Maldives Tour 2013 – Day 8: Nika

Nika tour

Curiouser and curiouser. Just when you think you have seen it all after visiting 47 resorts in the Maldives (and researching all the others), you pull up to a place like Nika which defies comparison to anything else in the Maldives.

It’s easier to compare Nike to a hotel back in the old country of its heritage, Italy, than to another Maldivian property. In fact, their tag line is “Maldives Italian Look”. It was one of the first 10 resorts in the Maldives (and among an even more select group of that original 10 that are still around). The original owner developed a distinctive villa style, part ocean influence and part Italian old world style with curios strewn about.

The whole feel of the place reminded us of one of our favourite Italian hotels – Hotel Florence. On the shores of Lake Como, the infamous town of Bellagio makes most people think of the flashy, slick, 5-star-plus luxury Hotel Serbelloni. But we found that the Florence, just next door, exudes charm and character, with exceptional views of the lake and at a fraction of the price. That is exactly like Nika.

The ‘villas’ are unlike anything you have come across in the Maldives. With their distinctive size (the bathrooms are bigger than most bungalows in the Maldives…seriously, you could play a game of squash in there) and privacy, they are more like ‘beach homes’ or ‘seaside cottages’.

It is not just the villas. The whole island smacks of something like a little seaside village rather than a resort. Low set stone walls line two parallel sand boulevards giving the island the ambience of an exclusive community. Since everything is sequestered into its own private area, you see very little of the island interior. The individual residences are as private as the staff residences are in most resorts. And you can’t see much of the outer island by walking around the shore because guests are not allowed to walk on any beach except their own and the two public beach areas.

Of course, you can go one step further out and snorkel around the island on the house reef. While hit by El Nino a while back, it still sports a fine drop off teeming with lots of fish (we saw sharks and two moray eels nestled together in a crevice).

This tour feels a bit like raiding the Italian stash of prized resorts (sorry Roberta). Bathala, Gangehi and now Nika. No major UK operator is carrying Nika, but you can book directly online. I came away with 21 Best of the Maldives candidates (and some of the more unusual ones ever) so there are plenty of reasons to venture into this quirky little slice of tropical Venice.

Best of the Maldives: Diving – Nika

Gangehi region Ari diving - small

Question asked on Quora last week ‘Where are the best scuba diving sites in the Maldives?’

I turned to my two trusty Maldives diving resources…

Godfrey uses a 4-star rating system where only 4 dive sites out of the nearly 300 he reviewed got the top mark…

Harwood and Bryning are more liberal with their 5-star rating giving 14 dive sites the full marks out of a similar number reviewed.

To no surprise, one can start by looking at the Ari atoll. Three of Godfrey’s four tops are there as are 4 for Harwood and Bryning. The other atoll mentioned by Godfrey is Male and Harwood and Bryning cite 6 in Male atoll (North and South). But I’m weighting Godfrey more because he is being more selective with his top gradings. Furthermore, the Ari atoll has a generally distinctive reputation as being the top atoll for diving in the Maldives. It is the most renowned area for whale sharks in the plankton bloom seasons. Finally, the Male spots are quite spread out, but the two North Ari sites are both very close to each other which secures it.

Godfrey describes Miyaruga, “The landscape is stunning and divers can easily circle the reef in one dive if the current permits…Much of the thila is undercut with caves and the surface is coated in soft coral and colourful sponges.”

Actually, three resorts – Gangehi, Nika and Velidhu – lie close to both these resorts, but mathematically, Nika is the absolutely closest.

Disclaimer – Obviously, ‘the best’ diving is subjective at best. Do many variations of taste and interpretation. Also conditions will vary considerably season to season as well as day to day. A normally mundane area could come alive during certain periods and conditions. Furthermore, the grading system of stars is crude at best. Finally, a number of atoll where there are fewer resorts are not covered at all in these books. This post simply tries to distil some of the basic research and assessment that has been done on the Maldives to date.

Best of the Maldives: Night Time Romance – Nika

Nika night time dinner

While Diva might be the overall romantic resort of choice, for that special night time seduction, Nika goes the extra mile. Well, the extra minutes. If the mere 37 rooms was not private enough, then…

“Exactly at midnight on the whole island turns off the light, and in total darkness for three minutes, a pair of lovers can once again make a frank recognition of each other or just watch the starry sky.”