Best of the Maldives: Triathlon – Anantara

Anantara - October pink

Anantara hosted their own Mini Triathlon last year to raise awareness of and funds for Breast Cancer last October…

  • “Swim, cycle and run for breast cancer…The Anantara Mini Triathlon starting at Dhoni Bar on Anantara Veli Resort, you’ll run two laps around Naladhu Private Island and Veli, swim to Dhigu and top it off with a three-lap cycle. Celebrate all the hard work with sunset cocktails at Aqua Beach. The entry fee of $25 USD will go towards the Cancer Society of Maldives to support breast cancer research and awareness.”

And special pink ribbon biscuits and cakes to treat yourself at the end (see below).

Anantara - triathlon

Best of the Maldives Online: Maldives Lifestyle Blogger – Samyoyo & Belinda’s Travel (Belinda Young)

Belinda Young 1

One of the things that struck me in my recent fashion research is the prevalence of the Lifestyle (Fashion and Travel) bloggers.  Of the 220+ subjects I discovered, 57 fall into this category.  All of these share a few key things in common – (a) they are female (I have yet to find a male Fashion/Travel blog with a Maldives post), and (b) they are all attractive (bit of a cross-correlation between their being kind to fashion and fashion being kind to them).

They also tend to come to the Maldives once to tick that bucket list destination off the list and then jet off to some other corner of the world.  One big exception struck me – Belinda Young.

Belinda and her sister Samyoyo have visited 14 different Maldives resorts (and One & Only Reethi Rah twice).  Belinda explores a range of tropical resorts all over the world, but she keeps coming back to the Maldives.

Furthermore, her resort pedigree is truly top class… 

Most of the Maldives veterans on Trip Advisor Forum have tended to frequent the upper mid-market properties.  Visits to the emerging 5+ star super-premium segment (like Belinda’s list) are quite rare.  And the glamorati who do go to such places, tend not to share much of their travels (though that is changing with Tweeting and now Instagramming becoming a popular activity for celebrities even on their get-away-from-it-all breaks).

I came across Belinda’s travel/fashion blog researching the Maldives fashion database.  She has posted an extensive range of photos that both provide alluring snapshots of the resorts, but also feature her in many striking poses.  I got in touch with her to get permission to use some of the photos and also to enquire a bit about her Maldive expeditions.  She promptly responded with a warm and helpful reply.  After a few email exchanges, she gladly agreed to do an exclusive interview for Maldives Complete sharing some of her perspectives (she also provided both English and Chinese versions of the interview).

· What is your favourite photo of yourself in the Maldives? 談談妳自已最喜歡的一張在馬爾地夫拍攝的照片? 

The photo in Banyan Tree Madivaru [see top]. I wore my customized dress inspired the colors of Maldives. Not enough words to describe, but you know what I mean…

我最喜愛的應該是在 Banyan Tree Madivaru 的這張,當時我身上穿的洋裝是出發前特別訂做的,顏色啟發自馬爾地夫的海洋色澤。在多的言語都赘述了,我相信您看照片就可以體會了

· Which resort most exceeded your expectations?  哪一間飯店超乎妳的預期?

In our memories, One&Only Reethi Rah is the number one. But the tiny, peaceful and romantic Cocoa exceeded our expectation. It’s hard to forget the nature beauty of Cocoa Island. You must be curious why Reethi is the No. 1? I wanna to say is all about the friends…old friends and new friends made our stay really One&Only!

在我們姐妹心目中 One&Only Reethi Rah 是我們的最愛; 但屬中小型,擁有寧靜浪漫氛圍的 Cocoa 卻是超乎我們所預期的美好。Cocoa Island 的原始美相當令人難以忘懷。不過你可能會好奇為何 One&Only Reethi Rah 占居首位,我認為這完全成就於 “人” 的美好,新朋舊友的齊聚互動讓那次的住宿體驗只能用 “獨一無二” 來形容。

· What was the most romantic touch that a resort added to your stay? ? 聊聊妳所入住的飯店中碰過最浪漫體驗?

The sunset cocktail party at Fanditha restaurant in One&Only Reethi Rah. I think the major reason was that we had just been invited to join a sunset beach wedding before the party. Although I am not the bride, I could feel the joy and happiness. The moment was so precious and special.

我想是第二次入住 One&Only Reethi Rah 的 Fanditha 舉行的一場夕陽雞尾酒會;在酒會前我們受邀參加了一場住客的向晚夕陽婚禮,雖然不是主角,但我仍感受到滿滿的幸福,我相信這應該是一種情緒的延續,使得這場擁有幻彩夕照的 Fanditha 酒會浪漫指數破錶。

· You travel all around the world…what do you find different about the Maldives as a tropical destination? 常常旅遊的妳,認為馬爾地夫與其他熱帶渡假海島較不同的一面是?

We just like to travel tropical islands. The beautiful nature and isolation make the Maldives very unique destination. I love doing nothing just staring at the sea all day and feeling the time standing still…

我們真的很愛海島,旅遊一定都去海邊。但馬爾地夫的獨特是來自於她的自然美以及與世隔絕感,也僅有在馬爾地夫我能充份享受放空的快感,時間在此就好像靜止凍結。。。

· What is your pet peeve at Maldives resorts?有沒有你不太喜歡的飯店?

Well….I think….OH!  Too difficult to answer. But back to summer of 2005, we experienced an incredible stay at Dhoni Mighili. Look at the island right now? I think I have no right to judge Safari island Resort, but can’t go back anymore! I hope the same situation never happens on Banyan Tree Madivaru.

這個問題有點難回答,如果一定要,可能要回到2005年的初夏,當時我們入住 Dhoni Mighili 就像圓了一場相當棒的航海夢。但是看看現今的島?基本上我覺得我沒任何立場去評論一家我沒入住過的飯店 Safari Island,但對於我們個人的 Dhoni Mighili 印象,我們真的回不去了~這點,我希望不會再次發生在 Banyan Tree Madivaru。

· Reethi Rah appears to be only resort (Maldives or other places) where you returned…why did you visit there twice? O&O Reethi Rah Rah 算是妳們旅遊馬爾地夫所有飯店中唯一重返的,什麼原因讓你們再度入住呢?

Not only the One&Only Reethi Rah, we have been The Brando in Tahiti and Song Saa Private Island twice too. For Reethi I think there are 2 reasons. First, we went to O&O Reethi the first time, it had only opened for 2 weeks, and there were lots of small issues not so perfect as we expected.  We got transfer problems on the way back to Male, so the management team invited us return and experience. Secondly, we are going to publish our travel book “Islands Chic” (introduce Maldives/Tahiti/Hawaii), we returned for more photos for the book.

其實不止 O&O Reethi Rah, 大溪地的 The Brando 及柬埔寨的 Song Saa Private Island 我們都曾經重返。對於 O&O Reethi Rah,二個原因造就了我們再次入住,1第一次時飯店開幕僅二週,一些小小的問題真的需要改進,而在我們回程馬列的接送出了極大的問題,也因為如此管理階層請我們回去再試試入住,另一個主要原因則是我們正著手準備出版我們的旅遊書 “時尚島嶼之旅“ (這本書介紹大溪地/馬爾地夫以及夏威宜這三個熱門時尚島嶼),也因為這個因素,我們也希望呈現出更多的海島旅行照片,所以我們就重返了

· The Maldives is renowned for the best snorkeling in the world, but you have seen some many tropical islands around the world. Which other tropical island comes closest to the Maldives for snorkeling quality? ? 馬爾地夫是著名的浮潛勝地,妳遊歷過這麼多熱帶海洋島嶼勝地,還有哪些熱帶海洋地點妳認為能跟馬爾地夫媲美?

I have to tell you….we don’t know how to swim…and…even a little bit of afraid the water (especially the rogue wave). So it’s shame that we didn’t really enjoy snorkeling…crazy right? But we have been to Palau long long time ago…we did snorkeling in there and enjoy it. I think the snorkeling is very good.

Bruce, 我老實跟你說,其實我們姐妹不會游泳。。甚至於有點怕水 (尤其是那種很強勁的洋流),所以有點不好意思的是浮潛活動對我們而言並不是重點,這對於一向喜歡島旅行的人來說很瘋狂吧!不過我們也不是都不浮潛,我們曾經訪訪過帛琉四天三夜,天天浮潛,那裡的浮潛經驗相當好,我相信能媲美馬爾地夫

· What have you not seen in the Maldives that you would love to see or you think some resort should feature (maybe you saw it at a tropical resort in another part of the world)?有沒有任何特點妳會期盼能在馬爾地夫或馬爾地夫的飯店中能體會到 (也許這些特點是在其他熱帶島嶼飯店中所擁有的)

How about the special way to delivery your breakfast to villa likes Canoe Breakfast in Tahiti. But I hope it had a little different from Tahiti…it have to be in Maldives way! But I have no any idea right now.

我蠻想看看大溪地特有的獨木舟早餐在馬爾地夫到底行不行?但一定要有馬爾地夫自已的味道及特色,不過什麼形式呈現,說真的我現在真的還想不出來

· Do you have any favourite foods or drinks you like to have specifically in the Maldives? ? 請告訴我們妳到馬爾地夫旅行時,有沒有特別喜歡的食物或必點飲料?

Local food: chapatti (with Maldivian chili), we ate chapatti almost every morning when we were there.

當地食物 恰帕底 (當然還要配上馬爾地夫土產辣椒),我們幾乎每天早晨都叫 恰帕底

· Which is the next Maldives resort you want to visit? 妳對於未來即將開幕的新飯店最想入住的是哪一家?

But for the future resort i think it is Soneva Jani.  I love the concept of SONEVA..  Soneva Fushi not yet! This is only Soneva we didn’t go to yet.  I am still interested in Soneva in Aqua…but don’t know when will it open!

如果是對未來即將開幕的飯店而言,我最期待 Soneva Jani,因為我太愛 SONEVA 集團了,雖然我唯一沒入住過 Soneva Fushi (這也是我唯一一家未入住過的 SONEVA 品牌飯店),也許 Soneva in Aqua 正式啟航時也許有緣份入住

· Which resort is the one you would most like to return to? 有沒有任何飯店是妳想再度重返的?

Cheval Blanc Randheli is the resort that I would want to return to.  I was the one of the first grand opening guests of Cheval Blanc.  Unfortunately, they had lots of issues I had encountered during my stay (I don’t want to mention), but the most important thing was that I didn’t travel with my elder sister Samantha (we always travel together), so I want to experience it again with my dearest.

Cheval Blanc Randheli!我是 Cheval Blanc 開門第一天就入住進去了,但很可惜的是可能剛開業很多事情皆未上軌道 (多到我懶得再提了),但最要的一點是當時我的姐姐 Samantha 並沒有跟我一起同遊,我們姐妹感情相當好,也是最佳旅伴,我相當希望能跟著她再次入住 Cheval Blanc Randheli ,因為我知道現在一切都上軌道了,我不會失望的

· Do you have any favourite “shots” you like to get (my wife and I always get a photo of us in front of the resort sign)? 分享一下妳所喜歡的特別攝影定格 (像我跟我老婆總喜歡在飯店標誌前拍照)

The bottle of water with resort logo (I love the resort logo on the bottle…not all the resorts have it!)

有飯店標緻的玻璃瓶裝水 (我喜歡有飯店 logo在瓶身上的那種,但不是每間飯店都會有的)

· Any tips to offer first time visitors to the Maldives?對於第一次造訪馬爾地夫的朋友們有沒有任何建議?

Bare foot anywhere as you can…you will miss the sand in your toes when you back to city.

光腳!光腳!光腳!~相信我,當你回到城市後,你會時不時想念起腳底有砂,踩砂的那段日子

 

Belinda Young 2

Best of the Maldives: Blues – Anantara

Anantara - Coco blue singing

The land of an expansive turquoises and azures adds a different dimension to blues this month.

The rhythms of the swaying palms and the water lapping the shores immersed in the biggest expanse of vibrant blues. Maldives might just be the geographical incarnation of R&B.

Resorts attract a wide range of musical acts to entertain their guests over the post-prandial pina coladas. Traditionally dominated by bodu-beru acts, discotheques and local cover bands, the resorts have branched out into hip DJs, original acts and even DIY karaoke. This month Anantara features one of the most appropriate styles at its Dhigu, Veli and Naladhu resort cluster. American jazz blues singer Coco York is in residence performing regularly through January…

“Throughout her career Coco’s name has become synonymous with jazz, having shared the stage with artists such as Clark Terry, Lionel Ritchie, B.B. King and has performed for Bill Clinton, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, The North Sea Jazz Festival and the Jazz and Heritage Festival of New Orleans among others.”

Also, especially apropos for guests’ last night singing the blues of having the say goodbye to their time in paradise. But, let’s hope she’s not having to sing one of her stand-by pieces…”Stormy Monday Blues”.

Best of the Maldives: Hospitality Accreditation – Anantara

Anantara - accreditation program

Labour Day in the USA this week heralds the end of the summer breaks and back to work or to school. Or with Anantara’s new Explorer Programme…both.

They say 90% of learning takes place outside the classroom. But who’s to know just how much of what you have learned? How does it map to the key competencies of the role? Well, Anantara has combined a apprentice-like vocational programme with a certification process. This provides the candidate with the most versatility in moving to different career-progressing roles both across Maldives resorts and even overseas. Anantara announced at its June inauguration…

“The launch of Explorer, a new vocational hotel training programme, which the group has chosen to roll out in the Maldives. The modern and technically progressive progamme is the first to be accredited with international certification. It highlights MHG as a pioneering employer in the ASEAN region within vocational education that addresses the needs of the Millennial generation…Young people need opportunities to learn, but often this needs to be combined with the ability to earn a living at the same time and such opportunities are often limited or unavailable. Explorer is accredited with international certification from Australia, a leader in the field of vocational education. Successful completion is awarded with a hospitality Certificate III qualification that provides the foundation for continued learning to progress towards a Certificate IV, and ultimately a Diploma in Hospitality. The opportunity has been extended to both young internal hotel candidates and external school leaver participants who combine training with real-time remunerated work experience. MHG has also made a significant investment in high quality coaches, who have been developed internally to international accredited standards so that they can share their knowledge and leadership skills with the programme participants. Each Explorer Trainee will be provided with a tablet allowing them access to the online learning platform that complements classroom training, ensuring a fully integrated learning experience. Upon completion they will have learnt new skills and gained experience and confidence in themselves and in an industry that contributes significantly to the well-being of the Maldivian economy.”

Accreditation, coaching, technology – a tropical cocktail of success for many talented and ambitious Maldivians.

Best of the Maldives: Shower – Naladhu

Naladhu shower

 

 

Given their prominent in escalating arms race of luxury at Maldives resorts perhaps ‘bathrooms’ should be called ‘showerrooms’. In the beginning there was the en suite shower. Standard and effective. Then, a resort got a bit adventurous and decided to locate the shower outdoors so one could go au naturel al fresco (to mix my languages a bit there). Then, more recently, a simple shower head was not sumptuous enough and ‘drench showers’ became de rigueur for the super premium properties. Now, actually, drench showers are yesterday’s fashion and the latest are waterfall showers for the leading edge.

Several of the top resorts splash out for the waterfall showers, but none quite so extravagantly as Naladhu. They have placed their marble (again, pretty standard for super-luxe class) shower in the middle of its own reflecting pool.

A little showering island on your island of paradise.

Best of the Maldives: Therapeutic Arrival – Anantara Dhigu

Anantara Dhigu welcome massage

“I don’t even know half these people!”12 pains of Christmas, Twisted Christmas

As delightful as holiday greetings are to receive, sending them can be an exhausting tasks. If hours hunched over the kitchen table scrawling out notes can brings on sore shoulders and writers cramp, then the greeting you need is Anantara’s. After a traditional Thai greeting of a discrete bow with clasped hands, an Anantara spa therapist offers a 5 minute head and neck massage while you are sitting in reception and registering. Not only one of the best first impressions ever, but also smart marketing of free samples to promote the spa (it didn’t take my wife much thinking or delay to sign up for the full treatment at Anantara Spa).

Best of the Maldives: Thai – Anantara Veli

Anantara - Loy Krathong

Happy Loy Krathong!

“On the eve of the 12th lunar month, Anantara Resorts Maldives is proud to present a traditional evening of Thai cuisine and Krathong – flower-shaped candlelit rafts – in celebration of Loy Krathong, The Festival of Lights, under a full moon at Baan Huraa restaurant. As a resort company steeped in heartfelt Thai hospitality it gives us great pleasure to introduce and celebrate one of the most beautiful Thai festivals with our story-collecting travellers from around the globe. Our resorts encapsulate the excitement of discovery and exploration that comes with entering new territory and, though we are celebrating the Festival of Lights outside the Kingdom, I cannot think of a more perfect setting than the greatest paradise on earth to express good wishes to our guests and team members and to look to the future as we float our floral offerings on the night.”

With its romantic trappings (full moon, flowers, candles), as well as its aquatic and even ecological origins, the Maldives has to be one of the best places on the planet to celebrate this endearing Thai holiday…

“Popular legend holds that the celebration is an expression of gratitude to the goddess of water ‘Phra Mae Kongka’ for having extensively used, and sometimes polluted, the water from the rivers and canals. It is also in part a thanksgiving for her bounty in providing water for the livelihood of the people.”

And in the Maldives, there is no better place to celebrate anything Thai than Anantara’s three conjoined properties: Dhigu, Veli and Naladu. Anantara is itself a Thai company which explains its exceptional catering to all things Thai. Their spa is heavily Thai themed with Thai treatments and therapists. In fact, Anatara has one of the most relaxing greetings in the Maldives as its therapists come out to reception and give all arrivals a brief, complementary head and neck message in reception. They obviously have a Thai restaurant, Baan Huraa, which is certainly one of the best if not at least the most authentic in the Maldives. It even features a vintage Thai wine ‘Dranmonte’ (vintage) according to Bala, the resort sommelier.

Best of the Maldives – Tub-Pool Combo: Naladhu

Naladhu pool tub combo

 

 

Forget your underwater spas, restaurants, bedrooms and night clubs. I’m on my honeymoon and I don’t want to be looking at a bunch of Brown Spotted Groupers. I want to look at my gorgeous bride. And that includes my underwater viewing fun. Here in one of Naladhu’s private villas, they have combined the outdoor pool with the outdoor bathtub. Relaxing in a soothing tub while watching my gorgeous bride taking a dip in her ‘skimpiest’ of suits. Now that’s a treat.

Maldives Tour 2011 – Day 2: Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Veli, Naladhu

Maldives Tour 2011 Anantara

The Maldive Trio.

We live on a farm in a converted barn quite close to our other neighbours who also live in charming conversions. We are quite remote, being out on a farm, but we don’t feel isolated because we have our neighbours with whom we regularly have spontaneous gatherings for BBQs, tea or drinks. It has a delightful ‘little community’ feel to it. Anantara Dhigu/Veli/Naladhu has that same feel.

A little cluster of three resort islands plus a staff island and a little bonus island makes it like a little exotic community of paradise. It has a different feel to that of the big resort islands, because each individual island is relatively small. Sales Executive Shanoon Khalid, who took me around, is a Maldivian native and he said that the ‘community of little islands’ feel is very authentically ‘Maldivian’ and has the closest feel of any resort to the ambiance and atmosphere of where he grew up.

The portfolio approach to resort layout also enables a ‘have your cake and eat it, too’ solution: the privacy of a small select property with access to a broad range of services and infrastructure – small island feel with large island amenities. Peace and quiet on the beach with water sports available (but secluded away on another island so little sound activity disturbs the beach-goers.

All three resorts are peppered with delightful touches you would expect from a proper 5 star property. For example, Dhigu’s water villas have ceilings styled as if a Maldivian dhoni (traditional) boat had been overturned on the villa. Their design also provides great views while maintaining privacy from the adjacent villas.

The biggest shortcoming to these Anantara resorts is the snorkelling. You can, of course, go on plenty of snorkel excursions for some stunning snorkelling at nearby reefs. If popping out of your villa and plunging straight into snorkelling is high on your list, then I recommend the Veli island where they have some really fine crops of new growth branch coral in the water villa lagoon. Marine Biologist Sarah Kompatscher also says that there are a range of small reefs around the resorts that they can take you and direct you too (she says that octopus is actually quite commonly sighted and Shanoon noted that schools of squid are quite common) according to your swimming abilities.

Five-star done just right. Not too fussy, but nothing missing.

 

Maldives tour 2011 Anantara 2

Ocean kayaking to the neighbouring ‘picnic island’

Best of the Maldives: Storytelling – Naladhu

Naladhu Storytelling

 

 

One of my friends at Microsoft (and former teammate), Steve Clayton, has the jobs title of ‘Story Teller’. He has made a career out of telling stories for richly illustrating the intricate tapestry of Microsoft technology. The Naladhu resort brings stories to its own guest offering a storytelling evening. Not just reading Dr. Suess, but executed with so much style and panache I suspect the adults would want to go along as well (I know that I would). They host it in a coconut grove (I love it when the resorts do more activities out in the natural surroundings) and they explore the folklore of Maldives. The trips to local village islands are always popular excursions and I know that many visitors are keen to seek out a bit ‘culture’ on their trip. If so, Naladhu offers a colourful portrayal…

“Did you know that the Maldives has an oral literary tradition that extends back almost 1,000 years? A rich history of sailors, pirates, seafaring princes, sultans and British colonial governors? A language unlike any on Earth? A must on the itinerary of any guest to Naladhu is a storytelling evening in our island’s coconut grove with Ahmed Didi, the Island Chief. A native to our very island for – well, longer than anyone really knows! – Ahmed is a lively character with a richly detailed memory filled with island tales from his own lifetime and generations beyond. He shares his love of this island nation and its rich folkloric tradition in casual (yet dramatic!) stories. Naladhu is proud preserve Maldivian culture and share it with our guests during this unique evening back in time.”