Tour 2023 – Baglioni

Tour 2023 - Baglioni

The Italians have a long-standing tradition as Maldives pioneers with many Italian operated and targeted resorts especially in the earlier days. The one other website which is comparable to Maldives Complete in its information extensiveness is MondoMaldives which as well as being a comprehensive source of info, is also a travel agency catering to the Italian market. Most of the Italian resorts have been 4-star mid-market affairs, but now Baglioni introduces a bit of Italian flair and style to the luxury end of the market.

The key word here is “spacious”. The linen white beaches are expansive. The house reef is naturally proportionately expansive leaving so much to explore over an extended stay. It even features a prominent dive site, Maaga Caves. And the rooms are spacious in both footprint and airy cathedral ceilings.

Every part of the resort exudes an opulence from the elegant design down to the talcum soft sand pervasive across the island including the paths (ideal for the “no shoes” part of the “no shoes, no news” saying).

Tour 2023 – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Vilu Reef is probably the resort that has most exceeded my expectations of the over 110 we have stayed at.  Vilu Reef has been around as long as we have been coming to the Maldives, ie. 1998.  It is the first of the prominent Sun Siyam Resorts.  I guess I was guilty of thinking of it as an old resort.  And I hadn’t heard much about it over the years.  Also, Sun Siyam is a bit more mid-market focused (thank goodness not everyone is chasing the billionaire segment and keeping the destination affordable for mere mortals).  Its new Siyam World is very much mass market, Olhuveli is a 4+ star (with many luxury aspects), and even Irufushi is a value priced 5-star.

We thought that maybe we were being bowled over by their very hearty welcome (they are big fans of the Maldives Complete site) but looking around we observed other guests being treated with equal attentiveness.  In fact, another guest got the most elaborate welcome that we have ever witnessed.  Not a celebrity, but a repeater (stay tuned for her fascinating story).  “Mama” (her nickname) and her husband, both from Germany, first came to the Maldives in the 90s when they were young.  They loved it so much that they came repeatedly.   But they stayed at different resorts every time starting at the top of the country and working their way south.  Dhaalu is one of the furthest south atolls; they sampled plenty of properties.  But when they came to Vilu Reef, they decided that that was it.  Vilu Reef was the perfect resort for them.  Her visit this year was their 41st (!).  And they are quite discerning world travelers as Mama explained to me that they regularly travel all around the world. According to their very experienced tastes, Vilu Reef is a real “diamond”.

I couldn’t disagree.  I simply can’t find anything to fault it.  We thought it ideal for many of our friends who have always wanted to come to the Maldives without busting their bank account, but still getting a quality experience.  Vilu Reef ticks every box for a great Maldives resort – copious soft sand, vibrant reef, delectable food, and effusive service.  Even the pathways had talcum soft sand (often these areas are harder).  The reef had the most live coral we have seen in years.  The outlets were replete with delicious offerings and even gourmet quality dishes (the dhaal was as good as the Michelin starred Atul Kochhar’s “Vassu” in my hometown) and the above-and-beyond consideration of each guest was remarkable even for the Maldives.

But I must say, the cherry on the top of the cake was an extra special occasion that we have never experienced – blue diamonds on the beach.  We’ve all seen the Instagram images of the glowing blue plankton at the water’s edge.  This intensity of colour is much rarer than social media would have you believe and even those images are enhanced quite dramatically in post (much like the starry heavens shots).  At Vilu Reef, the plankton didn’t glow in blue swathes (there needs to be more concentrated plankton in the water for that which happens at a difference season), but instead landed on the beach with each diminutive wave littering an array of dazzling bright blue dots like little gemstones (or stars) along the water’s edge.  Like seeing a swarm of aquatic fireflies beaching themselves.  Absolutely magical.

Tour 2023 – Dhawa Ihuru

Dhawa Ihuru is the “close” resort.  It is a close 25-minute transfer from Male (but far away from airport traffic and not having Male in your face).  Many people want a short transfer especially if they have an only a short stay or sometimes because they aren’t fond of small planes (like seaplanes).  The house reef is just metres away for most of the island.  Accessibility is a big plus for house reefs and Ihuru’s is one you want to access.  And if you prefer even easier access to underwater sights, Ihuru offers the rare double snorkeling option with a coral cropping rich lagoon in addition to its dramatic drop-off reef.  The villas, bar, and restaurant are all situated close to the ocean’s edge so you always hear the gentle lapping of the water.  And in the beach villa is a comfy day bed right by the window so you can get some relief from the heat sitting in your AC space, but still feel close to the gorgeous paradise right outside.

Dhawa Ihuru ticks all of the boxes for a Maldives resort:  stylish accommodation and décor, delicious cuisine, accessible house reef (with strong coral growth!), and reasonable pricing for a luxury property.  All the things to push it close to the top of any short list for consideration.

QI – Whale Shark Smiles

whale shark smiles

Q: Do Whale Sharks have teeth?
A: Oh, I know this one…even though they are sharks, they a filter feeder so contrary to the shark stereotype, they don’t have teeth.
Q: Buzzzzz…wrong. They do have teeth. So where are their teeth?
A: Mouth?
Q: Buzzzz…nope, their eyes (as well as small ones in their mouths)

The Maldives Complete Tour isn’t the only exciting event this week as Discovery Channel kicks off its annual Shark Week (we hope our Tour will be its own version of “Shark Week” as well and we are starting off well seeing a Black-Tip and a White-Tip snorkeling this morning). This QI comes courtesy of the article “Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs”.

  • “That sobering story is nowhere near the top of shark news this week, however. In yet another indication that the planet is tiring of us humans, it has been discovered that the world’s biggest shark has teeth all over its eyeballs…In the exceptionally named research article, “Armored eyes of the whale shark,” a team of researchers from Japan’s Okinawa Churashima Research Center discovered that these beastly predators evolved a unique defense mechanism for their vision: dermal denticles. These denticles are nothing new. Similar v-shaped scales cover shark skin. Structurally, they’re akin to tiny teeth. This feature helps sharks decrease turbulence and drag while gliding through the ocean, making them an even more fearsome fish—a tall order for a shark that grows up to 62 feet in length.”

And you thought whale sharks were the gentle giants of the ocean. They have teeth in their eyeballs!!

Tour 2023 #20

Tour 2023 arrival

Our 20th trip to the Maldives. Wow. And still the magical anticipation dominates our thoughts.

5 more to add to our list:

  • Dhawa Ihuru
  • Bagiloni
  • Vilu Reef
  • Iruveli
  • Ailafushi

A stark difference to the 12 visited in Tour 2015. Back then, Maldives Complete was just launched and I wanted to experience and research as many properties as possible. Before the days of influencer blaguer hordes, remote corporate bean-counter, tsumanis of guest content, Maldives Complete was a novelty. Information about resorts in one place online, no barrage of ads and offers to mask the shilling.

These days it is difficult for me to string together a long run of resorts because I’ve visited every atoll with more than one resort and hopping on sea planes in and out of Male is super expensive financially and logistically. Finally, many resorts offer me industry rates, but those often come with a provision of a two-night minimum. My companion, assistant and wife, Lori, is delighted to have more extended stays reduce the frenzy of running around to get all my work done and provide some down time to actually enjoy and experience the Maldives again.

This trip focuses on the Dhaalu atoll. We visited there in 2018, but this return allows us to mop up most of the rest of the properties.

I will be providing regular visit overviews as well as tracking my resort-at-a-glance on TripAdvisor Maldives Forum per tradition.

Best of the Maldives: Local Museum – Amilla

Amilla - museum

Many resorts offer a local island trip for a taste of Maldivian authentic culture and for an extra rich dose, Amilla Maldives features an excursion to neighbouring B. Kendhoo which not only boasts its own historical significance, but also a superb collection of historical artefacts and displays at its own museum:

  • · “B. Kendhoo, the first island to welcome Islam to the Maldives. At this island you will see the first mosque to appear in Maldives as well as many other historical and ancestral works of art. Here you will also have the opportunity to witness the islands industry of making coir rope by hand. Your next stop will be B. Kudarikilu. This island is home to a national heritage museum, with countless historic pieces that truly showcase the history of the Maldives. The villagers here will offer you a fresh drinking coconut and traditional handmade snacks.”

Best of the Maldives: Pottery – Cora Cora

Cora Cora - curation

I written about the museum as Cora Cora (formerly Loama at Maamagili) before, but frankly when I visited it a year ago, I realised just how many distinctions it had. One of the highlights of their collection is an array of pottery which is not just distinctive in the Maldives, but distinctive worldwide. So much so that when we did our tour, we were joined by a Chinese couple who it turns out were ceramic experts and had specifically visited Cora Cora just to see the pottery exhibited there. They spent a long time looking at even the most unassuming shards in their workshop (see photo above) and commented on their significance. It turns out that centuries ago pottery was not just a decorative objet d’art, but an essential means of packing and shipping valuable commodities around the world. The pieces are not just lovely, but also inform critical research into ancient trading in the Indian Ocean.

And the distinctions at Cora Cora should keep I coming. I already have more to post but also the resort is continuing with ongoing excavation and archaeological research so the island just keeps revealing more and more treasures.

Cora Cora - pottery 2

Cora Cora - pottery 1

“Love in the Maldives”– Fun Facts and Frolicking Fiction

Per my previous post, “Love in the Maldives” is a romantic romp through a very typical visit to the Maldives (with some atypical bits thrown in for a bit of contrived plot). I’ve produced a sort of “Everything Wrong With…” (with a touch of “Everything Right With”) reaction commentary video to help everyone navigate the contorted fiction from the fun fact. Enjoy!


Best of the Maldives: Love Story Travelog – Conrad “Anrad” Rangali

Love in the Maldives

Given its paradise backdrop, I’ve always been surprised there hasn’t been more films set there (none really). Until I came across this Hallmark production, “Love in the Maldives”.

The watermark of “Hallmark” is important because, for those of you outside the USA, it is a brand noted for being sweet and a bit cheesy. And this production certainly lived up to those brand values. It was almost a promo piece of the Maldives with a contrived soap opera love story tacked on. That said, given how much effort it went to portray the Maldives and all of its attractions, I was struck by how many mistakes and misrepresentations there were (stay tuned for my follow up piece on those).

But hat tip to Conrad Maldives…or “Anrad” as it appeared in the film (the “Conrad” name had the “C” blotted out on the coconuts given to guests as their welcome drink). And the heroine of the story stays in a villa called the “Marata” which is a real thing, but really called the “Muraka”.

The film only appears to be available in the USA at the moment, though I have seen it pop up on streaming services or if you have a VPN you might be able to find it. As a said, I will share a highlights video later this week with commentary.

Best of the Maldives: Longest Underwater Kiss – Lux South Ari Ari

LUX South Ari Atoll - longest kiss

Happy Kissing Day! Maldives is a world-renowned destination for (a) romance, and (b) underwater delights. So where else to break a word record for underwater kissing?! LUX South Ari Atoll hosted the sub-aquatic smooch:

  • “Beth “One-Breath” Neal and partner Miles Cloutier – AKA Canadian Aquaman – have had their smooch certified by Guinness after a stay at the LUX resort, South Ari Atoll. On February 14 the couple locked lips in the resort swimming pool for an impressive 4 minutes 6 seconds. The record smashed the long-standing previous record (3 minutes 24 seconds), set thirteen years ago as part of the Italian TV show Lo Show dei Record.”

Romance everywhere in the Maldives…above and below the water.