Best of the Maldives: Eco-friendly Villas – Alila Villas Hadahaa

alila villa hadahaa design

With the country of the Maldives pledged to become the first carbon neutral sovereign state in the world, all of the resorts are ramping up their green credentials. Mind you, being a collection of tiny, remote islands has always meant that the country has had to be pretty careful about managing its limited and expensive resources.

There are lots of ways to cut the resort carbon footprint across the infrastructure and operations, but one prominent ways is the villas themselves. One of the earliest and most advanced in this area is Alila Villas Hadahaa

“Alila Villas Hadahaa is the first property in the Maldives to achieve the prestigious Green Globe ‘Building, Planning and Design’ benchmark and was designed to best adapt to the tropical climate and natural environment of the island. This includes rainwater harvesting, waste treatment, high roofed areas and open ceilings. To confirm their local social responsibility, the resort has just launched a “Gift-to-Share” programme.”

The eco-friendliness extended to the spa villa as Alila Villas Hadahaa also was called out for the top Eco-Spa’ in the Maldives in the 2009 Asia Spa Awards.

Best of the Maldives: House Reef Drop Off – Filitheyo

Filitheyo House Reef
One of the absolute joys of the Maldives is the snorkelling. There is plenty of debate in the diving community about the top dive spots in the world. The Maldives always ranks up in the elite top with the likes of the Great Barrier Reef, Cayman Islands and the Red Sea. There don’t seem to be as many ‘top’ lists or guides for ‘snorkeling’, but it would be hard to see how the Maldives could be bested for its clarity of water, comfort of water temperature, diversity and quantity of fish, and a range of other variables.

For a snorkelling neophyte, there is a sort of progression of steps one should take to build up to the main event…

  1. Sandy lagoon – Start in the white bottomed, impossibly shallow sandy lagoon. Look at the little sand gobies, garden eels, silvery goat fish ambling by, mini humbug damsels darting in and out of tiny crevasses, trigger fish munching on strewn bits of small coral croppings.
  2. House Reef – Proceed to the area of the island where the coral aggregates into an underwater sculpture garden teaming with ever more colourful and diverse fish from the classic surgeon fish, colourful wrasses, angel fish and parrot fish, perhaps a turtle or small reef shark will make an appearance.
  3. House Reef Drop-Off – But the big event to any snorkelling is the ‘drop off’. Where the depth goes from a few meters to virtual oblivion. As you swim along the precipice, it is the closest feeling to flying without being in the air that one can have. Out in this open water, the island reef is a massive canvas of aquatic colour. The bigger space affords room for schools of jacks, oriental sweet-lips and the occasional larger visitor like a Napoleon fish or a ray.

Once you visit the ‘drop off’, the rest of the snorkelling will seem rather tame though it will always have its comforts and charms.

The resort with the deepest drop off, according to Emu72 on TripAdvisor appears to be Filitheyo, “Filitheyo has the deepest drop off in the Maldives at 90m on the NE corner, and the reef remains in fairly good shape.”

I can personally attest to how great the Filitheyo house reef is and its drop off from personal experience with me pictured above here diving into its depths.

Best of the Maldives: Employer – W Resort

W Resort

A common refrain in the chorus of praises sung about the Maldives spotlight the wonderful warm people that welcome them and make the stay delightful. A great resort is a one which nurtures this natural resource of human warmth and hospitality by treating its resort employees as respectfully as the guests would hope to be treated. The resort which stands out in this regard according to the Maldives jobs website Jobs Maldives is the W Resort

“’Talents’ are what the W Hotels call their employees. This not only encompasses the skill set needed to work at a luxury hotel, but it also speaks of the individual personalities that portray the “Warmth of Cool”…Though the island is small there are several opportunities provided for the talent: W Lifestyle and Language training, Talent-of-the-Month award ceremonies, Trips to Male, Cultural excursions, fishing trips, BBQs, sport competitions with other islands, monthly birthday parties and a newly finished sport court for soccer, basketball, badminton and volleyball. Says guest Gina Johnson from Dubai, ‘You can just tell how happy, genuine and informed the staff are. You see that they take a lot of pride in their work.’”

Best of the Maldives: 2010 Calendar – Soneva Gili and Soneva Fushi

Kingfisher Soneva Gili 2010 Calendar

Still looking for that last minute Christmas gift? Calendars for the new year are certainly popular and if Maldives is what you seek, then Soneva Gili and Soneva Fushi have hosted this year’s Kingfisher Swimsuit calendar.

What strikes me about several of the shots…is the sharks (I know most readers and my wife are thinking, 'rrriighht…you’re looking at the sharks in that picture??…hmmmm…’). The mini black-tipped reef sharks are as common to Maldives lagoon shallows as squirrels are to Central Park and just as skittish. We can never get close to the cute little sharks without them scurrying away. But the model doesn’t seem to have any problems attracting the cruisers to her. And the shot below is just too much with the shark on the left with its mouth open like it is smiling for the camera.

Kingfisher Soneva Gili 2010 Calendar 2

Best of the Maldives: Most Bars – Kuramathi

Kuramathi Map

Kuramathi island just this past month combined the three ‘resorts’ there – Blue Lagoon, Cottage Club and Village – into a single, consolidate resort. It always was a bit confusing having them sold as ‘separate resorts’ though all on the same island and sharing the same infrastructure.

The consolidation means it is one of the largest resorts with the most extensive facilities. Its 290 rooms is amongst the largest, it has 9 room types. But perhaps most prominent is the sheer number of its watering holes. 7 in total including a wine and cigar bar.

We visited several years ago and were pleasantly surprised by the resort. It had been somewhat affected by the tsunami which led to some renovations and the new work was a 5-star standard (eg. the new spa), not the 3-4 star quality that the resort had been known for. The new renovations accompanying the consolidation seem to have upgraded the island even further. Also, we were apprehensive about going to such a big island because we loved the distinctive diminutive quality of the Maldives, but we were struck by how little the size put us off. We couldn’t walk the circumference between drinks and dinner, but it still had a quaint, remote and intimate feel. The picture below is the family enjoying a game of Pirateer (our traditional Maldive board game) chillaxing at the ‘Pool Bar’.

Kuramathi Pool Bar

Best of the Maldives: Seating – Kandooma

Kandooma - chair

Speaking of cool seating, Kandooma recently completed a revamp of its resort and its web page so you can get an good sense of the impressive overhaul. The first item to strike me was its ‘funky’ beach chairs. Actually, when I was in Kurumba last month, I remember thinking to myself how all these fancy resorts have all this distinctive design and yet when you look at the beaches you see the same old white, plastic beach loungers one sees all over the planet. They just seemed a bit pedestrian relative to how remarkable the locale is. Kandooma seems to have decided to make their beach seating as eye catching as the beaches themselves.

I also love how they have created a special ‘in water’ seating area at their new pool (see below). You often find ‘bar stool’ seating in Maldives pools, but this is the first time I have seen lounge seating right in the pool. It is like having a stationary lilo complete with side table.

In fact, funky seating seems to be a real focus for the new design will all sorts of quirky chairs sprinkled across the resort. Examples include the Kids Club ‘swing seats’ and ‘Pineapple Chair’ lounger shown below and the gallery on their website has plenty more.

Kandooma - pool chair   Kandooma - kids chair   Kandooma - bench

Best of the Maldives: Pool Seating – Holiday Inn Male

Holiday Inn Male - Pool Seating

I don’t usually do two ‘Best Of’ awards for the same place back to back, but this one so naturally followed last week’s that it made sense to put them together. Most resorts have the classic white plastic lounge chairs. The good resort will throw in a cushion to make it more comfortable. But no seating compares with the luxurious, giant comfort settees offered by the Holiday Inn Male at its rooftop pool deck. These lounges are like pool king-size beds with luxurious mattresses and headboard cushions. Really more like ‘pool beds’. The pool itself is a delightful infinity pool with a lovely wall fountain at one end. Poolside indolent luxury.

Holiday Inn Male - Pool Seating 2

Best of the Maldives: View – Holiday Inn Male

Holiday Inn Male - View

 

 

At 13 floors up, the Azure restaurant (and pool) of the Holiday Inn Male is the best hotel view in the Maldives. I counted 17 islands visible from this elevated perch not to mention the many toings and froing of boats in the harbour and the surrounding environs.

Normally, I would hesitate to include Male hotels as ‘resorts’. It has no beach, no alcohol (Male is ‘dry’ while the resort islands are granted special licenses). However, I do have the Nasandhura in Male as well as the Hulhule resort on Hulhule island which is more like Male in characteristics than a dedicated resort island. Also, I suspect that a number of Holiday Inn ‘Priority Club’ member maybe interested in exploiting their points as a vehicle for getting to the Maldives.

The Azure restaurant shown here just opened the 15 October and features absolutely delicious fusion (French/Japanese) dishes.

If you are looking for a ‘room with a view’ in the Maldives, Holiday Inn Male is the highest and furthest.

Best of the Maldives: 2010 Annular Eclipse – Huvafen Fushi

Google Map - Maldives eclipse

On 15 January 2010, an annular eclipse will be visible from a 300-km-wide track that traverses central Africa, the Indian Ocean and eastern Asia.  Several resorts will be in the shadows path (follow the handy Google map plotting the course above), but Huvafen Fushi is the one resort where the centre passes directly over the island.

An annular solar eclipse does complete cover the sun with the moon, but it takes place where the moon is too far from the Earth to completely cover the sun’s disk.  That leaves a blazing “ring of fire” shining around the moon as it passes in front of the sun from Earth’s perspective. It is not quite as dramatic as a ‘total eclipse’, but quite a dramatic celestial event nonetheless.  The GIF (click on graphic to see animated version) above shows last year’s annular eclipse in the Maldives that was 93% annularity. This year, the instant of greatest eclipse occurs at 07:06:33 UT when the eclipse magnitude will reach 0.9190. At this instant, the duration of annularity is 11 minutes 8 seconds, the path width is 333 kilometers and the Sun is 66° above the flat horizon formed by the open ocean. On dramatic point is that such a long annular duration will not be exceeded for over 1000 years (3043 Dec 23).  The timing in January is one of the driest periods of the year which helps to ensure an unobstructed view. Lots of people go to Maldives for the sun, and here is a chance to go for a ‘sun event’.

Annular Eclipse

Photosynth Maldives

Kurumba Photosynth

One of my tasks when I visited Kurumba last week was to get a boat and circumnavigate the island taking pictures to create a Maldives Photosynth. Thanks to the kind assistance of Andreas Ronecker of the Unlimited Watersports centre there, I got a full set of photos. Unfortunately, being my first go at a Photosynth, my ‘synth’ didn’t turn out as great as I would have liked. I didn’t get enough pictures for the calculation engine to map and model the island effectively. My ‘synthy’ measure was a low 12% so not many of the picture groups joined into a whole. Though you can take the tour around the ocean perimeter of the island using the ‘slide show’ function.

Not too worry, Maldive resorts are becoming more and more popular subjects for Photosynth and the Microsoft gallery now has 32 uploaded. Photosynth is sort of more than a 360 degree virtual tour. Because it builds a 3D model of the subject, you can really explore and get a sense of dimension and scale.