Best of the Maldives: Luxury All Inclusive – Lily Beach

Lily Beach All In cocktails

‘Luxury’ and ‘All Inclusive’ don’t typically go hand in hand.

All Inclusive resorts have tended towards the budget end of the market where people wanted to have a very defined price for their holiday without risk of overspend. Also, budget conscious travellers value the ‘quantity’ (all you can eat) versus ‘quality’. The problem with having ‘All In’ for premium travellers is that when they want extra wine, it could be £100 per bottle wine. An evenings drinking session could consume more than the cost of the holiday. If you start excluding all the treatments, yacht trips, Blue Label scotches and lobster dinners, then the high end traveller wonders what the point is.

But if you want your cake and eat it too in wanting a 5 star resort with an All In plan, then the Lily Beach is the place to go. Trip Advisor Forum reports and reviews consistently rate it as the highest quality all inclusive resort.

They offer a special ‘Platinum Plan’ which they describe as…

“Keeping the overall concept of ‘Affordable Luxury’ in mind, ‘Platinum Plan’ is a Premium All-Inclusive Plan, offering the discerning traveler absolute value-for-money and a hassle-free holiday with uninhibited enjoyment and peace of mind. Our ‘Platinum Plan’ will delight you with a fantastic array of quality services including premium wines & spirits, sumptuous dining experiences, hand-crafted excursions, sport activities, and much, much more!”

Lily Beach is the place were high rollers can go ‘all in’.

Best Of Failures

This is my 200th blog post on Maldives Complete.

I’ve covered a range of topics focusing, like the website, on useful tips and help for prospective visitors to the resorts. The Maldives’ rich diversity of the 100+ resorts provide an unceasing source of inspiration from the quirky to the spectacular for the most popular section – ‘Best of the Maldives’. As it happens, I have another 80+ ‘Best Of’ posts already researched, outlined or drafted just waiting for the most apropos point to post. I am also starting work on a project to assemble all of the ‘Best Ofs’ into a published book for those who prefer that medium. My next visit is already planned for July when I will visit 14 new resorts which will only add to the trove of material.

Not all prospective Best Ofs work out though. As it happens, my other major writing outlet covers the topic of ‘Embracing Failure’. And by coincidence this weekend’s post is also my 200th on that topic. In that spirit, I thought that I would celebrate #200 here with some of the blog posts that didn’t work out. But as you will see, they presented enticing possibilities…

Kandooma – Radio Station: Kandooma used to have a radio station on its resort that broadcast a combination of music and DJ commentary to guests. It sounded great but shut down before I could do a piece on it

Kandooma Radio

Equator Village – Golf Course: One of the ‘big’ attractions that the Maldives lacks in the eyes of many high end travellers is a golf course. This omission is in itself enough to keep many high flyers away. Despite some valiant efforts like Kuredu and Meeru, the situation is still acute enough to inspire desperate ideas like the well publicised ‘floating golf course.’ The island of Gan is home to the Equator Village as well as the one full 18 hole golf course in the country. It was built to serve the RAF base there, but has since fallen into disuse and disrepair and no visitors are allowed on it.

Gan Golf Course

Equator Village – Sky Diving: Gan is also home to the Hanimadoo Airport which had its own intriguing reports of sky-diving. Unfortunately the parachuting appears to have been a one-off event.

Gan Skydiving in Maldives

Six Senses Laamu – Slide: The most recent dead end story was the Six Senses Laamu ocean slide. It appeared on the design drawings when the resort was underdevelopment. Unfortunately, the resort decided not build the two story building in the end (and I guess ground floor slides just don’t have much thrill).

Six Senses Laamu Slide

Best of the Maldives: Maldives Culture – Beach House at Manafaru

Beach House at Manafaru Maldives Culture

 

One objection to a Maldives trip is not enough ‘cultural’ stuff to do. Sitting in the sun on a tiny, dedicated resort island doesn’t really present any historical or cultural experiences beyond some chit-chat at the pool bar. Cultural exploration at most resorts is limited to an excursion to a local island or Male and some visiting traditional dancers.

But, if you do want to sample a broader range of the local custom, then The Beach House at Manafaru has just launched a complete range of Maldivian treats including…

  • Historic island excursion – “Utheemu island, one of the most historically important places in the country being the birthplace of national hero Mohamed Tlrakurul'aanu who led the resistance against the Portuguese invaders in the mid 16th century. The visit includes a tour of a 500 year-old palace, local historic places, a market and a visit to a home in the nearby village to sample local delicacies cooked by the family.”
  • Maldivian Night – “Every Friday evening the resort transforms one of its beaches to an open air market offering a Maldivian style feast. With delicious local delicacies, specially prepared by the resort’s creative kitchen team, this evening brings the culinary treasures of the Maldives to the dining table.”
  • Maldivian Style Afternoon Tea – “Over a century ago, when the King visited the islands of his kingdom, the tradition of home-baked Maldivian snacks and infused drinks was created to welcome him…Subtly fragranced tisanes made from local herbs accompanied by delicate savouries, pastries and cakes, all with a local twist, are served in ART, a thatched-roofed open-air restaurant nestled in the lush tropical gardens of the resort.”
  • Maldivian Line Fishing – “Fishing is the lifeblood of the Maldives. To truly understand the culture of the country, a fishing excursion on a dhoni (a traditional Maldivian boat) opens doors to the rhythms of the ancient ways that are still practiced today. The boat sails in the late afternoon and as the sun falls towards the horizon the experienced fishermen will show the guests how to catch their own fish using the traditional hand line method. No nets, no rods, just a line, a hook, you, the fish and the infinity of the ocean. Fish caught on the excursion will be prepared and cooked by the resort’s chefs for the guest’s lunch the following day.”
  • Maldivian Cooking Class – “One of those dishes that the guests can learn to cook is called “Muranga Tholhi Kiru Garudhiya’(drumstick milk curry).”
  • Veli Modun Signature Treatment – “This unusual spa treatment [uses] locally sourced ingredients, this treatment is designed to invigorate and energize the body and assist in alleviating any aches and pains.”
  • Maldivian Blessing Ceremony – “The resort’s team will organise a stunning ceremony for the couple that includes traditional drumming, flower petal shower and a barefoot ceremony on the beach.”

Each of the activities can be booked individually, or Beach House offers a comprehensive package with every one included.

Aharemen dhanee kon irakun? (Dhivehi for “When do we go?”)

Seven Plunders of the World

Seven Natural Wonders of the World

 

Beware Paid for Endorsements.

The big news out of the Maldives tourism circles this week is the Tourism Board’s decision to withdraw from the ‘Seven Wonders’ competition. It turns out that tourism boards have to pay a significant price to be considered. So much for objectivity. The Maldives Resort Workers and Minivan feature good pieces on the headline announcement.

This sort of ‘marketing’ gimmick doesn’t surprise me. I’ll always remember my first marketing job for a small software company. We had a great product confirmed by customers who regularly rated us highest in ‘bake offs’ against the established players. But the industry leading ‘independent analyst’ (a real big name) never included us in their sector reports. We finally got an audience with their top analyst and asked why they neglected us and his response was, “Well, it doesn’t help that you don’t subscribe to our service.” So we scraped up the extortionate price for a ‘subscription’ (tens of thousands of dollars) and low and behold the next report featured a lovely little mention of us.

In twenty years, the world hasn’t changed at all. Now I am working in the media/broadcast sector, and one finds a similar cozy collection sector analysts/publications. One article was written about us winning the highest award in the UK (the Queen’s Award for Innovation), but it was removed allegedly when they found out we were not subscribers to their service.

I don’t fault the Maldivian Tourism Promotion Board for their earnest efforts at the outset of the Seven Natural Wonders campaign when it seemed somewhat creative and the investment was small (“$195”). But now that the Seven Wonders has exposed its true colours, MTPB is smart and courageous to say ‘enough’ and disengage.

This mutual graft is rife in the world. Auditors biased in their reports on clients. Rating agencies biased in their assessments of company well being. Investment banks biased in their stock recommendations. Magasines biased in their coverage. All based on how much one pays. My disenchantment with this dishonesty is one of my motivations behind Maldives Complete.

As I say up front, Maldives Complete has no ads, no sponsors, no selling. Just pure, transparent fascination and adoration with these idyllic islands. I make no bones about the fact that my writing and coverage (in the blog) is almost completely positive in tone. But that is a reflection of my heartfelt attitude about the Maldives, not the result of anyone bribing me to feel or write that way. With this site getting bigger and taking more work and resources (out of my free time and pocketbook), I am grateful that a number of resorts are helping me with discounts and comps. They reduce, but don’t eliminate the significant personal investment I have to make to keep the site up to date. And in no way do they affect my coverage. I still research and include every resort I can find juicy pieces on. Similarly, the best online resources – TripAdvisor is a fine example – have strict rules on any bias or promotion making its way into the content of their reviews and forums.

When looking for a Wonder-ful trip of a lifetime, turn to the enthusiasts over the self-appointed, commercial pseudo-official lists for your guidance.

Best of the Maldives: Bananas – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi

Hudhuranfushi Bananas

 

Who knew there were so many types of Bananas?

The One Show on BBC this week did a piece on bananas (minute 11:00 of the BBC iPlayer recording available for the next two weeks to UK residents) which highlighted their delicious diversity. And if you want personally explore their rich variety, then Adaaran Hudhuranfushi is the place to visit. In their own produce garden they grow 6 different varieties of bananas all which are served fresh in the restaurants.

We were able to enjoy them with lunch in treacle sauce during our visit (see below). But if you want to see some truly artistic banana creations, check out Laughing Squid.

 

Hudhuranfushi Bananas 2

 

Hudhuranfushi Bananas in Treacle Sauce

Best of the Maldives: Elevation – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangri-La Villingili Tree House

Alternative title – ‘A Room With a View’ in the Venice of the tropics

New York is what the Maldives would be…in ‘Opposite Land.’

I am visiting New York City this week for business and I keep getting struck by the polar contrasts with my beloved Maldives…

 

New York City Maldives
Noise Quiet
Bustle Indolence
Tall Flat
Concrete Water
Artificial Natural

Obviously, one of the starkest contrasts is the elevation. Not of the land, but the structures. For the longest time, nearly all resort buildings were single story structures. As the resorts are getting bigger and fancier and wanting to exploit the most from their extremely limited real estate footprint, Maldives resorts are starting to move upwards. I don’t think we will see skyscrapers anytime soon (the Jumeirah’s two new resorts are staying close to the ground with no dhoni-inspired high rises on the drawing boards).

While the beach hut traditionalists might disagree, I quite enjoy the tastefully designed, slightly elevated structures on some of the islands. Much as I enjoy gazing out at the ocean’s horizon at beach level, being a bit higher provides more perspective especially on the dazzling colours and patterns created by the underwater topology.

For those urbanites who prefer living in elevated quarters, Shangri-La Villingili offers Tree House Villas

“With marvellous views of the ocean, Tree House Villas are secluded, private island hideaways. Perched on stilts among the treetops, amidst dense vegetation, these luxury accommodations provide guests with a memorable stay in a tropical tree house. At this elevation, privacy is assured as the beautiful, panoramic views unfold like a living canvas of sparkling surf, languid lagoons and verdant vegetation that is home to colourful indigenous bird life.”

Enjoy the view!

Cool Women

Cool Women

Happy Mothers Day!

Mothers Day is celebrated on whole range of days in different countries around the world, but it is celebrated on the ‘India Sub-Continent’ today (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka). The holiday has roots in the Roman festival of Hilaria where the ‘Earth Goddess’ was celebrated on the final day of the vernal equinox festival (spring finally sprung!).

It is also celebrated in the USA today where my own mother lives. The ‘traditional’ American ritual includes breakfasts in bed, homemade cards and a break from traditional chores as children (and husbands) try to chip to give Mom a break for one 24 hour period.

It seemed appropriate to post on ‘Cool Women’, which was created for International Women’s Day earlier this year, on this more traditional day of honouring women. My mother, Marjorie Lynn, is also a ‘Cool Woman’ in very much the spirit of the video. She ran a YWCA which provided support programmes for women including a women’s shelter and a number of outreach and community initiatives. Mom has always been a rather outspoken activist for well-being and capabilities of women with all the strength of Aemii Musko’s wave (see above). 

Best of the Maldives: Surround Decking – Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Club Rannalhi Water Villa deck

 

A lot of Trip Advisor queries ask about the best villas and the best sides of a resort (watch this space). Does one want an eastward facing villa for glorious morning sunshine or a westward facing villa for sunset pina coladas?

You do have to choose because most Maldive resorts line up the water villas next to each other with a distinct outward facing aspects. Some stand alone, but the deck is only on one or maybe two sides of the villa. But Club Rannalhi has 360 degree decking all around its water villas. Sunrise AND Sunset views. Or if the sun is getting a bit strong at in the afternoon, just slide your deck chair around to the shaded side. You can choose between windward side for a cool breeze on a hot day or leeward side to shelter from a particularly strong breeze. Short of renting a palatial water villa suite at some of the super top end resorts, the 360 degree Club Rannalhi is relatively unique.

Best of the Maldives: Sea Plane – Beach House at Manafaru

Beach House at Manafaru Sea Plane interior

 

Donald Trump personifies the super-premium jet-setting crowd. He’s in the headlines a lot these few weeks with both his potential challenge to President Obama in 2012 and his ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ reality TV show now in full flow. Nearly all of the shots of him show him in him in his private Trump helicopter or Trump private plane.

If you want to travel in Trump-quality style, the Beach House at Manafaru this year launches a customised sea plane that looks like it has been taken straight off the set of an Apprentice victory reward.

One of the real treats to a Maldives visit is the view from above. I always try to get a window seat for my outbound journey so that when we approach the northernmost atolls I get a front row seat to all the dazzling colours and shapes. It really is the closest thing to feeling that you have arrived at another planet. A sea plane transfer is an added treat with a flight altitude even lower so you get an even better view. Charming though it is, the seaplane ‘air taxis’ are not big on the creature comforts. But Beach House has a remedy for that. Here is an excerpt from the Beach House announcement…

“A DeHavilland Twin Otter seaplane will be fitted out for the ultimate in aviation with comfy leather seats; custom-made tables and furnishings; and an utterly desirable amenities bag that includes an iPad and Bose noise cancelling headphones. The exterior of the plane will be painted a stylishly elegant white, gray and black livery.”

 

“Frederic Lebegue, General Manager of Beach House Maldives, A Waldorf Astoria Resort commented, “With the launch of our customised seaplane into the Maldivian skies, we’re putting the glamour back into travel, ensuring that our guests can begin their Maldivian holiday from the moment they reach the airport. The seaplane flight offers a ‘private jet’ experience making this an inimitable way to travel with picture postcard aerial views of the islands below.”

 

“All guests travelling to the ultra-elegant resort will be welcomed at Male International Airport, whisked through to a private lounge where spa treatments, refreshments and air conditioned comfort await them before transferring to the resort’s own seaplane for the one hour’s flight to the tropical retreat. To while away the time, guests on board will have a customised iPad, Bose noise cancelling headphones, a pair of binoculars, fan and pampering pack that includes face fresheners and hand wipes. The seaplane can be booked privately by individuals wishing to travel in complete privacy, and will also be used to transfer groups of guests to the resort from Male International Airport.”

 

“Beach House Maldives, a Waldorf Astoria Resort is the only resort in the atoll to offer seaplane transfers to its guests. Set in the far north of the country, Haa Alifu Atoll is usually reached by a domestic flight followed by a boat trip. The seaplane transfer reduces travelling time by half ensuring that guests can enjoy more time on the beach.”

 

I definitely wouldn’t miss the tiny hard seats of the conventional ‘air taxi’, but I do hope they keep the tradition of barefoot pilots. No shoes luxury is the Maldives.

 

Beach House at Manafaru Sea Plane exterior

Best of Maldives Online – Jobs: Job-Maldives.com

Job-Maldives

 

 

Happy International Workers Day. ‘May Day’ is celebrated all over the world to recognize workers (though America has its ‘Labor Day’ on 10th October). And this year, the Maldives joins that community adding 1st May to its official public holidays.

If all this talk and celebration of working has you interested in going to the Maldives for a bit longer stay than a fortnight’s holiday, then Job-Maldives is the place to go. It is the comprehensive source for employment posting on resorts for all sorts of positions and welcome applications from all over the world.