My first foray into travel writing was working in Togo, West Africa in the early eighties where I both did writing as well as PR advance work for visiting press trips. The big coup (maybe not a PC term in this case), was getting Travel & Leisure magazine to do a feature on Togo as they are one of the longstanding travel press authorities.
Their latest T+L Reader’s Poll featured one Maldives resort as one of the Top 50 Hotels in the World – Anantara Dhigu. With a score of ’92.14’ and coming in #37 worldwide, Anantara Dhigu is the 2010 ‘Reader’s Choice’.
The Maldives are not just the best place on earth for indolent repose. As this blog has highlighted many times, there are loads of productive and educational pursuits that one can get up to in this idyllic setting, eg. helping the environment, reefscaping, art. I know that our own children learned all sort of marine biology during our trips there in what was a dream classroom of an underwater showcase.
Now Diva resorts is initiating a programme to bring the educational side to a whole school in the UK in what has to be not just the best classroom experience in the Maldives, but probably the best school exchange in the world (‘Carlsberg doesn’t do school exchange trips, but if it did…’). While most British kids are poking around the pebbles in Cornwall this Easter break, Maldives Traveller reports on what the Brockhill School students will be doing…
“The kids, from Brock Hill School in Kent, arrive in the Maldives on April 14, marking the launch of a new school exchange programme with Dhigurah Island School in South Ari Atoll. The luxury resort, Diva Maldives, has generously agreed to sponsor the British children’s subsistence costs, by providing free transfers, food and accommodation.”
“The seven lucky GCSE Biology students, accompanied by two teachers, will get the chance to explore the beautiful South Ari Atoll area, as well as attend classes at the local school. They will help to survey the coral reefs, led by experts from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), and take part in shark monitoring projects. As well as this, there will be plenty of opportunities for barbeques on local beaches, fishing and visiting the Ari Atoll Cultural Centre. The centre features three different types of traditional Maldivian housing style, as well as cultural artefacts and exhibits from the Maldives’ rich history.”
If you fancy contributing more than an afternoon helping the Maldives through a activity like reefscaping, and more than a day doing something like Earth Hour, then the Six Senses resorts Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili are offering a special ‘Voluntourism’ rate between 1st July and 12th October 2010.
“Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili by Six Senses are offering the opportunity to give something back. For the next six months, guests are invited to stay at either resort for five nights, without charge and to spend five hours of each day working on local community projects, such as marine conservation, teaching children, planting trees and learning how to turn waste into wealth. This unique Eco Season voluntourism package includes 5 nights paid, 5 nights free in exchange for 5 hours per day of valuable and motivating work for the first 5 days of a luxurious 10 day stay.
“Guests can choose from the following areas of work:
- Marine Conservation
- Waste Management
- Carbon Mitigation
- Youth Education
- Boost Local Island Income”
Here are links to the documents with full offer details as well as the work breakdowns.
While Diva secured the ‘TripAdvisor’ Top Choice award for the most romantic, the resort coming out on top in the ‘Luxury’ for all the Maldives (and #2 for all of Asia) was Angsana Ihuru.
This TA review below from Suzanne Shepherdess is pretty representative of the gushing feedback the review seems to get regularly. Two of my friends went on their honeymoon there last year and they were euphoric about the place.
“This is our fifth visit to this resort and our seventh to the Maldives and this resort never disappoints. The rooms are on the small side but provide everything you need for a visit to the Maldives. They are not super luxurious but are very comfortable and perfectly formed. The reef is better than that many islands (we have visited 4 others) and the proximity of the reef to the island is a big plus – just a few metres from the shore. As you might expect, the spa is excellent too, under the management of the Banyan Tree. Food is good but not exceptional. The resort whilst luxurious does not provide many of the features that are now provided (at great expense) in the Maldives. From our viewpoint many of these features seem to add little to this type of holiday (eg espresso machines, flat screen TV and surround sound, plunge pools and swimming pools – why would you want these with the perfect ocean around the shores?……). For us, this is the best resort for all round ambience, value, location, reef, spa etc.”
With such direct and high profile self-interest, the Maldives have not only been leading the calls for environmental action, but have been leading the way with their own actions. I have covered many of these pioneering initiatives recently (Eco-Friendly Villas, Nature Conservation, Eco-Friendly Resort, Reefscaping, Marine Protected Reserve). Yesterday, 27th March, marked ’60 Earth Hour’ – “global event organized by WWF (World Wildlife Fund), inviting individuals, businesses, governments and communities to turn off their non-essential lighting and power for one hour, to show their support for action on climate change.”
Not only did Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu mark the hour by switching off all lights, but they actually switched off all the islands generators and power. They further celebrated the occasion with tree planting that brought together the resort staff and the guests.
While Diva might be the overall romantic resort of choice, for that special night time seduction, Nika goes the extra mile. Well, the extra minutes. If the mere 37 rooms was not private enough, then…
“Exactly at midnight on the whole island turns off the light, and in total darkness for three minutes, a pair of lovers can once again make a frank recognition of each other or just watch the starry sky.”
On the subject of Diva and being in the awards season, a second hat tip to Diva for being ranked the highest for ‘Most Romantic’ in its ‘Travellers Choice Awards’. A big kudo since the Maldives are perhaps most famous a honeymoon destination. So they are the most romantic in an area considered one of the romantic in the world.
Johnny Mathis, general manager of Diva, commented on the prestigious recognition, “It is a fine achievement for the entire team after only one year in operation. This is indeed good news and will further boost our position as a prime destination for romance and honeymoons.”
The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award is the third international award for Diva, since opening in 2008. It follows Diva being named the best hotel in the Indian Ocean in Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List 2009; and ‘Hideaway of the Year Award 2008’ by prestigious German magazine, Hideaway.
Also, an honorable mention to Anatara Veli and Chaaya Reef Elliadoo who came in right after Diva.
With great bounty comes great responsibility and as the location of the most prevalent whale shark populations in the Maldives, Diva resort has undertaken the most ambitious effort for underwater preservation. They are supporting the development and maintenance of ‘FenMaaDhiguRan’ (English translation – Water Flower Long Sun), the Maldive’s largest marine protected reserve.
Scuba Diva Maldives recently wrote…
“Luxury resort Diva Maldives has become a flagship supporter of the recently designated FenMaaDhiguRan (English translation – Water Flower Long Sun), the Maldives’ first fully regulated, and largest, Marine Protected Area (MPA) – home to a globally significant population of whale sharks, not to mention some of the world’s finest dive sites. The first resort located within the MPA to commit to backing the pioneering conservation project with fundraising initiatives, Diva Maldives has introduced a voluntary gratuity charge scheme enabling guests to actively contribute to the conservation of the whale sharks and their habitat.”
The BBC also recently featured some of Diva’s effort to protect the majestic whale sharks including a video webcast of the work.
Despite all of the great features of the new Holiday Inn Male, the Maldives ‘hotel’ (as a opposed to ‘resort’) that has officially captured the ‘Best Of’ prize (repeatedly) would be the Hulhule Hotel.
Hulhule is actually a credible destination place to stay in the Maldives with a broad range of facilities and services. It has the advantage of not even needing to leave the island of the airport and as such is away from the relative hustle-bustle of the capital. It would appeal especially to a group looking for a ‘hotel’ (as a ‘resort’ might convey an unprofessional or ‘junket/jolly’ atmosphere) in this great destination that is specially suited for business meetings and conferences.
“Travel industry’s equivalent to the Oscar’s”, the World Travel Awards are the most comprehensive and most prestigious awards program in the global travel industry. Hulhulé Island Hotel commenced operations in 2000. Since then, the Hotel has been a key member of the travel and trade business in the Maldives. Hulhule Island Hotel also boasts of being the ‘Best Culinary Establishment’ at Maldives and the team is proud in having professionals such as the ‘Most Outstanding Chef’ and ‘Top Maldivian Chef’ of the last Hotel Asia Exhibition & Culinary Challenge. Last year, Hulhule Island Hotel was declared the ‘Winner’ of the ‘World Luxury Hotel Awards 2008’ held at Cape Town in October, 2008.”
If you are looking for an even shorter ‘pit stop’ in Male than a day stay, then the Holiday Inn Male offers distinctive facilities (to use a common euphemism) for that too.
Many of the bathrooms are distinctive with outdoor facilities or perhaps a water bungalow with the bath over the water, but the Holiday Inn Male actually has a distinctive toilet itself. It features the ‘Toto Washlet C110’ toilet which is the gadget lovers commode with NASA-like capabilities. It is the only toilet that I have ever used with a Control Panel.
“With the touch of a button, a nozzle extends from under the seat for soothing warm-water cleansing, virtually eliminating the need for toilet paper. The nozzle, which self cleans before and after every use, can be set to move back-and-forth for maximum comfort and optimum cleansing. The specially designed contoured seat is also heated to provide maximum comfort.”
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