Best of the Maldives: House Reef – Kandolhu

 Kandoludhoo House ReefKandolhu House Reef

One of the very first and most common questions to ask of any ‘Maldives Best Of’ selection is what is the ‘Best House Reef’.

Maldives is easily one of the world’s top dive areas up there with the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean. But it really stands out for snorkelling. It’s topology of eroded atolls (check out Atoll Terms and Atoll Formation) provide endless shallow and protected areas for leisurely snorkelling as well as steeper reef walls for a different perspective.

The subject was raised on the premier travel review site, TripAdvisorWhich are the Top 10 Best Resort Reefs?” – and the expert opinion for the top one is Kandoludhoo. The assessment comes from one of TripAdvisor’s top Maldive forum experts, ‘spammie’ with 1,946 posts on the Maldives to his credit. He writes…

  • “Kandoludhoo has been not been harmed in the ’98 el nino due to lucky currents. So while the other reefs have had to recover from severe coral bleaching, Kandoludhoo looks just like the Maldives used to. To my knowledge its the only actually intact reef in the Maldives. It’s generally considered the number 1 reef because of that. It’s full of huge table corals and just impressive. Also easily accessible. However, several of the other reefs are recovering nicely and are quickly catching up again.”

Maldives Complete Reviews

Maldives Complete reviews

If you wondering whether to lend some support to Maldives Complete through its recently launched Patreon site, have a look at what some of its fans have said to date.

Many websites of creative works feature “Review” sections to provide testimonials and endorsements. I figured this post could serve that purpose.


  • There is a blog around Maldives.. and for me it is THE blog that I MUST follow and regularly check…No doubt about!!…When I look for something that I need to know about a specific resort but don’t find it around.. and even not in its own webpage.. the answer or at least a clue to get the answer is always here.” – Paola Mattana Lamperti
  • “Maldives Complete is arguably the best reference site for the Maldives. Bruce is a Maldives enthusiast and completes this with no commercial interests. He prides himself on integrity and recognises the positives and differences in all Maldives resorts and that not one resort is right for all guests. I highly recommend Maldives Complete.” – Jason Kruse General Manager Amilla
  • The Maldives Complete site is one of the best ‘go to’ places for information about the Maldives.” – Katherine Anthony, Marketing Manager, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa, former TripAdvisor Maldives Destination Expert
  • You have picked up on some amazing parts or USP’s there and this will help me immensely in the sales process as we also talk lots about hidden ‘rabbit holes’ and the small amazing nuances that we offer against the competition.” – Scott Le Roi, Director of Sales & Marketing, Reethi Rah.
  • One of the best bloggers of the Maldives.” – Dolores Semeraro, Marketing Director, LUX Maldives
  • “I highly recommend that anyone who is planning a trip to the Maldives use the Maldives Complete search before booking a hotel.” – Chic Family Travels
  • “If you are wondering how I researched the 3 criteria for choosing the best luxury hotel in the Maldives, it was rather simple. I found a Maldives blog that has a search feature that allows you to plug in your criteria to find the your best match! I highly recommend that anyone who is planning a trip to the Maldives use the Maldives Complete search before booking a hotel”.—Chic Family Traveller
  • “It is wonderful that you put together a truly complete basis for comparison between Maldivian resorts. THANK YOU!” – Francisco Negrin, Barcelona
  • Lovely to read all the ‘Best of the Maldives’ posts on you page…quite interesting….keep posting…” – Aminath Huda, former Europe rep for MTPB
  • “Maldives specialist, out of the box thinker and prolific writer on the non-mundane and oft missed subjects about Maldivian resorts.” – Amit Majumbder, Manager, Jumeirah Vittaveli
  • “Your articles are fantastic. Really helpful , nicely done.” – Ahmed “Jay” Jihad, Head of Operations, Huvafenfushi
  • “Dolores and Dominik mentioned you and what you have done. Extraordinary.” – Shaun Dünhofen, General Manager, LUX* Maldives
  • “Your blog is fascinating. You are truly an expert on the Maldives…Your site is a great resource.” – Steve Dobson, Unusual Hotels of the World
  • “If you want to know what’s the “best” in Maldives – the ‘Best of…’ every imaginable topic, read this blog by Maldives Complete, you won’t feel bored!” – Oceanholic Maldives


  • “Absolutely amazing work you have here! Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and time. You’re definitely a top Maldives expert and I hope the country appreciates all you’re doing for that bit of Paradise. I’ve spent a few hours going thru your site, including blog posts, comments sections and the filter page. It’s great and miles ahead of anything we can find elsewhere. We’ve used your filter and I appreciate your database has most of the information needed to short list a few…Your help and dedication is second to none. Maldives is really complex for newbies, considering all the variables! I’m valuing your work more and more each minute I spend researching.”
  • “I was struggling through the choices of resorts once we decided to go to Maldives, then I stumble across your website. I wouldn’t even attempt to guess the amount of time and energy gone into develop the database and make it available for the benefit of all. This is absolutely amazing! Thank you for your time and passion.” – Deb Pandit
  • “Thanks for this great site” – Eby
  • “First, thank you for the comprehensive Maldives analysis on your site, it has been very helpful!” – Daniel
  • “Thanks for this great blog.” – Shubhod
  • “First, thank you for putting together such a website. The information available is second to none.” – Warren
  • “Bruce, thank you very much for this very useful & informative blog.” – Brenda
  • “I love your website!!” – Dee
  • “Thanks so much for all of your helpful information.” – Lu
  • “Your blog is so informative & helpful.” – Jimmy Adam
  • “Thanks for an excellent site! Really informative.” – Sonja
  • “Thank you so much for all the information!” – Corina Garcia
  • “Bruce: We love and deeply appreciate the helpfulness website u put together.” – Wayne Lin
  • “We just happened upon your blog and have learned so much already!” – Betty
  • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I found your blog on Tripadvisor and I am reading everything, it’s amazing!” – Valeria
  • “First of all thanks a lot for the blog and sharing your knowledge and insight here,this is indeed helpful.” – Saumit Deshmukh
  • “First I would like to thank you for providing such informative website on Maldives.” – Anita
  • “Hi Bruce, I wish I had come across your site sooner.” – Faheem Khan
  • “Your info is amazing. I have been researching the Maldives for weeks now and this helps so much.” – Kyle
  • “Your info is absolutely amazing and vast.” – Mohit
  • “Really loving this blog and all the help you give everyone on the Tripadvisor forums.” – Suhani
  • “Came across your website and its super helpful, thanks so much for sharing your experiences.” – Imran
  • “Many thanks for running this site, such a brilliant resource.” – David
  • “Thanks for this great website!” – Naz
  • “Absolutely love your blog! – Anu Godara
  • “Loved your website and thank you for something so comprehensive!” – Janvi
  • “Hi, thanks for the guide! What a great website with so much of info!” – Rohit
  • “Hey Bruce, just wanted to start with saying really appreciate the website, it’s definitely the most helpful Maldives resource I’ve found!” – Helen Woodhouse
  • “Love the website and the obvious effort you have put into it.” – Andrew Carter
  • “Came across your fantastic web site as we are looking for a resort with great house reef.” – Mattias“We are now on our 17th trip to Maldives.We have been waiting for 10 years for this website…Spot on.” Jeb Payce, UK
  • “Your website has truly been my bible, gold standard reference … since I started my research on looking for my perfect resort.” – Archie Mok, USA
  • “LOVE your blog. It’s definitely the best.” – Susie
  • “I’ve been making extensive use of your website which has been an amazing help, thanks for your efforts there. It really is one of a kind.” – JCHBScouser.


Maldives Tour 2014 – Day 9: Dusit Thani

Dusit Thani tour

It’s all about the experience at Dusit Thani.

All of the Maldives has great snorkeling. Probably the best in the world. But how do you turn that into an exceptional experience? First, you start with a great house reef (one of the best in the Baa atoll). Second, you add exceptional excursions. In the Baa atoll, this is going to Hanafaru Bay where you can snorkel with manta rays. In fact, just before our arrival the Dusit Thani folks had been on an excursion where there were dozens all over the place. And you don’t stop there, but you also add a truly inspired snorkeling programme orchestrated by your top flight dive centre (stay tuned for details in upcoming Best of the Maldives).

All of the Maldives resorts have fine food. With fresh reef fish in the surrounding sea and a range of tropical fruits in plentiful supply, add savory traditional curry recipes and it’s not difficult to put together a delectable meal. Add toes wiggling in warm sand, a canopy of bright stars overhead, and a serenade of gently lapping water on the shore and any meal becomes a stunning experience. But wheel in a talented chef and then a whole host of gustatory delights take the meals to another level.

Eating at Dusit’s “Sea Grill”, my expectations were modest. I was expecting the conventional array of basic meats and fish lovingly flame cooked. Instead, I found an extensive menu of taste treats that would impress hard core foodies in London’s West End never mind on some remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

One of my acid tests for great cuisine is the soup (I’ve written a number of times about two of my favourites – bisque and gazpacho). These are the dishes where diverse flavours can be melded into a unique taste sensation. My first challenge at Dusit was choosing. Instead of a normal “soupe du jour”, I faced a several enticing options. So I did the obvious thing being a soup fan…I ordered them all. I’m not sure I have enough data and samples to go on to award Dusit a “Best of the Maldives” for soup, but it certainly was the most appetizing that I had ever enjoyed in the Maldives.

Soups and snorkeling are just two examples of Dusit Thani’s meticulous efforts to provide guests with an experience as distinctive as the paradise they are visiting. I came away from my memorable stay with 14 candidates for Best of Maldives



Even More What I Haven’t Seen


And now the third annual “What I Haven’t Seen’. Despite more resorts in the Maldives and more resorts I’ve seen and researched, the list of crazy things one could do in the Maldives (if some venturing soul decided to offer them) just keeps growing. Here is the latest line-up of bizarre possibilities…


Lobster Ice Cream – As I recently noted, Lobster is the luxury seaside dish which is why you find it prominently in nearly every resort as the special treat meal. And since ice cream is the universal hot weather treat, you have to wonder when lobster ice cream is going to come out of one of the creative resort kitchens.

Lobster ice cream

Lobster mac & cheese – Quite the trendy dish in posh USA restaurants combing the quintessential luxury ingredient into the classically budget recipe.  Mehan’s Kitchen recipe (below) adds the bonus posh ingredient of truffles.

Lobster macaroni and cheese


Water Bikes – I’m thinking that Jason at Kurumba will have his eye on this one.  Waiting for the “Tour de Kurumba” peloton.

Water bike

Grass tennis court – On the heels of Wimbledon, the obvious question is where is the ‘grass court’. The ultimate in tennis sophistication. It turns our that One & Only Reethi Rah had one but it was replaced which is not surprising since they are very high maintenance.

Grass tennis court

Ballroom Dancing – With the television rise of the “Strictly Come Dancing” franchise, Ballroom and Latin dancing has made a come back in mainstream popularity around the world, but especially in UK, Germany, Italy, Russia, Australia and China. And we happen to know that one of the top World Ten Dance couples in the world, Richard Still and Morgan Hemphill have been keen to see the Maldives in their world travels. They give dazzling shows, but are also superlative teachers who can get groups of people doing basic steps very quickly.  If I were a resort owner, I would invite them down for a week.

Richard Still and Morgan Hemphill

Archery – Hulhule used to offer this activity, but no longer.

Beach archery

Water rope swing – Where in the northern hemisphere the best bodies of water we could hope for would be a swimming hole tucked away in the woods, they were invariably dressed up a bit with the ubiquitous rope swing.

Rope Swing


Breathing Observation Bubble – Aka “BOB”. Seriously, where are these?

Breathing Observation Bubble

Underwater sculpture garden. I read this story “Trying to Protect a Reef With an Otherworldly Diversion” and thought that this would be an excellent idea for those resorts not amply blessed with great house reefs, but situated in broad sandy lagoons. Four Seasons already sort of does this with Reefscaping topiary that creates a sort of visual interest. As it happens, when we were diving the Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo house reef last week, one of the sights was a sunken mermaid statue which was a fun discovery. After years of coral growing on it, it had developed an aquatic patina like you had stumbled upon some mysterious antiquated relic.

Underwater sculpture garden

Underwater snorkel signs – I read this article “Exploring Nature” writting about the Maldives by Clear Water Surf Travel that mentioned “submerged signage” on the house reef. After some investigation with Shangri-La Villingili, it turns out that they were no longer there. But I thought that it would be a delightful idea. Probably not for an entire house reef, but perhaps a section of house reef. Maybe a weak section of house reef that would otherwise be underwhelming, but adding a few signs identifying coral types could liven it up with a bit of education. Increasingly resorts are adding such helpful guides to the above-water nature.

Underwater snorkel signs


Gondolas – Prior to last week, this seemed like a natural. Gondolas are iconic of relaxing, exotic romance just made for calm water. Maldives is sort of a tropical Venice anyway with a profusion of Italian resorts. It turns out that Nika even has a Venezia theme including palazzos in the lagoon (used as channel markers) so I’m looking at Nika for this idea.


EZ Hang Chairs – I see more type of lounge chairs and hammocks in the Maldives than I’ve ever seen elsewhere. Befitting of the indolent lounging ethos of the destination. A resort looking for even more variety of options would be well served to check out the EZ-Hang Chairs line.

EZ Hang Chairs

Ice Cave – Cooling down, especially after intense heat of a sauna or steam, is a great cardio workout. One & Only Reethi Rah has ice fountain, but our favourite local spa Pennyhill Park has taken this concept further with an ice wall that you lay your body against. Brrrr…refreshing!

Pennyhill Park ice wall

Facekinis – We learned more about the line “-kinis” in this world this trip. Reading the resort guidelines at Nika, we saw topless sunbathing referred to as sporting a “monokini”. Kurumba sells its own line of “Burkinis” aka “Burqini (post to follow). So, especially with the rise of Chinese guests, where are the “Facekinis”, ie. a “ski mask designed for swimmers and beachgoers which covers the head and reveals only the eyes, nose, and mouth. This mask is popular in the Chinese city of Qingdao, where it is used by people for protecting themselves from UV rays while tanning and from jellyfish while at the beach.


Maldives Tour 2013 – Day 9: Baros

Baros tour

Pepperoni Pizza, Hot Fudge Sundae, Dry Martini. Just a few examples that of simple concoctions for classic cravings. Get choice ingredients and blend them just right and you have an irresistible temptation. Sort of like Baros – gorgeous house reef, classy décor, lush island. Stir gently with a tropical breeze. Savour.

One ingredient deliberately avoided by Baros is distraction of children. Under 8s are not allowed and there are no family rooms so few teenagers tend to come.

Baros has had more years than most to work on its special recipe. It was the 3rd resort in the Maldives (after Kurumba and Bandos) and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Quiet elegance. It doesn’t splash around a lot with flashy features. A great over water restaurant, a great house reef (probably the best hard coral we have seen since Mirihi) and attention to details of quality and privacy. A real lovers’ haven.


Maldives Tour 2013 – Day 7: Gangehi

Gangehi tour

Two things I personally love about the Maldives – tiny islands and great snorkelling. Gangehi comes up top trumps in both categories.

Despite Gangehi’s tiny size, you won’t feel claustrophobic. Not only are the rooms extra spacious with very high ceilings, the water facing doors slide open up 7 feet wide bringing the inside out and outside in. Even the beds themselves are a commodious 7 foot wide.

The décor is a distinctive Rocky Mountain cabin chic with stained wood and slate throughout in spacious (especially for a 4 star property) chalet villas. Sort of Komandoo villas amped up a bit. The villas were designed by a Swiss architect brought in by the original Swiss owner who copied the homes of ancient Maldivian nobles.

Some Maldive purists might be put off by the wooden walkways throughout, ie. no interior sand paths, but they do lend a distinctive Japanese garden feel especially with the well tended foliage.

Like Bathala, another gem previously hidden away in the German and Italian markets, Gangehi is now increasingly available in the UK and beyond. Kuoni is offering it in the UK, and they also offer direct booking on their website. Kuoni has an offer for £1,725 for a week of full board which is very competitive to the 5 star properties that Gangehi rivals in many respects.

I came away with 10 “Best of the Maldives” candidates and a great option for another diminutive island with a great house reef and stylish accommodation.

How to Pick the Perfect Maldives Resort

Dreamy resort

A sunny Bank Holiday Weekend was an inspiration to invest a bit of time on Maldives Complete and revamp the Best of Maldives section a bit. With now over 300 distinctions, I’ve had to add yet another tabbed page (‘Service’) to hold them all. I split out sub-categories in a few areas like adding a ‘Sweets’ section for ‘Food’ and splitting ‘Drinks’ into ‘Soft’ and ‘Bar’. I added a new section called ‘Workplace’ distinctions since good management and workplace innovation are pet professional subjects of mine.

With more resorts with more distinctions than ever, it has never been harder to wade through the riches of choice to find the resort for your often once in a lifetime trip. The Sunday Times featured a piece a short while back on ‘How to Pick the Perfect Resort’, but it focused on skiing). I often get emails and other contacts from Maldives Complete fans looking for advice on choosing the best resort for them (there is no ‘best resort’, there is only ‘the best resort for you’). I thought I would document the steps I often go through to help them winnow down the selection…

  1. What’s your budget? – Don’t ever say ‘Money is no object’ in the Maldives unless you are a billionaire.  This is the single most important question to ask to start with and will narrow your search significantly (resorts vary in cost from £1,000 per week to over £10,000).
  2. Large or small island? – Some people prefer the intimacy of a place barely larger than a plot of sand and palm tree. Others prefer more to explore and more infrastructure to support a broader range of options and activities (islands range in size from 5,000 square metres to to over 2 million)
  3. How important is off-beach snorkelling? – This is also known as the “House Reef” question. You can snorkel on any Maldives island. But real snorkelling afficionadoes eschew the limited fish and coral life of the sandy lagoons for the thrill of the ‘main event’…house reefs that plummet from the shallows into deep open water where large schools of fish and forests of variegated coral fill the wall between land and ocean. The most active and enthusiastic snorkelers will often insist on a great house reef. Those who just want to try a bit of great snorkelling are happy with going on a few snorkel safari excursions.
  4. Seaplane ride? – The resorts split roughly down the middle between (a) those that are a speed boat ride away from the main Male airport, or (b) those that require a seaplane transfer to a more remote atoll (81 out of 132 resorts are a seaplane ride away). The advantages of the the seaplane ride is that it opens up more resort options, but more importantly the trip can be an exhilarating experience in its own right. The birdseye view of the mottled blue tapestry of island, reef and ocean is almost like visiting another planet. The disadvantages of the seaplane include…
    • Extra cost – Typically about $500 round trip.
    • Extra time and logistics for the transfer – Especially on the return leg where the resorts need to book lots of extra time into your transfer to make sure no weather delays have you miss your plane.
    • Noise – You can’t even talk to your seat mate the small turbo props are so loud in the cabin (ear plugs are standard issue on all flights to reduce the irritation).
    • Fear of flying – You pretty much had to get on a plane to arrive in the Maldives in the first place (unless you are on a cruise stop), but nervous flyers who can just about handle jet planes can find smaller planes a bit to unsettling.
  5. Children? – Some resorts actively cater for children. Other resorts (or sections of them like their water villas) actively discourage them (or a few even prohibit them).
  6. All Inclusive? – Some people prefer ‘all inclusive’ plans so they know what total costs they are on the hook for and don’t have to keep track of the extra charges that they are racking up. (38 out of 132 resorts offer all inclusive).
  7. Pool? – While the resorts are ostensibly surrounded by the world’s biggest swimming pool, an actual pool is often appealing to some for lounging, refreshing, exercising or playing. We often found that the children could only take so much irritation from the salt and sand of the beach and preferred spending a chunk of time at a more sanitised pool environment (86 out of 132 resorts have pools).  [ADDENDUM October 2020] In my first post, this comment referred to a common area resort pool, but a decade later, pretty much every resort has a main pool so this is no longer a distinguishing feature.  What is a distinguishing feature is whether you want your OWN private pool at your villa.  This villa feature has skyrocketed in popularity to the point that fully half of all room categories now include a private pool.
  8. Any favourite activities? – The old myth (and mystique) about the Maldives is that there is nothing to do.  Now with over 120 resorts, there is something for everyone and virtually every activity and pastime are catered for.  If you have a particular interest or hobby like kite surfing, painting or cigar smoking, finding the resorts that offer these will get you right to a short list of places that will offer these special treats for you.

The answers to the first 6 questions typically will get you down to a manageable shortlist through the Maldives Complete Resort Finder. From there people use question 7 as a tie breaker or just surf the Maldives Complete Profile section to see which property most captures their fancy.

ChatGPT vs. TripAdvisor

ChatGPT Maldives

When I first started Maldives Complete (2009), many resorts barely had websites. When I mentioned that mine had a “blog”, most people asked “what’s that?” TripAdvisor was still in its nascent stages with the beginnings of crowd-sourced content with reviews and chat forums. Many people came to Maldives Complete because there simply weren’t many alternatives. The majority of destination research was done through paper travel brochures provided by operators and agents (which was a big source of material at the outset of the website).

As the web presence grew (as well as the number of resorts), the website was visited more for its comprehensiveness of practical information as well as ease of use in an increasingly cluttered digital landscape. The most recent stage of online evolution has been social media which has flooded the web with both casual crowd sourced material as well as more “professional” content that has shifted the online dynamics again (especially in crowding out Maldives Complete discoverability into the cut-throat search space with big budget SEO muscling to the top – fortunately, operators and agents remain long-standing, active and enthusiastic supporters of the site).

We are now standing at the dawn on the next major transformation in how online users get information from the web – AI. You’d be hard pressed to have missed the stories written (hopefully by humans) on the heels of the landmark release of ChatGPT. Perhaps Sam Harris’ podcast this week with Paul Bloom described the current developments best saying, “In one of our conversations a couple of years ago, if you’d asked when will we have a system capable of having a perfectly normal conversation saying intelligent things, I’d say, ‘I don’t know…20 years? 50 years? Maybe never.’ And yet here we are.”

I have been playing around with OpenAI and ChatGPT for a few weeks now, and I must say that I am truly gobsmacked by what it can do. It is not perfect, but that doesn’t matter. The same is true in the early days of any technology. It’s the “dancing bear” metaphor…it’s not that the bear dances like the Bolshoi, it’s just amazing that the bear dances at all.

Amidst all of the experimentation and commentary about ChatGPT, the consensus is that the dancing bear’s most nimble party piece is answering complex but fairly specific questions with information drawn from the Internet. So, I thought I would pit the engine against my Mastermind specialty subject – Maldives resort recommendations.

The three most common types of questions asked about Maldives resorts are the following:

  • RESORT RECOMMENDATIONS – “Here are my requirements, what do you recommend?”
  • RESORT CHOICES – “Which resort would you choose between these options?”
  • GENERAL QUESTIONS – “How is the weather in September?”

I went to TripAdvisor Forum to get several IRL examples of such queries and see how ChatGPT performed. The results are below. And those results echo what most commentators are saying about the AI – B+ results. They aren’t prefect but, (a) they are darn good, and (b) they seem human-like (nb. Turing Test). In my decade plus of contributing to the TripAdvisor Forum about the Maldives, I would place these responses as certainly par for the vast majority of human contributions and better than many of them. This technology is inflecting so watch this space!

  • RESORT RECOMMENDATIONS We are heading to the Maledives late July with our two kids. We are looking (preferably) for a resort on a private island with kids club, pool and good house reef with snorkeling trips to see Mantas and/or Whalesharks. Is this realistic with a budget of approximately 500 USD including at least half board or should we look for cheaper accomodation on an inhabitate island?
  • A budget of approximately 500 USD per night for a family of four on a private island resort in the Maldives with half board included may be a bit limiting. However, it’s not impossible to find some options that fit your criteria. Private island resorts tend to be more expensive than those on inhabited islands, but they offer a more luxurious and secluded experience. If you’re set on staying on a private island, you may have to compromise on some amenities or activities to stay within your budget. To find a resort that fits your criteria, you can search online travel websites like Expedia,, or TripAdvisor, and use their filters to narrow down your options. Look for resorts that have a kids club, a pool, and a good house reef. You can also check the resort’s website or contact them directly to ask about their snorkeling trips to see Mantas and/or Whalesharks. If you’re open to staying on an inhabited island, you may be able to find cheaper accommodation options that still offer great snorkeling opportunities. Inhabited islands are more affordable because they offer a more local experience and don’t have the same level of luxury amenities as private island resorts. However, they can still offer good snorkeling opportunities and a chance to experience local culture. Ultimately, whether you choose to stay on a private island or an inhabited island will depend on your preferences and budget. Keep in mind that the Maldives is a beautiful destination with many options for families, and with a little research, you can find a resort that meets your needs and budget.
  • RESORT CHOICES – We are planning a trip in early August. I have narrowed our resort to Anatara and Amila based on my previous question looking for luxury and good snorkeling from the beach. I would really appreciate feedback from people that have been to both. One of my concerns is the extra expense for drinks at AK. Amilla has a package that includes drinks for $170 pp per night. I have read that drinks run around $30++ which could add up quickly. I like the rooms much better at AK.
    As an AI language model, I don’t have personal experience of visiting these resorts, but I can offer some general guidance based on my knowledge of the hospitality industry and online reviews. Both Anatara Kihavah and Amilla Fushi are highly rated luxury resorts in the Maldives, and each has its own unique selling points. Anatara Kihavah is known for its stunning villas and underwater restaurant, while Amilla Fushi has a more laid-back atmosphere and a wider range of activities for families and couples. In terms of snorkeling from the beach, both resorts are located in areas with good coral reefs and marine life. Anatara Kihavah has a coral reef surrounding the island that can be accessed from the beach, while Amilla Fushi has a house reef that can be explored by snorkeling or diving. Some reviewers have noted that the reef at Amilla Fushi is closer to the shore, making it easier to access. Regarding the expense of drinks, it’s worth considering the package offered by Amilla Fushi, which includes drinks for a fixed price per person per night. This can be a good option if you plan to consume a lot of drinks during your stay, as the cost can add up quickly at luxury resorts. However, if you don’t plan to drink much alcohol, or if you prefer to order drinks a la carte, then the extra expense of drinks at Anatara Kihavah may not be a significant concern. Ultimately, the choice between these two resorts may come down to personal preferences and priorities. It’s a good idea to read online reviews from other travelers, compare the rates and packages offered by each resort, and consider any specific needs or preferences you have for your trip.

  • GENERAL QUESTIONS – Is 10 1/2 months before to early to book? Last year I left it and prices went up and up and I was only saved by booking direct (I think they made a mistake with the price). OH wants the same hotel, flights and dates so can’t look for offers. I have a price about 16% up on pre pandemic price which is a price match by a ABTA / ATOL agent. I want to book tomorrow for 3/3/24. I worried for months last year as the price rocketed. Is this a bad idea?????????????
    Booking 10 1/2 months in advance is not too early, especially if you have a specific hotel, flight, and date in mind. In fact, booking early can sometimes result in better prices and more availability. It’s understandable to be concerned about prices going up, as this can happen in the travel industry, especially during peak seasons. If you have found a price that is 16% higher than the pre-pandemic price and it is a price match from an ABTA / ATOL agent, that could be a good deal. However, it’s always a good idea to do your own research and compare prices from different sources to ensure you are getting the best deal possible. Ultimately, the decision to book now or wait is up to you. If you are worried about prices going up, booking now could give you peace of mind and ensure that you secure your desired hotel, flights, and dates. However, if you are willing to take the risk and wait, you may be able to find a better deal in the future.


Best of the Maldives: Scuba Girls Ambassador – Nova

Nova - scube girls ambassador

International Women’s Day today is an occasion to celebrate women doing great things and the great things that women do.  Nova resort is marking the occasion by hosting “Girls That Scuba” Ambassador Hamna Ali:

  • The bright new star resort Nova in the Maldives is celebrating International Women’s Day and marking 8th March 2023 in style. The soulful island has crafted an array of special activities for women to recognise and honour their incredible achievements and immense contribution to the world.  A special event awaits all guests as they will be able to join a snorkelling journey with Hamna Ali. Maldivian lady, a free scuba diver and ambassador of Girls that Scuba, the world’s largest female dive community, will lead all Nova guests to explore the wonders of the Indian Ocean and to snorkel into a world of breathtaking marine life.”

I caught up with Hamna in an exclusive Maldives Complete interview.  She was especially positive about the website’s profiles on Maldivians doing intriguing work in their paradise of a country.  She remarked, “In my experience, a lot of people don’t know the local side of the Maldives…such article It bring life into the other side of Maldives.”  I checked out her website and I recognized her tiger shark photo (see directly below) which has gone a bit viral on Instagram.

Here is her contribution to a fascinating peek of that other side…

  • What atoll are you from?
    Fuvahmulah.  It is unique in the Maldives for being the “One Island Atoll.”
  • What are your earliest memories of being in the water?
    I’m someone who got in the water fairly late in life.  We don’t have lagoons in Fuvahmulah where it is easy to go and learn to swim safety.  We have open water and so parents ask us to not go in the water.  However, near our house, during low tide, there is this huge patch of sea grass.  It would be covered with shells.  I remember being so fascinating. 
  • When did you get introduced to scuba diving?
    I wanted to learn how to swim and snorkel, but when I was about 12, one of my friends passed away swimming.  After that I stayed away from the water into my teens.  I was about to finish school and I started seeing friends going surfing.  I noticed that there were no other girls going surfing.  I would ask people to take people but no one would take me.  I chose as my job being a gym instructor but my interesting ocean activities continued on.  When Covid came, I went back to my island Fuvahmulah.  I had nothing to do so I decided to just go for it.  I starting swimming then surfing then snorkeling.  Even then, I didn’t know what diving was at that time.  One of my cousins owned a dive center and he reached out to me.  He told me that at the island there are lots of opportunities but there are no girls doing it.  He thought that I would be able to do it because I was going surfing with the guys and with waves crashing over me.  I told him that I would think about it.  I stayed at Fuvahmulah for 9 months.  I was going in the water every day to surf and to snorkel and I was falling in love with the water.  When COVID ended, I went back to my job and I realized that I wasn’t getting the joy that I had in the water.  So, I left my job and moved back to Fuvahmulah and decided to take up diving.  One day, one of my friends told me to get ready to go out in the water.  They took me to the ocean and when I got there, I saw a bunch of guys with diving equipment.  We all boarded a little fishing boat.  People came up to me saying “Your life is about to change. You are about to do your first dive.”  My cousin told me that we would jump in, but I saw everyone doing the roll-back into the water and I thought that was great so I did it to on my first entry.  Out of the harbour, we saw the tiger sharks come out.  Until that point in my life, I had never seen a shark.  Not even a reef shark.  It was an amazing experience.
  • What are some of the challenges that women face in the scuba diving world?
    I think representation is the place to start.  In my experience, I was the only women in this field so I didn’t even know about it being a possibility for me.  Also, I initially expected a lot of support from people in the industry, but it was quite the opposite.  People were not used to seeing women do things that men were used to doing like docking the boats.  Many men made little comments to me doubting my ability.  Sometimes they don’t like to believe the same things you can do.  There is lot of ego involved with shark diving.  Kind of power thing facing these powerful creatures.
  • How did you overcome some of those obstacles?
    I just continued what I’m doing because actions speak louder than words. I stayed precisely because there were so few women. And some people are very supportive.  And those that are sceptical at first, turned positive when they really saw what I was doing every day and how I was fitting in.  If they see what I am doing, they have no choice but to accept that I can do these things. 
  • What sort of questions do you get from women about scuba diving?
    A number of people got confused about how you can dive with sharks during your “time of month”.  It sounds funny, but people need to talk about these things to know how to these things as they are very easily addressed.
  • What is the most memorable creature you saw diving?
    So many things!  My first thresher shark.  My first big school of hammerheads (100-200 passing by).  But the most amazing was the oceanic white tip shark.  Known to be one of the most aggressive sharks.  They roam the high seas and go months and months without eating.  We had just finished a dive and saw a group of melon headed whales and were snorkeling with them.  Oceanic white tips often follow these pods of whales, but we were not expecting to see one because they are so rare.  They were the top of my bucket list because they are the most elusive.  It was one of my dreams to see them.  If you don’t know how to read them, they can be a little bit dangerous.  And in fact, i had one charge at me and I got to redirect the shark.  That is amazing. [see Instagram photo below]
  • What is your favourite creature to see?
    Sharks aside, I would definitely say the Ghost Pipefish.  Also, nudibranchs.
  • What does your role as “Girls That Scuba Ambassador” entail?
    “Girls That Scuba” is the biggest female diving community in the world.  Every year they choose 10 girls in the world to represent this community.  These ambassadors reach out to people so people can see all different kinds of women from all over the world in the diving scene.
  • Where is your bucket list destination outside the Maldives?
    Raja Ampat, Indonesia known as a “Lost Paradise”.  The coral life and marine life is something out of your imagination.  One of best places for coral in the world.  Also Baha, California for whales especially blue whales.
  • What is your latest project?
    We have started an NGO called “
    Miyaru” whose purpose is to research the sharks of the Maldives, and our first project is researching the tiger sharks in Fuvamulah.  No local NGO doing research on these sharks and Fuvahmulah has the biggest tiger shark population in the world.  It is our effort to give back to the sharks.  Also, I am working with a UK NGO with the objective to empower women in ocean science, and women in Fuvamulah.  We will be bringing more opportunities to women in the field by training local women in different types of research like data analysis, data collection, diving, etc.

You can follow Hamna’s underwater adventures on her Instagram account and her webpage.

Nova - scuba girls ambassador 3

Nova - scuba girls ambasador 2


The Interview Game

Dianna and Steve Interview game 1

Luxury is not about buying expensive things; it’s about living in a way where you appreciate things.” – Oscar de la Renta

Happy Thanksgiving. Today is a day for celebrating gratitude especially first and foremost the company of family and friends. As the pandemic resides, appreciation for such company has never been so strong. Last Thanksgiving, Lori and I were huddled around our small kitchen table with a Zoom session to our children. We can’t wait to all be together sharing thanks for so many blessings we cherish all the more.

Appreciation is also a traditional part of our family travel experiences. Also around a dining table (typically the final meal of our stay) we play something we call the “Interview Game”. The exercise derives from my journalistic inquisitiveness and consists of a number of very simple questions (as a opposed to deep, philosophical ones) which I find to be very illustrative of the highlights and impact of the adventure. Regular followers here will recognize many of the questions used in my interview profiles. The activity is really an exercise in reflection, appreciation and sharig. And that is the heart of Thanksgiving.

On my recent tour, I had the serendipity to meet one of the esteemed TripAdvisor Destination Experts, “Dianna53” and her husband Steve. Their extensive expertise derives from decades of regular Maldives visits dating back to their honeymoon in 80s (!), as well as the fact that their daughter ended up living in the Maldives (Addu) for a stint.

Actually, we’ve now met 5 Tripadvisor Destination Experts while in the Maldives (except for MioraD)

  1. Dianna53 – Met up at Amilla this tour.
  2. Turquoise23 – During visit to Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo
  3. ActiveGirl – Met at Mirihi.
  4. HideawayKatRetired DE and we remain friends now she is in the UK
  5. MoiraD – We worked together in the 2000s and she helped advise on the construction of Maldives Complete during its inception

Our meet up took place at the end of their couple of weeks at both Reethi Beach and Amilla so we decided to share the Interview Game with them. Below are their responses as well as Lori’s and mine from the end of our stay:

  • What is omething you packed that you didn’t use?
    • Dianna: Torch
    • Steve: One shirt
    • Lori: A dress, a top, some underwear and some shoes
    • Bruce:   Several button shirts and some books I brought to read.
  • What is something you wished you have packed?
    • D: Extra backet of biscuits for tea in my room.
    • S: I had everything I needed.
    • L: A small satchel to carry my phone, room key, etc.
    • B: My good razor from home (thinking my disposable one would be good enough…it wasn’t)
  • What most exceeded expectations?
    • D: Coral regeneration at Amilla (especially by the jetty).
    • S: Transfer efficiency (we were quick off the plane, there was no queue at immigration, our bags came off first and it was a total of 35 minutes from landing to being at the seaplane).
    • L: The diving in general as had lots of great sightings and in the past, many times, we have seen anything on some dives.
    • B: Soneva Jani design details. I knew from the pictures that it was a stunning property, but being there you can see and appreciate the tiny details put into nearly everything.
  • What didn’t meet expectations?
    • D: Didn’t see any turtles.
    • S: The sea conditions were so rough the entire time with all the wind.
    • L: We’ve been disappointed in recent years by the quantity of coral seen during our snorkeling, and now there is (naturally) a real sense of the fish populations being noticeably smaller.
    • B: The Biyadhoo house reef was renowned to be one of the top ones in the Maldives years ago so its state of dead coral and limited fish was particularly painful to see first hand.
  • When did you laugh the hardest?
    • D: When we emerged from the sea from snorkelling and trudged along the beach in the torrential rain and it was so heavy we couldn’t see where we were going so I donned my full face mask (wishing it had windscreen wipers!).
    • S: When a Titan triggerfish swam straight through Dianna’s legs.
    • L: When Bruce said “Gee, thanks” when I commented “That man over there is quite handsome. He looks like you (Bruce)…when you were younger.”
    • B: Lori’s first slide at Sonevi (which you can witness here and I will be playing daily for the foreseeable future).
  • When was your most stressful point?
    • D: 3 days before arrival, Reethi Beach were on monitoring.
    • S: 3 days before arrival, Reethi Beach were on monitoring.
    • L: When my mask broke during the dive. It kept filling up with water and I couldn’t clear it. Fortunately, the dive master was able to fix it good enough to finish the dive.
    • B: When we got word that Soneva Fushi was on monitoring which was going to cause us to rejig our entire itinerary.
  • What was your best bite of food?
    • D: Good ole “fish & chips” at Reethi Beech
    • S: Grilled lobster at Amilla
    • L: Prawns a la Plancha at Soneva Jani’s Crab Shack
    • B: Prawn Burger at Amilla Fushi’s E Beach Club
  • What is something you learned?
    • D: That the Maldives has passed a law prohibiting the interference of baby turtles (even measures intended to help them survive).
    • S: “Bondee” (coconut and coconut milk cocktail wrapped in a coconut leaf) tastes very nice.
    • L: What a “Sponge Snail” is.
    • B: Using a torch for dive photography can scare off fish.
  • What was your favourite avourite Sighting?
    • D: Octopus (both at Amilla and at Reethi Beach).
    • S: Lemon Shark (never seen one before).
    • L: Spanish Dancer Nudibranch (video)…though I loved the bats at Soneva Jani in their arbor.
    • B: Manta on the Amilla dive.
  • What would you do if you had an extra day?
    • D: Go on a turtle excursion/.
    • S: If the weather was calm enough, go to Amilla Fushi’s Blue Hole.
    • L: Do more diving.
    • B: Spa treatments (Biyadhoo so good and such value)

Dianna and Steve Interview game 2