A three-way rocker! Not a kinky guitarist with two groupies, but a trio of hammocks so there is plenty to go around with for couples and child. Or for people who are very particular about their orientation to the direction of the breeze of the ocean view at W Maldives.
Six Nations might have concluded this weekend, but you can carry on your place kicks in paradise at Cinnamon Hakuraa Hura. They not only have one of the only rugby pitches, complete with regulation goal posts and boundary line, but it is also set on the beach beside Hakuraa Hura’s expansive lagoon. The Sri Lankan run resort has a number of Sri Lankan staff you play regularly if you are looking to join in a seaside scrum.
It’s not just celebrities who face gruelling challenges, whether for reality TV or just their own Instagram feed (check out Sophie Turner battling her own thorny game below). If you want to steel up your fitness for any challenge life throws at you, Finolhu offers not only a complete training course facility, but also their own star trainer to help you out:
- “Finolhu has partnered with the renowned UFC GYM, the elite fitness concept from global phenomenon Ultimate Fighting Championship®. A UFC GYM Master Trainer will be based on island at Finolhu’s The Cove Club from October 1, offering a blend of traditional workout facilities and mixed martial arts to enhance the fitness levels of guests with a variety of personal training and group classes.”
A really big show with really big names requires more than a really big villa. In fact, it might require an entire resort like Tropika Island Of Treasure Maldives has done with Vadoo. Not the first reality TV show in the Maldives (actually this is the third prompting me to add the “Reality TV” tag), but maybe the biggest now featuring celebrities battling it out in paradise. Many of the episodes are being posted on YouTube so if you just want to follow the frolicking fun wherever you are (even if you don’t recognise the South African stars), you can tune in.
Sometimes the “Best” (and “Biggest”) of the Maldives can become an ever escalating arms race of hyperbolic luxury. One of the more curious bragging rights tussle is over the “Largest Water Villa in the Maldives”
For years, the reigning champion was Gili Lankanfushi’s Private Residence. I had it listed as 1400 sqm. Then, a couple of years ago came along St. Regis Vommuli’s John Jacob Astor Estate listed as 1540 sqm, putting the voluminous into the Vommuli. A YouTube video tour “Largest overwater villa in the Maldives” heralded it as the new crown holder in the outsize overwater villa league table. But then, I read this listicle piece by Lina Travel, “Largest Overwater Villas in the Maldives” which put Gili back on top listing the Private Residence at a larger 1700 sqm. I contacted the resort and they explained, “We had an extension of the Private Reserve in 2015, making the total area 1700 sqm.”
For the high-flying Maldives clientele, you don’t get much more elevated (especially in this part of the world famous for being so low lying) than Soneva Fushi resort. Coincidentally, Soneva’s acronym “SFR” (Soneva Fushi resort) echoes the original icon of high living in castaway paradise – Swiss Family Robinson. Here is a list of the lofty luxury you can find there…
- Treehouse – Let’s start with the fundamentals of elevated living – the Treehouse. As in “Villa Suite with Treehouse”. Especially suited as an annex for children.
- Kids Club – If your childhood Disney fantasies overcome you and you decide to take the treehouse for yourself, at least the kids get the multi-story labyrinth of whimsy that is the “Den” kids club with plenty of climbing places including their own outdoor play treehouse.
- Dining – But the whole family can enjoy a soaring supper at the “Fresh in the Garden” (or over the garden) restaurant deck.
- Walkway – Of course, to get there you need the obligatory Indian Jones rope bridge. One the first, longest and highest.
- Spa – The second story treatment rooms and chill out area adds a vista to your vinyasa.
- Toilet – Loo with a view. ‘Nuff said.
- Palm Tree Climbing – If you don’t have the climbing dexterity of some of the Maldivians.
- Villas – Taller villas than anywhere in the Maldives with sweeping wrap-around decks for 360 degree views.
- Mattresses – The thickest mattresses in the Maldives so even when you lie down, you get lifted up.
- Ceilings – And when you do lie down, your gaze extends quite high to some soaring ceilings that exemplify the SFR chic aesthetic.
- Observatory – If none of that is high enough for you, Soneva was the pioneer of lifting their guest up to the star above with the first astronomical observatory in the Maldives. Naturally, the telescope itself is nestled in the treetops accessed by a canopy crossing walkway.
There is one exception which is Soneva’s sunken pool seating which is the lowest seating in the Maldives being literally below ground level (without being underground).
Shangri-La Villingili might be the “Southernmost Resort”, but Equator Village gets you to the Southernmost Point, the tippy-toe, of the Maldives on its Gan island (as you can see from the map below, Villingili resort island extended below the position of Equator Village, but the rest of Gan island outside the resort compound goes further south). Maldives Complete roving reporter Paola posted the above photo of this geographic extremity on the very tip of Gan’s southern promontory.
Compass point extremes have a strange allure. Like you have gone to the very edge of the place in question. The planet carries on pretty much like the surrounding area, but still you feel like you have reach to the limit of this destination. Especially in the Maldives which stretches so extensively from north to south for nearly a thousand kilometres. Our son, Chase (himself a veteran of many Maldives trips) has explored these topological margins with his field recording both in the USA (Key West where we stayed at the Southernmost Hotel) and the UK (where he undertook a project to record all for compass points extremes in Britain which ended up in the British Library).
While the Black Moon might be the darkest month to the do some stargazing, where is the darkest place in the Maldives. Lots of factors affect visibility – light pollution from the moon, cloud/haze cover – but one of the biggest is light pollution from the ground. This light is what makes star gazing so difficult in built up areas and why the best observatories are located in the remote locations far from ambient light sources.
The question came up on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum as few months ago. I pulled NASA’s night time photos of the world. As expected, there are not many lights in the Indian Ocean. The high-res TIFF shows basically 3 tacked vertically north to south. The northern most (and by far the brightest) is Male, the middle is Gan and the southernmost is the British Indian Island Territory.
I was going to examine which parts of the Maldives were the furthest from Male (without getting close to Gan). I’ve overlaid Google Maps onto the NASA photo to provide some perspective –
But doing a bit of research on skyglow shows that it doesn’t really extend beyond a few dozen miles from the major light. Check out the UK map on this site.
There is also the question of “glare” which is the light from the immediate vicinity. This light does add to the sky glow, but more importantly it adds “glare” to your viewing. So in short, you are looking for a resort who has relatively secluded villas (ie. away from the dense infrastructure of the resort operations and main public areas) and ideally one where the lighting is used sparsely.
A simpler resort like Rihiveli comes to mind (less infrastructure). A resort without water villas (at least on your side of the island) will eliminate the inevitable jetty and water villa lights (they don’t want people stumbling into the water).
This methodology narrowed down the possibilities to a couple of possibilities in some more remote, less populated atolls…
- Filitheyo, Faafu (distance to capital island – 20 km)
- Alimatha/Dhiggiri, Felidhoo (distance to capital island – 12 km, lowest population atoll)
I decided to lean to Filitheyo because Alimatha and Dhiggiri, though smaller and simpler resorts, are both near each other throwing skyglow on each other, while Filitheyo is all by itself 20 km (about the right distance for avoiding skyglow) from the major island in the atoll.
The end of February and still no new moon this month. The rare occurrence of a month with no New Moo is ominously dubbed a “Black Moon”. It’s not all glum as the absence of moon, especially a bright full one, is great for stargazing. And the pioneer in Maldives astronomy, Soneva Fushi, has added another dimension (literally) to its state-of-the-art observatory: 3D.
- “Soneva has introduced a 3D astronomy experience, with the introduction of a brand-new Meade telescope at the Observatory at Soneva Fushi, its flagship resort in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives. Resident astronomers at Soneva Fushi will be on hand to educate guests and show them the differences in distance between stars and other celestial objects using the 3D technology. Mike Dalley, CEO of Inspiring Skies, the company responsible for installing the new telescope, explained the capability of the 3D component: ‘This new technology will help revolutionize how we offer astronomy experiences to guests, as it gives depth of field to what people see while looking through the telescope. It means that, for example, while looking at an open cluster, some stars will appear closer while others further away’.”
When it comes to star gazing, no moons is good moons.