Over two decades I have been to countless “Maldivian Nights” at resort restaurants, but none so extensive as Makunudu’s lavish and authentic spread. Sometimes “Maldivian Night” is primarily little more than a bunch of reef fish curry. But Makunudu’s included all sort of delicacies and ingredients (the photos here provide a sample of the cuisine on offer). My favourite had to be the Fried Tapioca Chips which I had never sampled in all my years visiting despite being a huge tapioca fan.
Taking inspiration from the Maldives is a range maker of jewellery inspired by the tapestry of dappled colours both twinkling across its gentle waters, adorning the schools of tropical fish underwater, and filtering through the canopy of swaying palm trees. Ritika Ravi is part of the St. Regis Vommuli family herself and her visits there sparked her design
- “Ritika Ravi’s jewellery line gives precious stones like polki and sapphires a contemporary, sea-inspired makeover Cartier’s perennial favourite, the stackable rings, meets Gucci’s enamelled and bejewelled ones, but with an Indian aesthetic, in Ritika Ravi’s Ivar Jewellery. The inaugural collection, 10.18, is a combination of gems with white and rose gold, ‘inspired by a vacation to the Maldives’. Ravi used polki (uncut diamonds) and sapphires from Sri Lanka to mimic the crystal clear waters and the many shades of blue of the sea surrounding the tropical island… While she largely retails online, her only brick-and-mortar store is, quite fittingly, at her family-owned The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.”
Prices range from $300 – $400 and can be bought at her online shop at Ivar Jewellery.
This latest example of “Maldives Inspired Design” has in turn inspired me to add a tag for it.
The Netflix series “Our Planet” is the latest in the David Attenborough wildlife adventures with an increasing emphasis on its fragility and need for preservation. Soneva Fushi introduces a slate of its own budding guides to the natural world of its own little plot of sand in the middle of the ocean with its Change-Maker series and the efforts they are undertaking to preserve this little corner of our planet…
- “Films that highlight how we’re recognising and tackling some of the issues greater than ourselves; told by the Change-Makers of Soneva. These amazing individuals represent everything we stand for – recognising that it’s their role to be part of the positive change we want our planet to see. From Ellie Butler, Soneva Jani’s Marine Biologist tackling ocean plastic to Chef Kevin Fawkes, who creates dishes beyond our wildest imagination with ingredients from our organic garden.”
What is a complete guide to the Maldives without including the underwater wonderland that surrounds every resort? Which is why I introduced features like the Snorkel Spotter and the Dive Site database (over 1800 Maldives dive sites and counting).
I have a particular aesthetic fondness for the colourful dive site charts used to brief dives. Some are slick computer generated cartography while others are rough, smudged sketches. They all have their individual charm and story to tell about the aquatic world you are about to explore. But having curated hundreds of these diagrams, I spotted what has to be my all-time favourite on Instagram last week depicting Maamigili
in South Ari Atoll. I actually had a dive chart for that site in that database (see below), but it was nothing like the oeuvre of the Indico’s Secret dive crew (above).
Oftentimes, the charts focus on depth changes, key positional markers and the occasional resident marine life. This version was all about the latter. A whale shark to be specific. Let’s be absolutely clear here…when you are diving Maamigili, you have one thing, and one thing only in your mind and sights – spotting a whale shark. So rather than faffing around with lots of irrelevant topological features, the dive master simply drew ‘this is what we are jumping in the water for…good luck spotting’.
Inventive electronic gizmos to help you see go to new depths at the Six Senses Laamu reefs where they have introduced underwater ultrasound. No, not another bizarre underwater activity designed for babymooners, but a thoroughly innovative technology to research the gestation of baby mantra rays.
- “The Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) at Six Senses Laamu…facilitated introductions between the creators of the world’s first non-invasive underwater ultrasound scanner and provided a site for field testing…Two years ago, MUI brought together some of the great minds in veterinary technology and challenged them to create a device that could ultrasound scan Laamu’s resident population of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi). ‘MUI aims to be a marine conservation visionary,” says Marteyne van Well, Six Senses Laamu general manager, ‘One of the ways we’re leading conservation efforts in the Maldives is by providing a platform for discussions on, and the field testing of, this world-first technology.’..IMV Imaging’s Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic is the first ever technology to allow contactless scanning of wild marine animals at depths of up to 98.5 feet (30 meters), while also being portable (the dive rig weighs less than 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms). The aim of bringing this technology to Laamu was to scan wild pregnant reef manta rays in order to study gestation and embryonic development…Laamu is home to 125 reef manta rays, which display courtship behavior during two annual courtship periods: May-June and October-November. Each year the Manta Trust has identified between one and 11 pregnancies…Manta Trust researchers have been field testing the Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic in Laamu for the past year and a half. Over this period, they successfully developed approach methods and obtained ultrasound scans of wild pregnant and non-pregnant reef manta rays.”
Cocoon’s distinctive “design resort” has filled its island with its own tree centrepieces with more contemporary aesthetic in its innovative new artistic lighting installation.
- “The resort has been furnished in a tasteful contemporary Italian style by leading design company, Lago. The project is inspired by Tomaso Schiaffino, Art Director of Bellaria Design, an individual who focuses on innovation and unique design. ‘Tree of Light’ is made up of real lighting installations that took 2 years to design due to its sophistication. Each model requires 85 custom parts and the lastest-gen LEDs.”
If you are into the arboreal aesthetic, especially the indigenous palm thatch vibe, then you will find it pervasive at Makunudu. Not only are the villas covered in the traditional thatch, but virtually everything on the island that have any type of cover – trash bins, air conditioning units, lamps, swings. Even the partitions are made of palm thatch.
I’ve often described the Maldives as that iconic plot of sand in the middle of the ocean with a palm tree on it. At Vakkaru, you can dine at your very own homage to this icon at its banquet table at its Isoletta restaurant complete with its very own arboreal canopy (thanks Paola).
While there might be miles of open ocean to gaze out on, the Maldives islands themselves are famously diminutive. For people seeking the get-away-from-it-all (including getting away from everybody), they sometimes wonder whether these tiny islands mean that people are crammed in (which led to me adding the “Population Density” field to the Maldives Complete database).
Soneva Jani now boasts the least inhabited of the resort islands with 10,650 square meters per guest. The Daily Mail reported…
- “In terms of space, Roman told us, Soneva Jani (the Sanskrit word for ‘wisdom’) is one of the lowest-density resorts in the world, with only 25 villas on 150 acres of land.”
Coincidentally, previous low crowd mark was its sister resort, Soneva Fushi (with 10,592)
When you see effusive PDA in the Maldives, it’s not just “get a room”, but “get an island”!
At current count, the Maldives Complete has over 900 room categories (909 to be precise), but Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi’s “Private Island” is the first dedicated room type you can book (as opposed to booking the whole island like Coco Prive). Maafushivaru has its Lonubu villa, but this is booked more as an “excursion” than a room category.
- “For those who want added privacy, the Stella Maris Ocean Villas will do just the trick. Accessible only by boat, these one-bedroom duplexes also come with chef’s service, an alfresco barbecue station, and a hot tub. But if you’re really looking to be sequestered from everyone, there’s also an exclusive-use island up for grabs. The 32,000-square-foot sanctuary boasts a two-bedroom overwater villa as well as a three-bedroom beach villa and comes with a personal concierge team, dedicated chef, its own spa, an entertainment center and five pools.”