Best of the Maldives: Lacustrine – Shangri-La Villingili

Hithadoo Lake 1

If 49 metres at Anantara Kihavah is not long enough (and you prefer your swimming in fresh water), then consider Shangri-La Villingili. Villingili is situated on the island of Gan which has 3 fresh water lakes including its largest, Hithadoo.

 

Hithadoo Lake

Best of the Maldives: Longest Pool – Anantara Kihavah

Anantara Kihavah pool

 

Winner of the ‘Newest Resort’ award goes to Anantara Kihavah which opened this past week. Unfortunately, especially the way Maldives development is going, such a recognition is fleeting at best. So I have had a run through of some of the early glimpses from this glittering new addition for a more enduring accolade.

Actually, a number of innovations and designs have caught my eye and are likely fodder for future posts. The ‘Sky-Fire-Salt-Sea’ restaurant/bar/deck is a creative and ambitious concept with both underwater venue and elevated roof deck. High and low. Unfortunately, this part is about the one piece left not quite finished (it is due to be completed in mid-March). Francisco Negrin is there as this very moment so I await his accounts.

In the meantime, let’s start with something simple. A distinctive that does stand out which is their pool length…

“At 49 metres, Manzaru pool bar boasts the longest swimming pool in the Maldives and Sunshine Butlers are always on hand with fruit skewers and cold face towels to cool sunbathers down. Casual lunches of crisp salads and traditional pastas are served poolside.”

So if doing your morning laps gets tedious in typically diminutive hotel pools, then consider Kihavah.

Best of the Maldives: Caves – Helengeli

Trixies Caves

The Maldives are renowned for simple, easy, shallow dives. But for the advanced diving plenty of more technical dives abound. For example, there are over a dozen caves structures you can dive

And if you are interested in cave dives, I recommend Tim Godfrey’s book ‘Dive Maldives’ reviews 12 of the top cave dive sites in the Maldives. You might have put an alert for on Amazon since the book appears to be out of print and is increasingly hard to locate. All of his dive sites are graded on a 3-star scale and 4 of those 12 earn top marks – Lankan Caves, Maagiri Caves, Fulidhoo Cave and Velassaru Caves.

But the Mecca for cave diving in the Maldives has to be Helengeli as it has two of the top caves nearby- Trixies Caves and Fairytale Reef Blue Caves. Both receive 5-stars in Harwood & Bryning’s ‘Complete Guide to Diving and Snorkeling The Maldives’.

Best of the Maldives: Chinese Therapy – Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Club Rannalhi chinese therapy

 

Looking for am apropos hangover cure from your Chinese New Year celebrations? Well, you might want to stop by the ‘Traditional Chinese Therapy Centre’ at Club Rannalhi.

Liu Yaping offers a range of treatments which are mostly variations of acupressure massage such as “Tui Na” and “Chinese cupping”. Most treatments run about $60 for an hour session

Disclaimer – I am not a fan the many disastrous environmental effects of many traditional Chinese therapies that call for ingredients of rare species like tigers, rhinos and most relevant in the Maldives is manta gills. Most holistic therapies are harmless placebos which provide comfort. But when a billion people with increasing amounts of money start wanting these obscure ingredients, the side effects for the planet can be tragic. Fortunately, Club Rannalhi’s therapy centre does not offer any of these ingredients based on endangered species in its treatment offerings.

While other resorts have spas offering Chinese treatments (eg. Shangri-La Villingili, Olhuveli, Soneva Fushi, Meedhupparu), the Rannali centre is the only one who specialises in just this area.

Best of the Maldives: Aquatic Topiary – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru coral garden Yin-Yang

While the ‘house reef’ is the ‘main event’ in snorkelling, lagoon snorkelling can be its own treat. During our first, uninitiated trip to the Maldives, we spent nearly the whole week there delightedly snorkelling among the modest coral and rock croppings in the shallow, sandy lagoon. We didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a ‘drop off’. We still enjoy the charms of lagoon snorkelling with some real highlights in our history – a playful octopus, a digging sting ray, a passing manta, and a whole host of turtles and fish.

If you can’t get the snorkelers to the reef, bring the reef to the snorkelers. Often the main problem with house reefs are their accessibility. Eventually, you can get to a drop off point, but you have swim over long expanses of relatively boring white sand. So as a part of its award winning reef regeneration efforts, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has taken a creative twist on reefs with what can best be described as ‘reef topiary’.

Its showcase piece is the Yin-Yang Coral Garden pictured above. From an aerial view, the coral forms a yin-and-yang symbol. The resort is now planning an encore with a ‘Crescent Moon’ in the works.

Best of the Maldives: Eco Education – Kuramathi

Tui International Environmental Award Kuramathi Tui

Reef protection is big and getting bigger in the Maldives. The latest tip of the hat goes to Kuramathi for its accolade from international tour operator Tui for its annual International Environmental Award.

The award specifically cited the work of Reinhard Kikinger who has been working for 10 years on coral reef preservation in the Maldives and heads the Eco Centre there. In particular, it called out the video it had developed and uses in its education programme to both guests and local Maldivians…

“Water pollution and over exploitation through tourism can lead to irreparable damage. The compelling concept of the Kuramathi Eco Centre for bringing nature conservation and tourism into harmony is based on research, the sustainable use of resources and the raising of public awareness, which are performed in cooperation with TUI and the local population. From the very beginning TUI was involved in the commitment of the research centre as an important partner playing a catalytic role. A project currently being undertaken is the production of a computer animated short film for tourists highlighting sustainable behaviour in coral reefs. Several times a week video presentations are shown revealing the coral reefs habitat. On top of that are microscopic demonstrations which provide tourists with an insight into concealed worlds. And guided snorkelling safaris reveal the beauty of and also the threats facing the underwater world. Moreover, the Eco Centre cooperates with the school on the neighbouring island of Rasdhoo.”

Best of the Maldives: Nightclub – W Retreat

W Retreat 15 Degrees 1

W Hotels often have the trendiest club in town and the Maldives is no exception. A far cry from a keyboard and disk-deck in the corner, the W Retreat’s ’15 Under’ nightclub features international DJs in a swish nightclub below the sands.  While second-stories are pretty rare in the Maldives, underground venues are even more so.  15 Under is located 15 steps beneath the Fire restaurant.

W Retreat 15 Degrees 2

Best of the Maldives: Manta Research – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru Manta 2

Mantas are the most magical creatures I have seen in the wild. They have an a otherworldly aura to them that seems almost like a beneficent alien spaceship. And they too appreciate spa treatments that they get from wrasse fish at ‘cleaning stations.’

Similarly smitten Martin Clunes recently produced a television show ‘Man to Manta’ on ITV which is on ITV Player.

The resort most smitten with Mantas has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. One of the major focus areas of their Marine Centre are mantas where they run their Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP). The programme was founded by Senior Marine Biologist Guy Stevens and is supported by Save Our Seas. It has the largest number of identified manta rays on record in the world. Landaa honours this work with a distinctive Manta sculpture in its Marine Discovery Centre. And, the Maldives section of Clune’s show is filmed at Landaa including an interview with Stevens.

The picture above was taken during one of our Landaa dives in November.

 

Martin Clunes Man to Manta

Best of the Maldives: Indigenous Massage – Shangri-La

Shangri-La Villingili Cowry Shell Experience

All that working out got you achy and depleted? Well then, sounds like you need a spa appointment.

Something different? Something that evokes the very paradise you are savouring each day? How about Shangri-La Villingili’sCowrie Shell Experience’ treatment?

When I lived in Africa, you used to see cowry shells used extensively. Used in religious rituals. Used in jewellery. They are seen as symbols of womanhood, fertility, birth and wealth.

Historically, cowries were used as currency and, in fact, the very first cowries used as such came from the Maldives. Furthermore, the Shangri-La Villingili’s ‘Chi’ spa uses locally produced coconut oil. Lots of resorts offer Ayurvedic style treatments which are indigenous to the sub-continent region (as does Shangri-La), but the cowry shells are a nice touch with their own mystical properties and heritage.

Shangri-La describes in its ‘Sense of Place’ line of treatments…

“Indigenous treatments inspired by the history of the treasures found in the Maldives Ocean, the name Kandu Boli, meaning “sea shell”, draws its energy from the ocean. Experience the touch of the unique Cowrie Shell Massage of the body, face and scalp combined with our Maldivian Coconut Oil made by a local community. Nurturing to the soul, relaxing to the body and calming to the mind… Surrender to Villingili’s Cowrie Shell Experiences…”

Best of the Maldives: Gym Vista – Adaaran Vadoo

Vadoo Gym vista

 

The worst thing about working out is the dreary, indoor tedium. Some gyms try to add some distractions with a television screen. But how about being uplifted and inspired by one of the most beautiful scenery on the planet?

Many resorts along with upgrading their fitness facilities in general, have also taken them out of the back rooms secluded in the middle of islands and moved them to waterside for some inviting scenery to dull the pain. I’m not sure which is the ‘best view’, but the ‘best vista’ has to be Adaaran Vadoo.

Vadoo combines elevation with view. It’s gymnasium is on the third floor of its main centre. It is rare to find a second story in the Maldives, never mind a third floor. And the view is set out over the villa lagoon and ocean beyond. For this reason, I chose Vadoo over Traders which has a top floor gym 13 stories up. But the windows look out over the which is mostly over the city of Male (the North view from Azur is the great view of the ocean).