Best of the Maldives: Junior Hoopsters – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - junior hoops

 

Let the hoops commence. The NBA starts today with Celtics vs. Heat and Lakers vs. Mavericks. For aspiring hoopsters or young fans, the resort of the day is Lily Beach. An increasing number of resorts have basketball courts (perhaps as the sport grows increasingly international), but only Lily Beach has a junior hoop at its kids activity centre.

Swish!

Best of the Maldives: Turkish – Ayada

Turkey flag

 

 

Happy Turkey Day!

No not American Thanksgiving. But the National Holiday of Turkey, ‘Republic Day’. And the resort of the day is Ayada.

Ayada is owned and managed by a Turkish company and it reflects its Ottoman roots throughout the resort. From the Turkish Hammam baths to the Ottoman lounge

“From the serenity and tranquility of the Maldives to the vibrancy of a café in Turkey, Ayada Maldives showcases the beauty and unique experience of sipping authentically brewed Turkish coffee and specialty teas with a wide array of traditional shisha at the Ottoman Lounge. The lounge is reminiscent of a traditional café in Turkey with the Ottoman style furnishings complete with intricate light fixtures and low seating.”

?erefe!

Post Script – For a Turkish language website on the Maldives, check out www.maldivler.com.tr .

Best of the Maldives: Private Ocean Swimming – Gili Lankanfushi

Gili Lankanfushi - private swimming area water villa

 

Like glass floors, private back areas are another prominently requested feature for Maldive villas. Especially for modest Middle Eastern women who prefer not to wear skimpy beach clothes in public view. Also, the numerous honeymooners that flock here like a little privacy to take the ‘P’ out of ‘PDA’.

Most villas in the Maldives have some sort of private back area, but they differ widely. From just enough space for an outdoor shower to expansive, walled gardens with private pools and other amenities. That is why I include a picture of the back areas in the Room Type Profiles.

Now water villas have the entire ocean for their ‘back area’. Great for sunsets, marine life watching, handy snorkelling, and lovely ocean views. Regardless of the screens, walls and configuration, not super for privacy (at least from the ocean side). But Gili Lankanfushi has private ocean swimming areas on its water villas. Areas of the sea walled off 360 degrees that you can swim or whatever in. Sort of its own version of private ‘water closet’ altogether where you don’t just see the lagoon, but you are in it.

Don’t get too bold in the ostensibly private setting. The water is eztremely clear and people could probably see a bit of what is going on from the adjacent walkway at least some of whatever is under water.

Best of the Maldives: Bog View – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru bog view

 

The Maldives are sort of pioneers in the ‘Windows’ department. Underwater windows, but also Overwater windows. Also, known as ‘glass floors’. These features have become so common and popular, that I added a field for them in the ‘Room Type’ database.

Resorts feature glass floors in many of the top water villa rooms as well as spas and restaurants. But perhaps the most unusual place is the bathroom. Maybe not so surprising. With the prevailing ‘no shoes, no news’ ethos, there’s no daily newspaper for your morning constitutional. So a front row seat to watch the aquatic wonders below is a decadent alternative.

When I first saw this feature in a toilet, I thought it would be unique, but my research has uncovered several like the one from Six Senses Laamu below. But I’ve given the wipe of the squeegee to Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru whose footside window is larger and the largest I have found.

 

Six Senses Laamu toilet glass floor

Best of the Maldives: Villa Windows – Kuda Huraa

Kuda Huraa villa windows inside

 

 

The World is Ready!

For Windows! That’s the tag line (one of them) for Windows 8 launching today around the world. My Facebook page and Twitter feeds are packed with former Microsoft colleagues whooping with delight at their new release (launch times are are always a bit frothy in Redmond, especially for the franchise product).

In honour of Windows 8 (and in the interest of balanced coverage), I thought I would showcase some superlative Windows in the Maldives. Particularly those of Four Seasons Kuda Huraa villas. Maybe it is my Microsoft heritage, but one of my pet peeves in any building, especially resorts and hotels, is not enough windows. Especially in a picturesque destination like the Maldives. Yes, we do spend as much time as possible outside on our visits, but sometimes you just have to or want to be inside. Maybe for a dose of refreshing air conditioning. Maybe because you have to or want to get on the computer (a la photo above). It is a shame that in such cases you have to abandon the beauty you came to experience.

The most striking design he have some across in our worldwide travels is the Phinda Forest Lodges in the Kruger, South Africa. They are constructed of 3 walls of floor-to-ceiling glass. Yes, you can lower blinds for complete privacy, but the fun part is just opening them completely and still feeling immersed in the lush surrounding jungle. We were resting in our room one mid-day after a crack-of-dawn safari and just watched all the gazelles and monkeys playing a few feet away outside.

The closest we have found to this design are the Kanuhura villas which have a very similar design (see photos). You do more often find floor-to-ceiling glass on one wall of the new water villas around the Maldives, thank goodness. But wrap-around transparency is still a novelty.

Windows everywhere. Just like Microsoft would like it.

 

Kuda Huraa villa windows

Best of the Maldives: Polyglots – Kanuhura

DWTS Gangham style

 

 

Happy Anniversary United Nations!

Mind you, being Secretary General of all the countries of the world still comes in behind being a Gangham Style rapper! The latest Gangham Style tribute was on last night’s US hit television show ‘Dancing With the Stars’ (a favourite of Lori and me). The show itself is a virtual UN with dancers from France, UK, Russia, Ireland, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Albania and, of course, USA.

The resort that embodies that international spirit especially in self-expression has to be Kanuhura. They have 26 languages spoken at the resort including the following…

  1. Arabic
  2. Bahasa
  3. Balinese
  4. Chinese
  5. Creole
  6. Croatian
  7. English
  8. Farsi
  9. French
  10. Filipino
  11. German
  12. Hindi
  13. Indonesian
  14. Italian
  15. Japanese
  16. Nepalese
  17. Spanish
  18. Sri Lankan
  19. Russian
  20. Romanian
  21. Swiss German
  22. Thai
  23. Tibetan

Oppa UN-Style!

Best of the Maldives: Digital Breakfast – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - ipads at breakfast

 

As Apple announced today, sometimes you just need a little iPad.

Even sequested on an exotic ‘no shoes, no news’ island. Some people do miss their daily news tidbits, sports scores, and Facebook cat pictures over coffee in the morning. Lily Beach has its own offering for people who need a little iPad fix with their ‘iPads at Breakfast’ offering. They keep a selection of iPads at the restaurant that guests can borrow and use in the dining area in the wifi hot spot.

Thinking different!

Best of the Maldives: Posh Coffee – Anantara Kihavah

Anantara Kihavah Black Ivory coffee

 

 

You think a Starbucks is overpriced? Try “Black Ivory”. It sells for $1,100 per kilogram.

Why so much? Well, it is from coffee beans that have been ingested, digested and egested by elephants. Each bean hand picked from the elephant’s ‘output’ (for all of those teenage barristas moaning about their crappy jobs…you have no idea. Talk about having to wake up and smell the coffee).

It has just been introduced to Anantara Kihavah (as well as Anantara’s other top resorts around the world). The offering suits Anantara’s Thai roots as this prized bean comes from elephants reserves in Thailand. ABC News reports

“According to the resort, Black Ivory coffee beans are "naturally refined" by Thai elephants. Research indicates that during digestion, the enzymes of the elephant break down coffee protein, according to the resort. Protein is one of the factors responsible for bitterness in coffee: less protein, less bitterness. The coffee is ground by hand and brewed table side in a four-minute process. The fragrance is said to be floral and chocolate and the taste ‘milk chocolate, nutty, earthy with hints of spice and red berries.’ Thai Arabica beans are picked from an altitude of 1500 meters (about 5000 feet) and fed to the elephants. ‘Once deposited by the elephants, the individual beans are handpicked by mahouts (elephant trainer and care giver) and their wives and sun dried.’”

Best of the Maldives: Value Cooking Class – Vilamendhoo

Vilamendhoo cooking class

 

It’s the optional extras that get you.

Just when we think we have gotten a great deal just within our budget, we come back a bit over-extended from all of the irresistible extras from souvenirs, diving, drinks and excursions. Special activities and special meals always seem to be a particular weakness for us and tote up some extra charges. But at Vilamendhoo, you can do both a superb activity and get a great meal all for $25! It is their Maldivian cooking class. You will work with one of their Maldivian chefs learning some of their traditional recipes as well as try your hand at preparing them for yourself.

Mastercard-friendly Master Chef!

 

 

Vilamendhoo chinese fondue

Best of the Maldives: 5 Star Value – Kurumba

Kurumba welcome

You won’t find anything near ‘free’ and even ‘budget’ options are limited in the prestigious Maldives, but if you want to dive down to the deepest value for the most dazzling quality, then you want to filter on the ‘Cost Per Star’ field in the Resort Finder. In these challenging economic times, people who need to mind their budgets but don’t want to compromise their trip of a lifetime have a great balance in Kurumba.

Ratings are one thing, but enough money will buy lots of sizzle and quality anywhere in the world. A big question is value-for-money. Who gives you the most star-value for your day rate?

The winner for 5-star value is Kurumba. Not only does it price itself very aggressively, but it is a good sized island which means there are often some excess inventory deals with operators who will discount the resort even further close to departure date. I find that the ideal timing for ‘last minute’ deals is about 6 weeks before intended departure – much earlier and the operators haven’t resorted to discounting yet, and much later the deals are mostly gone.

Kurumba is a proper 5 star in every respect. A number of Maldives resorts do sometimes advertise ‘5 stars’, but some are being a bit ambitious in their assertion. But Kurumba constantly looks for new touches and enhancements keeping it solidly in class. It’s not trying to be a super-premium with crazy luxury like butlers and underwater cinemas, but it has enough to satisfy most any fussy traveller.

The price for a 7 night stay Room and Breakfast (for a couple sharing) in mid-February 2013 from London is £1460 on Kuoni. That’s a £292 per star. The next best 5-star value is Robinson Club at £426 per star.