil) – Taj Exotica

     

Maldives Tour 2017: Dhigufaru

Dhigufaru - tour 2017

Dhigufaru might just be the island of my dreams.

I often characterise the Maldives this way: “You know that image of a plot of sand with a palm tree on it in the middle of the ocean? That’s the Maldives. A thousand of those.” Admittedly, that stereotype is really an exaggerated caricature of reality (in fact, its most frequent incarnation is cartoon form). But Dhigufaru comes closer to that meme than any other resort. Maybe not just a single palm tree, but actually no more than a dozen or so mature ones counted.

I am admittedly partial to petite islands, and Dhigufaru is a diminutive one. Just a few minutes walking gets you from one side to the other. Contrary to popular myth, just because the island is tiny doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do. The resort’s activity centre is packed with equipment. They were taking advantage of the July breezes doing kite surfing in the expansive lagoon while we were there. It also has a top flight beach volleyball and beach court (permanent padded nets with fixed boundary markers and lighting).

It turns out that Dhigufaru was originally neither an inhabited island nor uninhabited “island”. It was just a lonely, white sand bank in the middle of the ocean. As a result, pretty much all of the vegetation has been planted by the resort. Even some of the wildlife was introduced, as the owner’s parakeets were homed here and live in bird houses scattered around the islands.

I would summarise Dhigufaru as Birds, Beaches and Brightness.

  • Birds are the pronounced theme of the property with drawings of various types adorning the rooms and public areas. The very logo of Dhigufaru is the tail feather of a “Dhandifulhudhooni” (ie. “White Tail”) which frequents the island and nests there.
  • Beaches dramatically dominate the island. In fact, one of the Best of the Maldives distinctions that I am investigating is that Dhigufaru might just be the “Beachiest” resort in the Maldives.
  • Brightness of this unique sand pile shines out at you the minute you arrive. The combination of spacious pearly beaches and minimal towering trees to block the sun means the island radiates with a dazzling brilliance.

Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. I met and proposed to my wife of 32 years after 3 days. I might just have been smitten with similar speed by Dhigufaru. Maybe my tropical lust was simply piqued by this scantily clad plot of sand with her dazzling alabaster beaches exposed so provocatively.

Maldives Tour 2017: Amilla Fushi

Amilla Fushi - tour

Everything old is new again. Amilla Fushi has taken contemporary to a new level in the Maldives. It features simple lines, open and flowing interior spaces, generous use of light. And like all good modern architecture, it nouveau style is inspired by traditional reference.

The Maldives has become synonymous of late with thatched roof water villas, but actually that motif was imported from Bali. Like all tropical cultures, the locals certainly did use pervasive palm fronds in many constructions, but more recent and more prevailing architecture was based on a truly indigenous masonry. The Maldivians would create their own cement by burning coral and charcoal. The resulting mixture would be formed into white blocks out of which the homes were constructed. The practice is now banned to preserve the precious reefs, but you will find more coral block constructions around the inhabited islands than thatched huts.

It turns out that the very name “Amilla Fushi” means “Island Home”. Mind you, the sheer elegance and grandeur of these villas might be more fitting of island royalty. The staff are actually called “Katheebs” which translates to “Island Chief”. The implication is that an island chief can do anything. This designation underscores how empowered they are to get things done to satisfy the guest. You will certainly live like a chief during your stay.

While the island has an extensive (and growing) array of distinctive features and offerings, it is also the sister resort of the imaginative Finolhu property in the south of the Baa atoll. As a result, guests are welcome to enjoy all Finolhu also has to offer as well…only a 30 minute speedboat ride away. A number of the “Best of the Maldives” distinctions that I identified on my Finolhu visit are shared by Amilla Fushi as well.

Maldives Tour 2017: Finolhu

Finolhu - tour 2017

I love quirky islands. Yes, the Maldives “classic” is the round, green drop in the middle of the ocean. And some are long and skinny stretching around the edges of an atoll. And then there is crescent shaped Finolhu. As you enter the lagoon, it seems as if two, white extended arms are stretching out to embrace you with a welcome.

The resort is built on an expansive natural scythe-like lagoon. The Small Island Company has added the water villa jetty to one end in a great sweeping arc mirroring the outstretched sand spit opposite. I think it’s the biggest enclosed lagoon area in the Maldives. It reminded me of a mini-Seenu atoll which we visited on last year’s tour where the inside side of the resort provides this sweeping circle around you (you can look to the opposite side if you prefer the vista of boundless ocean).

The topology is just the tip of the faru to this property’s quirky character and funky style. Finolhu is a sort of Sushi Samba of resorts – youthful, stylish and epicurean fusion of styles in whimsical ways. The concierges are dubbed “Mojos” and this place has as much of it as a revitalised Austin Powers (the name of one of their signature drinks). The décor is vintage in both theme and styling with distressed wood with beach house blue and white wash. It is peppered with iconic references to the 60s and 70s while a Big Chill soundtrack permeates the public areas.

Finolhu is also a foodie haven. Run by a former London restaurateur Mark Reader who wielded his skillet at top London eateries early in his hospitality career. All of the food is top gourmet quality. I must say that the lunch we had at the Crab and Fish Shack is quite possibly the best lunch we have ever had in two decades in the Maldives. The lunch is a hard meal to excel at. People’s tastes are more limited to lighter fare where there is less opportunity for extravagance (eg. no one wants Lobster Thermidor or Chateau Briand for lunch). Not only was everything we sampled distinctive (King Crab Gazpacho, Soft Shell Crab Tacos, Truffle Fries), but the venue itself was one of the most exquisite eatery locations in the Maldives (more to follow on all these features in future Best of the Maldives posts). To top it all off, we popped on our fins and went for a snorkel right behind the remote crab shack and had a delightful snorkel.

But the restaurants aren’t only places for epicurean indulgence. The villas provide not two, but three showers including the sumptuous waterfall drench (Side note: It has been intriguing watching the shifting goal posts of luxury showers in the Maldives as the luxury grade progressed over the years from Hot Water Shower to Power Shower to Massage Shower to Rain Shower to Waterfall/Drench Shower. I can’t imagine what comes next).

I must admit that when I come on these research trips in recent years, I often wonder how much more there is to see and whether I will actually discover things that I haven’t seen yet in my 80+ stays at Maldives resorts. Resorts like Finolhu inspire me that my job ferreting out the distinctive and unusual will never be done. When creativity and investment are applied, the potential for the new and surprising remains boundless. Despite over 1300 “Best of the Maldives” items published (or pending), I still found dozens of candidates at Finolhu, placing them in the top 10 of the resort league table.

Maldives Tour 2017: Summer Island

Summer Island - tour

Going native. After visiting 74 resorts, one would think that we might go a bit native after a while. We have visited more Maldives resorts than any even Maldivian we have met (we are beyond the “that’s a lot” response to the “that’s amazing”, but always followed by the observation “you must really love the Maldives” #true).

Summer Island was a superb way to start our latest Maldivian adventure. After nearly two decades of visiting this tropical paradise, our arrivals now feel like we are coming home. And Summer Island has a very down-to-earth, homey feel. It was smaller than I imagined it. At the reception end, the island is so narrow that you can hear and almost see the ocean flanking you on either side of the sandy path down the middle of it.

They say if you are looking for a good restaurant, bar or club on holiday, then find out where the locals go. And Summer Island is popular with the Maldivian’s out for a special break. We met a few during our stay and our host, Alson, noted that during the celebration of Eid, the resort was at 100% capacity. Summer Island has an inherently Maldivian vibe. Ample heaps of soft, white sand on not just the beach and the paths, but also the reception, restaurant and lounges. Maldivian swings everywhere. A number of chickens roams freely so your breakfast egg station is truly free range, but also my host noted that they decided to let the birds roam free because it adds to the authentic native island ambiance where such poultry perambulation (my words, not his) is the norm.

One of the earliest resorts, it had a complete overhaul a couple of years ago modernising it and updating it. It’s billed as a 4-plus star category which suits it just fine. It doesn’t have lots of luxury amenities, but it does all of the basics exceptionally well – over water spa, big bed with soft linen sheets and mattress pad, outdoor bathroom, diverse and tasty buffet, infinity pool.

So many Maldivian veteran bemoan the trend of classic Maldives properties getting refurbed and then upgrading to an out-of-reach super-premium, but Summer Island bucks this trend. They have done a sterling job remodelling the resort from top to bottom, but have kept it a very affordable 4 star property. I would highly recommend it for a first visit to the Maldives (I recommend that people go to more modest properties for their first time even if they are multimillionaires, because if you start with the full-trapping super luxury ones, between the natural beauty of the destination and the extra [stimulation] of the resort amenities and features, there’s almost too much to take in at once.

Simply stylish unpretentious paradise.

Maldives Tour 2017: Arrival

Tour 2016 - Arrival

Welcome home! Tour 8 started with a few minors startles. Turkish Airlines changed our extra leg room seat we reserved…but they found us another one. We didn’t see the resort rep when we arrived…but we got in touch eventually (we came out late due to a delay with Lori’s bag). We had a couple hours to wait at Male Airport until the next transfer, but that didn’t stop us from starting our holiday. We checked into the Plaza Premium spa for a shower, chair head-neck-back massage (50 Euros for 30 minutes), some refreshment and a general chill out. Topped off with a DQ strawberry milkshake (as well as a Lemon-Lime Artic Blast for the boat ride).

The spa and junk food amenities weren’t the only thing happening at the newly renamed Velana Airport.  The Maldives is doing a complete overhaul of the facility with a new runway and new terminal.  So the site was buzzing with construction and new development.  Above, I am standing next to a scale model on display at the main terminal entrance.

This trip will take us to yet another new atoll (Meemu, our 14th) as well as a return to Baa to check out some of the new properties there, and we will stop in at a few in the Male area as well. 8 new resorts in total (Summer Island, Finolhu, Amilla Fushi, Dhigufaru, Rihiveli, Medhufushi, Cinnamon Hakura Huraa, Olhuveli) bringing our total stayed at to 81 (and total visited to 85).

I will also be doing my traditional micro-blog report on the TripAdvisor Forum with a snapshot profile of the following key points of each resort and stay…

  • Ambience (first impressions and overall feel)
  • Snorkel Spotting (what I saw snorkelling)
  • Favourite Food (served)
  • Weather (always a popular topic)
  • First World Problem (the most petty criticism I can find)
  • Most Reminded Me Of (comparing it to another resort)
  • Learned Something New (fun fact of the day)
  • Welcome Drink
  • Pina colada test (one of our acid tests as this simple treat varies so much from place to place)

Bring on paradise!

Haven’t Seen Yet #11

And we’re off. Flying out today for Tour #8 of Maldives resorts. I will once again be exploring the unseen pockets of paradise capturing new discoveries of special features and offerings. Perhaps, if I am lucky, I might even encounter one of the following sweet sixteen items that neither visits nor research has revealed as of yet…

  1. Mini-Dive

  2. Glass-Bottomed Row Boat – Well, a Ruth wherry, built by Tim McCann in Maryland, USA, wirth an elegant construction befitting some of the super-premium resorts’ clientele.
    Havent Seen - glass bottom row boat
  3. Sumo Tubing – Surfing or pulled by a boat

       

  1. Advanced Palm FoldingThere’s palm folding…and then there is geometrically designed palm-folding into a life-like sea creatures.
    Havent Seen - advanced palm folding
  2. Starry Sea Table – By Alexandre Chapelin, perhaps this should go to Rangali in recognition of the bioluminescence pictures that went viral.
    Havent Seen - starry sea table
      
  3. Sologamy – One of the hot wedding destinations of the world might look at this new trend – “Self-marriage or sologamy is marriage by a person to oneself. It is known as a commitment that values self-love, and self-compassion.”
    Havent Seen - sologamy
       
  4. Panoramic Reef Video – More resorts are offering panoramic room and resort videos, but how about the main event on the house reef like this National Geographic creation.
    Havent Seen - panoramic reef video
       
  5. Beachgoers Reading Room – Another gem from Hammacher Schlemmer.
    Havent Seen - beach reading room
       
  6. Musical Toilet – Plays music in your cubicle so no one hears you going about your business.
    Havent Seen - musical toilet
      
  7. Eco-Toilet Cistern – “So when you flush the toilet, the cistern refills through a hole in the top of the cistern, saving water and being bloody efficient. Here it is refilling” (thanks Eileen).
     Havent Seen - eco toilet cistern
        
  8. Dhoni Roof-Top Shelter – These were standard issue on the dive and transfer boats in Indonesia an they really provided a bit of pampered lounge area for a rooftop vista.
    Havent Seen - dhoni roof shelter
       
  9. Coffee Ice – For that extra “iced” coffee coldness without getting watered down.
    Havent Seen - coffee ice
      
  10. Ice Cream Barlour – One of our most decadently favourite drinks is a Haagen Daaz Brandy Alexander (vanilla ice cream, crème de cacao, brandy, nutmeg). The cold cocktails are emerging with places like Tipsy Scoop in New York City. I mean, OMG, “Aperol Creamsicle”!!
    Havent Seen - ice cream barlour
     
  11. Fruit Waffles – That “Villingili” on his Instagram feed is not Shangri-La. These and some of his other “rawtarian” delights deserve a place at a resort.
    Havent Seen - fruit waffles
      
  12. Food Carving Extraordinaire – I’ve seen plenty of food carving displayed at the elegant buffets of the Maldives resorts, but nothing on this guy’s level.
    Havent Seen - carved avacado
       
  13. Coconut Ice Lolly – Still no end of the delicacies one can concoct out of coconut, but this one is particularly apropos for the tropical sun.
    Havent Seen - coconut ice lolly
  14. Coconut Bread – A Buzzfeed tested top recipe. Time for a Maldives appearance.
    Havent Seen - coconut bread
      
  15. Whale Shark Car – Okay, no roads in the Maldives, but still I couldn’t resist.  With it’s long size and funky vibe, it wouldn’t be entirely out of place at LUX South Ari Atoll.
    Havent Seen - whale shark car
      
  16. World’s Biggest Water Hazard – Tee on one island and green on neighbouring island.  The picture below is the only one of the top “Island” holes in golf is the only one that is a proper “island” but you can wade to it (a world first for the Maldives is awaiting).
    Havent Seen - remote golf hole

Best of the Maldives: Most Experienced Group GM – Patrick de Staercke

Patrick de Staercke

Patrick de Staercke’s Maldives general management goes back nearly as far as Maldives Complete (2010). Lori and I might have stayed at more resorts than anyone, but he has managed more than anyone – 4 (Vilamendhoo, Komandoo, Hurawalhi, Kuredu). We first met Patrick in the earlier days of Maldives complete (see photo below) when Maldives Complete was just getting going, hardly anyone had heard of a blog and “social media” was still in the early adopter stage. He was one of the GMs who appreciated the site’s comprehensiveness and welcomed us very warmly. Over dinner, we mused about all sorts of possibilities for guest offerings and resort enhancements. Many managers in the hospitality industry tend to hop around globe in their career, but Patrick has made the Maldives a second home with an unmatched tenure. We always catch up briefly at the World Travel Market trade event in London, but it is great that he has provided a Maldives exclusive interview to provide a snapshot of his professional life in paradise…

  • What was your first ever job?
    Working in my student bar at colleague I was 16 years old in Seaford Colleague Sussex England. We were paid in beer just great.
  • What was your first job in hospitality?
    When I was 18 I had a job in Lausanne as waiter and pot was for 6 months and loved it.
  • What has been your favourite sighting on a house reef?
    I love octopus so cool how they change color .
  • What has been an idea (eg new dish, a new activity, a new offer) that completely failed?
    Remote control boats do not do well in sea water who knew?
  • What tropical or Maldivian treat are you most addicted to?
    Sipping cocktails in the sun and sending pictures pretending that this is what a GM does every day.
  • What treat from home do you most miss having easy access to?
    My wife and child.
  • What are your favourite parts about opening a new resort versus taking on an established one (and what is your favourite part about taking on an established one)?
    The favorite part is the end and the product you have produced gets the feedback we are getting now is just a wow. All that hard work sweat, team work, is paid off when the guests are blown away from the resort but also the service. Job well done.
  • If you had $1 million to add one single feature to Kuredu, what would it be?
    I would have to invest in two areas as they are just as important upgrading guest rooms but also staff rooms as they are the reason to a resorts success.
  • What’s one question I didn’t ask that you either wish I asked or were surprised that I didn’t ask (and what the answer)?
    ‘Do you have what it takes to make a difference?’ My proven track records show I will make a difference in enhancing both customer satisfaction and bottom line figures. What’s the secret to my success? Well that’s why I am so valued at CCR and have to keep that a secret?

Patrick de Staercke 2

Paradise Postcards from the Edge

Ria Michelle (USA) – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

There might not be a “Maldives Fanatic Day”, but there is a “National Swimming Pool Day”. And if there is one posing spot that the Maldives fashionistas are fanatical about it is the pool. You can be in the pool or beside the pool. Lounging, standing or floating. But the quintessential pose on every photographer’s check list is the “Pool Edge Recline”. The classic rendition includes arched back, tilted head, raised knee nearest the camera and pointed toes. But as the diverse Maldives display, there remain countless variations. And here are more than a few (dozen) examples…

  1. Ria Michelle (USA) – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi [ABOVE]
  2. Alana Mamaeva (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Alana Mamaeva (Russia) - One & Only Reethi Rah
  3. Brooke Hogan (Australia) – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
    Brooke Hogan (Australia) - Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
  4. Yong (Laos) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Yong (Laos) - Sun Siyam Irufushi
  5. Julianna Mizon (United Kingdom) – Soneva Jani
    Julianna Mizon (United Kingdom) - Soneva Jani
  6. Emily Campbell (Australia) – Club Med Finolhu Villas
    Emily Campbell (Australia) - Club Med Finolhu Villas
  7. Karri Nicholas (Australia) – Amilla Fushi
    Karri Nicholas (Australia) - Amilla Fushi
  8. Katherine Legg Bondi (Australia) – LUX South Ari Atoll
    Katherine Legg Bondi (Australia) - LUX South Ari Atoll
  9. Liria Dedvukaj Sinishtaj (Albania) – The Residence
    Liria Dedvukaj Sinishtaj (Albania) - The Residence
  10. Jenny Phm (Vietnam) – Conrad Rangali
    Jenny Phm (Vietnam) - Conrad Rangali
  11. Valeriya Samchileeva (Ukraine) – Olhuveli
    Valeriya Samchileeva (Ukraine) - Olhuveli
  12. Oxana K (Russia) – NIYAMA
    Oxana K (Russia) – NIYAMA
  13. Milana Koroleva (Russia) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
    Milana Koroleva (Russia) – Cheval Blanc Randheli - 2
  14. Mari Danica Reynes (Philippines) – Vadoo
    Mari Danica Reynes (Philippines) - Vadoo
  15. Katya Ogo (Russia) – Safari Island
    Katya Ogo (Russia) - Safari Island
  16. June Lau (United Kingdom) – Maalifushi
    June Lau (United Kingdom) - Maalifushi
  17. Toni Garrn (USA) The Residence
    Toni Garrn (USA) The Residence
  18. Marina Mantega (Brazil) – NIYAMA
    Marina Mantega (Brazil) - NIYAMA
  19. Maggi Apa Bhavilai (Thailand) – Club Med Finolhu Villas
    Maggi Apa Bhavilai (Thailand) – Club Med Finolhu Villas

  20. Galit Levi (Israel) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Galit Levi (Israel) – One & Only Reethi Rah
  21. Annette Rian Skjølberg (Norway) – Anantara Kihavah
    Annette Rian Skjølberg (Norway) – Anantara Kihavah
  22. Karenin G. (Switzerland) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
    Karenin G. (Switzerland) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
  23. Raquel Mattar de Faria (Brazil) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
    Raquel Mattar de Faria (Cheval Blanc Randheli) – Ayada
  24. Milana Dubovska (Russia) – Olhuveli
    Milana Dubovska (Russia) – Olhuveli
  25. Alia Bhaat (India) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
    Alia Bhaat (India) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
  26. Erin Victoria Holland (Australia) – Amilla Fushi
    Erin Victoria Holland (Australia) – Amilla Fushi
  27. Vik Voynikova (Russia) – Anantara Dhigu
    Vik Voynikova (Russia) – Anantara Dhigu

  28. Gabriela Vieria (Brazil) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Gabriela Vieria (Brazil) – One & Only Reethi Rah
  29. Jacqueline Fernandez (Sri Lanka) – Conrad Rangali
    Jacqueline Fernandez (Sri Lanka) – Conrad Rangali
  30. Jill Limatan (Peru) – Viceroy
    Jill Ltn (na) – Viceroy
  31. Bipasha Basu (India) – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
    Bipasha Basu (India) – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
  32. Margaret MacPherson (Australia) – Club Med Finolhu Villas
    Margaret MacPherson (Australia) – Club Med Finolhu Villas

  33. Nikki Phillips (New Zealand) – Club Med Finolhu Villas
    Nikki Phillips (New Zealand) – Cocoa Island
  34. Daria Akoeva (Russia) – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi
    Daria Akoeva (Russia) – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

Best of the Maldives: Detail Expert – Paola Mattana Lamperti

Paola frame

Maldives Complete is all about comprehensive authority on everything about Maldives resorts. If there was one person who embodied not just the expertise, but the very spirit of the Maldives, it is Paola Mattana Lamperti.

Paola is probably the website’s biggest fan and definitely its strongest contributor. She is like the Watson to my Sherlock (or Lucy Liu to my Johny Lee Miller) in ferreting out the esoteric and noteworthy in the Maldives resort landscape. She has shared more “Best of the Maldives” discoveries than anyone such as “Alternative Ping Pong” and “Eco-Offer”. Her eagle eyes are also superb at spotting errors in my posts or database and helping me update and correct them.  Her knowledge is absolutely boundless. A great illustration is her response to Michel Blatti in the Facebook post shown below.

But her most uncannily super power is her ability to sleuth out resorts from the smallest of details. In the “Fashionista” series of posts (she is very self-effacing, but the photos I’ve included here show that she is quite the fashionista herself with a distinctive style and some striking poses of her own). I have a protocol of almost exclusively posting photos where I can identify (a) the model (Very often advertisers and photographers exclude model credits and I am more interested in the person visiting the Maldives than the brand promoting there), and (b) identify the resort (I want to connect the photos to specific resorts since that is what this website is all about). Very often the latter is omitted. Sometime this absence is oversight, and sometimes it is just opting for the more generic (and widely known) geo-tag of the “Maldives” destination, but all too often it is the model, celebrity or self-professed social media influencer holding the property hostage by saying that they won’t mention (inherently plug) the resort without some sort of concession, discount or freebie. While I have been the beneficiary of plenty of generosity by the Maldives industry to help the very expensive non-commercial work I do, I never require it in order to include, write about and promote every single resort in the Maldives. So to keep true to form, I am often able to identify the resort by just the details in the background of the shot. If a villa or jetty is there, then those are the easiest to spot. A light fixture or deck seating is a bit more challenging. But if there is skimpiest of details, then I turn to my uber-expert Paola to help me identify the resort. She hasn’t failed yet. Sometimes it can be a real puzzle with just bits of the resort sneaking into the picture to help us to exclude or narrow down our search. We like these puzzles the best and refer to it as our “Maldives Sudoku”.

But Paola’s heart is as strong as her mind when it comes to this destination she loves. She is an active member of Protect the Maldives and she is one of the supporters of the Reports on Fish Feeding in Maldives community on Facebook.

You can feel this respect and devotion to this paradise on Earth infused in all her responses to another Maldives exclusive interview…

    • When/where was you first visit?
      My first visit was the Millennium!!  I could have, never, imagined that such an important, ‘world wide’ flip from number 1 to number 2 in writing a date would mean such a turning point in my life as well.  My life before and after my first visit to Maldives!
    • Why did you choose the Maldives for your first visit?
      We married 1988! Today being wiser and much older, I would describe our marriage, not less than totally crazy! But we are still married!! It means, our madness, sometimes, is worth following.  My honeymoon was the transfer from Como (IT) to Zürich (CH), we were the typical ‘2 hearts in a hut’ (Italian translation is ‘2 cuori in 1 capanna’), which means: ‘You have no money for whatever! Just your love at disposal to survive!!’  12 years later!! We had still a strong love but (finally!!) also some money at disposal to plan a proper honeymoon!  We got to that point as ‘survivors’ and very, very tired! We could afford a proper honeymoon…but where?  Maldives was (and still is!!) the #1 ever for such a choice worldwide! Our “Island Destination Goal” was clear…but I had to choose (it was already ME in charge to plan everything!!) among a huge number (today is doubled!!) of resort islands! So, I had money at disposal to invest but not that big amount to involve and pay an external consultant to show me the best solution! When we are forced to research on our own, that is the moment where every single, published detail on the web counts! I had my ‘wish list’ and I still remember that the most important point was: ‘not a TINY ISLAND, to avoid to get bored’. Today I will act exactly the contrary!!. Back then, already this wish, sharpened my choice immensely.
  • Which resort did you visit first?
    The power of a name – “KURAMATHI”. Consider that my mother language is Italian and that ‘Kuramathi’ translated gives you approximately ‘the place where crazy people are healed!’.  Add that a part of my family name is “Mattana” (craziness). The planetary configuration, the real extension of that island and the magic of the words in different languages (or whatever) answered me: ‘Your (too) long awaited honeymoon has to be booked at Kuramathi in MV!!’If you consider how my first trip started, you might wonder how I actually ever fell in love with the Maldives.  First, I suffered seasickness generally, but the cost of the seaplane wasn’t fitting our budget at all so we took the speedboat nonetheless.  Then, the boat ‘caught on fire’!  No guests noticed, since they were all inside (including my husband, sleeping) but I needed to breathe fresh air outside and keep the horizon balanced and I saw the dark smoke coming out of the boat. Somehow we just made it till the island.  Then, I didn’t notice that they had us in the wrong room category because we were so tired. We just couldn’t sleep with the mold smell in the tiny room, the noisy AC, the water running in the bathroom gave us a bad night! and in my mind ‘OMG, did I really booked this hut for our honeymoon?!’ [ed. note – Kuramathi has long since renovated its villas]. I went to the Reservation Manager and found out I DID NOT! They had put us in the wrong room category. Fortunately, we were upgraded. That was the magic moment when I realized that not only did I love Maldives’ stunning, natural beauty, but I also loved its hospitality system ‘one island/one resort’ (as I myself worked in this field!). It was mandatory for me to know each and every one of the existing resorts and their different accommodation categories. Not only do you risk picking the wrong resort for you but, you also can simply book the wrong accommodation on it and ruin your stay yourself.  From that moment on, my passion was to know as much as possible about all Maldivian resorts, because I was already sure that I wanted to be back and experience the most of them. The rest of the world disappeared as goal of my holidays forever!!
  • Any advice for first time visitors?
    Millions!! But let’s give just 3 essential (IMHO)…

    • Respect the Maldives – The nature and the people.  Take some time before you fly to know the fragile ecosystem you are going to enter and, for sure, enjoy it as well! Protect and respect this wonder of nature.  Make an effort to approach all the people with a huge respect too.  That includes off the resort at places like the airport where women should dress with a bit of decorum (covering shoulders and knees). Here is a useful guide for protecting the environment by Protect the Maldives, a NGO where I am active member too
    • Use a Professional – Based on my own experience, it is essential that you list all what you wish to find on your resort and then consult a trusted professional to fit your budget and needs at best (at least for your first time in Maldives, do not trust online selling platforms!). I long do not consider Maldives as a general entity but more as a container of 100s, very different experiences, depending on where you stand. So, for your very first time, you need to trust someone that knows Maldives very well, and not an anonymous booking system, which in case of whatever difficulties might arise will not help you.
    • Don’t Worry About the Weather – Last but not least! Stop worrying about the best season to book, about if it will be raining or not! The weather is so unpredictable (and this is worldwide!) that this has not to be a hurdle to your Maldives! I never consider this aspect when booking and guess what!  In 17 years I was blessed to count at max 5 days of rain (summing the hours in my different, many stays!!).
  • How many resorts have you visited?
    I left my footprint on 54 resorts. In addition, I have experienced some Guest House Islands as well, because I wanted to build my opinion about this quite new form of hospitality. However, I ended up deciding that this is not the hospitality fitting my needs and interests in Maldives…at least so far.  There is a PS! I visited Fuvahmulah as well.  In this case, we have the ‘one island/one atoll’ concept.  Now I say ‘in Maldives, there are resorts, there are gesthouses and then there is Fuvahmulah!’ Although, I was lodged in a GH (in a Suite that some resorts can really still dream to have!!) the main feeling there, was that an entire island was lodging and taking care of me! I am not a ‘backpacker’ but I would suggest to all such around the word that if you really want to experience Maldives that way. There is only Fuvahmulah to choose from!
  • Which one have you been back to the most?
    Being my dream to visit all resorts in Maldives before I die, there is no space in time for a ‘second touchdown’! I must carefully manage all my bookings to still have a chance to get to this goal, which because of the huge number of new resort openings is already concretely fading away! This means: I am not a resort’s repeater but a destination one!  However, I was blessed to win a few web competitions regarding Maldives and one of them made me a repeater to that specific resort.
  • What are your resort pet peeves?
    OMG!! This question could take me months to answer!! There is nothing that I am more skilled in than noticing the details in a resort!! “The devil is in the details!” is my credo!! I must admit that.. with the time passing by and the numbers of resorts I have visited, this natural “gift/curse” of mine got to a stellar sharpness, simply because I can compare many properties and see the better solution for these “pet peeves”.  Let’s just list  three that are my “pet peeves”, two big, and one small.

    • The Irritating ‘++’ : There is no valid explanation and reason for me to see it on whatever menu/price list in a resort! I am not supposed to take my time, on holiday, and calculate myself what a bottle of wine is, actually, at the end, costing me! Simply show me the total cost and at the bottom of that page inform me that your price includes your xyz%  of ‘whatever’ your +++++++++, taxes, etc.
    • The Lovely Single ‘+1’: That is ‘+1 hour’ to Male’ time! If some resorts manage it, why are other resorts unable, or not willing to?! From a mere customer’s point of view, this is already gold! We have sunrise/sunset around 7!  Loosing 1 hour in our first day in Maldives is not that big of a tragedy. We would be so much happier to have it at disposal on our departure day!! And I am nearly sure this will cost less to a resort in terms of energy supply (no studies at disposal, just the old good common sense!) and +1 is just the minimum! There are 3 brave resorts that manages a +2 to Male’! Simply my dream!
    • The Pool Entry – I will never understand why in a private pool in Maldives (which exists to relax and lounge, only), I am supposed to enter and exit it as an Olympic athlete! Even new opened resorts still boast those ugly, uncomfortable metal stairs to enter/exit the plunge pool?!?
  • Which resort most exceeded your expectations or surprised you?
    To name just one, describing what incredible happened there, will be very unfair to Maldives! Let’s say that every single resort, I touched, had a big, amazing surprise for me! and this is not an easy task!! Since I set my barefoot on an island already knowing all the possible info about it! Even the most hidden ones. It could be that it is also my attitude about this place creating the magic, the unforgettable experience, the steel ties. I don’t know and I don’t care! I just enjoy to feel simply blessed!
  • Being a certified sommelier, what is the favourite glass of wine you have had in the Maldives?
    Wine is part of my work life. I, on purpose, leave this aspect back home. I have the opportunity to taste great wines all year long and in perfect serving conditions. Because of the tropical temperature in the Maldives, I only drink sparkling wines when visiting.
  • Is there any ritual you do every visit?
    Yes, some. But one in particular! I must mark my territory!! I regularly move furnishings around in my accommodation and tell housekeeping not to move them back in the original position till when I leave! The time I spend on a resort is unique, my ‘home’ has to be as well! This always includes removing any kind of carpets and blocking curtains in open position 24h a day. Other rituals are…

    • Taking always part in cleaning activities: If not organised when I am there, I create one on my own!)
    • Sleeping outside: Some resorts are more suitable for the latter, but if they are not I still strive to create this experience on my own! In one resort I never touched the bed for 5 nights and when the Executive Housekeeper checked my villa and still saw the untouched ‘Welcome’ decoration on the master bed, I was jumping from joy seeing his interlocutory expression.
    • Keep a map of the island with me at all times: Again, the Devil is in the details! I constantly have a map of the island by me where I can note the remarkable details while I stroll around or dine, or just stop observing something.
    • Never miss a sunrise: This means to be awake every single day I am in Maldives at that time and possibly in a conscious, active way to capture the sunrise at best! (now you can better appreciate my unconditional enthusiasm for +2 to Male’ time).

   Happy Birthday Paola!  If there was a “Maldives Fanatic Day”, then today would surely be it.

Paola Facebook

Paola beach

Paola jetty