Maldives is renowned for that marooned on a deserted island aesthetic. The recently revamped Bathala resort introduced a sort of dhoni-houseboat styled villa that is quite literally (or littorally) a “Beach” spa. Sort of a shipwrecked version of Cocoa Island.
When describing my motivations for adding a Dive Site database to Maldives Complete, I noted the lack of interactive guides. Most diving information is traditional hard-copy book form or magazine websites that provide articles and overviews, but not a structured, interactive resource.
The exception to this standard approach is the Werner Lau dive centre website. They have cleverly integrated a mapping of the dive sites near their centres with Google Maps to provide an interactive layout of all of the dives sites local to their 4 Maldives dive centres. You can scan the area for websites who have ToolTip annotations and then simply click on their names to take you to a full profile of the dive site complete with dive chart.
This week’s posts have all been in the spirit of coconut, so why not end the week with its very essence. Most resorts will carry some sort of obligatory coconut spirit. Typically, Malibu Rum for inclusion in the ubiquitous pina coladas (my favourite tropical cocktail). But if you want the authentic taste of the Indian Ocean, the “Old Arrack” is a something a bit more distinctive produced locally in Sri Lanka. The only time I have come across it is at Bathala who include it in their AI selection.
The biggest foot irritant has to be the “cost per square foot” (the gift and visitor can be greeted with is a low one). With the Room Type database getting quite “complete” now (73% complete on profile information and 46% complete on pictures), I can start doing some broader comparisons and analyses. I thought it would be interesting to see who had the best “cost per square foot” (or metre). Some resorts charge some expensive prices, but then they provide some extensive real estate to sprawl out in. Others are more value priced, but much more limited in space.
I had to break it out by star category to reflect the differences in services, amenities and often build quality that would simply make the lowest cost per square foot the cheapest overall resort (or close to it). Here’s how they panned out…
- UI Inn Deluxe Double Room (Hotel) – While I have focused on “Resorts” and have definitely steered clear of “Live Aboards” and “Guest Houses”, I do feature the prominent “Hotels” in the Maldives. The budget UI Inn on the new island of Hulhulmale, came in at lowest cost of $0.91 per square meter for a one night room charge ($60 for a 44 square meter room).
- Bathala Beach Villa (3 star) – Next in the ranking table was one of the overall value leader resorts, Bathala. It came in at $1.33 per square metre ($80 for 60 sq/m).
- Kurumba Deluxe Pool Villa (5 star) – Next in the rankings was another value leader, Kurumba (see floor plan above). Lori and I stayed in this recently revamped category in July and it is truly a spacious and commodious villa. $2.20 per square metre ($440 for 200 sq/m). Some of their measured square footage is exterior, but it is sumptuously furnished so it does seem like an extension of the room (but with extra sunshine).
- Kandooma Garden Villa (4 star) – Finally, 4th came the 4 star leader Kandooma. $2.52 per square metre ($249 for 99 sq/m).
All of these villas represent the “Garden Villa” category. Garden Villas are found off the beach front. Of course, the big ticket is the Water Villas completely over the water, and people typically want to at least be “by” the water for their holiday in tropical paradise. But, we’ve never been put off by the Garden Villa room type and have stayed in them on a number of occasions. If you are having trouble making ends meet on your budget, giving up how close your room is to the water always seemed like a good trade off to us. For starters, given the diminutive size of the islands, even the garden rooms are not that far from the shore. In any other country, they would probably be labelled beach front. Typically, they are a few dozen extra metres inland or simply have their ocean view impeded. Secondly, you simply don’t spend that much time in your room. You are there to enjoy the beauty and fun the place has to offer. You mostly retire to your room for a nap or sleep at night. And you don’t need great views when your eyes are closed anyways.
One island that has avoided the groynes blemish (and water breaks) is Bathala. As a result, the sandy beaches are completely exposed to and subject to the whims of Mother Nature. The resort is accustomed to regularly shifting beaches as the tide and wind moves beaches around the island. One of the villas seemed exceptionally close to the water’s edge when we visited and exposed roots of nearby palm trees made evident that the water line hadn’t always been there. The resort explained that such shifting was quite common for Bathala and they monitor the edges carefully, but in general fluctuating circumference stays within acceptable tolerance to not threaten the infrastructure.
Heraclitis famously remarked that "No man ever steps in the same river twice.” At Bathala, one doesn’t visit the same beach twice.
Bathala is an increasingly rare breed known as the Maldivian 3 star resort. Do not fear. Bathala has all the true essentials – strong air conditioning, outdoor shower, ample bed, tasty food, and a clean room. There is just no spa, no fitness centre, no water sports, no tennis court, no TVs, no interior design (pink floors + robin’s egg blue wall + burnt orange bedspread). There is not even a Bathala sign. We took our tour photo above standing in front of the resort instead. Yes, you heard me right. ‘The resort’. You can see the entire resort (save the individual villas) in that shot.
But what it lacks in man-made infrastructure and decoration on the inside, it more than makes up for with an overabundance of natural beauty outside. Whether above or below the ocean’s surface, its charms are the first, last and only thing on the daily agenda. Not everyone’s cuppa tea. But some people’s absolute fantasy.
The sea itself is a few feet away from the main sitting area (The picture above was shot from someone standing in the water). And the coral starts just a few feet in from the water’s edge. And the drop off is only a few dozen metres beyond that (or you can jump right on to it from the rear jetty).
What a house reef it is. You can see why resorts from all around bring dive and snorkel excursions here to experience it. Lori and my snorkel was the best we have had in two years (since “Shark Week” at Kurumba). We’ve logged the big sightings on Snorkel Spotter already. We also dived the house reef and saw not only even more vibrant soft and hard coral and colourful fish, but also our first octopus since 2004!
Bathala is primarily sold in the Italian and more recently German markets, but in other countries you can book direct. From September through April, the resort is pretty near 100% occupancy so you would be hard pressed to squeeze into one of its 50 villas. But from May through August, it is less in demand and you have a real chance for a bargain opportunity to experience authentic paradise.
For old-school Maldives aficionados who bemoan the escalating gentrification of the resorts, Bathala is a dream holdout from a nostalgic time. A gem of old school Maldives. For anyone on a budget or who appreciates the purity, rush to Bathala (preferably in the off season), before this treasure gets buried under a revamp of inlaid marble and overwater massage rooms.
Back to the metaphorical…Some exotic single malt whiskeys are brewed in a simple, remote wood hut on a isolated Scottish isle and they pack a taste that smacks you around the face with gritty genuine uniqueness that is the unadorned intoxicating spirit of the place. That is Bathala.
Eeek a shark! One of the most prevalent sea creatures that you will encounter in the Maldives is the white-tipped reef shark. But for those who have gorged on too many Hollywood special effects, rest assured there is nothing to fear. In fact, one of the most prominent characteristics of these infamous fish is how skittish they are themselves. After a while of snorkelling and catching glimpses of them, you really start to want to see them closer and realise how apprehensive they are about getting anywhere near you.
The most prevalent are the bitty ones you see in the lagoons like the one our children Isley and Chase are admiring above. But they do grow up to several feet long, but those ones are just as harmless (in fact, the bigger they are, the bigger scaredy cats that they seem to be).
If you want to see as many of these popular and populous creatures, then the place to go is Maaya Thila, described at the ‘White Tip Reef Shark Capital of the Maldives’. While Maayafushi and Halaveli are nearby, the closest resort to this specially protected marine area is Bathala.
Tim Godfrey describes Maaya Thila in his book ‘Dive Maldives’…
“The smaller white-tips are the centre of attention, with dozens of them circling the reef. Maaya Thila is about 80 metres in diameter and can be easily circumnavigated in one dive – if the current is favourable – although it is not uncommon for divers to spend the entire dive in one area to digest the incredible diversity of marine life.”