Best of the Maldives: Clothes Drying – Athuruga

Athuruga - drying clothes rack

No fans needed to dry your swimsuits at Athuruga and Thudufushi. And no draping them over shower rails, retractable clothes lines, setting them out on deck settees (where the breezes blow them onto the sand or into the water). Diamonds has these ingenious drying boxes on the deck (see above). The grates allow the wafting ocean air to dry your garments naturally, safely and discretely (without being hung and strewn all over your lovely villa.

 

Best of the Maldives: Most Marine Biologists – Athuruga

Athuruga - Marine Biologists

The ultimate “fishonistas” are the increasing schools of marine biologists at the Maldives resorts. A few years back, having a resident MB was limited to a few luxury properties, but now many resorts feature them. They provide an insightful snorkel/dive guide, offer educational talks, and conduct their own research in the surrounding ocean.

I’ve seen a few resorts with two marine biologists on staff (eg. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Velaa), but Athuruga had FOUR there when we visited.

One was Enrico (far right photo above) from the University of Milan. He was conducting research on COTS. He told me he was finishing his secondment and he appears to have replaced by fellow Italanian who spoke about the Athuruga COTS research recently…

“Our resident marine biologist Luca Saponari during a speech regarding his scientific research on the outbreak of ‘Acanthaster planci’ (crown-of-thorns sea star) in the Maldives, a study that he is currently conducting at Diamonds Athuruga and Diamonds Thudufushi Beach and Water Villas. Luca spent 4 days at the #Bicocca University in Milan, participating in the first National Congress named “Biodiversity: Concepts, New Tools and Future Challenges”.

Another one works with the Manta Trust project hosted at the resort…

“On the Islands of Athuruga and Thudufushi, the Manta Trust biologists accompany our guests on private excursions, mainly dedicated to manta rays, explaining their activities and giving tips and scientific information on their behaviour. Diamonds Athuruga and Diamonds Thudufushi, both run a “Biology night” and a “Marine Biology Laboratory” which allows our guests the possibility to enjoy a brief description of overall Marine life in the Maldives, from plankton and up to bigger species.”

One of their ongoing projects is the Athuruga YouTube series “Maldives Marine Lab Diary” which features a number of informative shorts on various aquatic subjects like turtles and feeding habits.

Best of the Maldives: Bog Reading – Athuruga / Thudufushi

Athuruga - Thudufushi - bog reading

World Book Day today. And if you forgot your favourite paperback for your morning constitutional, then at Athuruga and Thudufushi you can still start the day off with a good read. Daily news reports are printed out and left in a purpose-built holder right next the more mission critical paper of the day’s business.

Best of the Maldives: Piano Bar – Athuruga / Thudufushi

Athuruga - Thudufushi - piano bar

And the “Best of the Maldives” for “Piano Bar” goes to…<drum roll>… Athuruga and Thudufushi. “La La Land”, the story of a piano playing jazz musician Sebastian trying to bring Jazz to the fore had a bit of a problem at last night’s Oscars. No troubles, though, with Diamonds’ own Daniele (see above) bringing jazz and pop standards to your dinner playing at the overwater restaurants there. The live performance gave the music a more personal and intimate feel than piped in tracks, and the acoustic styles were soothing. You can enjoy his music over dinner or you are able to go to the restaurants for drinks.

See you in the Maldives.

Best of the Maldives: Bin – Athuruga

Athuruga - bin

Artistic touches can be found in the most mundane items. One of my favourite parts of exploring the various Maldives resorts in person is finding those distinctive bits of flair applied to everyday items. Even the lowly trash bin gets the luxury treatment at Athuruga where rooms include delftware inspired receptacle. Furthermore, it comes complete with a lid to hide your debris. One man’s trash bin is another man’s treasure.

Best of the Maldives: Jetty Shuttle – Athuruga / Thudufushi

Athuruga - Thudufushi - jetty shuttle

Today is the biggest travel day of the year in America – the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. Not all Americans trek “home” (parents’ house) for Christmas (especially if they have young children of their own waiting for Santa at their own house), but nearly everyone makes the effort for Thanksgiving. Hence the “Homecoming” tradition of “Homecoming Game” and “Homecoming Queen” (all part of the day as the town converges on the local high school football game in the morning to see old friends while, typically, Mom is home preparing the feast).

The mayhem of families scattered across a continent was immortalised in the comedy film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. In the Maldives, transport is more of a planes, boats and buggies affair. When the buggy shuttle pulls up, you know you are just about at your new home in paradise. Mind you, these buggies often only go a few hundred yards, but when the Maldives laziness sets in, then any physical activity can seem daunting.

Many resorts offer shuttles on call for covering significant distances, but sometimes you do have to wait for them to arrive. Many times you can just call from the room or restaurant and linger placidly waiting for your chauffeured ride. But Athuruga and Thudufusi have a dedicated water villa jetty shuttle always at the ready to lighten you load to and from your water villa. The silent electric buggy just zips people back and forth along the quite long jetty (the resort water villas are spread out quite a bit more than typical). But instead of facing an 100 metre trek along the jetty to your door, the shuttle will zip over to pick you up as soon as he spots you emerging from your door or stepping onto the jetty.

Best of the Maldives: iMac – Athuruga / Thudufushi

Athuruga - Thudufushi - iMac

Just when you thought iPads were the peak of villa technology, Athuruga and Thudufushi go one step further with your room’s very own 17 inch iMac. Impressive in its own right, but an absolutely godsend on our tour as I had hit major PC problems with my own machine. So we were a bit backed up in downloading our camera and GoPro as well as getting down some notes and just general email and social media catch up. The big bright screen was great to sit and watch our undersea videos and select some prime clips to share with Friends on Facebook. Sometimes you just want to escape from all of the techno-clutter of the modern world…but sometimes it is the most welcome relief as a tool to help you relax and get the most out of your holiday.

Maldives Tour 2016 – Day 9 and 10: Athuruga and Thudufushi

Athuruga and Thudufushi - tour

To save you complete and utter repetition as well as a haunting sense of deja vu, I am combining my visit posts to the Diamond Resorts Athuruga and Thudufushi. These are not just sister properties, but identical twins. Sure there are some subtle differences, but it takes a discerning eye to spot them.

I had expected there to be more variation really. One hears a huge amount about Athuruga, but actually very little about Thudufushi. On TripAdvisor, Athuruga has 788 reviews versus about a third fewer (580) for Thudufushi. And on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum Athuruga is very dominant while Thudufushi is rarely mentioned.

Both resorts stand out with their brilliant white colour theme which just amplifies the dazzling sunshine and infuses the islands with sparkle. The classic Maldivian colour palette is sky blue, deep marine blue, lagoon aquamarine, palm green and coral sand white (which is the motif of this blog header above). Most people get lost in the blues or draw out a bit of the green, but white is often the unsung colour. In most cases, white would seem ordinary. But here, it provides the bright contrasts of the coral sands. The white accentuates the open and airy feel to the villas.

The water villas are set farther apart from each other than any other resort I’ve seen. And the decks are wide and deep sheltered by a two story roof which frames a cathedral nave of ocean-side space. The villas also feature sumptuous waterfall drench showers which you would only expect to find in a super-deluxe 5+ star property so the whole water villa experience is more luxurious than its price point.

Both resorts are also renowned for their food. The resorts use a less conventional a la Carte All Inclusive (Vadoo and a few others do this as well). So you sit down and enjoy a full 4 course meal served to you which make the dining a bit more of a relaxed and elegant than a typical AI buffet.

Both resorts have sterling house reefs. In fact, Athuruga is rated by many experts as one of the best resort house reefs in the Maldives. Unfortunately, both have been hit hard by El Nino and COTS. That said, both resorts have invested more than any other resort in marine biologists to help with this problem as 3 are posted on Thudufushi and 4 (!) on Athuruga. Thudufushi does have a good number of scattered blue and yellow Acropora coral croppings which are inspiring encouragement that these reefs will bounce back.

So what are a couple of the differences?

  • Room Types – Thudufushi has a couple of extra room types namely the Jacuzzi Water Villa and Beach Junior Suite.
  • Size – Thudufushi is slightly larger all around. The larger island affords an inner spa garden where they hold yoga sessions, Maldivian theme nights, as well as host a table tennis and darts pavilions.

Both Athuruga and Thudufushi are polished 5-carat, Triple 000 quality gems with many scintillating facets to admire.

Best of Maldives Online–Trip Advisor Destination Expert Recommendation: Athuruga

 

Spammie in Athuruga

The Reviewer’s favourite might be Cocoa Island, and the Forum’s favourite might be Vilamendhoo, but what is the Experts’ favourite?

The other thing I noted in my survey (looking at the past 6 months of Trip Advisor Maldives Forum posts) was responses by the Destination Experts (DE’s) to the question ‘Which Resort?’ (which is most typically followed by the response, “What is your budget?”). 

First, I must say that I was impressed with the range and balance of their recommendations.  After having visited 19 myself, I’m not sure I would be so balanced in my recommendations (we all have our favourites).

Despite the impressive balance of recommendations, there was a clear favourite…Athuruga.  It was both the top 2 DE’s top recommendation as they suggested it 13 and 7 times respectively. Their next most recommended resorts were Maayafushi (11) and Mirihi (10) collectively. Curiously, most of the Maayafushi suggestions came in the first 3 months and the Athuruga one’s more recently (a shift of sentiment?).  In total, 32 different resorts were proposed by the DE’s. Other favoured resorts include Dhiggiri (8 mentions), Vilamendhoo (6), Bandos (5), Kuramathi (5). The top DE recommended a total 24 resorts on 81 occasions (again, this is just counting those instances where a poster asked a very open ended ‘which resort’ question).

Also, a hats off to all the DE’s on Trip Advisor who do a pretty heroic job of answering the most repetitive and obscure questions with speed, expertise and often a bit of light-hearted fun.

Best of Maldives Online – Visitor Contribution: Francisco Negrin

Francisco Negrin

It just gets easier and easier to work on Maldives Complete because more and more visitors are kindly writing to me with help, suggestions, missing information, corrections. But one individual stands above all his ability to ferret out the most esoteric and obscure details – Francis Negrin.

He has identified new islands, quirky features, and buried website troves of tidbits. Sometimes I actually have come across some of these things and I think he finds it fun sport to see if he can uncover something missing in the Maldives Complete collection. We also have good chats about all sorts of Maldives topics.

And if his current trip is any indication, he stands out in his adoration of the Maldives. Many people feel blessed with one week in the Maldives though if budget and holiday time permits so many people prefer two. Francisco and his friends are going for an entire month during which include Rihiveli (“truly stunning and very very cheap. A gem . The rare find . Way way better than any resort at that price range except there is no house reef”), Cocoa Island (“Cocoa is stunning. I even cried a bit when i got here.”), Dhoni Island, (excursion to Athuruga from there) , Alila Villas Hadahaa, Kanuhura, and Anantara Kihavah.

To add to his long collection of contributions, the Cocoa Island profile is now 100% complete thanks to his snapping me a picture of the fitness centre that I have just loaded up. You too can follow along (if you can tolerate the envy) at his photo-blog http://gallery.me.com/fnegrin#100179.