If the stars you are seeking are not the movie and celebrity type, but more of the celestial sort, then Soneva Fushi resort is the place for you.
When we visit the Maldives, we like to take a night sky star-map so after dinner we can lie on the beach and do some stirring star gazing. With clear skies and no light pollution to speak of, the stars shine out brilliantly. Also, being at the equator, one can see both northern and southern hemisphere constellations.
But if you really want to take this activity to a serious level, Soneva Fushi resort offers its very own “Ever Soneva So Celestial” Observatory.
“Equipped with a striking Meade RCX400 telescope, the observatory in the organic garden is the latest addition to Soneva Fushi’s unique guest experiences and offers magnificent views into the starry sky.”
Tom and Katie Cruise with baby Suri arriving a Male airport
As such an exquisite destination, the Maldives have proven to be quite popular with the jet setting celebrity crowd.
For a bit of fun in the Maldives Complete resort Profiles, we have now added a section called ‘Celebrity Guestbook’ which tracks celebrity reports and spottings on the various islands if you are curious to know who visited where. If you have visited the Maldives and spotted a celebrity or uncovered a celebrity visitor, then add it to the Comments below and we will make sure to add it to the database.
While it seems that most islands have had one celebrity or another resident at one time, the resort that seems to have drawn the most over time is the resplendent Reethi Rah. Reports to date include presenter Davina McCall, Josh Duhamel and Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, Natascha McElhone, Sienna Miller, Jodie Kidd, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Ashley and Cheryl Cole, Philip Treacy, Sienna Guillory and Gail Porter.
Many of the resorts hold special ‘beach dinners’ which sometimes are just part of the normal agenda and sometimes incur a supplement charge. Do not miss these. Not only is there usually a distinctive buffet of locally caught seafood and local dishes (or whatever the theme is), but also the pleasure of eating by candle-light with your bare feet in the warm sand and the ocean gently lapping the shore a few feet away is one of the most idyllic dining experiences.
But you don’t have to wait until ‘beach buffet’ night. Most of the restaurants are right beside the beach, but often their tables are under an enclosure. Often the enclosure is not much more than a thatched roof. We always ask if we can have our table moved from the electric light lit enclosed area onto the beach itself closer to the water and under the countless stars. Sometimes the wait staff get a little thrown off balance by the request, but in general the people there are so service oriented, so relaxed and friendly, they are willing to accommodate. It is a small adjustment that transforms each evening’s dinner from delightful to divine.
(The picture above is our family at the Coco Palm beach restaurant nestled in the palm trees during the day to protect against the sun, but where we moved our tables out to the water’s edge in the background at night).
Tim Godfrey’s ‘Dive Maldives’ is focused on diving, but also has excellent general history, geography and background. The islands may look like plots of sand with a few palm trees, but they actually have a fair amount of diversity. In the picture above from his book, Godfrey outlines some of the key parts of a Maldive atoll island along with its Dhivehi name which are words you will come across often especially in the names of different places (ie. thila, giri, fary, finolhu, fushi).
If being just a few feet away from the edge of the Maldives’ glorious waterside appeals, then one of the special treats of a visit to the Maldives is to be in one of the ‘water villas’ or ‘water bungalows’ where you can stay right on top of the water. These days most resorts feature water villas (you can search on this characteristic with ‘Resort Finder’), but by far the most spectacular of all of these is the 7 “Crusoe Residences” at Soneva Gili (not to mention the special ‘Private Reserve’ residence). These villas are not just off the land, but they are actually detached from the land. Guests access them by their own personal motor transport.
The defining element and the very essence of the Maldives are the coral atolls. Aesthetically and aquatically stunning geological formations that captivate from the first moments where the long haul jet is coming into the area on arrival. One of the first questions visitors have is ‘what are these things and how did they get here.’
Wikipedia has good article on Atolls and their formation including animation of atoll formation shown above. Britannica also has a similar illustration, but annotated with terms here.
A trip to the Maldives is often one planned months in advance and as one starts to investigate you quickly note that the prices vary dramatically according to the time of year. This pricing seasonality is fairly typical in the travel business with high seasons and off seasons and airline prices varying by all sorts of considerations. While there is officially a ‘rainy’ season between May and October, as you can see from our post on climate, the average hours of daily sunshine varies little and the Maldives have lots of if not predominantly glorious weather even at this time of year.
Maldives Complete has gathered up all of the published rates for the UK tour operators serving the Maldives (Kuoni, Hayes and Jarvis, Thomas Cook, Thompson, Seasons in Style and Cosmos) and averaged up their prices for each month which is shown in the above graph. Note that these are published ‘rack rates’ and often deals and promotions can be found which will be discounted off these. The basic analysis shows February, June and November to be the least expensive times to visit and January, March and July the priciest.
In the spirit of the Ithaa restaurant at the Conrad Hilton Rangali, the Huvafen Fushi resort has opened an underwater spa. A number of spas have delightful settings on jetties and beaches right near the water, but if you truly want to be immersed in the aquatic serenity of the atolls, the Lime Spa.
Greetings are always a curious part of any language. The Hawaiians have ‘aloha’ which means ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’ as does the Italians’ ‘ciao’. The English – as in what people in England speak – have an all purpose word ‘cheers’ which can not only be used as ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, but also ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’.
Dhivehi is the native language of the Maldives islands and it has no direct translation for ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhivehi_language). Instead, islanders greet each other with a smile or the raising of the eyebrow and just ask "where are you going?" followed by "what for?" The tradition evoked for me one of the earliest ever Dilbert cartoons show above (featured in Dilbert’s ‘Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies’).