Billionaire for a Day.
Maafushivaru’s neighbouring desserted island Lonubu evoked a billionaire’s paradise to me, one you could experience yourself for a night, from a number of different perspectives…
- “Buying their own islands” – My professional alma mater, Microsoft, was renowned for its generosity in giving out equity in the company to all its employees (originally in the form of stock options and later in the form of vested stock). This largesse was a big contributor to my affordability of the luxury of the Maldives for so many years. But this munificence actually became a problem for the company in the late 90s as it became difficult to retain some of the top talent who had made small fortunes. I remember Bill commenting that his objective in giving out stock was ‘so people could by themselves a nice house, not their own islands…’ I certainly never made enough to buy my own island, but a night on Lonubo would feel like it.
- Super-premium Micro-island Luxury – The Maldives is rivalling Dubai, Monaco and Mustique for the most exclusive bolt-holes. More than half of the resorts are 5-star to start with. Then, there is the arrival of the super-premium marques like Jumeirah, Four Seasons and even the rumoured Louis Vuitton. And beyond that, there are hyper-exclusive resorts like The Rania Experience and Dhoni Island (closed) with price tags starting in the $10,000 night range. If you need to be a millionaire to afford the 5-star plus properties, then these exclusive ones must be the playground of billionaires. Like Lonubo, these are eztremely small islands and it is not unheard of for customers to simply rent out the entire resort to themselves.
- Lost’s ‘moved’ island – The most famous ‘deserted’ island of modern times is ‘The Island’ on ‘Lost’. In fact, one of the great storytelling innovations of this iconic and billion-dollar TV series was making the island itself a character itself in the epic. The whole Lonubo experience reminded me of Season Four’s final episode when Ben ‘moves the island’. You have your billionaire in Charles Widmore. You have your mystical deserted tropical island. But the clincher is that Lonubo has a helicopter pad (see bottom below) and a helicopter plays a big role in this episode. More importantly, the helicopter pad is old, dilapidated and even partially submerged underwater like an ancient Man in Black period relic. But the killer is that the reason the heli-pad is submerged is because in the decade since it was built, the Lonubo island…has moved! The seas are constantly playing shell games with the sand banks and islands (necessitating the omnipresent groynes and sea defences). In this case, the sands of Lonubo have shifted the island about 100 yards (no confirmed reports of rips in the space/time fabric).
Maafushivaru offers a number of ways to enjoy this facsimile of a billionaire playground…
- Daily excursions – Every day a dhoni takes over resort guests for a visit to the island. Often special extras are organised like activities or a BBQ. Sometimes it is just an opportunity for a new place to snorkel or watch the sunset. For those short a billion or two, these excursions are entirely free of charge.
- Private Dinner – You can book a private dinner on Lonubo. The cost is $320 per person…”Prepared by your own cook and served by your own waiter, accompanied by the sounds of the ocean and a bottle of sparkling wine. After dinner, stay on Lonobu and enjoy the peace and privacy of your very own island, a beach bed will be set up for you to relax and enjoyu the thousands of beautiful stars…pick up at midnight.”
- Overnight Villa(s) – If you don’t want to turn into a pumpkin at midnight, you can also spend the night on Lonubo in one of their two villas (see below). These bungalows are what really set apart this desert island experience. You get the sensation of remote and solitary bliss…but with the comforts of home. A shower, bath, minibar, AC…even a TV to watch some old episodes of ‘Lost’. The cost of an overnight is $1,265 (for two sharing) which includes the special dinner. You stay until 10:30 am the following day when you are picked up by dhoni. There are two rooms so a family can even book the island if they like.
So if you want to re-enact the Lost experience, but prefer the homey bungalows of the DHARMA Initiative to the rustic living off the land of ‘The Others’, then set your Daniel Faraday machine to Maafushivaru’s Lonubo.