Best of the Maldives: Overwater Gym – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - over water gym 2

If you want work on your Olympic form without tearing yourself away from the signature Maldives sunshine and seascape, then Huvafenfushi is the fitness centre for you. Set out on its very own jetty with 360 degree views of the ocean masterfully exposed by floor to ceiling glass walls. Nice to see a bit of healthy activity given a place of prominence. So often the resort gyms are tucked away in some remote corner of the inner island. Probably because exertion and effort is sort of the antithesis of what the Maldives is all about.

Also Huva features a fine set of kit from high-grade machines to often-omitted Olympic free-weights and racks (one of my pet peeves is when a resort’s fitness centre is a running machine and a few dumbbells).

When we visited last summer, it was one of the few gyms that inspired her to work off a few of the pina coladas and reef fish curries she has consumed on the trip (see below).

Huvafenfushi - over water gym

Best of the Maldives: Nurse Sharks – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - Nurse Shark 2
Photo credit – NICOLE HERZ MSc

International Nursing Day today I thought was an apropos time to call out the eponymous “creature feature” nurse shark. As dependable as those faithful healthcare workers who alleviate our suffering, the similarly calm and composed ‘Ginglymostoma cirratum’ can be found on the Huvfenfushi house reef. Even more precisely, the resident marine biologist Nicole Hertz told us we could see her under the restaurant’s decking among the support pillars. Now, we’ve had lots of snorkel guides enthuse about lots of aquatic residents and, but unfortunately we all too often don’t have the fortune to see these allegedly regular visitors. But as advertised, we swam over and the Huva nurse was sitting on the sand precisely where Nickie said she would be.

Nurse Sharks are much more nocturnally active so it was not unexpected to see her just lying there. But, when we participated in Huvafenfushi’s night time “night aquarium”, she perked to life and paid us a visit with a number of graceful passes by the window (see below).

Huvfenfushi - nurse shark spa
Watching the nurse shark at night from the underwater spa.

Huvafenfushi - Nurse Shark
Photo credit – NICOLE HERZ MSc

 

Best of the Maldives: Snorkel Bag – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - snorkel bag

It’s fashion and freebies all around this week – London Fashion Week, The Oscars…You can’t swing a snorkel bag and hit some a designer frock and some decadent swag. And the resorts are equally generous with their toiletries and amenities. They are great for when you have forgotten something, but usually we are pretty prepared with the basics. But probably the most useful and gratefully received item was Huvafenfushi’s snorkel bag. You really do need something to gather up your fins and masks for various forays to different parts of the house reef or for excursions on snorkel safaris. We had a great one, but we wore it out over the years and had been looking for one for some time.

Now that’s a bag that really goes with your outfit.

Best of the Maldives: Toasters – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - toaster

The traditional 6th anniversary gift is iron. And probably the most stereotypical gift is the ubiquitous toaster. Mind you, if I received the retro red Dualit model, I wouldn’t complain. It features in the Huvafenfushi villas with kitchens lending a distinctive counter colour to a handy option for a light bite.

A toast to 6 years of Maldives Complete!

Best of the Maldives: Private Jacuzzi – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - CUBE jacuzzi

Huvafenfushi has its own bathing with multiple heads, but of a more reclined style. Its bathroom’s Jacuzzi bath has not one but 4 places to rest one’s head. Head rests on bath tubs are a bit of a pet peeve of mine. The Calgon-take-me-away moments are all about blissful floating and yet invariably your head is uncomfortably pushing on some ceramic-hard surface.

Huvafenfushi take me away!

Best of the Maldives: Cool Character-ature – Huvafenfushi

 

It seems like every possible moment of a holiday is captured by the ubiquitous digi-gadgets snapping every possible permutation of sunset, seascape and romantic pose. For a more stylish and creative worth-a-thousand-words memento, Huvafenfushi has introduced celebrity portraiture. Feature last week in the Sunday Times, they describe…

“The award-winning artist Jasmin Khexri – whose cool fictional character Irma doles out fashion and beauty advice in Vogue, Tatler and Marie Claire – will be in residence at the resort in October. Kherzi will draw portraits in her distinctive style which giving sitters creative tips on how to bring a bit of Irma’s World into their lives. A session costs £360.”

 

Huvafenfushi - Irma style

Best of the Maldives: Night Aquarium – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - spa night time aquarium

Night reef for everyone.

These underwater wonders are no cheap gimmicks. They run millions of dollars to install. Conventional wisdom says that when you have an expensive piece of capital, you try to sweat that asset as much as possible. That’s why I thought that Conrad’s turning its Ithaa restaurant into a bedroom at night was a stroke of genius to get 24×7 use of that great facility (though they abandoned that practice as the logistics of converting it back and forth each night was too difficult).

Huvafenfushi’s underwater spa, LIME, is world famous. And it too has decided to extend the enjoyment of this distinctive facility beyond business hours. Its night time activity – SpaQuarium – focuses on, well…the night. The stygian capers of the undersea world.

Even the most avid snorkelers and experienced divers often haven’t had the chance for a night dive to venture into this hidden world. My wife went on a night dive with our son Chase once and she said she didn’t see much because we was so worried about losing sight of Chase. Much as the reef seems teeming with activity and life during the day, the night-time is when the reef party really kicks off. Many sea creatures have limited eye-sight and potential prey exploit that with a nocturnal lifestyle where the ocean darkness helps shroud them from predators (we were told that on more than one occasion a shark has even bumped into the LIME glass not seeing it).

This regular resort event in the underwater spa starts around 9:00 a few times a week. Huvafenfushi staff greet you when you arrive with a glass of champagne and some tropical fruit with chocolate sauce to dip them into. The resort marine biologist, Nicole, provides commentary and a guide to this lightless world. Lori and I sat watching a smorgasbord of fish life, but especially lots of trevally and jacks, and the black tipped reef sharks and nurse sharks visiting were the special delight.

At the penultimate bottom of the food chain, zooplankton (ie. fish larvae, shrimp larvae, tiny crustaceans) come out at night to feed on the phytoplankton (the absolute bottom of the food chain). During the day, the zooplankton hide from predators on the sea floor, but during the night they emerge making the ocean cloudy with microscopic life. If you look very closely, you can see the translucent slivers darting about and sometimes you can even spy their miniature eyeballs.

Phytoplankton are tiny plant material floating in the water. They may be microscopic individually, but collectively they are massive. They produce 50% of the earth’s oxygen and can satisfy the hunger of the largest fish (whale shark) and largest mammal (blue whale) in the ocean.

You can also see the actual coral animals who bulge out of their rocky skeleton to feed on the phytoplankton at night. The sharp coral edges get all billowy and fluffy with their protruding bodies and they poke out of their calcified homes.

The annual highlight of the night time is appropriately post-watershed coral spawning. In this season, the female corals first release their eggs which such abundance that the water will turn red and you can even smell the eggs. Then, at the right moment (ostensibly aligned with the full moon cycle), the male corals release their sperm into the water to mix with the cloud of eggs. It is such a spectacular event that the Nicole says she and few staff waited for it in LIME and when they saw it starting, donned their masks and snorkel so they could go outside and jump in to witness it more closely.

After the first hour or so us all taking in the eerie sights in LIME’s broad glass vistas, the staff turned out the room lights and and handed us ultraviolent light torches and glasses (see photo at bottom). When you shone the light on certain species of coral (like brain or certain anemones), they florescence with hidden yellows and reds like some sort of 1970 teenagers black light poster.

The final part of the evening was to turn out all lights. This pitch darkness allowed us to witness the mystical bioluminescence display by the zooplankton. Like watching fire flies on a summer’s evening with miniature nano-diodes flashing on across the seascape. They were particularly prevalent when the water was disturbed so if you spied a particular frenetic fish zooming past, it would typically leave a trail of these little stars.

By far one of the best “experiences” in the Maldives I have come across. A mesmerising glimpse into a hidden world so few ever get a chance to see.

 

Huvafenfushi - spa night time aquarium 2

 

Huvafenfushi - spa night time aquarium 3

Maldives Tour 2014 – Day 3: Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi tour

Inspired. Huvafenfushi is one of the Maldives’ pioneers in inspired luxury. One of the founding fathers of the super deluxe experience where resorts try to concoct service, facilities, and experiences as jaw-droppingly heavenly as the destination itself.

Actually, Huvafenfushi’s island was our second visit to the Maldives as a family back in 1999. Back then it was called Nakatchafushi and we were drawn to it by its reputation for having one of the best house reefs in the Maldives. Since then Huvafenfushi burst onto the Maldive scene with a virtuosity of style and distinction that was acclaimed as one of the very best resorts not just in the Maldives, but in the world. As its esteem and reputation grew, its prominence on my bucket-list did as well.

When we arrived at our water villa, not only were we treated to the aquatic delights of tropical fish scampering about beneath us, but a quartet of terns were similarly diving and soaring feet away from our deck hoping to make a little sushi snack of those fish.

The marquee feature of the resort is the infamous Underwater Spa. I must confess that both Lori and I wondered what the point would be of creating one of the most spectacular views somewhere where you just end up lying face down with your eyes closed so you miss it all. Well, first of all, positioned under the table beneath the head rest is a mirror which is aimed right at the window so you do watch the fish swimming by. Secondly, the therapist asks you if you want to have your treatment interrupted if she spies something particularly interesting like a shark swimming by (yes, please!!). Finally, after your massage you are treated to tea and they have an expansive lounge bed set up by some of the windows so that you can linger in the glow of your massage watching the aquatic world drift by in front of you.

And frankly, the spa treatments are only the tip of the iceberg of some of the astonishing experiences Huvafenfushi have devised at that innovative sub-marine facility. Stay tuned for some of the 19 Best of the Maldives pieces I came away with from my visit. Combined with the 10 I have already posted, that puts Huvafenfushi up in the elite ranks of the ‘Best Of’ league table. Right where you would expect.