Best of the Maldives: Foraging Lunch Adventure – Amilla

Amilla - foraging lunch 1

One of my favourite tropical island activities with the kids when they were young was setting up treasure hunts around the resort island where the “treasure” was a box of sweeties. Various resorts have introduced their hunts for children, but Amilla has a sort of a treasure hunt with much healthier fare. A virtual walk through their “Foraging Lunch” was shared in their description:

  • “This new eco-adventure sees guests led by staff including the Chef, the Landscaping Supervisor, and the Sustainability and Wellness Mentor, Victoria Kruse, through the lush island to gather edible plants including indigenous varieties such as ‘kulha fila’ (Maldivian rocket). This fun and educational interactive tour highlights the island’s indigenous and island-grown herbs, vegetables and fruit. It culminates in a feast using the freshly-plucked ingredients…Starting out on the Sunrise Beach at the southeastern end of the spacious private island resort, the guests were guided to Amilla’s jungle-clad grove known as The Plantation, where local varieties of small, sweet bananas are cultivated, as well as chillies (a Maldivian staple), lemongrass and passionfruit. Then it was on to the resort’s new Hydroponics Garden, where they discovered a wide array of homegrown greens, before moving on to the UN (short for ‘UNdo the Harm’) where the Amilla Islanders make their own cold-pressed coconut oil from the island’s bountiful supply of coconut trees. Amilla’s chicken coop, Cluckingham Palace, was the next port of call, to see if the pampered chickens there had any fresh eggs to offer…The next destination was the vast area of natural jungle that covers over 70 percent of the island. From this area, the group collected dry coconuts for coconut milk and young coconuts to make ‘mudi kashi’ (the flesh of young coconuts), with a little help from Amilla’s skillful tree climbers. They also helped harvest some wild breadfruit from 15 metres up in the jungle canopy…Finally, the group circled back to Amilla’s beautiful Mystique Garden, where the hungry team collected even more salad greens as well as sugarcane and the traditional Maldivian staples of aubergines, okra, and sweet potatoes.”

Also, helpful survival training for if you ever get marooned on a desert island. Bear Gryll’s paradise edition.

Amilla - foraging lunch 2

Amilla - foraging lunch 3

Amilla - foraging lunch 4

Best of the Maldives: Virtual Tour – Kandima

Kandima - virtual tour

I came across a good collection of virtual tours, “10 Maldives Resorts with Virtual Tours” (for trip research or just your own vicarious escapism to paradise). Some are just 360 degree aerial photography. Some are simply panorama videos on YouTube. Some are galleries of 360 degree perspectives of various places around the island. Some do have hot spots that you can click on for drill-down panoramas. Malahini Kuda Bandos is close, but Kandima goes that step further with a clearer layout and more extensive range of island places you can explore created by “Digitally Immersive Virtual Experiences” or D.I.V.E.

Maldives Admiralty Zoom v2.0

Maldives admiralty map zoom v2

The latest component of Maldives Complete to get an upgrade is the British Admiralty Maps Zoom. Another couple of legacy Microsoft technologies – Silverlight and DeepZoom – finally bit the dust. I’ve superseded it with a Zoomify control and used the opportunity to tidy up the (massive) image (props to my nephew Max Stropkay who introduced me to the Figma tool to handle the heavy graphics load).

Best of the Maldives: Personal Fragrance – SAii Lagoon

SAii Lagoon - MIY 1

Instagram can save the sights and sounds of your trip to paradise, but how to do preserve the scents? The tropical flowers, the salty sea air, the crisp coral sands. I asked that question with my #26 of installment #5 of “Haven’t Seen Yet”, but thanks to SAii Lagoon “M.I.Y” (ie. “Mix It Yourself”) bar, I can finally tick that one off.

The M.I.Y. boutique lets you prepare a customised bouquet from their extensive array of aroma’s in the “Aroma Lab”. “M.I.Y.” is also a reverse acronym for “Yim” Thai word “Yim”, meaning “to smile”. So, the Aroma Lab motto is, “Make a scent that makes you smile.”

The process includes product testing to ensure your skin’s suitability and affinity with the customised formula. You can wear the final olfactory cocktail directly or have it added to you shampoo and soap in your room as well throughout your stay. Finally, each formula is kept for when you return to SAii Lagoon.

Makes scents to me!

SAii Lagoon - MIY 2

Best of the Maldives: Screwpine Colada – Amilla Fushi

Amilla - screw pine cocktail

If there’s two things I enjoy in the Maldives it is exotic flavours of local ingredient and the traditional cocktail of a Pina Colada. Now, Amilla has added another screw pine concoction mashing up these two into a Screw Pine Colada:

  • “Enjoy a Maldivian twist to your usual pina colada with the fresh flavours of our home-grown products. Our rum-based coladas are made with fresh screw pine juice and coconut water from our island – truly the taste of the Maldives in a glass.”

A few these walking tree drinks and you might just be walking into the tree (“screw pines” as also known as “walking trees”).

Best of the Maldives: Tiki Cocktails – LUX North Male Atoll

LUX North Male Atoll - cocktails

Tiki cocktails exemplify the quirky fun extravagant side of cocktails and so no surprise that LUX North Male Atoll offers an extensive collection:

  • Tiki Tonka – dark rum, pineapple juice, ginger juice, orgeat syrup, vanilla syrup
  • Zombie Return – white rum, dark rum, apricot brandy, pineapple juice, lime juice
  • Hurrican – white rum, dark rum, passion fruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, grenadine
  • Bleu Angel – white rum, Malibu, Curacao, coconut cream, pineapple juice
  • Silver Surfer – tequilla silver, lime juice, lychee, rosewater simple syrup, ginger beer
  • Guduguda – gin, watermelon juice, lime juice, homegrown mint, sugar syrup

This week Jumeirah announced that it was taking over the management of the LNMA property. I’m sure that they will instil their own branding and twists on the offering, but many of the establishments will continue operating. So hopefully you can keep enjoying such playful concoctions.

LUX North Male Atoll - cocktails 2

LUX North Male Atoll - cocktails 3

Best of the Maldives: Marina – The Crossroads

Crossroads marina

At a destination that is 99% ocean, one of the best ways to explore and experience this paradise is on the water itself. Dive boats have long been a staple of the Maldives, but the rise of guest affluence has introduced more and more luxury yachts and cruisers passing through this equatorial archipelago.

Previously, the only full service in the country was at Hideaway Beach resort. The Crossroads at Maldives introduces an entire marina complex with acres of property to cater to every billionaire’s need:

  • “Offering an impressive 30 berth quay, complete with world-class facilities, the Yacht Marina @ CROSSROADS is the ideal haven to weigh anchor. Catering for vessels from 10 to 60 metres, this is the ultima explorer’s paradise.”

You can even get full board and half-board dining plans at the Marina’s eateries.

Your own personal floating water villa.

How to Pick the Perfect Maldives VILLA

Perfect Maldives villa

By far the highest engagement post of Maldives Complete is the post “How to Pick the Perfect Maldives Resort” (200+ comments and new ones coming in every day). But now the destination landscape has changed so people are looking as much for the perfect “villa” as the perfect “resort”. It used to be that the resort choice drove most of the variation in experience. The few room categories on offer simply provided some modest variations in size and location of your room. Most of the amenities (eg. pool) were shared across the property. Today, resorts typically offer over a dozen different room/villa categories with massive variations in size, amenities, and of course budget.

Like the Maldives Complete “Resort Finder”, the companion “Room Finder” was developed to filter a short list down from an even more overwhelming number of room types to choose from – 1,137 Room types versus 164 (active) Resorts. Below is a guide to the top considerations and what to take into account when considering them:

  1. BUDGET!! – As with the “Perfect Resort” piece, the very first question is your budget. Choosing a general star-category (eg. 4-star, 5-star) no longer narrows down the expected expenditure. The top of range villa can be many times the price of the entry-level one. The majority of resorts, even some 4-star ones, seem to offer a blockbuster “Presidential” villa which is many times the cost (and size) of their standard lodging.
  2. ISLAND – While the villa is the focus, you still have to consider your surroundings and ask yourself the other questions about the “Perfect Resort” (eg. size, house reef, public facilities).
  3. LOCATION – Location, location, location. For resorts themselves, that question is usually about transferring and distance to Male. With villa types, that question refers to a spectrum of possibilities essentially stack-ranked by proximity to the ocean:
    1. Water Villa (Middle of the Ocean) – Completely detached from the home island (with a shuttle boat service).
    2. Water Villa (Jetty) – In the middle of the water with jetty to the island.
    3. Water Villa (Water’s Edge) – Sometimes referred to as a “Lagoon Villa” or some other slightly different level. The front of the villa rests over very shallow water with the rear of it pretty much over land.
    4. Beach Villa – On the island typically within a few dozen metres of the water’s edge.
    5. Garden Villa – Typically tucked deeper in the island often without even a view of the water.
  4. PRIVATE POOL– When I first started my Maldives Complete research 20+ ago, a main focus was to identify which resorts had a pool for our kids to play and it’s #7 on the “Perfect Resort” check list. Now, the majority of 5-star resorts (and 5-star properties are the majority of resorts) feature your own private pool with your villa. Even these have a bit of a sliding scale with the most luxurious at the top:
    1. Luxury Pool – Some pools have special feature like glass sides or slides.
    2. Swimming Pool – The standard in this consideration of something that you can more than immerse yourself in, but even move or play around in (maybe even swim laps).
    3. Plunge Pool – Too shallow to swim, but plenty big enough to immerse yourself for a refreshing dip.
    4. Jacuzzi – Some villas feature a jacuzzi which does allow you to immerse yourself, but the inability to move around much is compensated to some degree by soothing bubbles.
  5. SUNRISE/SUNSET– The last I checked, a sunset view is going to cost you on average $200 per sunset. I’m happy watching the sunset at the bar with a fresh cocktail in my hand, but enough people must value watching it in the privacy of their villa. If this matters to you, it will affect your price. This variable is not (yet) in the Room Finder as the majority of resorts don’t make this distinction, but it is something you might want to consider in your final choice. Either in looking at the published room categories or, if not a distinct category by the resort, submitting a preference when you book.
  6. SIZE– Both in number of bed rooms and in square footage. Not a big deal to me, but if it matters to you, it is something that is easily filtered on the Room Finder.
  7. FAMILY– Minimum age. For Resort’s, it something people seek. For Room’s it’s something people need to avoid (if you have children that age).

The Room Finder also allows you to filter on “Glass Floor”, but primarily because that it relatively easy data to get a hold of, but frankly sure aesthetic touches are not something I would recommend using to guide your choice.

There are actually dozens of amenities and features that vary by resort and room (eg. hair dryers, bidets, safe, kettle, deck chair). I’ve never felt these were serious determinants of where to stay so I haven’t done the work to put them in the database, but if you are interested in such details (maybe to split hairs on a toss up choice between options), I recommend Mondo Maldives whose website does a thorough job of tracking this information.