What Else I Didn’t See

Zaika gourmet Indian food

Despite stirring up a bit of a teapot tempest last year with my ‘What Else I Haven’t Seen’ piece, I have concocted yet another version with another year of researching and investigating the Maldives tourism industry. The Maldives Complete 2012 Gap List includes…

Segment Specialty Resorts – One of the original objectives for the ‘Best of the Maldives’ section and write ups was to highlight where resorts developed and offered certain unique or distinctive specialties. In marketing, trying to be all things to all people is generally not a great idea. In fact, for this first category, maybe not trying to be all things to all ‘peoples’ might be a good idea…

  • Chinese Resort – Choose some island on a plateau with a big expansive, shallow, current-less lagoon. Such islands are not popular with Westerners who like to snorkel, but are ideal for the Chinese who have less of a cultural tradition of swimming. Offer free swimming lessons for everyone. Invest in some reefscaping so they have some coral and fish to look at whilst snorkelling. Have mostly Chinese speaking staff and Chinese language materials. Menu and activities catered to Chinese tastes. Maybe could do it near Gan and have direct flight from Shanghai to Gan airport (that would help develop that outlying region of the Maldives especially since around Male is getting over developed) and would eliminate the need for Male transfer which kills so much time especially for the Chinese who prefer a shorter stay. To accommodate these shorter stays more easily, have a very flexible booking system. Despite all of these features tailored just for the Chinese market, I got some great insights from Dolores Semeraro (PR manager at LUX* Maldives who is a bit of a sino-expert having worked in China for half a decade) that such a resort just wouldn’t appeal to the Chinese. She noted that Chinese don’t want to go to a resort tailored for them, but prefer to go somewhere with an international feel. She also highlighted the risk of putting all your eggs in one geographical basket. If there is a downturn there or the Chinese market fancies another destination, the resort has problems (as some Italian oriented resorts are having now).
  • Islamic Resort – With all of the various cultural variations and ambiences among a variety of resorts, how about one catering to the Islamic holidayer? Resorts must be a real frustration for many of devout Islamic faith especially with their plentiful alcohol and rampant exposed flesh. With Maldives itself a strongly Islamic nation and geographically located in the epicentre of the largest Muslim population centres (from the Mid-East through the Indian Sub-Continent to the South Pacific), it is superbly well positioned to innovate in this regard. No alcohol, conservative dress standard, praying facilities and calls to prayer, all halal meat, spa limitations, large private areas behind the villas would all make for a more enjoyable experience for these guests.
  • Singles Resort – Maybe not an entire concept ‘devoted’ to singles, but a resort that has a few rooms set up for singles (without a single supplement) and maybe a few activities to help singles find each other and make some friendships during their stay.

Room Ideas

  • Individual Design – ‘Design’ is all the rage in the new and revamped resorts these days. How about each room individually designed. Crazy Bear and Ice Hotel are first class examples of this approach to hotelier distinction.
  • Home Cinema – One of the things my wife and I love to do to chill out is to watch a nice film. Admittedly, in the Maldives we are fine with a book or lingering in the starlight with post-prandial pina coladas. But, I could see the appeal of a really nice home cinema in some of the bigger suites. Especially for those who don’t like going out in the sun much. Another purpose it could be put to would be to run high definition videos of underwater scenes which would provide a stunning and artistic bit of decoration for the room during the day.
  • Heated Gel Beds – The absolute best things we have ever experienced at Pennyhill Park Spa. For a destination that prides itself on being the pinnacle of soporific relaxation, these technological marvels are just waiting for some enterprising resort to add to their portfolio.
  • Water bed – There is water everywhere. And lots of beds for relaxation. But there are no water beds. I guess these are a bit out-of-fashion since the 70s and not everyone’s cup of tea so kitting one out would risk have an unoccupied room on many nights.
  • Poconos Honeymoon Glitz – Speaking kitschy honeymoon trappings, a bit surprised that some Maldives resort has not gone a bit more OTT on the romance theme. Heart-shaped beds, heart-shaped baths, mirrored ceilings, etc.


  • In-Ocean Pool – This notion seems ridiculous until you start to think about it. This idea emerged from a dinner chat with my wife Lori and Vilamendhoo GM Patrick de Staercke. Why would you have a ‘pool’ in the ocean? Not a fresh water pool made out of cement stuck in the middle of a lagoon. But a pool simply made out of some demarcation of the seawater. A platform all around for people to sun and relax ‘by the pool’ and underwater fencing sunk into the sea floor. It seems like Australia has done a number of salt water pools sort of in the ocean, but nothing like our vision of a ‘pool’ that is really just a ‘pen’ or enclosure in a lagoon with decking around it (the Aussie versions are regular pools with seawater pumped in). Something close is the infamous Blue Lagoon in Iceland. With decking all around and a ‘sand’ bottom, the spa has the ‘feel’ of a pool, but it is actually a natural body of water. There are more reasons than you might realise…
    • Some people are afraid of sharks – We admired a cute little baby shark in the lagoon when a guest came up to us and said ‘And they let people swim in that water!’ (no joke). A ‘pool area’ with a mesh segregation would keep little sharks out for these people.
    • Some people are afraid of fish full stop – Seriously no joke. Every resort manager we have met has had a story of a customer complaining that ‘there were too many fish in the ocean’.
    • Eco-Friendly – Without chlorine and other chemicals or energy for pumping and filtering, the facility would be big on the ecosustainability.
    • Sensitive feet – One of the little aggros of swimming in the lagoons is occasionally stepping on a sharp rock or coral fragment. This ‘ocean pool’ could be kept groomed with nothing but soft sand on its ‘floor’.
  • Sea Horses – Sea Horses are native to the Indian Ocean but just about never seen. They are delightful creatures. For a resort looking for a marine biology project like Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s manta and anemone fish work, or Four Seasons Kuda Huraa’s turtle program (and may other resorts that do turtle nurseries), perhaps a resort near some sea grass could do a research project for sea horses and build up a population.
  • Ocotopus Programme – They are not rare creatures, but they are super difficult to see. Even the marine biologists admit that they don’t see them that often. An excursion with specialty in finding them would be a big hit.  Fayaz and Adam at Mirihi’s Muraka restaurant did provide some tips though.  They said that when Maldivians go to desert islands themselves for family picnics, they will often fish for their meal and even go snorkeling for some octopus.  They said that you need to look for piles of sand by dead coral because they dig themselves into holes to sleep.
  • Life Guards – Especially for resorts with lots of Chinese visitors (who have statistically less swimming experience and training), I think it would be a good measure (and good employment for young Maldivians). Though Maafushivaru and Shangri-La have lifeguards on demand, I think most people will be too reserved (or over-confident) to ask for them.
  • Free Snorkeling Safety Whistles – TripAdvisor’s Maldives Forum came up with this idea and I thought it was brilliant. Some resort could have a bunch made up with their logo printed on them.
  • Snorkel Lilo – Entrepreneurial idea for someone – create a snorkel lilo designed like those spa massage beds with a place to put your face/mask to look at the sea life. Lilos can be a great way to snorkel especially is you are a lazy or weaker swimmer. The ‘problem’ with conventional lilos is that there is nothing supporting your head (you have to hang it off the end).


  • Gourmet Maldivian Restaurant – In London, a number of Indian restaurants have gone high end, adapting traditional Indian recipes to a Cordon Bleu nouvelle cuisine style in both delicate preparation and striking presentation (eg. Zaika – see photo above, Bombay Brasserie). Not bowls of stewed curries with various rices. Why doesn’t one of the super premiums do gourmet Maldivian-inspired dishes?
  • Snorkel Butlers – ‘Butlers’ which seemed OTT a few years ago are now simply table stakes for the super premium class resorts. To provide further distinction, resorts are providing specialised butler services like Kanu Hura’s ‘Pool Butlers’, and Reethi Rah’s ‘Skin Butlers’. Makes me wonder what sort of other butler services there could be? Fitness Butlers (combines personal trainer with a nutritionist for those you want to use their holiday for a body tune up). Snorkel Butlers (takes care of all of your equipment, like rinsing after a use, as well as providing guided tours not just on the house reefs but to special private excursions.

Maldives Tour 2012 – Day 4: Lily Beach

Lily Beach tour 3

Just right.

That was the best compliment a family friend, Elmer Rising, had for a meal or anything he enjoyed. As an artist, he had a deep appreciation for getting things ‘just right’. For a meal, it was not over the top (like some Thanksgiving feasts), nor conversely lacking in anything. That is the phrase that came to mind visiting Lily Beach.

One of the great attractions to Lily Beach is its Luxury All Inclusive offer – the Platinnum Plan. The plan includes everything you can imagine outside of special excursions (eg. motorised sports, diving) and special meals (eg. lobster dinners in the Wave restaurant). The plan even provides cigarettes which I’d not come across before.

Not only is the plan an attractive value, it also changes the whole ambience of the property. That is because it is the only plan they offer and everyone is on it. As a result, staying at Lily is more like staying at some rich friend’s paradise estate than it is like consuming a holiday package. No signing for things constantly. No class/category dividing arm bands. Never hearing the question ‘What room, sir?’

A few years ago Lily underwent a refurb to take it from 4 to 5 star status. It ticks all the boxes to the Maldives Complete special ‘5 Star’ checklist. Smart food, rooms, service throughout. One of the key qualities I look for in resorts attesting to 5-star status is shortfalls. If you are going to be a true ‘5 star’, then you really shouldn’t have any ‘holes in your game’. And Lily Beach was solid throughout with a few special touches of distinction thrown in.

The house reef is more like 6 stars. A mere 3 metres from the shoreline it is closely accessible to the beach from one entire side of the island. It has a quite deep drop-off (about 20 metres), but the drama comes with the coral. All sorts of shapes, sizes and colours of vibrant and healthy coral are packed onto the reef. Sprinkled with endless colourful schools of fish. Lily would definitely be a candidate for ‘Best House Reef Coral’. An amibitious distinction, but Lily is worthy of candidacy.

Tip 1: Family Beach Villa – Lily offers several Family Bech Villas with interconnected rooms. Not unique in itelf in the Maldives, but still rare enough to be appreciated by family visitors. Lily have been extra smart to kit out the two rooms with one having double bed and the other having twin (so siblings don’t have to share a bed that might cause friction not welcome on a holiday).

Tip 2: ‘Beach Suite’ – One of their Beach Villas (#300) is actually a ‘Beach Suite’ with a living room added. There is no extra charge and can be requested on an availability basis.

In addition to the ‘Luxury All Inclusive’ distinction, I have now identified a further 11 Best of the Maldives candidates to research and share in the coming months.

Just right.

Maldives Tour 2012 – Day 3: Paradise Island / The Haven

Paradise Island - tour post

Just a literal (or should I saw ‘littoral’) stone’s throw away, we proceed onto Paradise Island / The Haven.

We’ve have been very close to visiting Paradise (the resort, not the notion) several other times before. A few years back when the family was seeking out a more value-for-money place, it made the short-list. And subsequent North Male visits took us to Manta Point for diving which is just off Paradise’s house reef.

Paradise pioneered the concept of the split personality island. Where a newer part of the island, typically water villas, are developed to a significantly higher standard than the rest of the resort. Often an entire ‘star’ difference (eg. 4-star and 5-star). Now over half a dozen resorts have this sort of ‘split’ set up. Often the adjacent properties have completely distinct branding, logistics, service, etc. This trend was just one reason the contributed to the development of Room Type database to provide people with more granular information on possible destinations. Just a profile on a resort as a whole doesn’t really tell the whole story of what’s on offer.

One of my discoveries was that The Haven water villas allow children of any age. Pretty much all of the water bungalows that I know of have restrictions against children staying there for safety reasons of them falling into the water. The policy at the Haven is to firmly warn the guests of the risks and if they do want to still stay there with children, then they are allowed to do so. This flexibility will be very welcome to families looking for the water villa experience but often restricted from doing so.

Another aspect of a big island is that it often sits on a big lagoon table making the house reef hard to reach and the snorkelling less exciting. But, as duly logged in Snorkel Spotter, we had a delightful snorkel seeing a shark, sting ray and more lion fish in one little rocky overhang (about a dozen) than we had ever seen.

I uncovered a further 6 Best of the Maldives candidates during my stay to add to the 2 already done. Great to finally make it all the way to Paradise after so many close callings.


Paradise Island - lion fish

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Art – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi olly and suzy art 1

In the Maldives you can marvel at nature’s artistry through such masterpieces of its coral gardens, and some resorts feature reef regeneration to aid and complement such artistry, but Soneva Fushi showcased underwater art (which is coming up for a benefit exhibit soon in London) as a part of their long term sponsorship of the Blue Marine Foundation…

“Olly and suzi’s manta ray and shark art will be exhibited in 2012 and 30% of the sales will be given to Blue Marine Foundation, a new charity formed by a group of influential individuals, brands and organisations to protect the world’s oceans through the establishment of a global network of marine reserves. Six Senses’ Maldivian resorts – Soneva Fushi, Soneva Gili and recently launched Six Senses Laamu – are sponsoring the foundation for the next three years.”

Soneva Fushi olly and suzy art 2

Best of the Maldives: Biggest Lagoon – Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa

Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa lagoon

To each his own. Many Maldive aficionados focus on the best house reefs as a critical decision criteria. The deep, coral and fish filled features stand in stark contrast to the shallow and sandy lagoons that also permeate the archipelago. Typically, the two are mutually exclusive. The geography of an island that makes for big lagoons tends to make for distant or less prominent house reefs.

But not everyone is all house reef obsessed. With Olympic-class pedalos on hand, a nice big lagoon to cruise around in can be a good thing. As CastawayGR noted on the Trip Advisor Forum post “Looking for the perfect turquoise lagoon in Maldives” –

“I was wondering if anyone can help me find an island surrounded by the best turquoise lagoon…What I am looking for is a really small almost desert romantic getaway with white beaches and turquoise water for as far as my eyes can see.”

And Suzan3 echoed in the post “Biggest Lagoons” –

“You’re after what I’m after, except I’m not a fan or snorkelling, nor am I of coral reefs. I want a resort that has crystal clear waters all round…”

Lagoons don’t just have aesthetic appeal. They are great havens of aquarium-like snorkelling. Maybe not as dramatic as house reef drop-offs, but you still see a variety of small fish especially in scattered coral droppings as well as the occasional ray stirring up the sand looking for food and the ubiquitous mini reef sharks. Great for young kids to explore snorkelling for the first time. It was also a great way for my 80 year old mother-in-law to feel comfortable enough to try snorkelling (even though she was in 2 feet of water, she still had a life jacket on, a floatation noodle and my wife standing at her side to help her – see photo below). But she loved seeing the smattering of colourful tropical fish that scampered by her.

In theta posts, a few suggestions were offered for the biggest lagoon and I had some of my own guesses. But for something so common in the Maldives, I had to turn to the real expert, Seven Holiday’s Adrian Neville. He took time out from writing his latest update to his essential guide “Resorts of the Maldives” to pen the follow guest post for me which is a veritable ‘Lagoon Guide’ for the biggest and bluest in the Maldives…

“First of all, we need to be a bit clearer about what constitutes ‘biggest’. Let’s assume that we are looking at the total area of the lagoon – the length and the width. We are not looking at ‘volume’ as we are looking for shallow lagoons rather than deep ones. You can look for the biggest lagoon with a single resort in, but that’s a bit precious. As long as the next resort island is not too near, I’d say you’re going to be happy. (And of the ones below, only Fun Island and Olhuveli are way too close. Though Reethi Rah is a touch too close to Summer Island for a Six Star, as Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is to Huraa, the inhabited island)…


  • Velassaru [ed. one of my nominees] does have a large and attractive lagoon 7 kms long, but just across the atoll is Taj Exotica…
  • Taj Exotica has a lagoon that is twice the length at 14 kms.
  • Meeru has a 14 kms lagoon which is also wide on one side.
  • Reethi Rah [ed. a lagoon cited in the TA post], I must say, is a non-starter. The length of the lagoon is 5 kms and little in the way of width.
  • LUX* (formerly Diva) has a length of 11 kms and is wide to one end.
  • Gangehi’s is 9kms long and wide too.
  • Kuramathi has a curving lagoon of 18kms length and looking into the interior of Rasdhoo Atoll it is shallow for much of the area.
  • Sun Island and Holiday Island share a lagoon 18 kms long.
  • Fun Island, Olhuveli and Rihiveli share a lagoon some 20kms in length.
  • Amari Addu sits in a lagoon that bends 20kms around the NE corner of Addu Atoll at the southernmost end of the country.
  • Equator Village is at the tip of the 25 kms lagoon that runs up to Hithadu.
  • Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa has the biggest lagoon I measured. It was 33kms in Meemu Atoll. It is also wide and shallow around those two resorts. (3 more resorts are planned further down the lagoon).

Those are the current active resorts, but there are some notables to mention of resorts not on line…

  • The proposed resort on Maafushi island in Dhaalu sits in a 26kms lagoon.
  • The two proposed resorts just off the end of Gan island in Laamu share a 30kms long lagoon.
  • If Hudhufushi ever gets finished, in the relatively northern atoll of Llaviyani, it will have a lagoon of 32kms length and a wide, shallow area adjacent.


And finally. It’s notable that it is the southern atolls where the lagoons are large. In the north, the atolls are more ‘split up’. The country actually slopes in height from the north down to the south, so the northern islands are as it were propped higher and so the large lagoons have not formed or have worn away. Well, that was fun and diverting. I’m not quite up to drawing a definitive conclusion though.”

While Adrian won’t claim it definitive, I’ll go with his call Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Hura.

Filitheyo lagoon snorkeling

Best of the Maldives: Nearby Surf Break – Kandooma

Kandooma surf break

Maldives caters to all types of surfers from beginner to expert, from innovative to impatient. For the lattermost, yet another resort shines in the surfing haven, Kandooma, which offers the closest surf break.

Most surf breaks are a good distance from shore separated from the resort beach by the extensive lagoons prevalent in the Maldives especially on big plateaus where the longest reefs are creating the longest ‘surf breaks’. While such distance is great for creating a aquarium-like swimming haven on the beach, it means a bit of a swim/paddle for those keen to get to reef’s edge. Or a logistics intensive boat ride.

Kandooma’s house reef is far away, surfing is a mere 50 yards at most from beach on the east side. And the Beach Villas on that side are a water-hugging 20 yards from ocean. Especially with 2-story structures there, you can wake up and check out the surf (see photo above). If ‘surfs up’, then in minutes you can be riding the waves.

Kandooma has two surf instructors, Mark Quarrell and Richie Lindfield from Perfect Wave, who can provide gear and assistance for all levels. Their own website comments…

“With a surf break, Kandooma Right at your front door you will be able to surf awesome waves at your leisure. But with another 6 quality breaks between 5 and 45 minutes of the resort our resident surf guide will take you up to twice daily via Dhoni to these top spots.”

Best of the Maldives: Coral – Park Hyatt Hadahaa

Tim Godfrey Gaafu Alifu cave

If the underwater stars that dazzle you are star fish, starlets and feather stars, then Park Hyatt Hadahaa is the place to swim to and at.

Adrian Neville tweeted last week, “Park Hyatt house reef, the best corals of any resort bar none. But oddly the fish life is as quiet as life on the island.”

Not much better authority than Adrian Neville. And he’s just finished latest research for his upcoming edition of his must-have book on Maldives resorts ‘Resorts of the Maldives’. Check out his Twitter stream for 140-character advance tidbits.

Hadahaa is in the Gaafu Alifu atoll which Harwood and Bryning’s book “Complete Guide to Diving and Snorkeling the Maldives” describes as “The coral reefs inside the atoll are in great condition and a marvel to dive and snorkel” (see picture above).

The 5-Star Problem

5 Star Fish

So what the heck does ‘5 Star’ mean?

With limited supply and the desire to earn as much as possible from the sustainable natural resource of the idyllic islands of the Maldives, the country and industry is rapidly moving to premium at nearly every property. Now there are over 100 active properties out of which more than half call themselves ‘5 star’. 39 of resorts on Trip Advisor, for example, are listed as 5-star. Of those, 8 have Review Ratings at a full 5-stars as well which is a start.

When everyone is 5-stars, is there any difference? Actually, there are massive differences. So how does one regulate the star awards? Adrian Neville called attention to the issue in a recent Tweet – “Vilamendhoo & Meeru say they are 4 star. This just pushes the Sonevas and O&O etc out to six or seven stars. The 5 star barrier is broken.” Adrian is referring to the trend started in Dubai by the super-premium marques calling themselves 6-star and 7-star out of objection to the fact that to put them in the same league as scores of ‘mere’ 5-stars would under represent the unique distinctions they have implemented.

One of the most prominent ‘Ratings’ these digital days are from TripAdvisor. But, these scores are not objective ratings against absolute and fixed criteria. They are subjective customer satisfaction marks against relative expectations. Someone who got a great deal on a basic property might give ‘5 stars’ to one quite humble resort, while someone who paid top dollar on an extravagant property might give a ‘4 star’ mark if their parsley came facing the wrong direction.

MaldivesComplete’s weighted rating field was an early attempt to reconcile some of this variation in ratings. When MaldivesComplete was launched several years back, several resort portals and tour operators had slightly varying ratings for the islands. I figured that collecting all of these and averaging them would provide both (a) more balanced true rating, and (b) more granular differentiation. But even this approach is growing dated and weaker. A lot of the portals have fallen by the wayside and the tour operator ratings are growing more uniform.

Part of the fuel to the uniformity is the crowding at the top. The 5 star problem. All the resorts are sprucing up and putting in investment to tick the 5 star boxes. The operators are happy to going along with this rating inflation because it helps them to justify higher prices.

Which brings us back to the ‘dirty truth’ that the hotel industry’s own rating systems are quite dated. They try to quantify quality through system of tick boxes. This is not a problem limited to the Maldives. MSNBC highlighted the subject in its piece “The dirty truth about hotel ratings.” Things like the number of bathroom fixtures determine 5-star threshold leading to inane investments in things like quizzical bidets. People going to 5 star resorts would rather have a nicer shower (rain or waterfall shower), than an unused bidet. Some of the hotel star ratings determined by the number of electrical outlets available, and yet don’t make any assessment of Internet speed, strength and accessibility.

I also think that there is somewhat inadvertent muddying between ‘the destination’ and the ‘the resorts’. The Maldives is one of the finest places on earth. It is a 5-star destination. You could put a shack on a Maldivian island and it would be close to a 5-star lifetime experience. As a result, I think that, in the global resort competition, the proliferation of 5-star categorisations is partly due to a global calibration. Resorts that would be 3 or 4 stars on any other ‘ordinary’ beach in the world, become ‘5’ stars in the Maldives. Furthermore, in terms of differentiating Maldives resorts, how do you compare an island with a spectacular house reef but modest infrastructure, with a resort which has no house reef but gold-plated elegance? How do you compare the charm of a more natural aesthetic with the pizzazz of trendy design?

I think the Maldives desperately needs a more structured, methodical and managed star system like that run by Michelin. A Michelin star is a major achievement – ‘worth the trip’. Two stars is a rare distinction. Three stars is hall of fame material. More on that later.

Maldives Tour 2011 – Day 9: Kurumba

Kurumba tour

My first ever repeat. After visiting 29 resorts with a credo of always trying new resorts, I have returned to a resort for the first time ever. Kurumba. My motivation pretty much describes Kurumba’s key differentiators – great value 5-star luxury, business convenience to Male, and variety of offerings.

Kurumba is the grand old man of Maldives resorts with all of the dignity and refinement the years of practice bring. It knows, though, that it has to keep in shape with all of the young luxury marque whipper-snappers coming into the neighbourhood on a regular basis. Current General Manager Jason Kruse has undertaken a particularly aggressive investment in updating the look and standard of the rooms. I revisited the Deluxe Beach Villa that we stayed in two years ago and it was a completely different class of room. Simple tasteful style touches livened up the whole look. But they haven’t flown in a bunch of Swedish style-boffins nor imported a boatload of Milan decor. Instead, they have done most of their work themselves to reflect a more Maldivian flavoured style and produced the touches right on the island by their own in house artisans.

Would you buy a second-hand Rolls Royce in excellent (not mint condition) cared for by loving, caring owners? Or would you prefer a brand new Audi for the same price with its new car small and whizzy state-of-the-art bits? If the former, then Kurumba is a place to consider.

They have kept their food standards very high with a constant refresh of the menu. The restaurants are all truly gourmet (eg. ‘Magic Fish’…a dish as fine as its name). Also, Kurumba is a top candidate for ‘Most Sharks as Diner Companions’ recognition. Their Ocean Grill sits over the water in a place frequented by the reef’s many juvenile black-tipped reef sharks. At one point we counted 8 circling just below our table.

Looking forward to settling in and enjoying a bit of this classic for a few days.


Kurumba Ali Farooq

Welcome at the Ocean Grill restaurant by Ali Farooq who I friended on Facebook after our last visit.

Best Snorkelling in the World

Snorkelling Four Seasons

Is the Maldives the best snorkelling in the world?

The debate rages in the diver community about the best diving in the world. A number of clear criteria are considered…

  • Clarity of water
  • Quantity and diversity of fish (including ‘Big 5’ and ‘Little 5’)
  • Quantity and diversity of coral

The top ten areas regularly includes the Maldives along with the likes of the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, Cayman Islands, Indonesia.

But what would be the criteria for the best snorkelling and which areas would prevail?

First of all, the basic dive criteria would be a foundation and all would apply equally as well for snorkelling. But snorkelling requires more considerations…

  • Shallowness, low current
  • Easy access to shore (so you can just jump in…no boat trips needed)
  • Warm water (so you can just go in your swimsuit…no wetsuits)

I am surprised how little the topic is discussed in online forums and magazine articles. When it has been reviewed, the treatments seem shallower than a coral cropping at low tide. For example, Costal Living did the piece ’10 top spots to snorkel’ but only covered North America in its selections.  This Forbes piece ‘World’s Top Snorkeling Spots’ is one of the best lists I have seen, but there is little accompanying text and the entire Indian Ocean is conspicously absent.  The Island magazine piece on ‘World 23 Best Islands for Snorkeling’ is the most comprehensive and includes the Maldives, but its singling out Veligandu would be hotly debated by many (my own research seems to point more to Kandoludhoo).

While Maldives is renowned for romance (top honeymoon spot) and diving, I think it really makes a strong case for being one of the top snorkelling destinations in the world. The atoll topography is just right for ideal snorkelling and ‘house reef’ conditions. Most ‘house reefs’ offer a stunning snorkel experience just meters from your beach villa (unlike the Great Barrier Reef which usually requires a boat ride). The waters are warm (unlike the Red Seas which requires a wet suit to be comfortable). I am more of a Maldives expert than a worldwide snorkelling expert, but most of the divers and divemasters that I meet in the Maldives who have themselves snorkelled around the world, tend to concur with my bold conjecture. Certainly, it warrants a place on anyone’s top 10.