Rain doesn’t have to ruin your day in the Maldives. For the youngsters at Joali, the Muramas kids club (ages 4-12) has a Rainbow Stairs Room. A colourful and unique play area for jumping around, tumbling or just chilling out until the rain passes and the real rainbows come out.
One of the biggest trends in Maldives tourism is move from shopping for a resort to shopping for a villa. Maldives distinguished itself years ago with the concept of “One island, one resort”. People decided on which resort island was for them and they knew that their entire Maldives experience would be contained in that microcosm of aquatic terrain.
This concept contributed strongly to the development of Maldives Complete. Because you were segregated on a single island, choosing that island carefully was all the more important. It wasn’t like choosing a city hotel where the hotel part of the city break was just a small part which also included restaurants, shopping, sights, etc. outside the hotel. Furthermore, because the property was so clearly delineated, it also made developing a database on the characteristics of the resort easier as everything on the island was specific to that property.
But as I have noted on numerous occasions, guests now seek out “villas” with the same discernment that they used to seek resorts themselves. In the early years, each island only had a few room categories – Standard, Deluxe, Water Villa, etc. – to choose from. What distinguished your holiday was the island you chose and the rooms were more uniform within the island. I wrote a post in 2010 about Kurumba having the most room types with 8. Today, I don’t know of a single new property that has launched with less than that. Soneva Fushi has 27 room types today!
In 2012, I launched the Room Type database to help guests with the task that was now an order of magnitude larger of choosing a room type as opposed to just choosing an island. Just this past October, I amended the popular “How to Pick the Perfect Maldives Resort” post by removing the criteria of whether the resort had a pool or not. This characteristic was one of the very first ones I researched extensively in the 90s before all this Internet stuff as we knew that our kids loved to pay in a pool. Now all but a couple of resorts have a pools. The real question is whether you want your villa to have its own personal pool.
All sorts of special amenities that used to be distinctive for resorts are now available in your own villa (for the premium rooms on the rate card). I remember when spas were just starting to be introduced in the Maldives. Often a therapist on contract given and room and a table to work at buried in the island interior. Now some Presidential suites have their own in-villa spa rooms.
The latest distinction to have gone personal are water hammocks. First spotted at Anantara Dhigu in 2011. In 2016, I was able to post a collection of water hammocks at various resorts. Now, Amilla has added personal water hammocks outside a bank of its water villas!
While not every room is so individually appointed, the distinctive décor of Hard Rock’s Rock Star Villa does evoke the spirit of individually decorated rooms that I called out back in 2014 in my 5th instalment of “Haven’t Seen Yet”. The unique design aesthetic evokes world famous artistic hotels like Crazy Bear (UK), Ice Hotel (Sweden) and Atelier sul mare (Italy).
Now they need to just take it to the next step. They should honour a rock star every year with a free visit and the villa the star stays in gets christened the “So-And-So Villa”. Sort of like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star would bring a few bits of paraphernalia to contribute to the room décor (in addition to prints of photos and concert posters the resort would have already) and the villa would have the obligatory “So-And-So Slept Here”.
I’ve already featured the striking artistry of Soneva Jani’s arrival jetty, but it wasn’t until our visit there that we could appreciate the ubiquitous artistry of all its jetties. Unlike its sister resort which is primarily land oriented (and only recently added water villas), Soneva Jani has been from its inception very water oriented. So it is fitting that the byways connecting all of the (striking) constructions should itself be an aesthetic journey. Details like the Soneva signature driftwood pieces (see bottom) to the lit glass room numbers inlaid into the walkway timber as extra flair (see photo below – thanks Poala!) to the Suess-like whimsy of these central design elements.
Rugs are rare in Maldives resorts to begin with (Velaa is about the only resort I’ve visited where they feature very prominently), but special distinction to OZEN Reserve Bolifushi for not only displaying one, but doing so in a distinctive way on a distinctive features – the glass floor. Not only does it frame one of the iconic design elements of luxury water villas – the glass floor – but it also conveniently provides a soft surface to sit on if you just want to recline on the floor and watch the sea life through this aerial portal. I also love the simple fish quilted into it.
“Why do I do it” remains the second most frequently asked question about Maldives Complete. When people, especially in industry, discover the site you can see their minds whirring looking for the hitch and trying to figure out where I get my return. As I have discussed numerous times, the site is one big expensive hobby whose many dividends are non-monetary. One I wanted to write about today was the dividend of ‘writing’ itself. And not surprisingly, some of the best articulation come from one of my favourite writers, Seth Godin:
- “And a huge advantage of having a daily blog is that the software is always open, waiting for you to write something. Your story doesn’t have to be a book, it is simply your chance to make a difference.” – “A Place to Write”
- “Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts.” – “The most important blog post”
Finally, I came across this inspired passage from Huit Denim’s company newsletter (thanks Steve) which reflected similar dividends from the process of writing (I especially like the “gym for your mind”).
Writing is thinking.
Writing is a gymnasium for ideas.
Write to learn how to make a good talk great.
Write to learn how to make the complex simple.
Write to learn how to convey a big idea in the fewest words.
Write to learn how to separate the important details of your argument from the noise.
Clear thinking is a genuine superpower.
And here is the best thing, with practice, you get better at it.
The keyboard is a gym for your mind.
Happy 13th Anniversary to Maldives Complete! The past year was a good-news and bad-news year. The good news was that travel has crawled back from the depth of the pandemic. Since my last year’s annual review, we have been to the Maldives twice. The bad news is that such progress has been fitful and often frustrating. Our 2020 trip had to be postponed from its original plan of November to a narrow pre-Christmas window at the last minute when the UK government imposed a late autumn lock-down. Our 2021 trip was optimistically scheduled for our tradition period of July, but had to be shifted to November when the surge of the Delta variant put the Maldives onto the “Red list”. Even then, when we finally got to the Maldives last month, our original itinerary was thrown up in the air when one of our resorts was hit with “monitoring” (when a resort identifies a case of COVID on the island which then imposes major constraints on inter-island movement from that island).
The fits-and-starts nature of the year meant that the Complete-ness of Maldives Complete dipped due to surge of new properties. Also, my research was constrained by COVID (no WTM, limited tours) resulting in the lowest post rate for over a decade. The good news is that our recent trip included Amilla Maldives and Soneva Jani which we both packed with distinctions to add to the 2022 slate for “Best of the Maldives”. Still, the site continued to move forward with new highs in the material and we look forward to resuming more regular service in 2022.