Best of the Maldives: Literary Event – Soneva Gili

Wye River
(The Wye River in Gloucestershire…like the Maldives an idyllic spot for some outdoor water activity as well as a literary festival)

Also winner of the small world connection is Soneva Gili’s sponsorship of the ‘Hay Festival Maldives’. The Hay Festival started as a small literary event in the English idyllic village of Hay-on-Wye. The ‘on-Wye’ bit of course being the Wye River which happens to be our family’s annual canoeing destination courtesy of friend, former colleague and master canoeist Gareth Hall. I was at first surprised to read a connection between this rather esoteric and remote Gloucestershire event and the Maldivian top flight resort, but I guess the Hay Festival has grown into a truly international phenomenon with satellite events around the world…

“Soneva Gili is delighted to announce its sponsorship of the inaugural Maldivian offshoot of the internationally renowned Hay-on-Wye literary festival which is taking place in the Maldives from the 14th to 17th October 2010. The Hay Festival Maldives will celebrate 2,000 years of Maldivian island culture and provide a platform for focusing international attention on the challenges faced by the archipelago due to climate change, bringing together international and local artists from the fields of literature, art, science, music, poetry and comedy.”

Best of the Maldives: Closest Neighbours – Dhigu / Veli / Naladhu

Naladhu Dhigu Veli

While Olhuveli and Fun Island might be a football pitch apart, if you want a little neighbourhood of tiny companion islands, then the Anantara resorts – Dhigu, Veli – and Naladhu. Each resort is just under 300 yards apart. So if you are apprehensive about being too remote and isolated, then maybe this little cluster in the Lakshadweep Sea is for you.

Best of the Maldives: Closest Neighbour – Olhuveli / Fun Island

Olhuveli - Fun Island

 

The person who first introduced me to the Maldives is former colleague in Microsoft, Andy Lees. I still remember him recounting how he simply waded over to a neighbouring island on one of his visits. In one of my first blogs, I set out to find the closest island to wade to and highlighted Rihiveli Beach. But the shallow lagoon doesn’t make it the closest companion island. That honour goes to the Olhuveli and Fun Island resorts that are just over 100 yards apart (though separated by deeper water than Rihiveli’s wade which is about 400 yards away).

Best of the Maldives: Yachting – The Rania Experience

The Rania Experience yacht

A number of the most upscale resorts offer some nice boats for day excursions or more. When we stayed at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island several years ago, we had a delightful sunrise cruise on the wooden ship Goma that they kept there. Several have dhonis including obviously Dhoni Island where water villas are inspired by dhonis.

But if you are keen on your very own flash motor yacht, then The Rania Experience is the place for you. It’s very tag line is “One island, one yacht, one million possibilities.”

The web site describes…

“The RANIA yacht, a majesty 86-foot Gulf Craft luxury speed cruiser is at the guest’s disposal daily for 3 hours and any additional hour rental is at a minimal rental fee of US$ 2,000 per hour.”

Methinks that Rania also might just score the ‘Best Of’ superlative of the Maldives’ ‘Most Expensive Excursion.’

Best of the Maldives: Dive Site – Alimatha

Fotteyo Chart          Fotteyo 1

Maldives is one of the world’s leading diving destinations right up there with the Red Sea, Great Barrier Reef, Caymans, and Belize. But which is the top resort for diving among this top destination. Certainly a subject for much debate and hair-splitting. Picking out out a premier site over the 90,000 square kilometres of atolls would be a bit of a tall order.

TripAdvisor Forums have also discussed this topic and offer a range of other nominations with a particular fondness for the South Ari atoll. But the most prominent consensus pick appears to be ‘Fotteyo Kandu’ in the Felidhoo Atoll. Tim Godfrey’s book on the Maldives, ‘Dive Maldives’, describes in his full page review of the site (page 115) which includes the pictures featured here…

“An excellent dive regarded by many divers as the best site in the Maldives. It is a photographers’ paradise and a mecca for marine biologists. This is a dive with many possibilities.”

The dive travel site appropriately named ‘Maldives Dive Travel’ also anoints it #1in its own top 5 list with this compelling description…

“Many scuba divers consider Fotteyo Kandu to be the best Maldives dive site and it is also rated among the top 5 dive sites in the world. The mouth of the channel is exposed to the ocean and during north east monsoon when the currents are incoming, a good variety of fish species gather at the entrance to the channel.  Animals commonly spotted at Fotteyo Kandu include Gray Reef Shark patrolling the channel mouth, Jack and Tuna in the deeper water, schools of Midnight Snappers and Red Snapper form in huge groups. The wall features caves, overhangs and swim-thoughs at different depths. These caves and overhangs are filled with colourful yellow color like soft coral, deeper caves and overhangs are filled with huge bushes of black corals. The Thila in the middle of the channel entrance is the best place to do the safety stop.  A surface balloon is a must at Fotteyo Kandu.”

Two resorts are in the Felidhoo atoll for those seeking out Fotteyo, Dhiggiri and Alimatha, but Alimatha gets the nod because it about 4 kilometres closer to the site.

 

 

Fotteyo 2      Fotteyo 3

Best of Maldives: Most Remote – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangri-La by Sakis

(photo reprinted with permission)

Today’s superlative comes to us again courtesy of Maldives photographer extraordinaire Sakis Papadopoulos whose Dreaming of Maldives site shares tidbits often as colourful as his snaps. Last week, I caught this superlative on his Twitter feed wishing a ‘Happy Birthday’ to Shangri-La Villingili which happens to be shared with Maldives itself (26th July).

He also noted Shangri-La Villingili’s distinction as the ‘Furthermost Resort of the Maldives’. Actually, if you used the Maldives Compete Resort Finder, you too could have uncovered this as it would stand out with a list topping 550 kilometres from Male.

Best of the Maldives: Room Variety – Kurumba

Kurumba room types

Most resorts have a handful of choices for types of rooms. Most typically, they will have a couple versions of a beach bungalow (standard and deluxe) and increasingly a majority of resorts have a water bungalow option (61 of the 121 resorts in the Maldives Complete database). Sometimes they will add a special ‘suite’ which will be a specially designed, king-sized accommodation for VIPs and thick-walleted customers.

But if you like your room choices the way you like your doubleshot-decaf-dry-skinny-mocha-latte, the Kurumba is the rate card for you. They have 8 different room categories…

  1. Royal Kurumba Residence
  2. Presidential Suite
  3. Pool Villa
  4. Garden Villa
  5. Private Villa
  6. Deluxe Bungalow
  7. Deluxe Room
  8. Superior Room

And these are just land-based lodging variations as Kurumba does even not offer water bungalows.

Kuramathi list 9 on its rate card, but 4 of these are just one type with a Jacuzzi added, and not completely really a different styles.

Best of the Maldives: Company – Sun Island

Sun Island lounge

Maldives Complete has highlighted the most ‘exclusive’ island with the fewest guests accommodated, but what it you are a social animal who craves the teeming company of hordes at the other end of the spectrum. Then Sun Island is the place for you with its 350 rooms. That said, you don’t get the sensation of ‘crowding’ per se because the island is so big at 600k square/metres (11th largest of the Maldive resorts). The size put Sun Island in the lowest quartile of ‘Population Density’ with one guest per 2779 square metres. That fact was underscored when I looked through nearly a thousand visitor snaps of Sun looking for one which showed lots of people and struggled to find one.  Another advantage is that it is a good resort to target for last minute availability and deals since with so many rooms there is a greater chance that there is unsold inventory.

Best of Maldives: Online Authority – Visit Maldives

Visit Maldives


If you type ‘maldives’ into a search engine, then the prized first top selection that will appear is the
www.visitmaldives.com. Visit Maldives (‘The Sunny Side of Life’) is the official site of the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board. It is very comprehensive covering aspects of the country, activities, transport, etc. And now it is even slicker, crisper and more complete with this past week’s long anticipated revamp of the site. It has a few minor glitches which are likely teething pains to be worked out in short order.

MTPB have added some filtering to their resort listing allowing people to narrow their search by budget, distance from airport and number of room. The resort listing is more detailed than it used to be with more pictures and vital stats.

Definitely one of the first online ports of call for anyone investigating a Maldives visit.

Best of the Maldives: Kids Club – Sheraton Full Moon

Sheraton Full Moon Adventure Club

Speaking of the kiddies, many resorts now feature ‘kids clubs’ with a range of activities and child minding to tend to the specific interests of the younger set for families who want to come to this paradise all together, but have slightly different sentiments as to what makes a great vacation day.

Full Moon resort has recently completely a major renovation under the new auspices of its Sheraton owner which includes a big investment on an ‘Adventure Club’ for children. Anyone who was familiar with the old resort and especially anyone with children should check out the new refurb…

“The launch of the Sheraton Adventure Club further proves that Sheraton Maldives is the ideal location for families. Parents can enroll children, ages 4-12, free of charge. There, the children have a fun-filled day of activities including beach games, scavenger hunts, coconut bowling and more! The Sheraton Adventure Club also teaches the children about the local Maldivian culture through traditional music & dance or mini lessons on Dhivehi, the Maldivian language. Children can also entertain themselves by climbing the jungle gym, discovering the hidden cave, or playing sports games on the Nintendo Wii. There are various schedules from 09.00 – 17.00 daily, so parents can rest assured that their children are in the caring hands of the fully trained staff.”