While most Maldives aficionados seek out the best house reefs (with their plummeting walls of coral), the Maldives lagoons are equally as distinctive. They might not make for the finest snorkelling adventures since they are essentially just shallow pools of water with sandy bottoms. Typically, not much marine life to see except for a few foraging sting rays and the wandering couple of goat fishes. But the lagoons are what give the Maldives its distinctive palette of soft blues and provide ocean swimming that is as calm as a backyard pool.
Rahaa’s “salt water” lake is one of the most distinctive resort bodies of water in the Maldives (thanks Francisco). Other resorts feature “lakes”, but none so front and center. None with villas on the shores and none you can swim in. Now whether Rahaa’s “lake” is really and lake or a totally landlocked lagoon is a bit of a semantic fine point. It is as notable a water feature as you’ll find in a destination that epitomises water features.
Sometimes you are the one polluted by toxins Joali features its own ingestible cure with a wide range of breakfast elixirs served in the breakfast buffet. The Ayurvedic tonics treat a variety of conditions including:
- Aches & Pain
- Purification Blood
- Liver Tonic
When most of what there is to do all day is savour pina coladas in the sun (or whatever your favourite tropical tipple is), plastic straws can pile up. Most resorts are moving away from plastic to a variety of sipping tools (so much so that with this post I have introduced the “Straws” tag). LUX south Ari Atoll has introduced another variety of edible straws:
- “The biodegradable straws, made from cooked rice flour, tapioca starch and water, can last up to one hour before they soften and eventually dissolve.”
Black Friday! The biggest shopping day of the year. Of course you will need something to carry all those purchases and you don’t want to be adding to the landfill with shopping bags. If you do your early Christmas shopping at Conrad Rangali you not only get a useful and stylish bag for your shopping and more, but the bag itself doesn’t just stop added plastic consumption, but it actually removes waste plastic from the ocean. The bag is made from recycled plastic removed from the ocean. Parley’s website describes
- “The bags are made with Ocean Plastic® — a premium material created from upcycled plastic waste recovered from remote islands, waters and coastlines by our growing global cleanup network. Each Parley Ocean Bag in the artist series is made from approximately 5 intercepted plastic bottles and funds the removal of another 20 pounds of marine plastic waste by the Parley Global Cleanup Network.”
Bag for Sea Life!
No matter how many toppings or how exotic the flavours, I have not come across any item on the menu as exotic as You & Me’s underwater restaurant H2O – plankton! More for a whale shark’s palette than appetite as it was presented in an eye-dropper bottle as part of the seafood platter. You sprinkle the “plankton” on the delicacies for that extra bit of taste of the sea. It didn’t really taste of anything other than just some seawater, but I guess that for mantas and other filter feeders, to them its all just sea water to them too. Something small (actually microscopic) before the big feast of Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Forget Book of the Month Club or Employee of the Month plaques, I want the Ice Cream of the Month subscription thank you. Just another ice cream extravagance at Soneva (both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani) as Maldives Insider reported at its launch last year:
- “Soneva is developing 10 new and unique flavours at Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva Kiri, for a total of 30 flavours. These flavours are only available for the next 12 months, after which time they will change. This is in addition to the regular rotating roster of flavours at each resort. Guests at Soneva Fushi’s So Cool will get to sample new flavours such as: Soneva Bread Fruit and Maldivian Pine Nuts, Strawberry, Aged Balsamic and Green Olives, and Curry Leaves and Sweet Mango. While at Soneva Jani’s So Cool, Yuka with Garden Basil, Seaweed, and Caramelised Young Coconut join the classic ice creams and sorbets. Soneva will also be introducing one new flavour each month inspired by that month’s Festival of Colour theme.”
Buffets are part of the fabric of Maldives resorts, but I’ve never come across an ice cream buffet like LUX North Male Atoll sundae counter at its ICI ice cream parlour. It took me back to perhaps my earliest memory of personalised, decadent taste treats – Putnam Pantry. Back in the 70s, we would make the half hour drive to “make your own sundae” and their ice cream smorgasbord which was the ultimate treat or birthday party. But, not surprisingly, LUX surpassed even the American penchant for excess with 18 flavours of ice cream, 6 sauces, 8 toppings and a range of other accessory treats.
Guess Who’s Cooking for Dinner. Sometimes you never know who will turn up. Soneva Jani is taking the “Chef’s Surprise” to a new level where the chef themselves are part of the surprise:
- The new dining experience has a secret menu concept, where the diners won’t know which chef is cooking or what cuisine they will be preparing until just before the meal. The kitchen is housed within the walls of a Bedouin tent…the lineup of Soneva chefs will include: Chef Kat (Thai cuisine), Chef Sun (Asian cuisine) and Chef Ansari (Indian thali) from Soneva Jani; Chef Sobah (Maldivian cuisine) from Soneva Fushi; and Chef Benz (Thai cuisine) from Soneva Kiri.”
The price per person varies based on the particular menu of the day, starting at $175 for Soneva’s chefs and $350 for a degustation menu by a visiting international chef. “Guess Who’s Cooking” is only available two to three nights a week, seating just 16 diners. Dinner is served from 7:30-10:30pm, while a sunset cocktail experience is offered from 6:30-7:30pm. There will also be the occasional lunch pop-up from 12:30-3pm.
International main of mystery.
This year’s World Travel Market was like a trip back to where it all began. In more ways than one.
First, I bumped into to one of the charter members of the Maldives GM Hall of Fame (figure of speech) – Jason Kruse. After I had developed Maldives Complete as a way to play around with new web technology at Microsoft and to share my trove of Maldives resort information, it was our family trip to Jason’s resort (just before he arrived), Kurumba, that convinced me that I should invest a bit extra in this undertaking. Throughout our stay, various Maldivian staff came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re that Maldives Complete guy. We love your website.”
While I had made it a policy to never re-visit a resort I had already seen (primarily because I wanted to see as many resorts as possible), Jason convinced me to stop by Kurumba again during one of our first tours in 2011. He and his wife were so much fun and so helpful with information about the Maldives, that we subsequently made an exception to our steadfast rule and ended up visiting Kurumba every year as a part of our tours. It was a convenient final stop near the airport, but primarily a great chance to catch up with Jason and Victoria.
Sadly, those annual catch-ups have been interrupted a couple of years ago when Jason took on a resort manager role in Fiji closer to his home in Australia. But Jason is back! He has taken on the GM role at Amilla Fushi. And he was at WTM London to get word out about some of the changes being introduced there. Sounds like some classic Jason magic and I can’t wait to see what he does there.
If that long-time-no-see meeting wasn’t enough, my next meeting was even more nostalgic. Every year that I have been going to WTM, I always check out whether the country of Togo, West Africa has a stand. Togo was by first stint as a travel researcher and writer. I was stationed there as an overseas correspondent in 1980! My first experience in investigating and sharing an exotic destination with the world. Togo has always been a small country and has been hit with its own challenges (like most of Africa) since the fall of the Berlin Wall (when the two superpowers stopped caring about the continent as pawns on a geopolitical chessboard and unceremoniously and disruptively upped stakes leaving discord and conflict in their wake). They haven’t really had the resources to rebuild its tourism industry…until now. Strolling over to the “Africa” section, I came upon Togo’s first stand and had a chance to meet with their representatives (see below) from the same Tourism Ministry that hosted me to their own colourful and enchanting country four decades ago!