5 Reasons to Go to the Maldives Now


When the pandemic first hit and the lockdowns were imposed, we made an emphatic decision to simply not travel in the year 2020. We were seasoned enough travellers (and savvy enough health professionals both working in the medical arena) that we knew it would be many months before the world had a grip on this grippe. We knew that there would be no switch flipped that turned matters from terrible to fine. Rather, the process would be a long and drawn-out chipping away at the pandemic making life more safe and allowing more activity to go on bit by bit.

We had decided that it would simply be too risky and stressful to travel during the year with all the variables and all the volatility of the situation, not to mention the first and foremost risk, which is contracting the virus itself. We would not do anything that wasn’t deemed an acceptable risk, as per our medical training. But within the first 6 months, the world pretty much figured out how to contain the spread (the biggest problem is getting people to behave in a manner which contained the spread) so some possibilities for travel were emerging.

Travel is already a highly regulated environment for safety (just think of the boarding screening process), so the industry is pretty well structured to adopt safety measures. After an accident or terror threat, the aviation industry makes changes pretty effectively and pretty quickly. It has to. So, we felt that they would probably institute protocols that would mitigate most of the risk fairly well.

What we didn’t trust was the governments. A government springing a change in rules at the last minute throwing our trip up in the air. And as anticipated, that is exactly what happened. We bit the bullet and booked a trip to the Maldives for mid-November only to have the entire thing upended by England Lockdown II. And not just official pronouncements being sprung on us, but also lower-level functionaries whose job it was to implement them not reading or confusing the fine print in the latest directive and in so doing holding us up at some point for some confusion over paperwork or something.

Still, we persevered got ourselves to our beloved Maldives this week.  Several days in the trip has been magical. Not perfect by any means. But nonetheless magical.

Here are the reasons to consider taking the plunge and escaping to paradise:

  1. Great Deals – The deals are the catalyst. In November, we started reading about some of the deals on offer, and we couldn’t help but salivate. Air fares and resort prices were both 30-50% off. With our 8 months of cabin fever, we couldn’t resist the temptation.
  2. Flexible Terms – It used to be that to get good prices, you had to commit sizeable sums of non-refundable deposits. Even a minor change in plans would incur big service charges. COVID has changed most of that. Airlines and hotels are now very flexible in their terms so risks of losing your payment are much lower. That said, do check the terms of your travel and if your airline or hotel is not providing flexibility, then look elsewhere. As it happened, this consideration hit us in our planning. We had planned for our trip in November…but then the UK lockdown hit scuppered it. But we were readily refunded all of our booking charges or were able to move them to our revised trip in December.
  3. Aggro in Perspective – Yes, COVID protocols have added extra aggro to the whole process of travelling. The biggest being the PCR “Fit to Fly” certificates, but smaller inconveniences like wearing a mask through the airport and throughout the flight, health declaration forms, etc. While these will seem onerous to the modern casual traveller, they are not really any harder than visas and a vaccination required for typical adventure travel even a few years ago (I remember that I had to hire a consultant to help me get a Russian tourist visa a few decades ago because the process was so convoluted). COVID has just made all travel into “adventure” travel in terms of logistics. Yes, the airport queues are longer dealing with all the protocols and paperwork, but this isn’t entirely new to the world of travel. And people are regularly pointing remote thermometers at you. A bit of work, but not unbearable.
  4. COVID Safety – Tourism is the lifeblood of the Maldives so it is no surprise that they have instituted some of the most stringent COVID precautions in the world. As a result, the incidence of COVID in the Maldives is one of the lowest in the world, earning the Maldives a travel corridor with a number of countries, including the UK (which means that you don’t have to quarantine on return).
  5. Post-Lockdown Paradise – The Maldives feels like the antithesis of lockdown. Sitting on a beach taking in an infinite horizon is the perfect antidote to months of staring at the same four walls.

Guesthouses and Liveaboards Budget Options

Guesthouses and Liveaboards

A whole category of Maldives offerings that I’ve not yet seen are the guesthouses and liveaboard/yacht options. I have researched them quite a bit. And Hotellier Maldives asked me to share a few perspective from my investigation for people considering these alteratives. The result is the recently published article “Bunking with the Billionaires on a Budget – Part 2”.

  • Some guest houses cost as little as $50/night. For certain types of travellers, being on an inhabited island has added dividends of being able to explore and interact with the local community and experience their island life. But these offerings also have a number of constraints that you should be aware of and do limit their appeal to some visitors.”
  • “Liveaboards have long been a cheap option for divers to bunk while going from dive site to dive site. But in the Maldives, the cruising options have gotten quite sophisticated and expansive. You can find quite well appointed bedrooms in lovely vessels serving delicious food. Some boats even offer spa services onboard.”

World Travel Market 2019

WTM 2019 - Jason Kruse

This year’s World Travel Market was like a trip back to where it all began. In more ways than one.

First, I bumped into to one of the charter members of the Maldives GM Hall of Fame (figure of speech) – Jason Kruse. After I had developed Maldives Complete as a way to play around with new web technology at Microsoft and to share my trove of Maldives resort information, it was our family trip to Jason’s resort (just before he arrived), Kurumba, that convinced me that I should invest a bit extra in this undertaking. Throughout our stay, various Maldivian staff came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re that Maldives Complete guy. We love your website.”

While I had made it a policy to never re-visit a resort I had already seen (primarily because I wanted to see as many resorts as possible), Jason convinced me to stop by Kurumba again during one of our first tours in 2011. He and his wife were so much fun and so helpful with information about the Maldives, that we subsequently made an exception to our steadfast rule and ended up visiting Kurumba every year as a part of our tours. It was a convenient final stop near the airport, but primarily a great chance to catch up with Jason and Victoria.

Sadly, those annual catch-ups have been interrupted a couple of years ago when Jason took on a resort manager role in Fiji closer to his home in Australia. But Jason is back! He has taken on the GM role at Amilla Fushi. And he was at WTM London to get word out about some of the changes being introduced there. Sounds like some classic Jason magic and I can’t wait to see what he does there.

If that long-time-no-see meeting wasn’t enough, my next meeting was even more nostalgic. Every year that I have been going to WTM, I always check out whether the country of Togo, West Africa has a stand. Togo was by first stint as a travel researcher and writer. I was stationed there as an overseas correspondent in 1980! My first experience in investigating and sharing an exotic destination with the world. Togo has always been a small country and has been hit with its own challenges (like most of Africa) since the fall of the Berlin Wall (when the two superpowers stopped caring about the continent as pawns on a geopolitical chessboard and unceremoniously and disruptively upped stakes leaving discord and conflict in their wake). They haven’t really had the resources to rebuild its tourism industry…until now. Strolling over to the “Africa” section, I came upon Togo’s first stand and had a chance to meet with their representatives (see below) from the same Tourism Ministry that hosted me to their own colourful and enchanting country four decades ago!

WTM 2019 - Togo

10 Things Luxury Resorts Look For In An ‘Influencer Collaboration’

Instagrammer Chanel Brown (482k Followers) at Hurawalhi

From the outset, Maldives Complete has been my coral white sand box to explore the exciting and ever emerging online world – interactive interfaces, data-driven dynamic pages, blogs, and lately social media. Especially recently, the Instagram craze taking the world by storm and its practitioners drawn to the bucket list destination of the Maldives like trevally to a lagoon of glass fish.

I write for many audiences. The core one is obviously the regular and prospective guests who visit this paradise and are looking for clear, concise, objective help in deciding between the scores of resort islands. But also, the site is very popular in the Maldives resort industry itself (especially the “Haven’t Seen Yet Series”). And the fifth highest country of traffic to the site (after the UK, USA, Germany and China) is the Maldives itself with many Maldivians enjoying the fresh perspective about the economic heart of their country.

Today’s post is for a subset of those prospective guests – the Instagrammers, travel bloggers and other self-proclaimed “Influencers” who fill the inboxes of resort marketing directors with all sorts of requests for support and frankly freebies.  Millennials looking for an expansive buffet of special treatment while delivering a ‘contact lens case’ serving of tangible marketing results.

You could say that Maldives Complete is one of those and I often do get offered discounts (or at least trade rates) which I welcome since I spend so much money on the website, don’t make any money out of it, and my visits are mostly running around working on photos and getting material and not exactly lying back and enjoying a break.

The onslaught of hubristic hustlers looking for all sorts of special treatment has been well documented in recent months (great piece in the Atlantic – “Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy”). Some resorts, however (eg. Hurawalhi, Ayada) are embracing the attention and providing guidelines and processes for aspiring mini-media tycoons to get some special consideration if they can deliver real results.

So what do the resorts want? Well, I’m in pretty regular contact with most of the marketing folks in the Maldives resorts and this subject has been one we have regularly discussed. One of them drafted a comprehensive piece providing some great guidance to would-be journeyman journalists. For a number of reasons, they felt that they couldn’t publish it themselves so they offered it to me to share on Maldives Complete under anonymity. I hope it’s useful for prospective influencers wondering how did those other bloggers get there, and I hope its useful to resort marketing departments to help reduce the noise and distraction of the clueless enquiries and maybe even help channel potentially useful ones more effectively.

In a week when I received six influencer requests in just one morning – of which only one was able to in any way explain who they are, who their audiences are and why I should work with them – I felt compelled to write this in the hope it’ll help influencers be more effective in working with luxury resorts. If you’re an influencer looking to work with a city hotel (whether five star or not), local b&b or other, you’ll need a different approach because their needs are different.  The below is strictly for luxury resorts – and I don’t mean five star resorts, but luxury ones; if you don’t know the difference then please don’t call yourself a luxury travel blogger.

While influencers do seem to be effective in fashion and FMCG markets, the jury is still out on whether there’s a meaningful impact when it comes to luxury travel. But still, luxury hotels are taking to the influencer business like ducks to water and why not? It’s the in-thing to do, your competitors are doing it and it’s a lot more fun than cranking out another eDM. I get approached daily by influencers and most are declined. So what are luxury resorts looking for in an influencer?  Here’s my list:

  1. Influence. It may seem obvious but if you’re going to influence people, you need clout. It’s not a numbers game; I’m willing to work with influencers who have less than, say, 50,000 genuine followers on their main social media account, so long as those followers are the kind of people who’ll definitely stay at the hotel I’m marketing. And before you blithely say ‘of course they would’ you need to understand that I’m selling rooms that in the cheapest time of year are US$2,000 a night.  Be honest: do the majority of your followers really spend that kind of money on a hotel room, or do they just aspire to? I’m not just going to take your word for it: you’ll need to show that your followers are indeed my market – see point 2.
  2. A media kit. I need to know who your audience is, and not just in terms of numbers or their sex (because that’s not really important to me), but their socio-economic status and geographic location. I need to know if they’re really luxury travel consumers. Can you show that many of your followers regularly fly long-haul in first or business class or routinely spend over $2,000 a night on a hotel stay? That information needs to be on your media kit. Don’t forget to include links to your accounts in your media kit. You’d be amazed how many people approach me without giving links to their websites or social media accounts. No links or no media kit? Then I’ll assume that if you can’t make a professional approach to a possible business partner, then any resulting content is going to be unprofessional too.
  3. More than just social media. Social media is lovely, but ephemeral. That amazing post or story of yours is at best a 48-hour wonder and then gone forever, whereas as well-written, SEO-friendly blog post with links back to our site lives on the internet forever. No blog or website? Then it doesn’t work for us.
  4. An understanding that this is a quid pro quo deal. Many influencers are quite certain about what they should get out of the deal, but a little hazy about the true value of what they’re offering the hotel. ‘Awareness’ is an intangible concept that I don’t work with. So this is how it works: we give you a fabulous free stay in a luxury hotel worth $$$ and your coverage (social media, blog posts, videos etc) results in business. By business, I mean at least one reservation. It’ll be easy to measure because I’ll give you a booking code that your followers can use to make a reservation and that way we’ll know it came from your influence. Suddenly not so sure you can deliver that? Then why so sure I should give you that free stay?
  5. A realistic approach to what you’ll get. A professional travel journalist will spend two nights in a hotel and be able to write a great article, get all the social media coverage done and an online article.  That’s journalism.  If you’re calling yourself a professional, then that’s a realistic time frame for you too. 
  6. An understanding that ‘photos’ or ‘content’ isn’t an appealing offer. One of the most powerful marketing assets a luxury resort has is its imagery. This imagery is carefully selected, has a style, colour tone, composition and feel that reflects the hotel’s image and is consistent throughout the whole image library. Usually, a luxury hotel’s photography will be taken by one photographer – often over many years – in order to achieve that vision. I’m happy that you take great photos while you’re here (in fact, I’m depending on your photography being amazing), but I’m unlikely to use them for more than the occasional social media post unless you can match our existing look and style of our professional house photographer.
  7. Your image. Three points: a). I’m selling luxury travel. If you’re mostly featuring fashion or makeup or food or events on your feed, your audience probably isn’t my market. b). When your entire feed is pictures of you barely wearing any clothes (done tastefully of course), I understand why you have so many followers and ask you to please understand that this isn’t how I sell my product. c) if your feed is fabulous photography of you backpacking or camping, then kudos to you but your audience isn’t my audience and much as I love what you do, I can’t work with you.
  8. Our image. I’d like your understanding that a luxury hotel also has a specific image that you need to respect. I totally get that you need to feed your social media and keep driving those clicks in order to fulfill promises to your other partners, but if you’re going to post every five hours regardless of the quality of the pictures of MY product then we can’t work together. Please understand: I’m very picky. What to you looks like a really cute picture of you in a bikini (makeup, bikini and jewelry all sponsored by other partners, of course), to me just looks like an untidy hotel room with wet, crumpled pool towels on the floor, half-drunk milkshakes in the background and not the best angle of the pool in the pouring rain. To be clear: my product – the hotel – isn’t a backdrop to your photos; it IS the photo. And it’s got to look good by my standards, not yours.
  9. Our audience vs your audience: You appeal to generation z, you appeal to millennials – heck you are millennial. You’re young and fun and groovy. My audience however routinely spends over $35,000 on a holiday and possibly owns (or has access to) a private jet and/or yacht. That puts them in an older age bracket and makes them more, let’s say discerning, than the laissez-faire casual style you’re projecting. If we partner, can you still appeal to my market without alienating your core followers?  In other words, does it make business sense to you for you to be blogging about my resort?
  10. Timing. There are times when we’d love to work with you, but you’re proposing to come when we just don’t have rooms to give away. Please forgive me for having to say no, and keep in touch in case you’re able to come back this way one day.

On my side, I promise to work with you and deliver what you need to get that wow content. My duty is to throw open the doors of the hotel to you so you can get the best. Whether that means borrowing the yacht for dolphin spotting, finding a deserted island for a fabulous picnic, planting coral with our marine biologist, setting up endless room service breakfasts poolside on the deck of your over-water villa or booking the entire spa for a morning’s photoshoot, that’s what I’m here for. Oh, and I’ll make sure the wifi is fast, free and plentiful. Deal?

World Travel Market 2018

WTM 2018 1

Maldives Complete made it to yet another World Travel Market at the Excel Centre in London this week. Maldives resorts, agents, cruises and promoters were there in force. With all the giant, illuminated backdrop tableaus, it was the closest thing to a day visit to the Maldives on a November day in London.

I got a chance to catch up with long-time friends and associates like Barefoot Resort Marketing Director Raffaella Colleoni and Grand Park Kodhipparu General Manager Raffaele Solferino (please, Raffles Resort, hire these two executives!) – see above.

I also got an opportunity to meet some of the folks behind some of the newer properties – eg. Emerald, Carpe Diem, Kuredhivaru, Hard Rock, SAii Lagoon, Rahaa. Emerald in particular has some incredibly attractive pricing and may be doing some extra special offers at its launch. And Hard Rock with SAii Lagoon is going to be a real game-changer opening up entirely new ways of holidaying in the Maldives and experiencing this paradise.

The other revelation to me was the deals for some pretty swish cruising. ScubaSpa is a live-aboard-cum-spa on a luxury cruiser and gourmet meals for the price of a good 4+ star resort. You can choose any number of days that you want to travel to tailor the timings (and costs) to your preferences. And Carpe Diem has a deal of $1200 for a week on their yacht including meals and 3 dives each day. We’ve often considered doing a cruise. We’ve seen so many of the Maldives resorts, we thought it would be a great way to explore some of the deserted islands, remote lagoons and sand bars in the middle of the ocean. We’ve sailed in the Mediterranean and there is an adventurous charm to anchoring in some remote place with no civilisation in sight.

WTM 2018 2

Nom de Palme

Dhivehi script for “Fushi” which means “Island”

Last year, I added a new field to the Maldives Complete resort database, “Name Meaning” in Dhivehi, but I thought I would share a synopsis of all of them for Dhivehi Language Day today.

First of all, not all resorts have Dhivehi names. The non-native monikers tend to fall in one of these three categories…

  • Brand Name – eg. Ayada, Conrad, Centara Grand, Dusit Thani, LUX, Robinson Club The Residence, W,
  • English Names – Tend to be the older resorts, eg. Cocoon, Cocoa, Taj Coral Reef, Equator Village, Taj Exotica, Full Moon, Fun Island, Hideaway Beach, Holiday Island, Lily Beach, Paradise Island, Palm Beach, Royal, Safari Island, Summer Island, Sun Island
  • Unknown – Despite some fairly extensive research and enquiries, a number of resorts are simply named after the islands that they are on whose Dhivehi meaning has long been lost, eg. Amari Havodda, Dhigali, Filitheyo, Gangehi, Hurawalhi, Komandoo, Kooddoo, Kuramathi, Kuredu, Maafushivaru, Milaidhoo, Vilamendhoo, Vilu Reef (if anyone does know the etymology of these names, please let me know!)

In my research, my favourite response was from the Assistant Director of Marketing Communications & Social Media at Atmosphere Kanifushi…

  • · “Fushi is from a variety of names specifically given to islands depending on their type/formation (eg: fushi, gili, finolhu, dhoo). Fushi is associated with larger islands, with vegetation (as Kanifushi is). The word Kani, is of old Maldivian terminology – there are other islands such as Kanifinolhu etc. its specific meaning varies in context, typically associated with water vapor-like droplets/ salt mist – we assume this may have been because Kanifushi is situated on the edge of Lhaviyani Atoll so waves crash on the Atoll Reef on the islands South-East side and caused quite a bit of salty mist sprayed throughout the day over the island – which however is not apparent at the moment as a resort, but may have been in the past. There is no exact literal meaning of older island names however – especially considering the island has been around for quite some time, however was never fully inhabited by any communities.” – Ali Abdulla

Like the infamous adage that Eskimos have dozens of words for “snow” and the Chinese have a similar lot for “rice”, no surprise that the Maldivians have a multitude of words for subtly different “islands”.

The Maldives Complete list of Dihvehi resort names…

  • Amilla Fushi – Island Home
  • Anantara Dhigu – Tall
  • Anantara Veli – Sand
  • Atmosphere Kanifushi – Sea Mist Island
  • Centara Ras Fushi – Royal Island
  • Cinnamon Dhonveli – Fair Sand
  • Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa – Reef Over Water
  • Club Med Kani – Large Island
  • Constance Moofushi – Root Island
  • Dhigufaru – Long Reef
  • Embudhoo – Island of ‘Ximenia Americana’ (a plant)
  • Finolhu – Sandbank
  • Four Seasons Kuda Huraa – Small Island
  • Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru – Parrotfish Shifting Sands
  • Fushifaru – Reef Island
  • Gili Lankanfushi – Small Island in a Lagoon
  • Huvafen Fushi – Dream Island
  • Iru Fushi – Sun Island
  • Kandima – (Boat) Channel
  • Kandolhu – (flower found on the island)
  • Kanuhura – Corner Island
  • Kihaa – Young Coconut
  • Kudafushi – Little Island
  • Kurumba – Coconut
  • Medhu Fushi – Middle Island
  • Meedhupparu -“island that someone saw”
  • Meeru – Delicious
  • Mirihi – Yellow Maldivian Flower
  • Nika – Banyan Tree
  • NIYAMA – Bon Voyage
  • Olhuveli – (type of sand formation)
  • Reethi Beach – Beautiful Beach
  • Reethi Rah – Beautiful Island
  • Rihiveli Beach – Silver Sand
  • Soneva Fushi – Island
  • Soneva Jani – Wisdom
  • Thudu Fushi – The Point Island
  • Vakarufalhi – Plank of a Coconut Tree
  • Velaa – Turtle
  • Velavaru – Turtle Island
  • Veligandu – Sandbank


World Travel Market 2017

WTM 2017 1

April is when the whale sharks pass through South Ari, and November is when the Maldives resorts pass through London, UK. The World Travel Market is my chance to wallow in a bit of Maldives vibe for a day. Well, at least posters and marketing paraphernalia. But most importantly fellow comrades in the Maldives appreciation.

I get a chance to catch up with long standing friends (like Scott Le Roi of Amilla Fushi below) as well as meet new faces on the Laccadive scene (like Alexa Ponichetti of Baglioni below). We catch up a bit on the latest developments and ideas, meet new members of their staff, etc. Most importantly for me, it is a chance to get some new acquaintances and material on upcoming openings. The pending arrivals I learned more about included Baglioni, Emerald, Aarah, Amaya, Carpe Diem, and Robinson Club Noonu. Not to mention some intriguing developments in existing properties (like Huvafenfushi’s complete refresh).

The Sunny Side of London…at least for a day.

WTM 2017 2

Maldives Methadone

Resort Destinations Like the Maldives

One of the more frequently asked questions on the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum is whether there is another other place on Earth similar to the Maldives. People bitten by the Laccadive bug which is known to inflict a lifelong addiction (case in point) seeking to get hooked up with a fix.

Usually the query is inspired by a stretched budget and the enquirer is seeking a generic, store-brand knock-off of the Maldives to satisfy their craving (in the Maldives Forum Search put in “like the Maldives” – here’s the longest thread). Thailand, Mauritius, Seychelles, Fiji, BVI, Turks & Caicos, Australia are frequently proposed, but a little research shows that nearly all resorts there are all on quite big islands and relatively close together. Aside from the basic similarities of sun and sand, not nearly the “plot of sand in the middle of the ocean” experience of the Maldives. World-travelling friends who introduced us to the Maldives have sent us postcards saying “[Tropical Island X] is wonderful…but it isn’t the Maldives.”. We ourselves have joined this island hunt with our trip to Indonesia which was superb…but it wasn’t the Maldives.

Over recent months I have been digging a bit deeper to come up with the closest facsimiles for those who need an alternative dose whether it be for a change of destination, somewhere less far to travel (the Maldives is quite an expedition for those on the other side of the world in the Americas), or even to save a bit of money. Despite the lattermost inspiration, nearly all the resorts I uncovered came in at just under $500 for entry level BB per person which is not too far off typical Maldives prices for nice 4+ star or a modest 5 star property. The closer the alternative destination property was to Maldives characteristics, the close the racks rate were to those in the Maldives.

There are obviously thousands of tropical island resorts in the world. For my most prominent filters, I excluded the following deal-breakers which keep a property from really having the Maldives vibe:

  • Big Islands – Must be small enough to walk around in the time it takes to drink a bottle of beer and no elevation.
  • Mediterranean – Weather and sea life too limited.
  • Private Islands – Financially inaccessible (for most) properties that rent for tens of thousands for the whole place such as Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the Caribbean, David Copperfield’s Musha Cay in the Bahamas, or Noa Noa in the Philippines.
  • Local Islands – The islands have to be dedicated resort islands (ie. no local residents), but can have multiple properties like Malaysia’s Mabul Island (and how the old Kuramathi, Maldives set up used to be).
  • Remote Undeveloped Islands – Great bolt holes for liveaboards and cruise vessels, but that is an entirely different proposition to a resort and not everybody’s cuppa tea.
  • Middle of the Ocean – Must be surrounded by 90% water with limited proximity, development, or high elevation islands on the horizon to preserve that “middle of the ocean” feel. This was the hardest aspect to adhere to and I bent consideration with a few selections below (eg. Akaiami Paradise Lodge, Le Taha’a Island, and Song Saa)

The top destinations with the most qualifying (and nearly qualifying) candidates are the following:

  • Belize – Seems the closest as an overall destination – lots of islands, many small, coral and diving. I’ve included in a couple in the catalogue below, but I came across a good deal of others in my research. Also, seems to be considerably lower cost (though also lower standard) than many Maldives properties.
  • Malaysia – Also, a good number of properties I came across and included a couple below.
  • French Polynesia – Known most widely for the biggest island Tahiti, but it does have quite an array of smaller gems (again, a couple examples included in the list below).

Below is a list of the most prominent examples of Maldives mould alternatives. This piece will be a living post so if and as people recommend or I otherwise discover other resorts that meet the criteria, I will add them to the post and map.

Price indicated are approximate rates per person bed and breakfast based on queries to the resort website.

    1. Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia ($426pp)
      Mabul Borneo resort
    2. Lankayan Island, Borneo, Malaysia ($183pp)
      Lankayan Borneo resort
    3. Coco Plum Island Resort, Belize ($456pp)
      Coco Plum Island Belize resort
    4. Royal Palm Island, Belize ($120pp)
      Royal Plum Island Belize resort
    5. Anantara Medjumbe Island, Mozambique ($390pp)
      Anantara Mediumbe Island Mozambique resort
    6. Denis Island, Seychelles ($600pp) – thanks Moira
      Maldives like - Denis Island Seychelle
    7. Akaiami Paradise Lodge Aitutaki, Cook Islands, New Zealand ($480pp)
      Akaiami Paradise Lodge Aitutaki Cook Islands New Zealand resort
    8. Song Saa, Cambodia ($484pp)
      Song Saa Cambodia resort
    9. Lady Elliott Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia ($145pp)
      Lady Elliott Island Great Barrier Reef Australia
    10.  Vahine Island, French Polynesia ($311pp)

    11. Le Taha’a Island Resort, Tahiti ($517pp)
      Le Tahaa Island Resort Tahiti
    12. Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort and Spa, Tahiti ($190pp)
      Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort and Spa Tahiti resort

Maldives vs. Indonesia Snorkeling (Komodo)

Komodo Resort house reef

With the rising costs and declining reefs of the Maldives, one of the increasingly frequent FAQs is “Is there anywhere else like the Maldives”.  In particular, given the Maldives’ distinctive snorkeling, “Are there any places which rival the Maldives’ world-leading snorkeling experience.”

One of the more commonly cited possibilities for tropical resorts with tranquil isolation as well great snorkeling and diving is Indonesia.  We recently took a trip to Bali for a friend’s wedding and thought I would add on a week to visit Komodo, Indonesia and check out the snorkeling scene.

We stayed at a lovely 4 star (equivalent) resort in Komodo national park – Komodo Resort and Dive Centre.  The pictures and reports indicated that I might have stumbled upon something to rival the Maldives’ snorkeling supremacy. The resort was in the highly rated Komodo Natonal Park which is a protected marine area as well as a national park on land. Roving police come to your dive and snorkelling boats to check that you have a requisite permit for being there (you purchase these on arrival).

The two destinations had some arbitrary subjective differences…

  • Maldives flat, Indonesia elevated
  • Maldives small, Indonesia larger
  • Maldives blue, Indonesia green

But below are some of my observed comparisons. Admittedly, my impressions are a bit superficial given that I only spent a week there. Still, I did do extensive research to prepare for the trip, the location is reputed to be one of the best in the country (so should show the destination in some of the best light), I spoke extensively to staff, residents and other guests there to compare notes and ferret out more perspectives, and I have the experience of snorkelling all over the world (eg. Caribbean, Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean).

Not as good as the Maldives…

  • Fewer big fish:   The big 5 (shark, turtle, ray, moray, octopus) of the Snorkel Safari are much rarer in Indonesia.  They can be seen, but everyone talks about going on special excursions to special sites to see them.  During our entire stay and several outings, we didn’t see a single one.  And we were in one of the reputed top dive/snorkel areas of the region.  Curiously, the “smaller” fish (eg.  sweet lips, bat fish, parrot fish) mostly seemed significantly larger than their Maldivian cousins .
  • More current – There is no sheltered atoll topology.  Instead, the islands rise out of relative deep water much like the Greek Isles.  Furthermore, Indonesia lies smack between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  As a result, there are lots of currents as the water shifts back and forth squeezing through the archipelagos of the islands.  Our house reef snorkel had the strongest current I have ever snorkeled in.  Fortunately, resort took us in a dingy to one end of the house reef and we drifted back to the exit jetty. Our snorkel excursion was also a “drift snorkel” where a dinghy took us to a drop off and then picked us up again for another go around.
  • Colder water – Good for corals, but less comfortable for leisurely t-shirt/rash-guard snorkeling.
  • Infrastructure – In general, the Indonesian tourism infrastructure felt about 20 years behind the Maldives.  That might sound appealing to those old-timers who yearn for the simplicity of the good old days, but it did mean little inconveniences like weak Internet (slow in general, down most of the time we were there on public network and wifi), limited food choices and limited activities (though all those things might be plusses to some).  Payment infrastructure was particularly inconvenient and awkward (eg. difficulties getting online payment system to work, no Amex accepted, 50 Euro surcharge for using Paypal).

Better than the Maldives…

  • Corals – The key plus to the house reef was the coral.  Especially compared to the currently stressed (eg.  climate change, El Nino, COTS) reefs of the Maldives.  Great diversity, colour and health of hard and soft corals.  Especially, soft corals.  Greater quantity and diversity of soft corals than I have seen anywhere in the Maldives.
  • Cost – The big win in Indonesia is the cost. I would roughly estimate that like-for-like, Indonesia is at least half the price of a comparable property and activity in the Maldives.

Maldives v Indonesia

Komodo Resort house reef 2

A Resort by Any Other Name

Australia v Austria

One of the most respectful and appreciated salutations is to greet someone by their name. That’s why brain farts when you can’t recall someone’s name are so excruciating. It’s also why the resorts, especially the higher-end ones, put a great deal of effort into learning your name.

We were touched by the gift the W Retreat presented us with on arriving at our room which was a photo they took of us by their lounge at the seaplane terminal. As the week went on we noticed that *all* the staff was greeting us by name. We then realised that the photo served an extra purpose of getting notice out of who we were so the staff could recognize us and greet us personally.

Unfortunately, getting the names right of the resorts themselves is getting increasingly challenging. I’ve regularly encountered people mistaking two resorts they have *heard* of. First of all, the resorts change their names regularly with rebranding, relaunching and refurb. That is why I added the “Alias” page to the website which has the “Previously Known As” as well as the “Island Name” (which is itself the ultimate “Previously Known As”, as in before the resort was on it). Another development leading to confusion is the growing tendency of corporate Marcom tools to lead strongly with the corporate brand. So the hotelier group name is featured most prominently. As a result, people ask about going to “Anantara” or “Cinnamon” and I have to clarify “which one?”

Here’s the Maldives Complete list of diphthongic doppelgangers to help you keep them straight…

      • Kandooma, Kandima
      • Amari and Amaya
      • Baros and Bandos
      • Hulhule and Hulhumale (UI Inn)
      • Kooddoo and Kudadoo
      • Maafushi and Maayafushi
      • Raalhuveli and Ranveli
      • Finolhu, Finolhu Villas
      • Coco’s (eg. Coco Bodu Hithi) and Cocoa Island
      • Reethi Beach and Reethi Rah (with Reethi Faru coming soon, don’t just say “Reethi”)
      • Vakkaru and Vaakarufalhi
      • Maafushi and Maafushivaru
      • Velaa, Velavaru and Velassaru
      • Amilla Fushi on Finolhas island vs. Finolhu resort
      • Six Senses Laamu on Olhuveli island vs. Olhuveli resort