Maldives Tour 2012 – Day 4: Lily Beach

Lily Beach tour 3

Just right.

That was the best compliment a family friend, Elmer Rising, had for a meal or anything he enjoyed. As an artist, he had a deep appreciation for getting things ‘just right’. For a meal, it was not over the top (like some Thanksgiving feasts), nor conversely lacking in anything. That is the phrase that came to mind visiting Lily Beach.

One of the great attractions to Lily Beach is its Luxury All Inclusive offer – the Platinnum Plan. The plan includes everything you can imagine outside of special excursions (eg. motorised sports, diving) and special meals (eg. lobster dinners in the Wave restaurant). The plan even provides cigarettes which I’d not come across before.

Not only is the plan an attractive value, it also changes the whole ambience of the property. That is because it is the only plan they offer and everyone is on it. As a result, staying at Lily is more like staying at some rich friend’s paradise estate than it is like consuming a holiday package. No signing for things constantly. No class/category dividing arm bands. Never hearing the question ‘What room, sir?’

A few years ago Lily underwent a refurb to take it from 4 to 5 star status. It ticks all the boxes to the Maldives Complete special ‘5 Star’ checklist. Smart food, rooms, service throughout. One of the key qualities I look for in resorts attesting to 5-star status is shortfalls. If you are going to be a true ‘5 star’, then you really shouldn’t have any ‘holes in your game’. And Lily Beach was solid throughout with a few special touches of distinction thrown in.

The house reef is more like 6 stars. A mere 3 metres from the shoreline it is closely accessible to the beach from one entire side of the island. It has a quite deep drop-off (about 20 metres), but the drama comes with the coral. All sorts of shapes, sizes and colours of vibrant and healthy coral are packed onto the reef. Sprinkled with endless colourful schools of fish. Lily would definitely be a candidate for ‘Best House Reef Coral’. An amibitious distinction, but Lily is worthy of candidacy.

Tip 1: Family Beach Villa – Lily offers several Family Bech Villas with interconnected rooms. Not unique in itelf in the Maldives, but still rare enough to be appreciated by family visitors. Lily have been extra smart to kit out the two rooms with one having double bed and the other having twin (so siblings don’t have to share a bed that might cause friction not welcome on a holiday).

Tip 2: ‘Beach Suite’ – One of their Beach Villas (#300) is actually a ‘Beach Suite’ with a living room added. There is no extra charge and can be requested on an availability basis.

In addition to the ‘Luxury All Inclusive’ distinction, I have now identified a further 11 Best of the Maldives candidates to research and share in the coming months.

Just right.

Maldives Tour 2012 – Day 3: Paradise Island / The Haven

Paradise Island - tour post

Just a literal (or should I saw ‘littoral’) stone’s throw away, we proceed onto Paradise Island / The Haven.

We’ve have been very close to visiting Paradise (the resort, not the notion) several other times before. A few years back when the family was seeking out a more value-for-money place, it made the short-list. And subsequent North Male visits took us to Manta Point for diving which is just off Paradise’s house reef.

Paradise pioneered the concept of the split personality island. Where a newer part of the island, typically water villas, are developed to a significantly higher standard than the rest of the resort. Often an entire ‘star’ difference (eg. 4-star and 5-star). Now over half a dozen resorts have this sort of ‘split’ set up. Often the adjacent properties have completely distinct branding, logistics, service, etc. This trend was just one reason the contributed to the development of Room Type database to provide people with more granular information on possible destinations. Just a profile on a resort as a whole doesn’t really tell the whole story of what’s on offer.

One of my discoveries was that The Haven water villas allow children of any age. Pretty much all of the water bungalows that I know of have restrictions against children staying there for safety reasons of them falling into the water. The policy at the Haven is to firmly warn the guests of the risks and if they do want to still stay there with children, then they are allowed to do so. This flexibility will be very welcome to families looking for the water villa experience but often restricted from doing so.

Another aspect of a big island is that it often sits on a big lagoon table making the house reef hard to reach and the snorkelling less exciting. But, as duly logged in Snorkel Spotter, we had a delightful snorkel seeing a shark, sting ray and more lion fish in one little rocky overhang (about a dozen) than we had ever seen.

I uncovered a further 6 Best of the Maldives candidates during my stay to add to the 2 already done. Great to finally make it all the way to Paradise after so many close callings.


Paradise Island - lion fish

Maldives Tour 2012 – Day 2: Gili Lankanfushi

Maldives Tour 3 - Gili Lankanfushi

Gili Lankanfushi is probably the most anticipated stop of the Tour. And it is our very first stop. When we were first planning our earliest trips to the Maldives, and compiling a massive spreadsheet of research data that would eventually evolve into Maldives Complete, our friends Andy and Linnet forwarded me a picture pulled from a travel magazine of the new extravagant water villas the likes of which none of us had ever seen. With Huvanfenfushi, it really kicked off the move by the Maldives to super-premium resorts that were built from the ground up with ‘wow’ factors such a distinctive designs, creative touches and remarkable features. I vowed that one day I would visit this magical resort.

Visiting Gili was also especially timely as it just changed ownership and branding last week The Soneva chain has sold the island to HPL Hotels and Resorts and renamed it ‘Gili Lankanfushi.’ There has been no refurbishment and pretty much all the staff hae remained the same. It’s clear that they want to preserve the distinctive concept and reputation of Gili and so no major changes are expected. They do have a new web site with all of the latest up-to-date detais.

Gili is a ‘plateau’ island (largish island sitting on a broad, raised underwater tableau) and such islands are not typically renowned for great snorkelling. But Soneva Gili is a great illustration of the power of Snorkel Spotter. The local marine biologist Vaidas Kirsys, who is used to fish surveying for his current research project, has logged a Maldives topping 21 sighting of everything on the Spotter list (lobster, ray, octopus, shark, turtle, manta). When we were there we were greeted by one of the larget reef sharks we have seen in a lagoon (well over a metre), duly logged in Snorkel Spotter. We decided to aim for Three Palm Island which was both near to our villa and where there was a sighting of an octopus logged. He didn’t find one but saw a large school of yellow snappers.

So renowned are many of Gili’s distinctions that I have already published 9 pieces about (the former) Soneva Gili. I uncovered a further 16 distinctions during my 24 hour stay. Combined with the 9 previous that takes Gili to 25 ‘distinctions’ which is the same as the ‘league leaders’ W Retreat and Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. Without doubt, one of the top 10 resorts in the Maldives.

Great to finally see this first of it’s type first class property first hand.

10 for 10

Tour 3 arrival



Back at our home away from home. It’s great to see our old friends. The trigger fish, the reef sharks, the parrot fish. They all came out to greet us for our return to the Maldives. As well as a pretty beefy black tip reef shark who swam by the arrival jetty (dutifully logged in the Snorkel Spotter). Fortunately, the friendly type, not like the one in this video (which happens to be taken where Lori and I have our other seaside vacations on the Intercoastal Waterway of North Carolina where Lori’s sister lives).

Lots of settling in and getting ready for the big week coming up with 10 resorts in 10 days. My itinerary for the rest of the week is listed below and per usual I will be posting daily overviews of each resort to be followed with the first ‘Best of Maldives’ I dig up about each respectively when I return. I will also be posting shorter notes about each stay on TripAdvisor Maldives Forum where I have alerted my various Forum friends of my trip and promised updates.

Tour 3 itinerary

Maldives Tour 2012 – Day 1: South Ari or Bust

Maldives Complete visit tally



Friday 13th is my lucky day. I’m on my way to the Maldives for ‘Tour’ #3 and trip #10.

South Ari is the atoll with the 2nd highest number of resorts, but I have never visited there. This week’s trip will take me to 8 further ones there (as well as 2 new ones in North Male atoll). South Ari is renowned for its whale sharks and we are hoping to spot one of these stunning creatures. At least, we have a whale shark lecture booked at LUX Maldives.

Perhaps a bit of my father’s son. My Dad has been to 48 states and has decided in his seventies to complete the set. He only recently visited North and South Dakota, and in the autumn my parents have a trip to Mississippi and Alabama to tick off the final two. I’ve decided that I will take it as my life’s mission to visit every one of the Maldives resorts. There are 99 active ones (with 27 more offline or coming online) and I will have made it to 36 after this trip.

Off we go into the very blue yonder.

Best of the Maldives: Job Title – W Retreat

W Retreat Insider Mijung Kim

Best job ever. Well, at least the best job title. “W Insider” is the title for W Retreat’s service special agent whose mission is to target the very best experiences tailored to each guest. To some extent, it is a fancy name for a ‘Concierge’, but W positions the role as a bit more…

“You are the soul behind the brand and you bring it to life. We don’t call W employees ‘Talent’ for nothing. Creative. Exciting. Innovative. W Talent are naturally attracted to the Brand and they ‘get it’. W Talent are as unique as the Brand itself, and cultivate the witty, whimsical, cool W environment.”

The title is a standard position at W Hotels around the world, but Mijung Kim (see above) is the first appointee in the Maldives.

I put Mijung to the test to find me some real hidden gems about the W Retreat. I sort of fancy Maldives Complete as a ‘Maldives Insider’ for all the resorts. W Retreat is one of the resorts that I have been fortunate enough to stay so I have already ferreted out a league-leading 21 ‘Best of the Maldives’ pieces about the W. So I was curious to see what she came up with. Her first stab was a collection of fine recommendations that would have been ideal for a Maldives neophyte, but as a veteran I wanted something a bit deeper. So she shared some more hidden (and fun) tidbitsof the island including [bird] security, pro snapper, natural medicine and ‘Angelina & Marilyn’.

Best of the Maldives: Bocce Ball – Club Med Kani

Club Med Kani bocce ball



This weekend featured the World Championship of Bocce Ball in Del Mar, California, but the champion bocca ball pitch in the Maldives has to be Club Med Kani’s. Anyone can throw a few balls in the sand and call it ‘bocce’. Kanu has chosen a select place under a sprawling palm canopy by the ocean’s edge. They have levelled out the sand pitch and marked it off with boarding on all sides. Finally, just for that added touch of official-ness, they have a special bocca ball stand in native palm-frond style.


Club Med Kani bocce ball stand

Best of the Maldives: All Suite – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi suite





While many islands are diversifying their room types, others are focusing on certain categories. When I first started Maldives Complete, there were essentially 4 types of room categories – apartments, beach villas, water villas, and suites. Jumeirah Dhevanafushi this year launched the Maldives first ever ‘All Suite’ resort…

“The all-suite residences at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi recognise the individuality of luxury travellers and the significance of personal experiences in their lives. The uniqueness of each guest is reflected in the originality and amplitude of the interior design of the 38 spaciously apportioned suites. At the resort, there are two principle residence types, Revive and Sanctuary, each giving you a choice of breathtaking views of the Island or the Ocean accompanied by the liberating freedom that such space affords.”

(Thanks Adrian)

How suite it is.