Grill stations at buffets are often pretty standard fare. And Japanese-style Tepanyaki grills, that inject a bit of show into the prep, can be found at a good number of properties. But we were enchanted by what is probably best described as “Maldivian Tepanyaki” at Maukunudu’s Maldivian Night. The chef was preparing “Maldivian Flat Bread Strings”, itself a dish I had never sampled in twenty years of coming to the Maldives.
The chef chops flat breads into very thin “strings” and fries them on the grill. Then some veg and spices are tossed on…with more rhythmic chopping. Finally, the whole mixture is topped with a fish or chicken. It was delicious and all prepared with a rhythmic show.
Maldives Classic. A great way to start off was to visit a resort that evoked so much of the classic Maldivian character that we have fallen in love with over the past two decades. A number of resorts claim to have indigenous inspiration and plenty have touches drawn from the local aesthetic, but few have been so completely infused with the style and materials of a traditional Maldivian village as Makunudu.
I remember describing the Komandoo villa, with its homey feel, as a friend’s beach house we had been invited to visit. Makunudu had a similar feel, except that the owners of the beach houses are Maldivian. It feels like these villas might have been houses built generations ago with traditional techniques (eg. weaving, tying) and materials (eg. thatch, bamboo), but have been updated over the years with the contemporary amenities. Like a French auberge, English cottage, or Swiss Chalet with fitted with modern conveniences.
The resort actually has undertaken some relatively recent refurbishments which are extremely astute. First, smartening up the bathrooms. Some refreshed stone and slate with updated fixtures (eg. rain showers) give this important room a fresh feel. But perhaps the best investment was their purchase of not only highest quality beds, but also mattress toppers (literally) on top of them all (literally) wrapped up with high thread count bed linen. The bed was simply one of the most comfortable I have slept in.
What they did not fritter away money on are amenities that not only do many Maldives fans find unnecessary, they actually find them to be a detraction – TV, gym, buggies.
I didn’t know that much about Makunudu before my visit. I think that is because it was a bit older and until the arrival of new management this past year, had not kept up. But the new management has really made some sound investments in the right places to make it a very compelling 4+ star option. I haven’t written a single “Best of the Maldives” piece about Makunudu to date, but I am coming away with lots of post material for the future (stay tuned).
One of the new items on House Reef profiles is the “Resident” field. This notes if there is a particular creature who is regularly found on the house reef and who can be distinctly identified. The first “Resident” I met in the Maldives was “Camilla”, a turtle on the Vakarufalhi house reef.
Turtles are quite readily identifiable by their shell markings which has allowed a few marine biologists to take Snorkel Spotting to a whole new level. The most spottable grounds might just be the eponymous “Turtle Reef” in the North Male atoll. This terrapin terroir is closest to the Makanudhu resort, but the the nearby One & Only Reethi Rah really gives the excursion the first class treatment (see video link above). Reports Reethi’s Scott Le Roi…
“Turtle reef is where we go for the Turtle Adventure trip (every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday). It is one of the most popular reefs we go to. The reef is next to Makundhoo resort, which is about a 25 minute dhoni ride or about 7 minutes in a speedboat from our resort. We take lots of private trips there as well and the dive centre also do there evening snorkel there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s a hawksbill turtle feeding ground so there is always a good chance of seeing lots of turtles there. The most I have seen in one snorkel is 23! The turtles here are pretty relaxed. As it is their home territory, they don’t feel threatened by people, so our guests can have a really amazing encounter with them; Swimming alongside them or turtles coming up to breathe right in front of them! It is also a very beautiful reef. Nice corals and fish life, sometimes sharks and eagle rays.”
In the spirit of Snorkel Spotter, the Reethi Rah marine biologist also runs a spotting program (see pictures below)…
“Since February 2012 our resident Marine Biologist has been identifying the different turtles seen during the Turtle Adventure Snorkel at both Turtle Reef and West Point Reef. Every turtle has a unique scale pattern on each side of the head which it can be identified by. Photographed turtles are uploaded into a photo identification database to try to establish their population size, foraging sites and migration patterns. So far over 100 different Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) have been identified at Turtle Reef and over 40 at West Point Reef. Many of these turtles are common residents of the reef and can be seen regularly.”
For people interesting in “Turtle Spotting” across the Maldives, the Four Seasons Marine Savers’ Turtle ID Project takes this ID programme to Maldives-wide level.