Best of the Maldives: Voluntouring – Soneva Fushi / Soneva Gili

Six Senses Voluntourism

If you fancy contributing more than an afternoon helping the Maldives through a activity like reefscaping, and more than a day doing something like Earth Hour, then the Six Senses resorts Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili are offering a special ‘Voluntourism’ rate between 1st July and 12th October 2010.

“Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili by Six Senses are offering the opportunity to give something back. For the next six months, guests are invited to stay at either resort for five nights, without charge and to spend five hours of each day working on local community projects, such as marine conservation, teaching children, planting trees and learning how to turn waste into wealth. This unique Eco Season voluntourism package includes 5 nights paid, 5 nights free in exchange for 5 hours per day of valuable and motivating work for the first 5 days of a luxurious 10 day stay.

“Guests can choose from the following areas of work:

  1. Marine Conservation
  2. Waste Management
  3. Carbon Mitigation
  4. Youth Education
  5. Boost Local Island Income”

Here are links to the documents with full offer details as well as the work breakdowns.

Best of the Maldives: Luxury – Angsana Ihuru

Top 10 Luxury Hotels

While Diva secured the ‘TripAdvisor’ Top Choice award for the most romantic, the resort coming out on top in the ‘Luxury’ for all the Maldives (and #2 for all of Asia) was Angsana Ihuru.

This TA review below from Suzanne Shepherdess is pretty representative of the gushing feedback the review seems to get regularly. Two of my friends went on their honeymoon there last year and they were euphoric about the place.

This is our fifth visit to this resort and our seventh to the Maldives and this resort never disappoints. The rooms are on the small side but provide everything you need for a visit to the Maldives. They are not super luxurious but are very comfortable and perfectly formed. The reef is better than that many islands (we have visited 4 others) and the proximity of the reef to the island is a big plus – just a few metres from the shore. As you might expect, the spa is excellent too, under the management of the Banyan Tree. Food is good but not exceptional. The resort whilst luxurious does not provide many of the features that are now provided (at great expense) in the Maldives. From our viewpoint many of these features seem to add little to this type of holiday (eg espresso machines, flat screen TV and surround sound, plunge pools and swimming pools – why would you want these with the perfect ocean around the shores?……). For us, this is the best resort for all round ambience, value, location, reef, spa etc.”

Best of the Maldives: Eco Event – Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

60 Earth Hour       Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu group

With such direct and high profile self-interest, the Maldives have not only been leading the calls for environmental action, but have been leading the way with their own actions. I have covered many of these pioneering initiatives recently (Eco-Friendly Villas, Nature Conservation, Eco-Friendly Resort, Reefscaping, Marine Protected Reserve). Yesterday, 27th March, marked ’60 Earth Hour’ – “global event organized by WWF (World Wildlife Fund), inviting individuals, businesses, governments and communities to turn off their non-essential lighting and power for one hour, to show their support for action on climate change.”

Not only did Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu mark the hour by switching off all lights, but they actually switched off all the islands generators and power. They further celebrated the occasion with tree planting that brought together the resort staff and the guests.

Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu tree planting

Best of the Maldives: Night Time Romance – Nika

Nika night time dinner

While Diva might be the overall romantic resort of choice, for that special night time seduction, Nika goes the extra mile. Well, the extra minutes. If the mere 37 rooms was not private enough, then…

“Exactly at midnight on the whole island turns off the light, and in total darkness for three minutes, a pair of lovers can once again make a frank recognition of each other or just watch the starry sky.”

Best of the Maldives: Romance – LUX Maldives

Travelers Choice Awards 2010

On the subject of Diva and being in the awards season, a second hat tip to Diva for being ranked the highest for ‘Most Romantic’ in its ‘Travellers Choice Awards’. A big kudo since the Maldives are perhaps most famous a honeymoon destination. So they are the most romantic in an area considered one of the romantic in the world.

Johnny Mathis, general manager of Diva, commented on the prestigious recognition, “It is a fine achievement for the entire team after only one year in operation. This is indeed good news and will further boost our position as a prime destination for romance and honeymoons.”

The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award is the third international award for Diva, since opening in 2008. It follows Diva being named the best hotel in the Indian Ocean in Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List 2009; and ‘Hideaway of the Year Award 2008’ by prestigious German magazine, Hideaway.

Also, an honorable mention to Anatara Veli and Chaaya Reef Elliadoo who came in right after Diva.

Best of the Maldives: Largest Marine Protected Reserve – LUX Maldives

BBC Fast Track

With great bounty comes great responsibility and as the location of the most prevalent whale shark populations in the Maldives, Diva resort has undertaken the most ambitious effort for underwater preservation. They are supporting the development and maintenance of ‘FenMaaDhiguRan’ (English translation – Water Flower Long Sun), the Maldive’s largest marine protected reserve.

Scuba Diva Maldives recently wrote

“Luxury resort Diva Maldives has become a flagship supporter of the recently designated FenMaaDhiguRan (English translation – Water Flower Long Sun), the Maldives’ first fully regulated, and largest, Marine Protected Area (MPA) – home to a globally significant population of whale sharks, not to mention some of the world’s finest dive sites. The first resort located within the MPA to commit to backing the pioneering conservation project with fundraising initiatives, Diva Maldives has introduced a voluntary gratuity charge scheme enabling guests to actively contribute to the conservation of the whale sharks and their habitat.”

The BBC also recently featured some of Diva’s effort to protect the majestic whale sharks including a video webcast of the work.

Best of the Maldives: Hotel – Hulhule

World Travel Awards

Despite all of the great features of the new Holiday Inn Male, the Maldives ‘hotel’ (as a opposed to ‘resort’) that has officially captured the ‘Best Of’ prize (repeatedly) would be the Hulhule Hotel.

Hulhule is actually a credible destination place to stay in the Maldives with a broad range of facilities and services. It has the advantage of not even needing to leave the island of the airport and as such is away from the relative hustle-bustle of the capital. It would appeal especially to a group looking for a ‘hotel’ (as a ‘resort’ might convey an unprofessional or ‘junket/jolly’ atmosphere) in this great destination that is specially suited for business meetings and conferences.

“Travel industry’s equivalent to the Oscar’s”, the World Travel Awards are the most comprehensive and most prestigious awards program in the global travel industry. Hulhulé Island Hotel commenced operations in 2000. Since then, the Hotel has been a key member of the travel and trade business in the Maldives. Hulhule Island Hotel also boasts of being the ‘Best Culinary Establishment’ at Maldives and the team is proud in having professionals such as the ‘Most Outstanding Chef’ and ‘Top Maldivian Chef’ of the last Hotel Asia Exhibition & Culinary Challenge. Last year, Hulhule Island Hotel was declared the ‘Winner’ of the ‘World Luxury Hotel Awards 2008’ held at Cape Town in October, 2008.”

Best of the Maldives: Toilet – Holiday Inn Male

Toto Washlet C110    Toto Washlet C110 2

 

 

 

 

 

  
If you are looking for an even shorter ‘pit stop’ in Male than a day stay, then the Holiday Inn Male offers distinctive facilities (to use a common euphemism) for that too.

Many of the bathrooms are distinctive with outdoor facilities or perhaps a water bungalow with the bath over the water, but the Holiday Inn Male actually has a distinctive toilet itself. It features the ‘Toto Washlet C110’ toilet which is the gadget lovers commode with NASA-like capabilities. It is the only toilet that I have ever used with a Control Panel.

“With the touch of a button, a nozzle extends from under the seat for soothing warm-water cleansing, virtually eliminating the need for toilet paper. The nozzle, which self cleans before and after every use, can be set to move back-and-forth for maximum comfort and optimum cleansing. The specially designed contoured seat is also heated to provide maximum comfort.”

Holiday Inn Male - Toilet

 

 

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Best of the Maldives: Short Stay – Holiday Inn Male

Holiday Inn Male - Pool 

Most people want to stay in the Maldives as long as possible. Some friends have shared that they really downshift into super-relaxed mode after the better part of a week there making a second week all the more indolent. It used to be that two week trips were not that much more expensive in total than the one week equivalent, but the shift to commercial flights from charter and the generally more expensive resort rates have made the costs more proportionate.

However sometimes travel logistics mean that just a short stay is called for (‘Male Short Stay Hotel’). I personally was just blown away by the Holiday Inn Male when we visited there on a day trip (Best for Pool Seating, Best for View). Now that they have made it even easier to just pitch up and ‘stay’ there, I really think it is the best option for someone with just a day to spend in the Maldives.

“Our hotel has developed a series of day packages, allowing travellers to use the facilities of our hotel, taking away the frustration of waiting and instead providing a pleasant and relaxing end to their stay in the Maldives.”

They have a ‘Day Use Room Package’ from $165 and a ‘Facilities Use Package’ at $75.

Best of the Maldives: Cover Story – Anantara / Naladhu

SI cover

The iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, nearly as renowned for its spectacular locations background as it is for its bathing beauty subjects in the fore, has set its shoot in the Maldives. In particular, the resorts of Anantara and Naladhu had the please of hosting the crew from SI Swimsuit 2010. The venue ties into a bit of an eco-theme. I’m not sure the models can speak very authoritatively on climate change, but they are certainly role models for consuming less…clothing.

SI shoot