Best of the Maldives: Accessible Underwater Restaurant – You & Me

You & Me - H20

All underwater restaurants are stunning experiences, but they often come at an equally eye-watering expense. For starters, most are found at super-premium resorts that start at $1000/night. Then, enjoying the restaurant is an equally premium supplement to your already hefty holiday bill. When we visited You & Me, we were struck by how many luxury details the resort featured while its price was a relatively manageable by mere mortals. No part of the property more exemplified this reasonably priced luxury than their H20 underwater restaurant.

  • Six-metres underwater, almost half a kilometre away from the pearly shores of our island is our greatest gift – H2O, the world’s best underwater restaurant, conceived by world-renowned designer Daniele Lago. With room for twenty-six guests, H2O’s seventy-four feet acrylic glass exterior is made to mesmerise. Nestled in a lush coral garden six metres below the sea this enchanting restaurant draws all manner of marine life to delight viewers.”

The first feature makes the restaurant truly accessible in the literal sense – a lift.  For anyone who might have difficulty with the circular stairway descending into the depths of the resort’s lagoon, they have the option of taking the restaurant’s lift.  Rare enough in Maldives resorts in general (I only recall seeing one at Velaa),

But the “accessibility” that benefits most of us is H2O’s relatively affordable price.  I sort of hesitate to call out H20s “affordability” as its defining characteristic. The description might come across as a low-end version when it is absolutely anything but that.  The dinner was sumptuously gourmet quality with a full menu of choice delicacies (see photo below).   As our tour report made clear, we were utterly enchanted by our evening there (with the mesmerizing dinner show by the resident octopus). 

The facility itself stands shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the other Maldives underwater restaurants at the super deluxe properties. In fact, its semi-circle fully glass arch is the state-of-the in these underwater rooms with only Hurawalhi and Rangalhi sharing this totally immersive submersion. The restaurant also includes some special aspects which make it distinctive in its own right – a reef restoration collaboration, a meteorological station, maybe the most unusual ingredient I have ever had in a meal anywhere not just the Maldives (stay tuned). 

But if there is one aspect which will have the most impact on the most people it will be its quite reasonable price. I have simply met too many people who passed up the chance to experience this bucket list activity at other resorts because the price was too dear. To save money, they go in and have a glance and take a few selfies, but that is not even a fraction of the joy and adventure of spending a few hours under the ocean enjoying the toings and froings of the sea creatures like you were some sort of fellow resident. The big advantage of diving over snorkelling is that you get to linger underwater and see the creatures at their level (rather than just looking down on them). But even with diving you are limited to 60 minutes (not to mention all the faff and expense). At H20 you get to savour hours of undersea loitering. And all the while, lingering over delectable dishes and sipping fine wines or decadent cocktails as bonus treats to the experience.

The prices are $280 per person for dinner and $180 per person for lunch (we definitely recommend the dinner as you get to experience the transition from day to night of the aquatic world). It’s not cheap, but it’s considerably less expensive than the other alternatives in the Maldives. And remember, it’s not just a meal. It is a unique experience of a lifetime that includes and is accented by a meal.

H20 is the underwater restaurant by You & Me and the rest of us.

You & Me - plankton

Best of the Maldives: Ghost Net Bracelets – Faarufushi

Faarufushi - ghost net bracelets

Not just a “Best of the Maldives”, but possibly the Best of the Best from the 2019 Tour, or at least the most enduring, as both Lori and I are still wearing ours back in Blighty – Ghost Net Bracelets. Faarufushi’s Marin Biologist Giulia Pellizzato working on retrieving “Ghost Nets” – fishing nets that have gotten snarled or caught up and so the fishermen just abandon them in the water where they continue to trap and kill sea creatures.

The nets themselves are made of nylon and so Giulia wanted to come up with a way to upcycle them rather than have them add to the landfill of the Maldives. She decided to unravel the strands of plastic twine that they were made of, and use that material to make some woven bracelets. The process is a bit labour intensive so she has a small stock now. She gives them out as a reward to guests who help her with her reef survey work on the island.

The blue and green of the material, coloured that way by design to blend into the ocean when fishing and not scare away the fish, evoke the tapestry of colour which makes up the Maldivian seascape. I’m not a big accessory person, but there is something heart-warming about wearing something that was removed from the Laccadive Sea and is now on my wrist rather than snaring turtles, dolphins and other tragically unfortunate ocean friends.

Faarufushi - ghost net bracelets 2

Best of the Maldives: Kosher Food – Soneva Fushi

KSoneva Fushi - kosher kitchen

The luxury Maldives properties pride themselves on catering to any guest’s whim or need including all sorts of dietary preferences despite being isolated in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Some things can just be flown in, but others require more work on the ground. That is the case with truly kosher foods which are not just about avoiding certain prohibited food, but also about preparing the kosher items in a kosher way ideally removed from the preparation of other food which might taint it. Irufushi is the only resort I have found that offers kosher foods explicitly, but now Soneva Fushi has invested in a dedicated kosher prep kitchen to provide the tightest conformity to kosher requirements. Maldives Insider reports

  • “Soneva Fushi is the first luxury resort in the Maldives to have a dedicated kosher kitchen, which also doubles as an allergy kitchen. The kosher kitchen is a separate air conditioned kitchen where the resort’s specialty chefs will produce kosher meals. All the equipment is brand new, and will only be used for the said purpose. The resort carries kosher chicken, beef and sausages which are shipped directly from Holland by a kosher meat producer.”

Best of the Maldives: Cocktail Class – Park Hyatt Hadahaa

Park Hyatt Hadahaa - cocktail class

Drinks all around then? If you want to personally serve up your entourage of friends with cocktail concoctions, then Park Hyatt Hadahaa offers a Cocktail Making class (1 hour, $55 per person):

  • “Discover Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa’s secret mojito recipe from our skilled barmen, as well as learning a few other favourites, then sit back and enjoy your exotic creations while watching a stunning Maldivian sunset.”

Best of the Maldives: Art Cafe – Kandima

Kandima - art cafe

One of my favourite hangouts for my first stint as a travel writer and destination research in Togo, West Africa was the Café des Artes. The little tea shop displays and sold a variety of works from local artists including distinctive tapestries by an artist named Helga whose pieces are the pride of my African art collection. That local creativity set in a relaxing place to sip cold drinks and nibble treats all came flooding back to me when I stepped into Kandima’s Art Café. The joint sits adjacent to the resort’s art studio (so you can pop in for a coffee break while working on your Maldives masterpiece). The floor-to-ceiling windows look out over one of the rare inland lakes to be found on a resort island while also adds to the visual aesthetic.  And if that’s not enough inspiration, the cafe serves cakes as artistic as the surroundings themselves.

Best of the Maldives: Horoscope Theme – Mirihi

Mirihi - whale shark pisces

Every day in the Maldives is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius (and a whale-sized bit of Pisces too), though if you fall under a different sign, you can still find just the right holiday experience on the zodiac constellation at MirihiThe Island Chief reports:

  • “Air Experience (Aquarius, Gemini, Libra) – Zodiac Attributes: Air signs tend to be fun loving, free-spirits who are intrigued and fascinated by the world around them. Guests who book the ‘Air’ package will be invited to enjoy a private, beach movie night under the twinkling stars. Islanders will have a selection of iconic films to choose from, whilst they relax, toes in sand, on scattered cushions and beanbags. Those booking this experience will also delight in a planet-gazing lesson, where an expert member of staff will be on hand to teach guests how to use Mirihi’s very own high-strength telescope, whilst explaining the unique constellations in the night sky. Air package starts from $4,700 per couple for seven nights in a Water Villa on a half board basis including seaplane transfers.”

Not sure why Aquarius isn’t included in the “Water Experience”.

Best of the Maldives: Yellowfin Tuna Seaplane – FlyMe

FlyMe yellow fin tuna seaplane

The latest surf-faring air transfer in the Maldives with a distinctly piscatorial picture scheme is FlyMe’s “yellow tuna” inspired seaplane…

  • FlyMe is bringing four Twin Otter 300 series planes and plan to begin their operations by October. The colourful and newly designed Flyme’s seaplane livery is inspired by the yellowfin tuna, the most widely-caught, and possible the most well-known, tuna species in the Maldives.”

The flying fish in the Maldives are the biggest in the world…

Best of the Maldives: Soft Coral Wall – JA Manafaru

JA Manafaru soft coral

When we think of coral reefs, we often think of the hard corals whose calcium carbonate exoskeletons are the stuff that this destination is made out of. But just as dazzling to the undersea adventurer are the colourful soft corals that line walls and often caves on the reefs. And the best dive spot for soft corals seems to be Becky’s Caves according to a number of experts I’ve conferred with. It is a site for Advanced divers as the sub-aquatic display, described as “lots of soft corals all coming out like grapes” starts at 22 metres deep. The nearest resort, JA Manafaru’s “Sun Diving School” describes it as

  • This reef is the north side of Madulu Island. The top reef starts from 7 meters and drops down until 20-25 meters depth, showing all its beauty. It is a real wall reef, where you can meet napoleon fishes, red snappers and morays, lion fishes and different kind of nudibranches in the small overhangs. At the depth of 20 meters, one huge recess of the reef shows on one side a wall completely covered of soft corals of different colors; from yellow, pink, white to orange, a real universe of colors! Bring with you your torch and your camera: one fantastic dive for everybody but one rare show to see!”