Advent Calendar (24) of More Not Seen Yets #9

Underwater biking

Digging the Advent Calendars out of the attic today. A colourful tradition to count down the final days to Christmas. The British versions feature little treats, usually chocolates, as a sort of methadone palliative to hold people over until the big extravaganza of gifts and gorging.

It’s also about time for my semi-annual “Haven’t Seen” piece (Edition 9!) So I’ve assembled a collection of 24 luxury innovation as a sort of mini-gift to resort managers. Including a few items on the end which make their own great gifts for the Maldives lover…

1. Underwater Bicycling [above] – (thanks Momo)

2. Local Honey – I guess never thought there might be bees in the Maldives, but my visit to J Resort Alidhoo showed me that there was (picture below of bee hive from my visit there). People love to buy local products and honey is a very popular natural sweetener there.
Honey tree

3. Lobster Curry – No “Haven’t Seen” post is complete without the latest crustacean omission. And of all the lobster cuisine, how can a place in the middle of the INDIAN ocean not have lobster curry.
Lobster curry

4. Proper Lobster Chowder – Made with potatoes and cream, it’s possibly a bit heavy for the warm weather, but you can make it more light and it is one of the seafood classics.
Lobster chowder

5. Egg Neptune – Eggs Benedict made with Lobster. Bit obvious me thinks…
Lobster eggs neptune

6. Toasted Coconut ChipsDrink nibbles are one of the tell-tale touches that often distinguish stars. Too often resorts punt with peanuts and crisps. Toasted coconut flakes are less sweet and don’t turn into coconut grit chewing them.
toast cocnut flakes

7. Video Art – Video is integrating with performance art, space design, even gourmet dining.
Dining video art

8. Coconut Reveal – Or for an old school culinary show…(thanks Paola)
Coconut cutting reveal

9. Cozies – Sweaty water (and other) bottles that get warm in the hot air. Custom designs could make for yet other gift shop item for the stockings.

10. In-Ocean Massage – Maybe not so far as the Blue Lagoon, but how about a table in the lagoon?
In ocean massage

11. Underwater Fashion Shoot – We’ve already established that (a) the Maldives is a top destination for fashion photoshoots, and (b) its underwater wonderland is unrivalled, soooo….
Underwater fashion shoot

12. Models on Call – And with the popularity of Maldives photography, some local models could provide the subjects for some stunning fashion photography.
Maldives model beach shoot

13. Underwater Kissing Contest – The most romantic place on earth and popular destination for Chinese. Seems like the obvious venue for the “open water championships”.
Underwater kissing contests

14. Paper Napkin RosesThe Maldives ranks among the best in the world for towel art and bed art, but I think they can up their game on table/napkin art.
Paper napkin roses

15. Oar Board SUP ScullingI’ve already yearned for sculling in the mill pond still waters of the Maldives, but OarBoard offers up a solution which (a) would be easier to transport there, and (b) literally dovetail to the increasingly popular paddleboards there, and (c) be more resilient to less calm waters.
Oar Board SUP sculling

16. Kabbadi – Beach Kabbadi! This distinctly Indian sport played in a distinctly Indian Ocean way.
Beach Kabaddi

17. Floating Golf Green – I’ve long mused about exploiting the Maldives’ aquatic expanse as the ultimate water hazard. Namely, teeing off on a resort island with a hole green set up on a nearby island. Until that dream comes about, here is a min-alternative for some short range pitching practice.
floating golf green Maldives

18. Wake Surfing – While the Maldives offers some amazingly long and gentle breaks ideal for beginner and trickster surfers, in many places the ocean is just too tranquil. But wake surfing is an increasingly popular way to surf even when the surf is not so up.
Wake surfing Maldives

19. Inflatable See-Saw – No “Haven’t Seen” piece is complete without a whimsical blow-up of pool/water toy.
Inflatable see saw Maldives

20. Water Sofa – The key thing here is the back support allowing you to sit more upright while you bob along. Perfect for catching up on that holiday reading while still immersing yourself in the aquatic landscape.
Water sofa Maldives

21. Outdoor Sleeping – Mind you Lori and I have fallen asleep under the stars on many a Maldives trip on deck lounge chairs, but setting up a proper bed (perhaps on request) with a four-posted canopy (to allow for privacy and/or breeze protection, could make the al fresco snoozing more inviting. (thanks Paola)
Outdoor bedroom

22. Wooden Hammock – For those who want the reclined swaying without all the awkward flimsiness (thanks Paola).
wooden hammock

23. Snorkel Rubber Duck – These would swim off the gift store shelves. Especially a custom order in blue (instead of yellow). Of course, only Schnabels will do.
Snorkel rubber ducky

24. Water Villa Play Set – Now you too can own your very own Maldives water villa!
Maldives water villa play set

Best of the Maldives: Waboba Ball – Kurumba

Waboba action at Kurumba

Mill pond flat water. One of the trademarks of the Maldives seascape. Especially in the sheltered lagoons. Just perfect for skipping stones. But the soft sandy beaches of the Maldives are devoid of stones pretty much. Anyway, you find the perfect skipping stone and then it’s gone after a single throw. It sinks to the watery abyss starting and finishing its skipping career in a single moment of glory.

The Australian innovation, Waboba Ball, takes the fun of skipping stones and turns it into a beach game. It is a ball weighted just enough to give it great skipping action. You can play skipping-catch (see above) or compete to see who get get the most skips in a throw.

An ideal Christmas gift for someone hanging around the Maldives shallow waters. Of course, such a great gift is only found in one of the Maldives’ finest stores, Kurumba’s Nala boutique.

Special thanks to my demonstrators Cailen and Keegan Calkin who provide the action demo above.

Kurumba - waboba ball beach

Best of the Maldives: Pro Shop – Velaa

Velaa - pro shop 1

Black Friday – The biggest shopping day of the year in the USA (and probably the planet). Now is the time to start pulling out that Christmas shopping list and finding those elusive perfect presents. Fortunately, in our family, Lori and I have started playing more golf lately now that the kids have grown up. And there is no one easiser tro buy for than a golfer. There is no end to the gear and paraphernalia that a golfer can make use of. Not to mention all of the golf-themed day-to-day items like mugs, paperweights and statuettes.

By far the best golf shop (“Pro Shop” in the vernacular) in the Maldives is Velaa’s own at their Golf Academy. They carry Tilelist balls, FootJoy shirts and all manner of golf items. They also provide Addidas shoes, Callaway and Taylor Made clubs for complementary use by guests using the facility.

Lori and I had our biggest shopping spree of our nearly two decades visiting the Maldives as the Velaa Pro Shop. Here’s hoping your Black Friday is as successful and easy for you.

Velaa - pro shop 2

Best of the Maldives: Family Meals – Park Hyatt Hadahaa

Park Hyatt Hadahaa - Maldivian feast

Happy Thanksgiving!

The American Thanksgiving feast is, as I described yesterday, a feast for food, family and friends. Park Hyatt Hadahaa offers a Maldivian traditional dinner with much the same spirit. Its “Maldivian Family Feast” is presented by a Maldivian host.

It’s not a big buffet for the whole resort island, but rather an intimate gathering. Only 6 guests participate and it has more of a feel like being invited to a Maldivian’s home. A proper home cooked meal with a guided tour of the cuisine and the traditions to “find your way around the table”. What to do with the fish piece in the water and the sauces on offer. All presented at the convenience of your own villa

For the more seafood favouring guests, Hadahaa also offers “Fisherman Dining” ($250 pp) with Maldivian music and food set up also at your villa.

May your day be filled with many blessings and much gratitude.

Park Hyatt Hadahaa - Maldivian feast 2

Best of the Maldives: Sand Bikes – JA Manafaru

JA Manafaru - sand bike

The busiest travel day of the year today. At least in the USA. The day before Thanksgiving and EVERYONE is trying to get home. While Christmas might be a bigger season and holiday, more people go home for Thanksgiving than they do for Christmas. Hence the term “Homecoming”. As in “Homecoming Queen” and “King” who are part of the festivities for the typically biggest high school (American) football game of the year which is played on Turkey Day. While Mom is preparing the feast, everyone in town heads down to the game assured that every one in town, including their friends who have moved away, will be there.

As you can imagine, getting half of a America back its home base in one 24-hour burst results in a bity of transportation mayhem. Immortalised in the classic comedy film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”.

None of that stress in the Maldives even on whatever their biggest travel day of the year is. Few planes (limited to Male and a few scattered islands), absolutely no trains, and even fewer islands with automobiles. For the biggest resort islands, the transportation of choice is buggies and bikes.

We’ve been on a number of bikes (Reethi Rah, Soneva Fushi, Gili Lankfushi) and the biggest challenge is riding them in the softer sand (though for these islands most of the pathways are quite firm). Not an issue for JA Manafaru who has the specialty “Fat Man” models with extra wide tyres for both a softer ride and more ease going through softer terrain. They sort of have a vintage roadster vibe.

Coco Bodu Hithi also has them, but Manafaru had kid versions (see below).

JA Manafaru - sand bikes kids

Non-Dedicated Resort Islands

Maldives Complete - resort finder dedicated

One of the aspects that distinguishes the Maldives as a destination (and often confuses new visitors not familiar with the lay of the land/sea) are the dedicated resorts islands.  On almost all cases, a “resort” and an “island” are a 1:1 mapping.  “Tourists Only” resort islands if you will. Most are so dedicated that they don’t really allow guests to come from other islands or visit from things like passing cruise ships.

This is not always the case, though.  There are a number of hotels and possibly what one might to refer to as “Resorts” on islands that are not dedicated. One big implication for being on a “shared” island (ie.  shared with local population) is that the resort will be unable to serve alcohol.  With its Muslim culture, alcohol sale is only allowed on dedicated islands.  Barefoot has found a way to accommodate its guests with a special “off shore” license for a boat bar that only its guest can access (in essence, a dedicated “island” of a floating craft).

A few new properties have emerged in “hotel” category on a “non-dedicated island” that seemed reasonable to add to the Maldives Complete database.  They are big enough and high enough quality to offer a reasonable alternative to some of the resorts. I have spent time in many of them, visited a few more, and in general have a good appreciation of the considerations for a good hotel from my regular worldwide travel.

I am continuing with my decision to not cover guest houses.  There are so many of them, there is little information on the Internet about them (which I depend on for research), and I personally have never stayed in one so I don’t feel I can offer editorial insights about the experience or what to look for.

Best Resorts for Adults

No kids allowed

Not “Adult” resorts as in “adult entertainment” (a la Jamaica’s Sandals), but more as in “grown up”.

While my vision of “Maldives for Families” (not just for honeymooners and divers) is becoming more and more the standard every day, some people prefer a tropical tranquillity not only removed from the hustle-bustle of every day life, but also segregated from the rambunctious energy and squeals of excitement that come from the younger set. With all of the resorts in the Maldives, there’s something for everyone. And there are resorts catering to a more mature vibe. Specifically, my “adult resort” list includes…

  • Komandoo – No under 18s
  • Veligandu– No under 18s (until May 2018)
  • Finolhu Villas – No under 18s
  • Anantara Dhigu – No under 18s (though under 18s from Naladhu and Veli welcome at times)
  • Robinson Club – No under 16 (from November 2017)
  • Hurawalhi– No under 15s
  • Centara Ras Fushi – no under 12s
  • Milaidhoo – No under 9s
  • Baros – No under 8s
  • Drift Thelu Veliga – No 3-10s

Some resorts also have opted for a hybrid solution making certain parts of the property limited to adults…

  • Vilamendhoo – Part of the island reserved for adults and another part that caters to children. Each has their own pool so that you can choose between splashing frolics or romantic pina colada sipping,
  • LUX South Ari Atoll – ‘Adult Sanctuary’ section of water villas.
  • Sun Siyam Irufushi – Separate pool for children and an adult-only pool.
  • Kuredu – Adult-only half (branded “Sangu” and “O” resort).
  • Summer Island – No under 15s in water villas or overwater restaurant.
  • W Retreat – No under 5s in water villas
  • Meeru – Adults only areas including Jacuzzi Beach Villas, water villas, Pavillion pool bar.

Finally, most water villas have constraints on children and some resorts (eg. Veligandu) have adult-only rooms.

Of course, you can always filter for your “maturity” preference with the Maldives Complete Finder.

Children Welcome

Best of the Maldives: Children Surfing– Four Seasons Kuda Huraa

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa - kids surfing

Probably the two most unsung appeals to the Maldives – children and surfing.

A number of the items from my last recent “Haven’t Seen” came from a Sunday Times Travel feature “Tantrums and tasting menus: meet the minigarchs” (eg. swim with a mermaid, 8-course child’s tasting menu). Before I even had a chance to include “surfing for kids” in the latest list, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa announces its own mini-Malibu offering…

The Maldives has a reputation for mirror-calm waters, but is also home to some thrilling surf. Little Keanus can sign up for lessons at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, where even if they prove rubbish at it, they won’t miss out on the ride. Instructors will paddle out with the child on the front of their board and, as a big one breaks, pick them up and hold them in surfing stance so they can ride the wave back to shore.”

Going off for gidgets and dude-inos.

Best of the Maldives: Kids Wellness – Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu - child wellness 1

Universal Children’s Day today. Dedicated to “welfare of the children of the world”. And Six Senses Laamu offers a program to enhance their welfare every day they stay there. A special programme of wee-one wellness includes…

  • Aesthetics – eg. music class with singing bowls
  • Activity – eg. specially adapted yoga, basic tai chi movements
  • Nutrition – eg. interactive games to teach better foods to eat
  • Treatments – eg. specialized massages, mini-manicures, hair braiding

The resort describes

“A different wellness activity will be available daily in the Den, the children’s club. These include an introduction to meditation during a music class, how to create sounds with singing bowls, basic tai chi movements and many more. A yoga instructor will offer specially-designed yoga classes for children, during which youngsters will be taught some basic yoga poses.…Nutrition experts have created interactive games that will teach children which dishes are better for them, why they are better and where ingredients come from. The children will also have the chance to make their own healthy juice by visiting the organic garden. Here, they will hand pick their favorite ingredients and add them to their own juice or smoothie…Six Senses Spa Laamu offers children’s treatments including head, foot, hand and shoulder massages just for kids plus children’s facials, mini manicures, pedicures and hair braiding. Young guests from 9 to 16 years of age are always welcome at Six Senses Spas when accompanied by an adult.”

Six Senses Laamu - child wellness 2