Over the 10 days of Tour #5, I did uncover 143 new Best of the Maldives candidates, and over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing the first of these for each resort visited in the order of the tour. These selections are not necessarily the most stunning or dramatic, but just ones I picked out that I was especially fond of. The others will be posted over the coming months.
The first island up was Chaaya Island…Chaaya Island Dhonveli. After 55 resorts, I’m always a bit surprised to see something I’ve never seen before. Living in a culinary capital of the world (London) and travelling extensively, I especially surprised to find something on a menu I haven’t seen or tried before. Well, at breakfast at Dhonveli, the array of exotic fruit juices included a something I not only hadn’t tried, I hadn’t even heard of it – Wood Apple.
“Wood apple” is one of the most apt names for a fruit since “Orange”. It looks like an apple…encased in wood. In fact, you have to whack it with a spoon to crack the hard exterior. It comes from Sri Lanka, but can be found in the Maldives.
The juice isn’t your typical reddish or orangey colour of most fruit juices, but a rather earthy brown. And not in a golden “apple juice” kind of way. Imagine the pulpiest, mocha-est apple juice. Supposedly extremely good for digestion.
Dhonveli will serve you wood apple on its own (see below), but it is VERY tart (much like rhubarb). So it is typically served with honey or sugar on top.
Classic Maldives. Classic in a nostalgic sense. Before the underwater laundry rooms, the Chateau Margaux oatmeal and the hydrofoil transfers, this was the standard fare for the Maldives that people came from around the world to savour. Simple villas with outdoor bathrooms and thatched roofs, sandy paths weaving through lush tropical growth, and the magic of the Maldives maritime just feet away. No Michelin star dining, but tasty food with classic local curries and grilled reef fish, fresh and served with delectable sauces, not tired or overdone. No butlers, but kind and friendly staff always willing the lend a hand or give a smile.
These days, legions of people don’t even consider the Maldives for fears of mortgage busting prices. But in a few special properties such as Chaaya Island Dhonveli you can still relish paradise for a reasonable price tag. In particular its Garden villas are a relatively attractive option. Most ‘Garden’ villas on Maldives resorts are lower priced rooms reduced because they are tucked away in the inside of the island shrouded by foliage from any ocean view. But the Dhonveli “Garden” villas are right on the water for the most part.
Another budget buster for families are…kids. Yes, in general, but more specifically bringing them on vacation. Somewhat manageable when they are toddlers and resorts offer considerable discounts with them staying in your room. Dhonveli offers a number of Family villas where children up to 12 can stay. The fact is that most Dhonveli rooms have day beds as part of their furnishings and the resort has a considerable supply of beds it can wheel into rooms. So most of their rooms could accommodate a child or two without having to purchase and extra villa if the resort is willing and able to accommodate.
Dhonveli is like that delectable vin de table you get served at a rustic auberge in the French countryside. It might not be vintage Petrus, but it slakes your thirst with unadulterated authenticity.
I came away from our visit with 4 Best of the Maldives pieces.
The other title for this post could be ‘Surf Buddies’.
Some Maldives visitors like the utter remoteness of many of the islands. Feeling like you are on a solitary deserted island in the middle of nowhere. While I enjoy that desolate sensation, I also enjoy the little ‘communities’ of the archipelago. Clusters of land bridged by sand spits and shallow lagoons. It was one of the first stories Andy Lees intrigued me with when describing the Maldives. He told how when walking around the island he spotted another tiny island offshore. Not too far away and the water seem quite shallow. He started walking towards it and before long he was on the other island having waded over from his resort.
My twist today is taken from the community of surfing resorts in the spirit of this week’s posts. I’ve highlighted close clusters of islands before, but in this case the islands aren’t especially close, but their water villa complexes are – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Chaaya Island Dhonveli. As the Bing map above highlights, the two water villas come to within a couple of hundred yards of each other. On top of that, they have a handy little sand spit to provide a bit of a sand bridge for any particularly neighbourly strolls. Mind you, resorts are quite keen that you alert them if you are going to visit their island so spontaneity needs to be kept to a minimum.
Their proximity is not that surprising. Both are located on a reef plateau which provides both with rich surfing in the vicinity.
The Maldives are more renowned for their swimming pool like tranquillity with ocean waters stilled by the reef enclosed lagoons. However, once you go to the right places on the edge of the atoll reefs where the currents hit just right, you can find some quite ideal conditions for surfing. So ideal that Chaaya Island Dhonveli is hosting the world surfing circuit Sri Lankan Airlines Pro Maldives event this week.
“Widely regarded as the most striking event on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS), the SriLankan Airlines Pro – Maldives has again drawn a brilliant field of 128 international surfers from 20 nations around the surfing world.”
More specifically, the event was held at Pasta Point off the island famous for superb 3m wave surf conditions.