Best of the Maldives: Trees – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi

Hudhuranfushi Screw Pine

 

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).

 

 

Hudhuranfushi Temple Flower Tree

 

Hudhuranfushi Num Num Tree

Best of the Maldives: Theatre – Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Club Rannalhi theatre

 

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.

 

Club Rannalhi theatre seating

Best of the Maldives: Raquet Sports – Reethi Beach

Reethi Beach badminton

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.

Reethi Beach tennis court

Best of the Maldives: Exhibit – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru exhibit

 

The number one objection to visiting the Maldives is the thought that there is nothing to do there. If you don’t (a) dive, (b) have a newlywed to stare into the eyes of, or (c) work on your tan, then what do you do on an isolate plot of sand in the middle of the ocean? Most resorts have good watersports centres which provide an extended range of options for the hyperactive. The Maldives Complete ‘Best Of’ section highlights a number of further original distractions and offerings. But few innovations are as ambitious and comprehensive as Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’sMarine Discovery Center’. In fact, the centre itself contains 3 ‘Best Of’ distinctions in itself (Fish Nursery, Sculpture, Kids Education).

Lori and I were given a tour of the facility by Harry Masefield (see pictures). While modest in size, the center is packed with exhibits that are not only intriguing, but also stylish and inviting. The tour took almost and hour, but we could have spent all day there. There are visual exhibits, an interactive kiosk, a kids hands-on area, the research area, reefscaping workshop, art, presentation area, aquarium among the many resources to explore. More details to follow in future posts.

 

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru exhibit 2

Best of the Maldives: Team Building – Sheraton Full Moon

Sheraton Full Moon corporate team building

 

When I first started working for the big corporation of Microsoft many years ago, one of my sales guys proposed that we do some corporate hospitality with some of our customers. When I asked him what he proposed, he suggested the classic big sporting event packages that many hospitality companies provide – Wimbledon, rugby, Henley. Sounded interesting, so I asked the price. The answer came back of ‘£800’ per person. My response exclaimed in shock, “I could take these guys to the Maldives for week for that kind of money!! [I had just priced my latest trip there.] I think they would have a bit more memorable time than a catered chicken lunch and some strawberries and cream.” That incident led to me becoming a bit of a pioneer with innovative and inspired hospitality and team building. I was always looking for truly unique activities and venues.

Now it looks like taking your team or customers to the Maldives is not that far fetched an idea. In fact, a number of resorts have geared up a bit for the corporate segment. But Sheraton Full Moon’s programme really stands out for the degree of forethought and attention they have given this area. They have crafted a range of offering that offers a wide assortment of classic activities for a team building session…

  • Introductory Games – name games, ice breakers
  • Fun Olympics – water bucket relay, obstacle course, ball games, canoe, tug-of-war
  • Trust Games – blind obstacles
  • Tournaments – tennis, ping pong, billards, beach volleyball
  • Karaoke

Talking with their Senior Sales Manager Mohamed Nuaas, Sheraton has really developed a sophisticated understanding of what makes these events productive and successful. Combined with an extensive 5-star infrastructure Sheraton Full Moon appears ready to cater to any corporate quirk or whim which is critical to get such an important (and costly) event just right.

Sheraton has run a number of these programmes now and their experience is valuable. It means that not only do they have the concepts and infrastructure (meeting rooms, audio-visual), but they also have staff knowledgeable in this facilitation. Sometimes team building companies in the UK will charge so much for the organisation and facilitation of a team building event that the cost does become comparable to sending everyone to the Maldives.

Best of the Maldives: Equatorial Adventure – Alila Villas Hadaha

Zero Degree Crossing 2010

Small world. My other water-based pre-occupation (besides Maldives Complete) is coaching and supporting the sport of rowing in the UK for my local school, Sir William Borlase Grammar School, So it didn’t take many degrees of separation to hook up with neighbours down the road who were organising the inspiring Zero Degree Crossing 2010 project in the Maldives.

Their headline objective was to break the record for rowing across the equator. Essentially rowing from the Maldives southern most island in its southern most atoll (Huvadhoo Atoll aka Gaafu) to the northern most island just south of the equator in the Fuahmulah atoll.

The area is referred to logically enough as the ‘Equatorial Channel’ and the organiser, Guin Batten, is a bit of an authority on ocean channels. The British Olympic silver medallist holds the record for a solo crossing of this very channel as well as for solo crossing the English Channel.

Despite a comprehensive training and planning effort the actual crossing did not succeed as Minivan reported

“The aim, says Batten, “was to trash my record for the single crossing, in a quad (four rowers, one coxswain).” “Unfortunately the weather against us. We started quickly, and might have managed it in 5.5 hours, but we were not fast enough for currents and it began to look like it would take us 15 hours – which meant the support vessel was going to run out of fuel,” she says. The team had trained for an endurance slog, but the brief window in the weather had closed and conditions rapidly began to deteriorate and the attempt was reluctantly called off after three hours.”

While disappointing, the result was not a loss because their venture had many more objectives than just a gruesomely ambitious excursion. First, they succeeded in bringing Maldives into the sport of rowing worldwide as the country because the 131st member of the International Rowing Federation (FISA) which officially brings another official sport to the country. Yet another emerging activity one can partake in on the Maldives placid waters (within the atolls though these folks ventured into the choppier area outside the protected lagoons).

It turns out that rowing has a proud, but dormant tradition in the Maldivian culture (no surprise in a land of 1200 islands). The Adaraan Huduranfushi GM Asim Mohamed was telling me all about this subject during my stay.  Traditional rowing was referred to as Kura Fali” and was similar to ‘dragon boat’ racing in that the boat was powered by people on either side with paddles synchronised in the stroke by a drummer at the front. Cultural shows often put on by local villagers at Maldives resorts often feature a drumming exhibition which portrays this tradition. Unfortunately, not a single ‘Kura Fali’ boat remains in tact.

The Zero Degree Crossing team spent much of their visit introducing some of the latest equipment and techniques for rowing to various residents for whom the activity represents not only a competitive pursuit as a sport, but also a basic form of transport.

The whole undertaking was a massive logistical effort with help coming from many corners. Not least of which was the Alila Villas Hadahaa resort which hosted them for their project this past week and are looking to get more involved with the activity and sport going forward.

 

Zero Degree Crossing 2010 rowing

Best of the Maldives: Francophile – Rihiveli Beach

Rihiveli Beach Umbrella

 

Concernant des aspects tout à fait français des Maldives, si vous préférez la vie gaulloise, il vous faut cherchez Rihiveli Beach.

The staff and the largest part of the guests are French. This cultural colour spills into many aspects of the resort such a visiting French DJs, newsletter and obviously ‘la cuisine’. If you want a soupcon of French style with your paradis.

Best of the Maldives: French Beauty – Coco Bodu Hithi / Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

Miss France logo

 

 

 

 

Speaking of French beauty and fashion lately, if you are looking for a different sort of ‘natural beauty’ or ‘stunning scenery’, then Coco Palm Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is the place to go from 11-18th November when they are hosting the Miss France 2011 contestants for a range of activities and photo shoots.

PS. I think it is intriguing that the Soneva resorts (Fushi and Gili) and the Coco Palm resorts (Bodu Hithi and Dhuni Kolhu) seem to be vying for the title of most cool events (check out the ‘Events’ section of the ‘Best Of’ page).

 

Miss France 2011 beach

 

Best of the Maldives: Fashion Boutique – Kanuhura

Kanuhura Fashion Issa by Daniella Helayel

 

Speaking of fashion, Kanuhura has set the bar for a resort boutique. Going far beyond the cotton batiks and printed t-shirts so commonly found in the resort gift shops, Kanuhura has commissioned its own private label fashion

“Kanuhura, a hotel in the Maldives, has tapped women’s wear brand Issa by Daniella Helayel and beauty brand Miller Harris to create a range of unique products for its eponymous shop.”

One more reason to pack next to nothing on your trip to the Maldives.

Best of the Maldives: Shoes – Reethi Rah

Reethi Rah Christian Louboutin

 

 

 
When I arrive at the Maldives, I take my shoes off in my room at the resort, set them aside…and don’t touch them again until it’s time to catch our departure transfer. I love spending the entire week shoeless. For some bizarre reason, on the last several trips I brought sandals thinking that I might slip those on, but they languished at the bottom of the suitcase untouched. I particularly love the resorts that have lots of lounges and restaurants set on sand instead of concreted over floors. That said, sometimes some resorts will have places where they have a shoes required dress code (typically for safety reasons around dining and drinking areas in case a glass gets broken).

But for others, a trip to the Maldives is a decadent luxury and for the Carrie Bradshaw types, luxury means great shoes. Appropriately enough, the resort that sort of wreaks ‘Sex in the City’ opulence – Reethi Rah – has set out its stall for the footwear of the atolls

“Christian Louboutin has partnered with One&Only Resorts to create a capsule collection of espadrilles exclusively for the group’s myriad lush havens and hideaways. In designing his first-ever resort collaboration, Louboutin took his popular espadrille and re-imagined it in three styles: The Cataribbon, The Tiburon, and The Isabelle. Priced at $375.”