Best of the Maldives: Lifeguard Stand – Finolhu

Finolhu - life guard station

If you want to look out for pirates, Finolhu features the most exquisite lifeguard stand on its beach. A retro classic in robin’s egg blue with a apropos thatches roof. It even includes a set of binoculars to gaze out on the rest of the beach and ocean. Perfect for channelling your inner Baywatch. Or for the fashionistas, inner Babe Watch (it is one of the most popular posing platforms on the island).

Best of the Maldives: Holiday Pirate Treasure – Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu - pirate treasure

International Talk Like A Pirate Day today, but if you want to act like a pirate then avast ye’ these special programmes at Six Senses Laamu

  • “Twice a year during Easter and Christmas break we have many families with children visiting Six Senses Laamu. So twice a year we offer this excursion. It is a pirate themed trip that leaves at 10:00 in the morning and returns about 15:30. We have some scarfs, eye patches, foam swords, water guns, a treasure map and we make up a story. We take snorkel equipment along as well as children’s lunch. At the end the excursion leads to a “treasure” of sweets for the children. We usually have boys and girls between 6 and 13 years old and sometimes a parent comes along too. The price is USD 150++ (10% service charge & 12% GST)”

Blow me down and shiver me timbers!

Six Senses Laamu - pirate treasure 2

Sole Sisters at Sea

Lynn Ban (USA) Maalifushi

No SHOES, No News?  Watching a few wobbly fashionistas trying to manage stilettos on a sandy path, that’s probably an extra good thing.  But for fashionista photoshoots, footwear is all part of the wardrobe.

Fun fact – Lori was actually a foot model in her younger years. She did have amazing feet. Dainty little things all perfectly smooth and shaped. It turns out there are a number of key criteria to being a foot model – smooth skin (tick), smooth shape (her father described her toes as little sausages all in a row), modest size (her feet are about a size smaller than most women her height and they do look like Wilma Flintstone feet with the toes all in a line), and no veins (in fact, when she was on modelling jobs, she literally spent her whole day with her feet propped up to keep the blood from going to them).

Unfortunately, she never got a gig in the Maldives, but these lucky models did…

  1. Lynn Ban (USA) Maalifushi [ABOVE]
  2. Maine Mendoza (Philippines) – Shangri-La Vilingili
    Maine Mendoza (Philippines) - Shangri-La Vilingili
      
  3. Leila Joy (Australia) – Eriyadu
    Leila Joy (Australia) - Eriyadu
      
  4. Irene Kim (South Korea) Constance Halaveli
    Irene Kim (South Korea) Constance Halaveli
       
  5. Yezenia Navarro (Russia) – Kurumba
    Yezenia Navarro (Russia) - Kurumba
      
  6. Sandra Zem (Lithuania) – Baros
    Sandra Zem (Lithuania) - Baros
      
  7. Olesya Malinskaya (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Olesya Malinskaya (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah
      
  8. Anna Lorin (Canada)
    Anna Lorin (Canada) 2
     
  9. Yellow Lady Bird (South Korea) – W Maldives
    Yellow Lady Bird (South Korea) – W Maldives
      
  10. Tatiana Lis (Russia) – Finolhu
    Tatiana Lis (Russia) - Finolhu
      
  11. Pamela Quinzi (Italy) – Bathala
    Pamela Quinzi (Italy) – Bathala
       
  12. Amber Anderson (United Kingdom) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
    Amber Anderson (United Kingdom) – Cheval Blanc Randheli
      
  13. Innessa Dudakova (Austria) – Constance Halaveli
    Innessa Dudakova (Austria) – Constance Halaveli 2
      
  14. Anita Kao (Taiwan) – Finolhu
    Anita Kao (Taiwan) – Finolhu
      
  15. Jacqueline Fernandez (Sri Lanka) – Conrad Rangali 
    Jacqueline Fernandez (Sri Lanka) – Conrad Rangali - 2
      

Best of the Maldives: Pizza Toppings – Amilla Fushi

Amilla Fushi - pizza oven

Pizza is a pretty popular food around the world and no less so in the Maldives. We’ve had a wide variety in our world travels, our regular trips to Italy and our Maldives tours (so much so that with this post, I’m adding a special “pizza” tag). While many menus offer classic or special combinations, pizza is a pretty popular make-your-own affair. I’ve don’t recall having quite so much variety of ingredient as Amilla Fushi’s “Joe’s Pizza” at its Baazaar (allusion to the “Baa” atoll there) restaurant. Items I’ve never made a pizza with like lamb meatballs, harissa yoghurt, capsicum, spiced pumpkin and silver beet. They even have a sweet pizza with Nutella and Banana (why is this not more common?). And if you want more cheese, never mind the “Quattro Formaggio”, Joe’s offers 8 (!) cheeses (“Otto Formaggio” anyone?) – mozzarella, pecorino, ricotta, brie, gorgonzola, provolone, feta, bocconcini. Small pizza is $20 and a large is $24.

Best of the Maldives: Bagel Station – Finolhu

Finolhu - bagel station

And Finolhu has a bagel station for people who prefer their round dough morning thing savoury not sweet. Four different varieties of bagels and more toppings than I have seen this side of New York’s West Side. Of course, smoked salmon, but the smoked shrimps were a revelation. They also had smoked tuna and smoked king fish. As well as an assortment of cold cuts and other cheeses.

Best of the Maldives: DIY Donuts – Dhigufaru

Dhigufaru - DIY donuts

Donut Bar! Those words alone are enough to send goosebumps across the waistline of any true American junk food addict <hand up>. I eat more breakfasts when I am in the Maldives than any other time of the year (breakfast buffets are sort of a big thing there as in most resorts). They feature delicacies from all over the world, but somehow one of the great American AM staples has been out of reach for these culinary maestros – donuts (Latin name:  Doughnut).

I’ve had decent donuts twice in the Maldives. Both are no longer served (Kurumba no longer serves theirs at least they didn’t on my last visit, and GoNuts, which isn’t even at a resort, is no longer open). About the only impressive donut you can find at the resorts these days is the blow-up kind. If someone does serve donuts, their glazing is usually some hard caked-on chocolate instead of the de rigeur creamy icing.

But Dhigufaru is blazing new donut trails not just for the Maldives, but quite possibly the world! They have set up a make-your-own-donut bar at the breakfast buffet. A pile of plain donuts set out quirkily stacked on poles. But then a collection of toppings that you can add to concoct you perfect donut – maple syrup, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, strawberry sauce and peanut butter. America has make-your-own salads, sandwiches and sundaes, but I’ve never come across a DIY donut.

I had to Google it (maybe a million dollar business idea) and it turns out there is one in existence – Top this Donut Bar in Cincinnati, USA. But that was about it. World-class top of the morning to you!

Best of the Maldives: Tented Roofs – Cinnamon Hakuraa Hura

Cinnamon Hakuraa Hura - tented roof

Great covers aren’t limited to pop songs and fashion mags in the Maldives. Their thatched roofs are a world recognized icon of tropical paradise. But a few resorts have opted for more creative designs with different aesthetic than the ubiquitous thatch. One of the most original in all the Maldives is Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa’s tented villa roofs. It’s actually not just the roof, but the ceiling as well (see photo above). It gives the villas a light and airy feel to them. And the interiors are very stylishly decorated.

Lori is amazed at how many details I can remember from the dozens of resorts we have stayed at, but I must admit that sometimes they do blur a bit in my mind as so many follow such a similar villa look and feel. Hakuraa Huraa is one that is distinctively memorable though.

Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa - tented roof exterior

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Designer – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - designer

Maldivians are not just working in the resorts, they are building and designing them. One of the pioneers leading the way in envisioning spaces with the same aesthetic beauty that the destination has become renowned for is Mohammed Shafeeq. Part of the local Maldivian GX Associates architecture firm which have designed many top properties in the Maldives, he was introduced to us by the Kandolhu resort who were particularly proud of the award-winning work that he did in the redesign of their resort a number of years ago. I caught up with Shafeeq to learn a bit more about his background and perspectives…

  • Where are you from in the Maldives
    I am from Male’ and also brought up in Male.
  • Where did you study?
  • I studied in Maldives (in Male’) completed my A Levels and then went onto university in the UK at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to study architecture.
  • What was the first thing you designed?
    The first thing I designed was a small island in the North of Male’ Atoll which was basically a concept sketch on art paper which was developed to be a small resort by the owners.
  • Which other resorts did you design?
    Some of the resorts we designed include Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Kihavah Villas, Anantara Veli, Baros, Coco Palm Boduhithi, Coco Palm Dhunikolhu, Constance Halaveli Resort, Four Seasons Resort, Fridays Resort, Hilton Irufushi, Huvafenfushi, Kurumba, LUX Maldives, Maafushivaru, Mudhdhoo and some of the more recent ones are the Thundi in Kuramathi and Milaidhoo.
  • How has your approach changed as you do different properties?
    The approach always follow the trends in fashion, lifestyle and technology and the tastes of the travelers and I always try to stay ahead by reviewing other competing developments in the region.
  • Have you designed any non-resort properties in the Maldives?
    Yes, I did much residential and civic work before specialising in hospitality design and they include private residences, apartment blocks, law courts, hospitals, schools and prisons even.
  • What is something they didn’t you in design school that you had to learn the hard way through experience?
    What I learned through experience is the delicacy and expertise required when you model the built environment to appease the senses of the users to make them feel totally comfortable and create an ambience that is akin to a home with a magical touch.
  • Which designer has had the greatest influence on you?
  • Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • If you were given a blank cheque and a completely free reign to design the resort of your dreams, what sorts of design element would it feature?
  • It would feature a back to basics, barefoot and eco friendly nature resort with an extremely luxurious ambiance where natural and built environment will have no boundaries.
  • What are some of the constraints or considerations to designing for a remote location in a tropical environment?
    The constraints are mostly to do with the size of the island and the requirement of the client to have a set number of villas and spaces on that island but to afford the best views and settings for each and every public building and guest villa.
  • Are there any projects you are working on that you can share with us?
    Right now we are working on two projects in Baa Atoll, One in Raa Atoll, One in Noonu Atoll and Two in Male’ Atoll.

Best of the Maldives: Milk Shakes – Finolhu

Finolhu - milk shakes

I am a bit of a milk shake (or “frappe” as they call them in New England where I grew up) connoisseur. The “Milk Shake Bar Kid” if you will. At university, my daily routine included a late night run to Brighams for *two* chocolate malted shakes (with an egg for extra protein and extra creaminess…I was doing lots of sport and this was a time before protein bars and smoothies). To this day, I make myself a milkshake at least once a week. The proper kind made with ice cream (the British have some weird things called “milk shakes” that are mostly literally milk shaken up).

I grew up enjoying soda fountain shakes at the local drugstore or “five and dime”. Shakes have made a bit of retro-resurgence with the rise of gastro-burger joints including the eponymous “Shake Shack”. So it was a charming trip down memory lane to stroll into Finolhu’s own “Milk Bar”. Of course, I had to go for the classic chocolate.

They do a range of smoothies and freezing cold drinks to slake the tropical thirst. They even offer a range of protein powders.

Damn right it’s better than yours.

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Danish – Rihiveli Beach

Rihiveli Beach - coconut danish

I’m a big fan of everything coconut and always surprised that resorts do even more with this ironically indigenous ingredient. Rihiveli Beach had an impressive array of pastries (particularly impressed with their lemon meringue which had a soft crust as so many resort use hard crusts, which I tend not to eat), but my favourite was their coconut Danish on the breakfast buffet. Yum, definitely went back for more.