Possibly the easiest day to wake up to on the calendar…World Coffee Day. In n aromatic nod to the king of coffee innovation in the Maldives, another distinction brought to my attention by Rik Norton and his glowing review of LUX* Maldives. This example of LUX’s striking coffee art depicts a young lioness greeting us in the morning.
World Tourism Day today.
As the Maldives (and Kurumba in particular where the sessions are being convened) welcomes tourism officials from around the world to host the United Nations World Travel Organisations official celebration, it is an apropos time to take a look at the shifting concentrations of tourists from around the world. Much has been written about the rise of the Chinese visit numbers, but with over a billion in population, one would expect a fair number to be drawn to the Maldivian charms. But which country has the highest proportionate draw to the Maldives?
If you look at the most recent Maldives visitor numbers by country population, Switzerland is the big fan of the Maldives with 4.03 visitors per year per 1,000 of population. The closest rival in enthusiasm density is Austria coming in at less than half that number with 1.97 per 1,000 population. Perhaps not coincidentally, both of these countries are famous for their mountainous landscape. Maybe the population craves the low altitudes of the sea-level hugging islands.
As described in the earlier look at guest numbers, the shift in enthusiasm density tracks with the overall guest trends. Namely, the rise of the East (Singapore, Kuwait and Australia the biggest risers) and the decline of the West (UK, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Denmark and Czech are the biggest droppers).
Life’s a beach. And in the Maldives, it’s all beach.
Most Maldive islands are little more than a plot of sand and a few palm trees. In short, they are all beach. But, some of the more substantial ones actually have a few discrete beach areas with their own character (eg. east facing for sunsets, west facing for sunrises). One & Only Reethi Rah are a pinnacle of beach choice with a dozen separate (and named…see picture above) beaches to choose from. My favourite is “Frangipani Beach”…a great name for a lovely flower (the white petalled one with soft yellow touches in the centre).
One island that has avoided the groynes blemish (and water breaks) is Bathala. As a result, the sandy beaches are completely exposed to and subject to the whims of Mother Nature. The resort is accustomed to regularly shifting beaches as the tide and wind moves beaches around the island. One of the villas seemed exceptionally close to the water’s edge when we visited and exposed roots of nearby palm trees made evident that the water line hadn’t always been there. The resort explained that such shifting was quite common for Bathala and they monitor the edges carefully, but in general fluctuating circumference stays within acceptable tolerance to not threaten the infrastructure.
Heraclitis famously remarked that "No man ever steps in the same river twice.” At Bathala, one doesn’t visit the same beach twice.
(picture courtesy of Rainbow Cheung)
Take me away…and everyone else too!
The utter seclusion of the remote Maldives resorts attracts a big group of the “get away from it all” crowd. Especially, getting away from the crowds. Also, for the big celebrity contingent, privacy is a big plus. And of course, romantic celebrations always place a premium on intimate seclusion. Dhonakulhi even names itself “Island Hideaway”. For many, the treasure to be hidden is themselves.
Recognizing this appeal, many resorts offer pretty good degree of privacy. Maldives resorts are not packed holiday camps nor crowded beaches. And most resorts take measures to strengthen the privacy with various screens and foliage and private areas (Baros is especially effective at this). Many resorts have villas with large enclosed back areas where people can lounge in the sun or even swim in pools in complete isolation. Some even enclose their villa grounds with compound-like walls for complete shielding (eg. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Jumeirah Vittaveli)
Nika has made ‘Privacy’ the over-arching concept to the entire resort. That is all very well and good to assert, but how does one actually distinguish one’s private paradise from so many other well secreted hide-aways? The villas are indeed well segregated with private paths to their front doors and dense foliage between plots.
The one distinction Nika offers is extending this “privacy” and delineated segregation all the way into the water. First of all this means that every villa beach is a private beach. On just about every other resort, you can make the villa itself as private as you like, but the beach itself is open area that any guest can stroll on.
How does Nika pull off this feat without having oppressive beach guards or unsightly warning signs? It exemplifies a principle that is the focus of my other big blog pursuit – embracing failure. Nika has taken what is a necessary downside to so many resorts – island preserving groynes – and turned them into an asset. Many feel that these man-made structures jutting out from the beach detract from the idyllic natural feel of an island. Some make efforts to minimise the impact. But Nika has actually embraced them and exploited them to create this distinctive feature of privacy. That is because each villa is planted directly between two groynes so they form a natural delineation into the water of the villa’s beach AND swimming area. Taking an ocean dip does feel like you have you own like personal slice of paradise.
It’s not going to be the best resort for people who like to walk around the circumfrance of an island. Of course, you can always swim/snorkel/boat around the periphery (so there is no guarantee that your sunbathing will be completely free from prying eyes or that you will never see another human being).
To TV, or not to TV…that is the question.
The Emmy’s last night celebrated the very best of television, and yet one of the great debates about Maldives holidays are whether ‘TVs’ are a good thing or not. Part of the allure to this enchanting destination is its remote “get away from it all” feel. The “no shoes, no news” ethos implies no network broadcasters droning on about the depressing headlines of the day. There is a school of Maldives purists who think that any such modern contrivances have no place in the idyllic archipelago.
I’m more of the “to each his own” school. I have always focused on very individual tastes and preoccupations that people have that are catered for by 100+ different islands in the resort. We have never really watched any TV during our visits to the Maldives and never missed it. But we can appreciate the people who might. We empathise with people whose busy lives mean they never get a chance to just chill in front of a favourite show. Sometimes holiday is the only opportunity for these folks to treat themselves to a little boob-tube that we all take for granted.
One big challenge is the kids. Not just in the Maldives, but anywhere and at home. When the glowing, rectangular shrine beckons will it override all other opportunities for exploration and experience? It is a pervasive balancing act.
Baros has come up with a clever and stylish way to have your cake and eat it too on the TV front. Taking a page from the pirate world, it has devised a way to hide the electronic treasure by burying it in discrete hideaway unit (see hidden below and in use above). For families wanting to remove the temptation from the younger ones (or themselves), the unit can be tucked away out of sight. But if there is a special game on or the weather has gone a bit sour, it pops up easily for a bit of video chilling.
Now you watch it, now you don’t.
The exotic tropical islands of the archipelago just scream out the fables of “buried treasure” from pirate lore. A number of resorts now feature the sorts of treasure hunts that we used to concoct for our kids during our visits. But Jumeirah Vittaveli has made the treasure a bit more edifying than the sweeties I used to leave at the X-marks-the-spot. Each specially sequestered box, like “Fenesse Point” above, includes an educational tidbit about the island and life there. Knowledge is indeed riches worthy of a prince or princess.
Ahoy there maties!
Happy ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’! And at One & Only Reethi Rah, you can act like a pirate too. Their Kids Club features a “Pirate Cruise” every Wednesday afternoon…
“We take a Maldivian Dhoni and dress it like the Black Pearl Pirate Ship, the Kids Only Guests make their own Pirate hats and T-shirts and we take them on a Cruise around the Island where they can pretend to be Pirates and push our lifeguards into the ocean – there is a special island atmosphere every Wednesday that is for sure.”
The tiny plots of sand with a few pond trees that are the Maldives are the very caricature of a pirate island so the setting is complete.
Every Wednesday is “Talk Like a Pirate Day’ on Reethi.
Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Heave ho all the scallywags to Davey Jones’ locker!
Avast me Hearties…swab ye necks of scurvy scum…
Just warming up for tomorrow’s ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’. And the mirror to practice in front of is at Six Senses Laamu where the bathrooms feature treasure chest basins for their sinks. The fixtures, specially made by a Thailand company for Laamu, have a gorgeous old world cachet. The five-star style trend is all contemporary styling, so Laamu’s funky pirate chic motif really stands out.
Shiver me timbers!
The whole mission of Maldives Complete is about easy to understand and access information. Maps are a great way to literally visualise the landscape of this paradise. So Maldives Complete has always been a fan of good maps like…
This week the Ministry of Tourism launched a handy resource where people can interactively explore the status of all of the Maldives islands in any atoll. This not only provides an up-to-date status on current resorts, but also provides the most comprehensive and easily accessible catalogue of upcoming projects.