Best of the Maldives: Gym Vista – Adaaran Vadoo

Vadoo Gym vista

 

The worst thing about working out is the dreary, indoor tedium. Some gyms try to add some distractions with a television screen. But how about being uplifted and inspired by one of the most beautiful scenery on the planet?

Many resorts along with upgrading their fitness facilities in general, have also taken them out of the back rooms secluded in the middle of islands and moved them to waterside for some inviting scenery to dull the pain. I’m not sure which is the ‘best view’, but the ‘best vista’ has to be Adaaran Vadoo.

Vadoo combines elevation with view. It’s gymnasium is on the third floor of its main centre. It is rare to find a second story in the Maldives, never mind a third floor. And the view is set out over the villa lagoon and ocean beyond. For this reason, I chose Vadoo over Traders which has a top floor gym 13 stories up. But the windows look out over the which is mostly over the city of Male (the North view from Azur is the great view of the ocean).

Best of the Maldives: Fitness Centre Size – Hulhule Hotel

Hulhule Gym 1

 

So your New Year’s Resolution is to get fit? Lose a few pounds? Perhaps work off a few of those Traders mocktails?

There was a time when the ‘fitness centre’ was an after-thought to a Maldive resort (some would say appropriately so for anything with the word ‘work’ as in ‘workout’ in it). Often a closet somewhere with some random barbells and a tired treadmill. These days, resorts have understood that keeping up fitness (especially with the plenty of rest, time available and buffet temptations) are an important piece of infrastructure. Most of the 4 star resorts and better now have commendable gyms with a range of up-to-date equipment.

But the biggest, best-equipped centre I can find is the Hulhule Hotel. 22 machines in total including a rowing machine and cross-trainer. For the class school weight trainer, they have full Olympic free weights with a wider range of benches than my local sports centre in the UK.

 

Hulhule Gym 2

Best of the Maldives: Mocktails – Traders Hotel

Traders Hotel Male Azure mocktail

How was that New Years party last night? A bit too much to drink and ferreting around for the headache tablets. For those who do not prescribe to the ‘hair of the dog’ treatment, then perhaps a more gentle ‘mocktail’ is in order for rehydration. And there are no better Mocktails in the Maldives than the Traders Hotel in Male

While all of the resort islands have special licenses to serve alcohol to guests, Traders being smack in the middle of the major population centre has not been granted this privilege. So instead what Traders have done at their rooftop Azur bistro is crafted an imposing menu of ‘Mocktails’ (alcohol free cocktails) that provide as delectable and stimulating refreshment as anything a resort barman will serve up.

I had the ‘Innocent Mojito’ which is “muddled lime, brown sugar, green tea, mint, soda water”. According to Ria (see photo below). The server (see picture above) who has been there since opening and actually served us on our first visit, told me the most popular seller is the ‘Maldivian Sun’. Others on offer include Lil Rita, Kumiko Sparkle, Byzantine, Lychee and Lime, Chili Pineapple Frappe, Melontini, Cosmo.

Speaking of cocktails, Azur also serves the best shrimp cocktail I have ever had with monster prawns (oxymoron I guess).

Traders Hotel Male Innocent Mojito

Best of the Maldives: Parties – Rihiveli Beach

Rihiveli Beach Party

 

If there is one night to party, it is New Year’s Eve. And if there is one resort to party at, it is Rihiveli Beach.

There is always a party on there. The next one is their ‘White Beach Party’ on 22nd May (see below). They are advertised on their resort Facebook page and they also send out a newsletter to keep posted. These events are not just some slap on affair to fill out the social calendar for the punters. But rather anticipated events that are part of their ebullient ‘Vive la paradis’ ethos. In fact, they mostly draw local ex-pats and others, but all are welcome. And given their French proclivities, a bottle of champagne shouldn’t be hard to come by.

Bonne Année 2011!

 

Rihiveli Beach White Party

Best of the Maldives: Apprenticeships – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Sir Alan Sugar The Apprentice

 

“You’re hired!”

Sir Alan is not the only one appointing new apprentices.  Four Seasons, both Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa properties, sponsor an ambitious programme of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) certified apprenticeships

39 Maldivians are enrolled in the Class of 2011 aged 16-20 years with O-Level certifications. The programme was founded in in 2009 by Armando Kraenzlin, GM Landa Giraavaru who commented…

“Apprentices are paid a stipend and given room and board while in the programme. Instructors come from the management team, as well as from out side the resort. For instance, the Boat Mechanics module is taught by someone from Maritime College in Colombo, and is intense hand-on course. Other topics outside of operations include English and Math. Regular resort employees are mixed in with the apprentices so that the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration so critical to Four Seasons has an opportunity to flourish and grow. The programme works: one 2003 graduate is now an assistant department head, a position that would have seemed unattainable at one time.”

When I visited in November, a number of staff at both resorts proudly commented about the programme unsolicited.  My wife and I remember that when we first came over a decade ago, many staff at resorts were from far away countries and only got to see their families a few times a year.  But, the folks we spoke to in November recounted going home nearly every week on their days off and spending time with family having picnics, and playing beach football with friends.   But to top it off, Landaa Giraavaru also sponsors a couple of work experience student/researchers in marine biology and its top class research and visitor centre.

Four Seasons Apprenticeship programme

Best of the Maldives: Service – Huvafen Fushi

Huvafenfushi Service

‘Boxing Day’ is not the traditional day for an annual pugilistic derby in the UK and elsewhere that celebrates it today.  It is the day when gifts were traditionally given to servants and tradesmen.  Often ‘Christmas boxes’ of gifts or money.

So it seemed like an appropriate day to celebrate the outstanding service legend across the Maldives.  Especially, the super premium Maldives resorts have set higher and higher bars for outstanding service with many now providing personalised butler services.  We were introduced to these services during our stays at Adaaran Vadoo and Adaaran Hudhuranfushi.  But the resort to best, from my research, is Huvafenfushi.  A common highlight of the various reviews is the impeccable service there.  But perhaps what tilts it for me is their impressive recognition for ‘Best Service’ on Conde Nast’s elite ‘Gold List’ a few years back in 2007 which when it was last awarded.

Best of the Maldives: Biggest Shop – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru shop

 

Last chance for Christmas shopping today!

We traditionally spend our family Christmas Eve going into the big metropolis of London for a bit of last minute shopping. Picking up stocking stuffers, treats for Christmas day and meal, and just soaking up the Yuletide atmosphere. Actually, it is a great day for shopping because the crowds are tapering off. Many folks are now travelling to far flung families or getting their homes ready. We found this out when one year, in a particularly frenetic advent, we had not made it by for the kids to see Santa. So we went into Harrods (between Selfridges the two best grottoes in London) and were delighted and astonished to find that the often 2-3 hour queue was only 30 minutes on Christmas Eve.

If you have left your Maldivian Christmas shopping to the last minute, the Harrods of the Maldives has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s gift shop. While many boutiques are little more than closets stuffed with conventional stuff you find at the airport, Landaa’s is 35 metres long packed with high quality and extensive variety product.

Best of all, Landaa’s gift shop sold some of the best t-shirts we have found in the Maldives. Poor (or worse yet, no) t-shirts is a real pet peeve of mine when I travel (as I note in my recent tour wrap up). The Fours Seasons shirts were high quality cotton, enticing colours (white is boring) and subtle but classy embroidered graphic.

Merry Christmas everyone! May Santa bring you lots of Maldive holiday vouchers!

Best of the Maldives: Artist Workshops – Shangri-La Villingili

Gregory Burn Shangri-La Villingili

The best Christmas presents are the ones you make yourself. And perhaps consummate eye for artistry in the Maldives, Sakis Papadopoulos, has spotted Shangri-La Villingili’s artist programme this month featuring Gregory Burns that will inspire any artist to colourful creations…

“Shangri-La’s Villingili Maldives will fulfil all Artists wishes from December 10th until December 28th. The resort will host the famous American Painter Gregory Burns. Worldwide acclaimed, Gregory Burns is also known to be a multi-medal-winning athlete at the Paralympic Games. Painter since he was 6 years old, his work is exposed in UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and USA. During his stay at Shangri-La’s Villingili, he will conduct many Painting Workshops as well as an exhibition of his paintings from Villingili on Christmas Day.”

Best of the Maldives: Inflatables – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru water sports inflatables

 

Pulling an inner tube behind a speed boat. Pretty basic fun and the staple of our annual coastal visits to my wife’s family’s home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Kind of lazy, easy, laugh-out-loud water fun.

Then they put handles on the inner tubes…made them a bit bigger…added a few other tweaks. Now the inflatable innovation is rampant. Just walk by a Redix and you can witness the colourful variety of water fun you can now have in the wake of a motor boat.

But I have never seen so many varieties of inflatable contraptions as the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru water centre stocks. The manager Hussain Zahid (pictured above) showed me no less than 18 different varieties. Gyro (it spins around). Granstand (you stand up) and something called 'Ray Boat' that I have never seen in all my years of water adventure. All shapes, size and colours for all sorts of rides.

Best of the Maldives: Golf Range – Meeru

Meeru Golf Driving Range

The number one reason people don’t go to the Maldives…the perception that there is nothing to do. And within that the myth, the number one ‘thing to do’ that is a ‘show stopper’ for many couples…no golf.

Well, you might not find a Jack Nicholas designed 36-hole links in the country, but if it is a deal breaker then there are some fine possibilities.  I’ve already highlighted Kuredu’s 6-hole ‘Executive’ course.  But for those who want a bit more whack in their holiday week, then Meeru offers a driving range. 100 balls for $10 and that includes complementary use of clubs.  The resort also has a spiffy 9-hole chip-and-putt course to boot.  Fore!

Meeru Golf Driving Range 2