Top 10 Maldives Vibe Films

Are you missing (or anticipating) that deserted tropical island vibe? Or looking for something to pass the time while a rainstorm passes through your resort? Or perhaps something to watch on the popular outdoor films with your toes in the warm sand, the gentle ocean breezes as your aircon and the stars as overhead. Here is my list for the top ten films with the Maldives vibe (in chronological order of earliest release date)…

1. Treasure Island (1918/1934/1950/1972/1982/1990/1996) – the original film (and book), check out this comparison. [above]

2. Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954/1997) – iconic with many eponymous villas and excursions

3. Swiss Family Robinson (1960) – the classic deserted island film and Soneva design aesthetic

4. Lord of the Flies (1963/1990) – dystopia in paradise

5. Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964) – youthful adventure

6. Blue Lagoon (1980) – also eponymous

7. Shipwrecked (1990) – pirate treasure and youthful adventure

8. The Red Turtle (2016) – fantastical animated tales about one of the favourite creatures in the Maldives

9. Sweetheart (2019) – aka.Monster of the Blue Lagoon

10. Cast Away (2000) – the ultimate deserted island flick

Best of the Maldives: Largest Kids Club – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - kids club

Some Best of the Maldives extend beyond just the Maldives like Soneva Jani’sThe Den” kids club which is not only the largest in the country, but one of the largest in Asia. It is also the only 2-story kids club in the Maldives. And the grounds are equally large (nearly as big as some Maldives islands themselves). And the whimsical design features a large domed roof which gives the interior a cathedral like feel of spaciousness:

  • “Inspired by childhood wonder, The Den at Soneva Jani is a two-storey awe-inspiring playground for the imagination – and now one of the largest children’s clubs in Asia. Featuring dedicated toddler and teenage areas, no Young Sonevians have been forgotten in the creation of this all-new technology-free family zone. Glide along the zipline through the cascading waterfalls, make a splash in the pool, explore the pirate ship or catch some air on the skateboard ramp. As night falls, teens can hang out in the Cave Bar, where music and mocktails set the scene. From bioluminescent flooring and hidden infographics on the walls, The Den is ripe for discovery. Hop along the musical piano steps to create your own music, explore global oceanic themes in a 4D perspective, identify the fish that matches your height with the fish ruler, or talk like a fish with Tale of the Whale. A bowling alley, Lego and craft area, dressing-up room and library provide space for books, fantasies and more.

But it’s not just the expanse of the square footage, but also the extent of the lavishly fittings out fanciful design.

Soneva Jani - kids club 2

Is the “Sinking Maldives” the Maldives “Undertoad”?

undertoad Maldives

The Maldives has been a poster child for the devastating impact of climate change. The image of an entire nation sinking into the depths of ocean captures the imagination like the tales of Atlantis. Newsweek recently published an article titled “We Are all Maldivians” which asserted:

  • If the Maldives sinks, it will also be time up for hundreds of millions of people who live in low-lying areas across the world.”

Article co-author former President Mohamed Nasheed is responsible for bringing the “sinking” meme to the world’s attention. It all started with a brilliant publicity stunt of holding a cabinet meeting underwater, and spread with Nasheed’s evangelical global advocacy for climate action.

First of all, let’s dispense with the semantic nicety that the Maldives are not “sinking” in the notion of their altitude getting close to the Earth’s centre. The land level is not dropping to any tectonic subduction, but rather the sea level is rising making the relative elevation above sea-level lower.

Nasheed’s piece cites a paper suggesting a sea-level rise of nearly 19mm per year, but recent data estimates that sea-levels are rising at a rate of 3.6mm per year [Royal Society]. This rise is the result of two main impacts of global warming: (a) melting Arctic land ice (eg. Greenland, Antarctica), and (b) expanding size of water at higher temperatures. The average elevation of the Maldives is 1600mm. So at the current rate of sea level rise, the Maldives won’t be mostly “sunk” for another 400 years. By which time, other problems like global famine and extreme weather events are much more likely to have decimated welfare more than the available land above water.

The ”sinking” calculations also assume that the Maldivians stand around passively and do nothing. They might not be able to unboil the ocean, but they can change the elevation of their country. In fact, despite rising sea levels of recent years, net Maldivian elevation has actually risen. Like the low lying ‘lands of nether” centuries before, Maldives has aggressively pursued efforts of terraforming which basically make islands out of ocean (as opposed to ocean out of islands when they sink) by dredging up landfill from the bottom of the ocean. In recent years, the country added over 432 hectares with the development of Huhumale island, and the president just recently announced the Ras Male project to add another 1,150 hectares (see photo below) with another major project in the Addu atoll aming to add 252 hectares. In the battle between rising seas and rising land, the land is winning.

Let me be clear…I am not denying climate change. The evidence that I have examined extensively does clearly show that (a) climate is changing, (b) this change’s speed is unprecedented in human history (limiting society’s ability to adapt in time), and (c) human activity (especially burning hydrocarbons) is the major contributor. Nor am I denying sea level rise. The oceans are rising and will continue to do so with climate change.

Why such pedantic distinctions? First of all, exacting accuracy matters in issues of science. By glossing over details, the climate activists expose themselves to the climate deniers who point out their minor errors and equate them to undermining all of science’s claims (the rhetorical term is “false equivalence”). Furthermore, people might end up fearing (and fighting) the wrong outcome. With limited political will (and hence public sector budget) to counter climate change, picking the right battles is important.

I am reminded of a passage from the book, “The World According to Garp” that an aquatic destination like the Maldives will appreciate:

  • “He stood ankle-deep in the foam from the surf and peered into the waves, without taking a step, for the longest time. The family went down to the water’s edge to have a word with him. ‘What are you doing, Walt?’ Helen asked…’I’m trying to see the Under Toad,’ Walt said. ‘The what? said Garp.’ ‘The Under Toad,’ Walt said, ‘I’m trying to see it. How big is it?’ And Garp and Helen and Duncan held their breath; they realized that all these years Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad.”

What are the real “undertows” in the treacherous waters of climate change (as opposed to the “under toad” distractions)?

  1. Severe weather events – Even flooding in the Maldives is not from daily sea levels encroaching, but instead the result of surges from severe storms (eg. “Study highlights complex causes of Maldives flooding”. Warmer air and water temperatures intensify the concentration of humidity and energy in the atmosphere which create bigger and stronger storms.
  2. Death of the oceans – The death of ocean is the death of the Maldives since that country is 99.97% ocean. Its two main industries are tourism and fishing. And both depend on the ocean. Tourism first started entirely predicated on the allure of its ocean as a diver’s paradise. Over time, the appeal grew to more of an over water experience with water villas, over-water spas, over-water restaurants, etc. The ecological change in the marine life of the oceans will have a more dramatic effect on the lives of Maldivians more intensely and more immediately than its average elevation.

The aboriginal Maldives was mill-pond calm lagoons with crystal clear waters and teeming with colourful tropical fish darting amongst colourful corals. With warmer waters comes the bleaching and demise of the corals, and the knock-on drop in fish populations. And it’s not just underwater, but over water the increased temperatures bring increased winds frothing up the water and disturbing the sought after tranquility. Land reclamation might counter millimeter level rises in sea level, but not powerful and large ocean surges from increasingly powerful tropical storms.  Like Walt’s ocean fear, people are fearing the “under toad” of “sinking” instead of the very real “undertow” of severe weather and dying coral reefs.

[POSTSCRIPT]  These points underscored by this article “Nearly 1,000 disappearing islands in Maldives growing in size, surprising experts“:

  • “If reports are to go by, when researchers analysed decades of aerial photos and satellite imagery, they came across an intriguing trend: Most islands have remained stable or even increased in area.”

Maldives land reclamation

The 8 Ds of a Great House Reef

Diving reef Maldives

World Oceans Day today celebrates the many wonders of the aquatic wonderland that defines the Maldives. But what defines a great destination for a house reef snorkel or exceptional dive site. One of the most frequently asked questions on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum is which resort has the best house reef. But the obvious first question is “best in what way?” There are so many different qualities to a great reef. The best reef for you depends on how you weight each of these characteristics and how strong the reef is in each of them.

This is why my “House Reef Rating” on the Resort Profiles is so basic. It is hard to boil all of these considerations down into a single assessment.

I’ve been diving and snorkelling in the Maldives for two decades and have visited over 120 different islands (staying at over 116 different resorts), as well as other diving and snorkeling spots across the globe (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Red Sea, Galapagos, Indonesia).

To help break down the evaluation, I’ve come up with the 8 D’s of a great house reef…

  1. DensityAre the fish and coral just packed in like a Tokyo metro or scattered more widely?  The best spots are like a grandma’s attic packed the brim with colourful and curious sights.
  2. DiversityIs there a wide portfolio of sea life or is it a one-hit wonder?  Maybe a spot presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with a manatee or see a whale migration, but are there side shows as well?  The best spots are a veritable 3-ring circus of multiformity.
  3. DazzleIs there a ‘wow’ factor?  The place to start here is the ‘Snorkel Safari Big 5’ (ie.  Shark, Turtle, Ray, Moray, Lion Fish). Some resident creature, topological feature or other underwater sight that would make your jaw drop if your regulator or snorkel wasn’t in it.
  4. DistanceIs it easy to just jump in and you are on the reef in minutes?  Easy accessibility is especially a part of the carefree, unencumbered, relaxed and spontaneous ethos of snorkeling culture, but access is a consideration for divers too.
  5. DegreesHow’s the water?  Some amazing underwater sights are situated in less temperate areas.  As a result, a wet suit is a advised and sometimes even a dry suit is needed.  Whatever the underwater allure, chilly water is can be a distraction.  Especially snorkeling, the ideal conditions are enjoying the sun on your back and nothing more to fuss with than a t-shirt.
  6. DecipherabilityHow far can you see?  This is a big D word for ‘water clarity’.  Clarity can vary due to currents, sea bed constitution, and ecosystem.
  7. DependabilityHow reliable is the great experience?  Are some excursions delights and other duds?  A number of sites will have renowned ‘events’, eg. migrations, seasonal activity, feeding, but are only there certain times.  The less predictable the less appealing.
  8. Drop-offWhat is the shape of the underwater landscape?  A reef ‘drop-off’ is ideal combining the inner reef lagoon shallows (where one can meander horizontally and even stand on sand – never coral! – and see fish in brightly lit sunlight) with a dramatic vertical dimension with deep water schools and marine animals.  Pure deep water and pure shallows are never as good as a drop-off combo.

The TripAdvisor Maldives Forum itself also features a robust discussion of the subject og “What Do We Mean By A Great Reef”.


Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Nibbles – Sun Siyam Iru Veli

Iru Veli - Guhli

One of our little acid tests for a property’s true luxury is what sort of nibbles they serve with the cocktails.

  • 3-star properties don’t serve anything.
  • 4-star properties serve crisps and/or peanuts.
  • 5-star properties serve specially prepared snacky treats

Not only are Sun Siyam Iru Veli’s treats ample and distinctive, but they are especially Maldivian. They are tuna in crunchy bread balls with chilli which is a Maldivian recipe called “Guhli”.


Best of the Maldives: Luxury Lagoon Breakfast – Sun Siyam Iru Veli

Iruveli - lagoon breakfast

In lagoon dining and drinking have been around for a while, but none with as much luxurious style and sumptuous luxury as Sun Siyam Iru Veli’s catered feast. While other lagoon breakfasts just moved a restaurant table the nearby dining area, Iru Veli caters a special private breakfast complete with pretty much everything you would find on the buffet for your matinal delectation. A glorious way to start the day.

Iruveli - lagoon breakfast 2