Most outdoor Jacuzzis are set out in the open air I guess to provide the most expansive view, but in keeping with Nika’s distinction in the area of privacy, it offers charming Jacuzzi cabanas in the private beach area of each villa. It uses temperature controlled water like drawing a bath so you can get it nice a piping hot unlike many rather tepid Jacuzzis.
Multiple islands also have the more land faring cats (eg. Sun, Bathala, Mirihi). But Nika has 4. One belongs to one of the Maldivian staff and the others to the owners. Strangely they don’t bother the free roaming birds at all. They are quite sociable and they come out to say hello to the guests regularly.
The watermelon on Nika is so fresh that you can pick it yourself. The resort offers a weekly excursion (10:00 – 13:00) to the neighouring island of Thoddoo which is the largest producer of watermelons in the Maldives. And being right next door, it is an eco-friendly “low miles” option as well.
If Black Friday or your trip of a lifetime has depleted your bank account so you have to watch what you buy, then you might consider renting your outfit. Especially, if it is a very elegant piece of couture. Like its neighbour Gangehi, Nika’s main shop also offers a range of clothing complete with custom tailoring. But it also offers a range of saris for wedding hire. So you can have the most ravishing piece without the expensive or having to cram it into your suitcase.
Banyan Trees are one of the enchanting tropical natives of the Maldives. Every resort has a monstrosity of a towering ancient specimen that they are proud to show off. Nika’s own Banyan highlight is more of a Banyan copse. Four Banyan giants that have intertwined to become one. The resort celebrates the space with a mystical yoga area set up directly under their canopy. But perhaps most distinctive is the resort name itself, “Nika”, which is the Maldivian word for “Banyan Tree”.
In the Maldives, one can simply lose track of time. Not just because of indolent indifference. But also because it varies from resort to resort. Many resorts follow “resort time” which is an hour ahead of Male time. There is no geographical reason since the entire country is aligned longitudinally from north to south. It is sort of like a permanent “Daylight Savings Time” or “British Summer Time” (which officially ended today).
The whole concept behind daylight savings time was to provide more daylight hours in the still active part of the later afternoon and early evening. Certainly a great way to stretch your days and activities in the Maldives. One can say that time simply doesn’t matter in this remote paradise, but people still tend to be guided by the benchmarks of daily clock times for their rituals like dining and settling down.
Being so close to the equator, the sunrise and sunset times do not vary much through the year. The sun rises and sets around 6:00 (am and pm) every day varying a matter of minutes through the year. But for the resorts, this means a 7:00 am sunrise (don’t have to get up quite so early for sunrise yoga) and 7:00 pm sunset (so you can carry on your activities later before it truly becomes the dinner hour.
The resort Nika has literally doubled down on this concept setting their resort’s time to 2 whole hours ahead of Male. At Nika, sunset was at 8:00 pm. Which meant that we carried on quite late and by the time we freshened up and went to dinner, it was approaching 9:00 pm. But that dinner hour only amplified Nika’s Italianate vibe where dinner tends to start and linger later into the evening.
Double the sun, double the fun.
(picture courtesy of Rainbow Cheung)
Take me away…and everyone else too!
The utter seclusion of the remote Maldives resorts attracts a big group of the “get away from it all” crowd. Especially, getting away from the crowds. Also, for the big celebrity contingent, privacy is a big plus. And of course, romantic celebrations always place a premium on intimate seclusion. Dhonakulhi even names itself “Island Hideaway”. For many, the treasure to be hidden is themselves.
Recognizing this appeal, many resorts offer pretty good degree of privacy. Maldives resorts are not packed holiday camps nor crowded beaches. And most resorts take measures to strengthen the privacy with various screens and foliage and private areas (Baros is especially effective at this). Many resorts have villas with large enclosed back areas where people can lounge in the sun or even swim in pools in complete isolation. Some even enclose their villa grounds with compound-like walls for complete shielding (eg. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Jumeirah Vittaveli)
Nika has made ‘Privacy’ the over-arching concept to the entire resort. That is all very well and good to assert, but how does one actually distinguish one’s private paradise from so many other well secreted hide-aways? The villas are indeed well segregated with private paths to their front doors and dense foliage between plots.
The one distinction Nika offers is extending this “privacy” and delineated segregation all the way into the water. First of all this means that every villa beach is a private beach. On just about every other resort, you can make the villa itself as private as you like, but the beach itself is open area that any guest can stroll on.
How does Nika pull off this feat without having oppressive beach guards or unsightly warning signs? It exemplifies a principle that is the focus of my other big blog pursuit – embracing failure. Nika has taken what is a necessary downside to so many resorts – island preserving groynes – and turned them into an asset. Many feel that these man-made structures jutting out from the beach detract from the idyllic natural feel of an island. Some make efforts to minimise the impact. But Nika has actually embraced them and exploited them to create this distinctive feature of privacy. That is because each villa is planted directly between two groynes so they form a natural delineation into the water of the villa’s beach AND swimming area. Taking an ocean dip does feel like you have you own like personal slice of paradise.
It’s not going to be the best resort for people who like to walk around the circumfrance of an island. Of course, you can always swim/snorkel/boat around the periphery (so there is no guarantee that your sunbathing will be completely free from prying eyes or that you will never see another human being).
From water walking to water wafting. Of the fragrant bouquets of aquatic bouquets that pack the Nika spa area.
When you first enter the appropriately names Lotus Spa, you are greeted by stereo bowls of dazzling blossoms floating in bowls of water by the gate. Arranged meticulously and artistically is an array of flower petals that are changed every day. Not just the petals, but the design itself (see below for another example).
Then in the spa itself set amidst a sprawling water feature packed with more diverse water lilies and other water flowers than I have seen in the Maldives (see bottom) of different colours and shapes adorning the surface in the bright sunshine.
Nika is just bursting with colour of both fauna and flora.
From flyboarding to free birding.
This post is also a contendor for “Most Nostalgic for My High School Years”. First, “Freebird” was the Ipswich High School Class of 1979 “Class Song”. Second, me and my buddies were big Monty Python fans (perhaps shades of my eventual UK life) and one of my favourite skits was “Albatross.
While I had parroted the “Albatross” sketch endlessly to pubescent tittering, I had never actually seen one. Until I visted Nika. Lori and was even more mesmerised by him, and his goofy wing-flapping walk, than I was I think. We dubbed him “Albert Ross” (my adolescent sense of humour has matured that much since high school).
Nika has its own bird sanctuary. But not in a cage nor in a segregated section of the island, but right in one of the main thoroughfares are the two main pathways converge in front of the dining area. All of the birds roam freely around the island, but they tend to congregate in this area where they are fed and they have some shelters.
A truly diverse bunch too. Bandito the peacock (see above), exotic dove, hens, parrots (see bottom) and ducks.
I’ve done lots of country ambiences, but this is the first “city” ambience. I chose it for today, a bit out of order from the tour itinerary, because of its connection to my wife’s and my anniversary celebrated today.
I wouldn’t be the first to dub the Maldives the “Venice of the Tropics”. Something about being by the water evokes romance and relaxation. And being surrounded by it in every nook and cranny all the more so.
But Nika takes its connection to “Venezia” much more than metaphorically. The owner is actually from Venice himself and still lives there part of the year. The reception (photo above) resembles some antiquated arched grotto, the rooms are decorated with gondola models, pictures and other paraphernalia from Veneto. The channel markers in the lagoon are even authentic “palinas” (the candy-striped mooring poles)!
In recent years, we have been visiting the Maldives mostly in July and very often are there for our anniversary (just missed this year though). When we we much younger, we gave ourselves an anniversary gift to Venice, but both our lives got so packed with professional commitments that we kept postponing it until it fell off the calendar. To make up for the five year wait, on our 15th anniversary, I re-gave the same gift…but I added a trip on the Orient Express (a nod to our honeymoon train ride to Montreal from North Carolina) and a stay at the iconic Hotel Cipriani. It was like our planned 10th…with interest. It was one of the most memorable and romantic trips in our 28 years together. A symbol of how things just get better with time.
Venice and the Maldives…two of the world’s most iconic destinations for romance. And in Nika you find them both!
Felice anniversario, bellissima Lori!