Maldives Complete, Seven Holidays and Mondo Maldive. That’s the Maldive aficionado’s list of top online websites about resorts. That’s what the fans say and that’s where I would point people to.
Maldives Complete’s mission was always about being comprehensive. Having all the desired info and pictures (and not a lot of redundant and extraneous bits like pictures of fish and sunsets) has been Maldive Complete’s mission from the outset. The only other website that has a similar degree of completeness if Mondo Maldives. Mondo features 108 resorts (compared to Maldives Complete’s 122 though we include a number of resorts that are offline and being built).
Now Mondo Maldives have taken that thoroughness to the print world. From my very first trip, the definitive book on Maldives resorts was always Adrian Neville’s ‘Resorts of the Maldives’. The book had the largest array of resorts as well as a balanced and candid narrative. On my most recent trip, I spied ‘Mondo Maldives’ – the book in the airport gift shop. Knowing the quality website, I took a look and was super impressed. The book was a true encyclopaedia of information on the resorts (it is advertised on their home page, but it doesn’t appear in their shop when you click on it).
Mondo’s is based in Italy and the whole site is available in Italian with the core parts being available in an English version as well. Unfortunately, its rich ‘Forum’ on its site is all Italian.
One of my friends at Microsoft (and former teammate), Steve Clayton, has the jobs title of ‘Story Teller’. He has made a career out of telling stories for richly illustrating the intricate tapestry of Microsoft technology. The Naladhu resort brings stories to its own guest offering a storytelling evening. Not just reading Dr. Suess, but executed with so much style and panache I suspect the adults would want to go along as well (I know that I would). They host it in a coconut grove (I love it when the resorts do more activities out in the natural surroundings) and they explore the folklore of Maldives. The trips to local village islands are always popular excursions and I know that many visitors are keen to seek out a bit ‘culture’ on their trip. If so, Naladhu offers a colourful portrayal…
“Did you know that the Maldives has an oral literary tradition that extends back almost 1,000 years? A rich history of sailors, pirates, seafaring princes, sultans and British colonial governors? A language unlike any on Earth? A must on the itinerary of any guest to Naladhu is a storytelling evening in our island’s coconut grove with Ahmed Didi, the Island Chief. A native to our very island for – well, longer than anyone really knows! – Ahmed is a lively character with a richly detailed memory filled with island tales from his own lifetime and generations beyond. He shares his love of this island nation and its rich folkloric tradition in casual (yet dramatic!) stories. Naladhu is proud preserve Maldivian culture and share it with our guests during this unique evening back in time.”
There’s pool seating and then there’s POOL seating!
I’ve already done a post on the stunning Pool Seating of the Traders Hotel (nee Holiday Inn Male). On my recent tour, I noted how the resorts we really upping their game in this regard. King-sized luxury mattresses under four-posted canopies. But the Atoll Paradise website caught my eye with what is most certainly the most perfect ‘POOL’ seating. The pictures say it all. Hat tip to TripAdvisor destination expert ICN05 for identifying the sub-aquatic lounger as Reethi Rah’s.
“Waiter…the best seat in the house please with a view. Make that the best seat in the world.”
The Maldives has a lot of stunning beauty and the resorts there put a lot of thought into how to experience that beauty most completely. The heart of the beauty is the distinctive ocean waters dappled with a crowded palette of blue hues. The best resort restaurants get the guests as close to the waters edge as possible with waterside beach dining a crowd favourite. Others have pushed out even further onto the water (with the dramatic instance of Congrad Rangali pushing ‘into’ the water) with pavilions. I have visited the water pavilion restaurants at Kuramathi, Rangali and Reeth Beach, and they are quite prevalent across the Maldives.
Other resorts are now moving to ‘altitude’ to enhance the vista for its diners even higher. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s Moroccan restaurant ‘Al Barakat’, Adaaran Vadoo’s main bar, Anantara Kihava’s upcoming Sky-Fire-Salt-Sea restaurant concept all elevate the dining to a second story for a broader perspective on the surrounding maritime spectacle. But Sakis makes a dazzling case (and photos as expected) for Baros’ Lighthouse restaurant calling out the distinguished architecture and menu in the increasingly competitive category of panoramic pavilions.
“Its singular architecture can not be forgotten. And if by chance, you have already spent your holidays in North Male Atoll, you might have seen it at the horizon, brightly shining under the Sun, reminding you a lighthouse in the far end… Signature, highlight and landmark of the Luxury Hotel Baros Maldives, the Lighthouse was built on the lagoon and stands as a culinary reference by proposing an elaborated, innovative and fine A La Carte dining menu. Flavours are mainly based on Mediterranean and Asiatic Food, turning into a surprisingly taste experience when it also comes to the Fusion of both of them.”
One of the common questions on the Maldives Trip Advisor Forum is where to stay for a quick Male stop-over. If you are going for the sheer mathematics of convenience, then the closest hotel/resort to the Male airport is Hulhule. The picture above shows the hotel snapped from the water taxi ranks in front of the airport. I strolled the few hundred yards of waterside in a few minutes to check it out during one of my many transits out of Male during my recent tour.
Some people dismiss Hulhule as a weaker offering relative to the dedicated resorts sprinkled across the atolls. But compared to ‘airport hotels’ around the world, Hulhule re-defines the genre. Instead of being tucked into some industrial park, the hotel is surrounded by water. Instead of being an empty guest warehouse, it actually has invested in extensive entertainment facilities including basketball, archery, pitch-and-putt golf, one of the largest and best equipped fitness centres I have seen and a fine pool.
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When I came upon the Haveeru Online piece on ‘Gonuts’ (“International doughnuts cafe chain opens in Maldives”) I nearly fainted with anticipation. Okay, it wasn’t Krispy Kreme. But doughnuts and the Maldives. It’s like ambrosia and paradise mixed into one indolent concoction. So on my recent trip, I had to make a special detour to check out Gonuts. Despite my discerning palette for all things doughy and fried, I was beside myself when I got to experience them.
First, they were good. I had the ‘Chocolate Profiterole’. It appeared to be made fresh as I waited. The filling was particularly ‘creamy’ as opposed to the more gelatinous custard of conventional donuts.
Second, they were appropriately exotic. Flavours offer took the doughnut repertoire to whole new dimensions. ‘Spicy Tuna’ and ‘Sambalicious’ (with chilli pepper) were too adventurous for me even.
Finally, the dining area was a masterstroke. One of my pet peeves with resorts is when they pave over too many dining areas and don’t have enough ‘toes in the white sand’ places to eat. And yet, here in the heart of downtown Male, Gonuts’ own dining area was laid out with white sand for people to enjoy their delicacy in a delightful cafe setting.
So why do I credit the Holiday Inn Male with this ‘Best of Maldives’ distinction? Well, Gonuts has a take-away service! Which means that guest at the Holiday Inn (a few blocks down the road) can ring up for a few concoctions to enjoy with their mocktail by the roof side pool.
Everyone talks about the Maldive seascape, but despite lacking in size, the Maldive landscapes are often just as striking in their colour and beauty. Most resorts work hard to bring out the very best with primping and fussing over bougainvillea, hibiscus, and oleander lining the pathways and accents around the island. But the winner of the blue ribbon for gardening has to go to Adaaran Vadoo.
Vadoo’s garden is one of the first things to hit you on arrival. Leaving the jetty, you emerge through a gate into a manicured horticultural masterpiece like stepping into some sequestered Eden. Passing through reception to the rest of the island brings you to an even more expansive park with flowers, topiary, paths, little sitting areas, ‘turtle sanctuary’, etc. Not only are the gardens exquisite, but they are also the dominant feature of the island itself. Being one of the smallest islands in the Maldives line-up, there is no room for even any villas (so they have 100% water villas). What little space exists is devoted more to blooms and blossoms than any other island.
A rich tropical forest tapestry blankets Adaaran Hudhuranfushi with a colourful and quirky canopy. The sand paths have a grander arboreal arch to them than most islands.
And the diversity is stunning. There are several giant Banyans around the resort. Our favourite was the ‘Kasakue’ or ‘Screw Pine’ (see picture above). We see these all over the Maldives with their bizarre root systems reaching down into the sand giving rise to their nickname – ‘Walking Trees’. Being one of our favourite tree, we keep an eye out to them and some of the best examples we saw at Hudhuranfushi.
Another place where they had great selection was their resort garden (one of the biggest in the Maldives) where they features unusual specimens like the ‘Num Num’ tree which produces a fruit at the base of its trunk used for traditional cooking (see picture at bottom). A very appropriate name for a delicacy producing tree I’d say. Hudhuranfushi also has it’s own Banana Grove that features 7 different varieties of bananas.
My wife’s favourite was the abundant ‘Temple Trees’ that bloom all year round with white and yellow flowers (see picture directly below). They are called ‘Temple Trees’ because worshippers would pick the flowers and take them to temples as a part of Buddhist tradition in the region.
I’m not going out on a limb to say if you appreciate the bio-diversity of a thriving tropical forest, then Hudhuranfushi is a treeat for you (I am not ashamed of these puns).
You just never know what you are going to stumble upon in the Maldives. The stereotype is that there is nothing to do there but lie in the sun and swim in the sea. But every time I visit there I’m always taken aback by some undiscovered curiosity. Most of the time the resorts themselves don’t even realise the unique assets they possess. Probably the most ‘surprising’ of my recent tour was the outdoor theatre at Adaaran Club Rannalhi. Our tour was finished and we were wrapping up when we rounded the corner and lo and behold we came upon an outdoor amphitheatre. Definitely up there with a glowing hatch and a polar bear for things you would not expect to see on a tiny deserted island…it was definitely ‘Lost’ moment.
In this case, the ‘Others’ are an Italian tour operater called Azemar who book many ‘club’ style holiday packages to ‘Club’ Rannalhi. In inimitable Italian style, the tour operators stage all sorts of spectacles from drama to singing to presentations. The stage is sheltered (probably more against the sun than rain), has lighting, screens and a range of theatrical and AV support.
I wrote about the innovative work Sheraton Full Moon was doing in the corporate space, but if you wanted to bring a really large crowd down and have a facility for big group presentations, Club Rannalhi could actually fit the bill. I think that the idyllic beauty of the Maldives might even make a Powerpoint deck palatable.
48 resorts have tennis, 11 have squash courts, and 7 have badminton courts (according to my research). But only Reethi Beach has 2 tennis courts, and 2 squash courts and 2 badminton courts. And they are all in pristine condition. The latter two are situated in their large indoor sports complex in the centre of the island. The tennis courts are all weather surface with flood lighting. Also, the extensive indoor space becomes a hedge against any unlucky bouts of weather or just a break from an overdose of sunshine.