Best of the Maldives: Most Exclusive – Dhoni Island

Dhoni Island Island

Two qualities describing the Maldives go hand in hand – tiny and exclusive. So what is the smallest and most exclusive of them all?

According to my most effective investigator on the Maldives, Francis, Dhoni Island squeaks in…

Rania of course is only bookable by one person but i think you can have 24 people there… Dhoni Island only 12 max and most of the time some of those will be on the Dhoni at night so I would say Dhoni probably has least people on it and it is a small island too…..”

Best of the Maldives: Recommended All Inclusive – Athuruga

Athuruga All Inclusive

An example of the kinds of questions that TripAdvsior Forum and its experts can help you with was a topic that comes up regularly – ‘All Inclusive’ packages. Many guests are drawn to the notion of all-inclusive so they can truly relax without worrying how much more in ‘extras’ they are going to rack up at the end of their already wallet-biting holiday. But what is included in ‘AI’ packages varies dramatically. Typically, they do include drinks, but some resorts have only a limited selection of drinks available to AI guests and all other drinks are extra. Some activities are included and others are not in places.

According to Spammie, one of the top all-time Maldives destination experts, Athuruga is the premier offering when it comes to ‘all inclusive’

  • to my knowledge, there are only two resorts that will give you “real AI” – without the dreaded exclusions that mount up to a big bill at the end – as their base standard. the newly refurbished Athuruga and its sister island Thudufushi , which is due to close for refurbishment over this summer. depending on when you are planning to go, Athuruga is your only choice.”

Best of Maldives Online: Community – Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor - Maldives Forum

In my research for various esoteric details about the Maldives resorts, the assortment of online forums are invaluable resources for tapping into the broad and deep expertise out in the world of both visitors sharing their experiences to aficionados who are Mastermind experts on the subject of the Maldives. Most of the prominent travel publications offer forums (eg. Fodors, Frommer, Lonely Planet), but they all absolutely pale in comparison to the grand-master of them all: TripAdvisor.

I track, access and participate in the other forums from time to time and find that they get entries maybe once a week on average. TripAdvisor can get entries every hour just on the Maldives. Moreover, on other forums, your question will often linger unanswered. TripAdvisor posts typically get some sort of response within the day and can trigger dozens of replies for a particularly intriguing subject.

The greatest asset, though, are the ‘Destination Experts’. These are people with a knowledge of the Maldives as deep as their passion for them. The top expert, ActiveGirl, has 3,418 forum posts to her credit. And the other top contributors all have over 1,000 themselves.

In addition, to the unparalleled expertise that is generously shared out, the forum is one of the few that I have been to that truly lives up to the notion of being a ‘community’. A lot of the participants know each other and many of the posts are done with humour and levity and good natured banter.

Helpful Tips – Some of the newbies to the forum jump right in with big, broad questions like ‘I’m going to the Maldives on my honeymoon, where is the best resort?’ Try to focus your questions a bit by giving some of your key concerns, preferences, etc. The more specific and challenging the question, the more assistance the experts can provide. Secondly, if you do have a specific question, given TA’s hoard of over 15,000 posts just on the Maldives, there is a very good chance that someone has already asked it, so use the search facility on the site to see if you can’t find the answer straight away without having to do a post.

Best of the Maldives: Bedroom – Conrad Maldives Rangali

Rangali underwater bedroom

Many Maldives bedrooms have some distinctive views and the water bungalows certainly give you that up close view of the aquarium-like ocean around. But if you want more up close and more aquarium and more ‘surround’ than ‘around’, then the big news out of the Maldives this month is the introduction of Conrad Maldives Rangali’s ‘underwater bedroom’ experience.

Rangali has taken what was one of the all-time best ‘Best Of’ features (and the very first featured on Maldives Complete), the Ithaa underwater restaurant, and extends the use of this great space during the graveyard shift by transforming it into a bedroom.

Luxury Insider reports that “After a champagne dinner, what is normally the 12-seat restaurant will be rearranged into a double bedroom while breakfast will be served in bed.”

Gives a more inspiring connotation to the colloquialism ‘sleeping with the fishes’.

Best of the Maldives: Pavilion – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica Ocean Pavillion Sakis
(Photo included with permission from Sakis)

Dreaming of Maldives, another of Sakis creations both inspired another ‘Best of’ selection as well as a bit of a treasure hunt to figure out exactly where it was (see the comments section on his site).

Many resorts offer some exclusive pavilion for a special or romantic meal. Of course, for that ultimate in secluded romance there is the off shore, on a sand-spit BBQ that some resorts can arrange for you as a special excursion. But if you want that off shore remoteness with the comfort and solidity of your own little pavilion, then you need to go to Taj Exotica.

Sally Rushbrooke reviews

  • “If you want your Maldives holiday to be particularly romantic, you can arrange a meal for two at the Ocean Pavilion. The Pavilion is a stand alone wooden deck in the middle of the Indian Ocean and located a mile off shore. The deck is only reachable by boat and if you decide that you want to treat a loved one to this experience, then staff will sail you to the venue by boat and leave you with a mobile phone, so that you can call them when you wish to be collected. Due to the location, all the food served is chilled lobster, caviar and chilled champagne all feature on the set menu. The Pavilion is decorated with comfortable cushions, candles, lanterns and flowers which all serve to make the venue that little more romantic.”

If you can believe it, you can go to the Google Map on the Taj Exotica profile and see it for yourself.

Best of Maldives Online – Photography

Dreaming of the Maldives

The startling natural beauty of the Maldives has inspired legions of photographers professional and amateur alike. A design choice of MaldivesComplete was to have the iconic imagery of the blues and whites filling the browser page as the background so that visitors would sort of feel immersed in this distinctive locale while you conducted your investigation.

If your holiday snaps don’t quite capture the breathtaking beauty you recall from your visit, then a whole range of online sites offer piles to choose from. In the public sites, like Flickr and Facebook, you can find some truly marvellous images. But if you want a sure fire collection of some of the most dazzling pictures ever captured, the top Maldives photo site has to be ‘Dreaming of Maldives’. Sakis, the photographer behind it, is offering a special deal of free 2010 calendar when you buy his photo book. I bought these recently and they are truly gorgeous (and the pictures in the calendar are different to those in the book).

Best of the Maldives: Closest House Reef – Vilamendhoo

Vilamendhoo Reef

(Vilamendhoo Reef photo by Atoll Photography)

I have written on the ‘best’ house reef and the ‘deepest drop off’ house reef’, but one of the most prominent questions about house reefs is which is the ‘closest’. Given the Maldives atoll topology, often the land bit of the island can be surrounded by a quite considerable about of lagoon, which is very shallow waters, before the island structure itself drops off more precipitously into the deeper surrounding ocean. It is this drop off which is most dramatic as lots of marine life cluster and settle on this vertical structure and the larger expanse of water makes room for bigger fish and bigger schools of fish.

The problem can be that when you have a far away house reef, one can spend a good 15 minutes of boring swimming/snorkelling over an expanse of white sand shallow lagoon before reaching the house reef main event. The real snorkelling luxury is the close by drop off. In forums and reviews, people often talk about ‘close house reef’. That refers to the fact that the ‘drop off’ hits pretty close to the beach.

I asked the experts, the Forum contributors to TripAdvisor’s Maldives Forum, which resort had the closest. It’s a bit tricky because the reef can be very close at some parts of the island and then very far away in others. I had enjoyed Filitheyo’s close house reef about 50 meters away, but Forum folks came back with 20m, 10m, 5m and ultimately 3m from the beach. In fact, several resorts were noted that came within ‘3 metres’ of shore…

I have chosen Vilamendhoo because based on looking at all the resorts, Vilamendhoo appears to have the longest stretch of shore where the drop off is that close.

Best of the Maldives: Beach Dinner – Landaa Giraavaru

Landa Giraavaru Beach Dinner

One of our family’s favourite things to do at the Maldives is to eat on the beach. More and more, resorts are offering beach dining as a special event. I hanker for the good ole days of a simpler Maldives when you could simply ask the waiter to move your table from the beach-side restaurant onto the warm white sand with the water gently lapping inches away and a canopy of stars for your ceiling.

But if you want to wiggle more than just your toes in the sand, if you want to nestle your whole self onto the beach, then Landaa Giraavaru’s beach dinners at Blu Beach are made for you. No plastic beach chairs or even conventional wooden ones, but a couple of comfy cushions to help you get settled into a truly romantic meal.

Best of the Maldives: Library – Kandooma

Kandooma Library 1

Most resorts have a library somewhere with a collection of paperbacks for the beach and perhaps a few magazines and board games. Increasingly, resorts are adding Internet access around the resorts and in places like business centres and these libraries. Frankly, I’ve never been tempted to spend any time in these libraries because they were always unassuming rooms and unimpressive places. Sort of a tick in the box to provide that capability. But my recent trip to Kurumba that got hit with a bit of unlucky weather underscored how handy this resort resource can be at times. The newly revamped Kandooma resort has shunned the library as tucked away after thought making its library quite a stunning place that might even tempt me away from the beach even on sunny days.

Kandooma Library 2     Kandooma Library 3

Technorati Tags: library

Best of Maldives Online – Guide


I’m starting a new category of my ‘Best of’ posts to cover the vast, growing and consummately useful area of Online resources. So not specifically focused on each resort directly, but a great complementary way to find the perfect resort. As stated on the home page and in my very original post, I started the Maldives Complete site out of frustration with the incompleteness and emptiness of most sites on the web about the Maldives. That said, there are some real gems.

The first gem I have to feature is one which launched shortly after Maldives Complete – Seven Holidays. The man behind the site, Adrian Neville, is a legend in chronicling the Maldives resorts. His book, ‘Resorts of the Maldives’, was one of the first and most cherished guide books that I bought on the area. His SevenHolidays is essentially an interactive, digital version of that book. It is distinguished for truly insightful, articulate and professional travel reviews of the resorts. None of these simply effusive, contrived glow-fests one finds littering so many travel and resort sites.

Beyond the core of well written, insightful and balanced editorial, Neville has also invested in a very slick and functional site. In fact, I would say that SevenHolidays is the slickest and smartest looking of the Maldives resort web sites. But some clever functionality and a quite comprehensive set of information is what makes it so useful. The special utility functions include ‘Resort Top Sevens’ (a ‘best of’ selection for a range of criteria like ‘Beaches’, ‘Rooms’, ‘Romance’) and a basic filtering search called ‘Limit By’ which allows people to filter on the two criteria of ‘Price’ and ‘Room Density.’

In fact, a fan of both (thanks Francis) wrote me recently and suggested that if you combined Maldives Complete and Seven Holidays you would have the perfect Maldives site.