Many people will be bopping to music and singing along to ring in the New Year tonight. Including the kids at Ailafushi whose kids club includes its very own karaoke studio so they can bop in the New Year or any time they want.
Everything old is new again. Part of the adventure in visiting exotic destinations is not just the unique locations, but also the culture and heritage those locations have nurtured. People can always take the excursions to the neighbouring local islands, but with every year that passes, these places look more and more like every other country in the world with the same global brands, technology and fashions. To take people back in time to a simpler way of living that the simple geography evokes, a number of resorts feature some heritage displays or even entire residences, but Conrad Rangali has introduced an entire cultural village complete with local actors to demonstrate traditional crafts:
- “Located in the heart of Rangali Island, Nerulhu Auah offers an immersive experience for guests that honors the heritage and customs of the Maldivian people. Nerulhu Auah features a variety of traditional Maldivian buildings in a local island. Guests can learn about Maldivian history and culture through interactive exhibits and demonstrations. They can also try their hand at traditional Maldivian crafts, such as weaving and wood carving.”
The Christmas holidays are a time for being with family and friends, but also for giving a thought to those who cannot be with their loved ones. Either loss, hardship, service or some other obstacle keeps them alone at the festive time of year. While you are considering what Christmas specials, traditional films or football matches to watch, consider the “Lonely Men of the Coral Command” documentary on YouTube. It is a 36-minute portrayal of the gilded cage posting of the very first Western visitors to the tropical paradise of the Maldives – the British RAF:
- “Every day, British airplanes flying between the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia seek out one of the tiniest dots in this remote [island] chain. It lies 600 miles southwest of Ceylon. In some of the deepest waters of the world. Its nearest neighbour due south is the ice mass of the Antarctic. It’s an island at the end of a coral atoll, and people unconnected with the military, are unlikely to ever see it…Its name is Gan.”
Referenced by “Gatecrashing Paradise”, this 1970 documentary, with the wonderfully charming retro-British writing and speaking style, features lots of vintage footage of the earliest years of the Maldives. But at its heart, it is an examination of the loneliness of men stationed there. Isolation not just far from home but the prevailing country attitude of not wanting foreigners into the country so they were prohibited from leaving their island. And the radio operators are on yet another neighbouring island which is even more isolated. Servicemen at Gan can post here for a single year versus the conventional tour of 3 years “accompanied” by family somewhere else. The much shorter duration owing to the proportional hardship of the confined sequestration. The film also introduced the bizarre situation of the single woman posted there for a range of counselling and support duties.
May your holidays be filled with warmth and companionship!
We’ve had a number of excursions to sandbanks, and as exotic and romantic as they are – plots of sand in the middle of the ocean – the lack of any infrastructure is a bit of a detraction. Sun shelter, toilet facilities, comfortable seating are just some of the things missing which can detract from an extended stay.
Alila Kothaifaru’s sand bank escape comes with its very own escape room – “The Shack”. Not one that you have to solve puzzles to get out of, but one you can enjoy creature comforts. They even have power generated from their roof solar panels.
- “A true island escape experience, The Shack is our own private sand cay (giri). Two distinct trips to The Shack are available daily – a 4-hour day trip including a picnic-style lunch, and a 4-hour evening trip with a private chef to cook up a sunset BBQ.”
Chef’s gardens have become fairly commonplace at Maldives resorts, but how many properties have “garden islands” of their very own? Not just one but two islands. Serving the chefs at the two nearby (within in sight) sister resort islands Sun Siyam Iru Veli and Sun Siyam Vilu Reef. The expansive scale means that Sun Siyam not only can reduce the carbon footprint of even more of their ingredients, but they can cultivate a wider range and larger quantity of food for the kitchens than the typical herb collection in chef’s gardens.
Some people ask why people want pools in the Maldives when there is some much delightful water surrounding the entire property. One advantage is that a pool provides a swimming area more protected from currents. Well, Ailafushi’s island is sculpted with a channel dissecting it with a circular “pool” right in the centre. It not only offers a natural bathing spot for the aquatically minded, but also an alluring water feature for the landlubbers. More and more new islands have been built with terrforming, but this shows that you can craft the water-scape as well.
In the arena of numerical bragging rights, sometime you have to be quite explicit about your category. Kuda Villingili boasts the “longest pool” in the Maldives.
- “Take a dive in the cool waters of the resort’s swimming pool, one of the longest in the Maldives that stretches 150-metres, surrounded by lush nature.”
But at 150 metres, it didn’t seem to meet Sirru Fen Fushi’s 200 metre (!) long one. BUT, SFF’s is divided into two equal pools adjacent to each other, so KV is correct that they have the longest continuous pool in the destination (compared to SFF’s two 100m long pools).
Ideal for triathletes and swimmers who don’t like tumble turns.
Soneva Jani’s “completely by the numbers” is especially impressive even by Maldivian standards as shared in the article “New Chapter Opens for Asia’s Soneva Hotels With a More Than $200 Million Investment”. The piece shared the Average Revenue Per room for the property:
- “According to Shivdasani, Soneva’s top 100 clients account for 40 to 50 percent of revenues. They arrive in private jets and spend between $100,000 and $1 million. Soneva Jani rakes in an eye-watering average rate of $3,500 and an average occupancy of 70 percent, making it the RevPAR (revenue per available room) leader in Asia.”
A decade and a half of Maldives Complete. While other Maldives websites have come and gone (eg. pioneering guide writer Adrian Neville’s Seven Holidays), Maldives Complete has remained a steadfast resource about the growing collection of Maldives resorts. But we keep visiting (reaching the 20 visit mark this summer), expanding our resort coverage (116 resorts now visited), and adding to the enormous trove of photos and data about the resorts.
The functionality of the site has remained largely constant for the past few years. Explorations into new content, like the Snorkel Spotter, and Instagram listicles, were intriguing experiments but didn’t seem to attract that much extra traffic or engagement. The pace of posting has stayed relatively steady a one every three days on average (I plan for every other day, which is generally a good rhythm for this type of material, but often end up skipping days due to scheduling conflicts).
Twitter – or “X” – has pretty much fallen by the wayside with its slow rot. The most active social media for me is Facebook which has steadily grown in Followers (3,600 at last count). TripAdvisor Forum remains a vibrant community where I try to contribute regularly. The profile of the contributors and the nature of the enquiries has changed considerably over the 15 years. When I started, the TA Forum was dominated by discussions (and recommendations) of small, “traditional” (ie. thatched villas), mid-market properties. Now the majority of new constructions have contemporary styling. I would say that 70% of the TA Forum posts were mid-market, 20% were budget, and 10% were premium properties. Today, I would say that 60% is premium, 30% is midmarket and 10% is budget. When I started contributing to the Forum, I was often the only one sharing info on the premium properties, but now I am often one of relative few sharing on the budget ones.
The whole “Guest House” scene has really taken off and I regularly get asked if I am going to add a database and some posts on this segment. Unfortunately, I have too little experience (ie. none) to write about them authoritatively, and there are way too many (836 at last count compared to approximately 170 resorts) to document them comprehensively with my limited resources.
Looking forward to year 16 with a little help from all the followers and supporters out there.
Perhaps the most Maldivian cultural fusion is Islam and the Maldives. A longstanding and tightly integral part of its heritage, and yet none of its resorts focused on this connection to cater for the special preferences of Muslim guests. Noting this omission was one of my second ever “What I Haven’t Seen” pieces. There were plans for an Islamic resort, Gaakoshibee, in Shaviyani Atoll but it never came to light. The newly launched Fiyavalhu finally has come to the destination with a keen Islamic sensitivity. Some examples include:
- All plunge pool segregated in enclosed back areas for privacy
- No alcohol served (but an extensive range of mocktails) – “Our creative Mixologists will prepare drinks of your preference from the seasonal fruits and vegetables… Fresh coconuts and other non-alcoholic drinks, snacks or special bites will be available.”
- On site mosque open to guests.
The resort is open to all and it hardly makes mention of its special features which could likely appeal to a wide range of customers.