Best of the Maldives: Romantic Treatment – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru tantric chakra

Maldives is arguably the most romantic place on earth. Today is the most romantic day of the year. So where precisely do you want to be?

Well, I would propose Four Seasons’ Landaa Giraavaru’s Spa and Ayurvedic Retreat. They offer a striking array of treatments impressive even on Maldives standards (a few years ago Maldives was awarded ‘Spa Capital of Asia’). But one stands out on this day of lovers – ‘Tantric Traditions’.

Now anyone who’s read Hello magazine on the flight over will be familiar with Sting’s infamous advocacy of tantric practices in a loving relationship. While in the West, ‘Tantric’ is most commonly associated with romantic intimacy, it is actually part of a larger tradition and practice “channel [divine] energy, within the human microcosm, in creative and emancipatory ways

Landaa’s session involves two therapists, male and female, working together with a couple…

“Our Tantriks in LG, seek to work with the life force energy or prana by means of yoga asanas, pranayama, meditation techniques, mantra chanting, invigorating massages etc in their rituals resulting in channelizing the prana along the nadis and activating the chakra points, the ultimate aim being to stimulate the kundalini. However this is only an attempt in that direction. The positive outcome of the treatment in a modern sense is the attainment of optimal autonomic balance leading to peace and relaxation.”

Landaa emphasizes that everything in the session is completely conventional and respectable. But what each couple choose to take back to the privacy of their own villa for further practice is up to them…

Best of the Maldives: Aquatic Topiary – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru coral garden Yin-Yang

While the ‘house reef’ is the ‘main event’ in snorkelling, lagoon snorkelling can be its own treat. During our first, uninitiated trip to the Maldives, we spent nearly the whole week there delightedly snorkelling among the modest coral and rock croppings in the shallow, sandy lagoon. We didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a ‘drop off’. We still enjoy the charms of lagoon snorkelling with some real highlights in our history – a playful octopus, a digging sting ray, a passing manta, and a whole host of turtles and fish.

If you can’t get the snorkelers to the reef, bring the reef to the snorkelers. Often the main problem with house reefs are their accessibility. Eventually, you can get to a drop off point, but you have swim over long expanses of relatively boring white sand. So as a part of its award winning reef regeneration efforts, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has taken a creative twist on reefs with what can best be described as ‘reef topiary’.

Its showcase piece is the Yin-Yang Coral Garden pictured above. From an aerial view, the coral forms a yin-and-yang symbol. The resort is now planning an encore with a ‘Crescent Moon’ in the works.

Best of the Maldives: Manta Research – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru Manta 2

Mantas are the most magical creatures I have seen in the wild. They have an a otherworldly aura to them that seems almost like a beneficent alien spaceship. And they too appreciate spa treatments that they get from wrasse fish at ‘cleaning stations.’

Similarly smitten Martin Clunes recently produced a television show ‘Man to Manta’ on ITV which is on ITV Player.

The resort most smitten with Mantas has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. One of the major focus areas of their Marine Centre are mantas where they run their Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP). The programme was founded by Senior Marine Biologist Guy Stevens and is supported by Save Our Seas. It has the largest number of identified manta rays on record in the world. Landaa honours this work with a distinctive Manta sculpture in its Marine Discovery Centre. And, the Maldives section of Clune’s show is filmed at Landaa including an interview with Stevens.

The picture above was taken during one of our Landaa dives in November.

Martin Clunes Man to Manta

Best of the Maldives: Apprenticeships – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Sir Alan Sugar The Apprentice

“You’re hired!”

Sir Alan is not the only one appointing new apprentices.  Four Seasons, both Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa properties, sponsor an ambitious programme of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) certified apprenticeships

39 Maldivians are enrolled in the Class of 2011 aged 16-20 years with O-Level certifications. The programme was founded in in 2009 by Armando Kraenzlin, GM Landa Giraavaru who commented…

“Apprentices are paid a stipend and given room and board while in the programme. Instructors come from the management team, as well as from out side the resort. For instance, the Boat Mechanics module is taught by someone from Maritime College in Colombo, and is intense hand-on course. Other topics outside of operations include English and Math. Regular resort employees are mixed in with the apprentices so that the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration so critical to Four Seasons has an opportunity to flourish and grow. The programme works: one 2003 graduate is now an assistant department head, a position that would have seemed unattainable at one time.”

When I visited in November, a number of staff at both resorts proudly commented about the programme unsolicited.  My wife and I remember that when we first came over a decade ago, many staff at resorts were from far away countries and only got to see their families a few times a year.  But, the folks we spoke to in November recounted going home nearly every week on their days off and spending time with family having picnics, and playing beach football with friends.   But to top it off, Landaa Giraavaru also sponsors a couple of work experience student/researchers in marine biology and its top class research and visitor centre.

Four Seasons Apprenticeship programme

Best of the Maldives: Biggest Shop – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru shop

Last chance for Christmas shopping today!

We traditionally spend our family Christmas Eve going into the big metropolis of London for a bit of last minute shopping. Picking up stocking stuffers, treats for Christmas day and meal, and just soaking up the Yuletide atmosphere. Actually, it is a great day for shopping because the crowds are tapering off. Many folks are now travelling to far flung families or getting their homes ready. We found this out when one year, in a particularly frenetic advent, we had not made it by for the kids to see Santa. So we went into Harrods (between Selfridges the two best grottoes in London) and were delighted and astonished to find that the often 2-3 hour queue was only 30 minutes on Christmas Eve.

If you have left your Maldivian Christmas shopping to the last minute, the Harrods of the Maldives has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s gift shop. While many boutiques are little more than closets stuffed with conventional stuff you find at the airport, Landaa’s is 35 metres long packed with high quality and extensive variety product.

Best of all, Landaa’s gift shop sold some of the best t-shirts we have found in the Maldives. Poor (or worse yet, no) t-shirts is a real pet peeve of mine when I travel (as I note in my recent tour wrap up). The Fours Seasons shirts were high quality cotton, enticing colours (white is boring) and subtle but classy embroidered graphic.

Merry Christmas everyone! May Santa bring you lots of Maldive holiday vouchers!

Best of the Maldives: Inflatables – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru water sports inflatables

Pulling an inner tube behind a speed boat. Pretty basic fun and the staple of our annual coastal visits to my wife’s family’s home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Kind of lazy, easy, laugh-out-loud water fun.

Then they put handles on the inner tubes…made them a bit bigger…added a few other tweaks. Now the inflatable innovation is rampant. Just walk by a Redix and you can witness the colourful variety of water fun you can now have in the wake of a motor boat.

But I have never seen so many varieties of inflatable contraptions as the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru water centre stocks. The manager Hussain Zahid (pictured above) showed me no less than 18 different varieties. Gyro (it spins around). Granstand (you stand up) and something called ‘Ray Boat’ that I have never seen in all my years of water adventure. All shapes, size and colours for all sorts of rides.

Best of the Maldives: Exhibit – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru exhibit

The number one objection to visiting the Maldives is the thought that there is nothing to do there. If you don’t (a) dive, (b) have a newlywed to stare into the eyes of, or (c) work on your tan, then what do you do on an isolate plot of sand in the middle of the ocean? Most resorts have good watersports centres which provide an extended range of options for the hyperactive. The Maldives Complete ‘Best Of’ section highlights a number of further original distractions and offerings. But few innovations are as ambitious and comprehensive as Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’sMarine Discovery Center’. In fact, the centre itself contains 3 ‘Best Of’ distinctions in itself (Fish Nursery, Sculpture, Kids Education).

Lori and I were given a tour of the facility by Harry Masefield (see pictures). While modest in size, the center is packed with exhibits that are not only intriguing, but also stylish and inviting. The tour took almost and hour, but we could have spent all day there. There are visual exhibits, an interactive kiosk, a kids hands-on area, the research area, reefscaping workshop, art, presentation area, aquarium among the many resources to explore. More details to follow in future posts.

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru exhibit 2

Maldives Tour 2010 – Day 4: Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Landaa Giraavaru Reception

As a Craig Revel-Horwood would conclude…’A-may-zing!’

Without triggering a torrent of debate, Landaa’s recent accolade for one of the ultimate ‘Best Of’ awards – Conde Nast’s ‘Best in the Maldives’ – is no surprise. It is without doubt a contender for one of the top resorts in the Maldives.

As GM Armando Kraenzlin commented, “There is no perfect island”. He is right there. Landaa does not have an easily accessible house reef with a big ‘drop off’ (though it has an impressive lagoon reef enhanced by its coral regeneration as well as very easy and plentiful snorkel excursions that just about make up for this shortcoming).

Landaa is also quite a large island which not every one’s mug of tea (many prefer a setting closer to the ‘palm-tree-on-a-pile-of-sand’ idyll). But Landaa turns the scale to advantage with a sheer expanse of offerings and large accommodations (each villa is really the size of a small house with its own courtyard and pool). The obvious difficulty of getting around it minimised by a fleet of buggies which respond immediately.

Landaa’s not perfect in execution and on the surprising rare occasion a service or serving would disappoint just a bit.  But boy does it aim for perfection.  I think sometimes the nit-picks stemmed from being so constantly spoiled that one’s expectations just start to creep up stratospherically (and it is certainly one of the high end price resorts which will justifiably also fuel high expectations).

But what most captivates the most is the excruciating and creative attention to the tiniest details. Many of these will be highlighted in the no less than 16 ‘Best Of’ candidates I scrounged up in my very short stay. I was often anticipating the very best and then found myself surprised by Landaa delivering something beyond what I had ever fantasized about. I also have a number of petty ‘tests’ that for me separate the royalty from the pretenders and Landaa passed every one (eg. excellent souvenir t-shirts, decent bar snacks, positively supporting the most quirky seating requests I could devise).

If you get a big bonus or budget and are looking for a resort with big things on offer and attention to the smallest finer points, then you can’t miss with Landaa.

Landaa Giraavaru Water Villa

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.