While yesterday’s long awaiting press conference by the British government on the COVID lockdown roadmap didn’t provide a clear reassurance that foreign travel will resume in May, the overall gist was extremely positive. The Prime Minister said he remained “hopeful” about sticking to the roadmap, but also admonished everyone to not “underestimate the challenges”. A further update is expected next week and much speculation exists around a return to the “traffic light” system of different protocols for different countries. Fortunately, the Maldives is one of the destinations that meet the criteria for the “green” travel corridor with its high penetration of vaccination and low/declining incidence of COVID.
If you want to play it extra safe for fear of the rules changing mid-holiday or some other eventuality hitting which might frustrate your timely return, then Sun Siyam has introduced a quarantine guarantee at its Olhuveli and Iru Veli resorts. Maldives Insider resports:
- “Sun Siyam Resorts, the luxury Maldivian hotel and resort brand, has introduced a first-of-its-kind offer at two of its resorts: free quarantine for Indians staying at Sun Siyam Olhuveli and Sun Siyam Iru Veli. The offer, available for stays in March and April, will enable Indian travellers to visit the two resorts without having to worry about extra costs involved in mandatory quarantine if they test positive for Covid-19. Most airlines and destinations require a negative PCR test result, so tourists have to undergo testing before their departure from the Maldives. If they test positive, they have to quarantine for 14 days. In cases where guests test positive for Covid-19 during their stay at Sun Siyam Olhuveli or Sun Siyam Iru Veli, they don’t have to worry about paying for their quarantine; the resort will cover accommodation and other necessary expenses for the entire duration of government-mandated quarantine.”
For the biggest banquet under one roof (and even out from the roof) Olhuveli’s main restaurant seats a glutinous 600 guests. The island only has 164 rooms (so approximately 350 guests at any time), but some staff eat there and the extra capacity gives diners more choices about where they want to eat. For example, they might want to enjoy the extensive outdoor deck seating on a lovely evening or afternoon. But if the squalls are passing through, they might prefer the cover of inside area. Plenty of choice on seating and an equally expansive range of buffet options and stations.
I always delight in finding things at resorts that I haven’t come across before in other resorts. I especially delight in finding things I had never come across ever in my life. So it was with Olhuveli’s “Pakora”, a kind of ghee-fried fritter. London and the UK is not short of Indian cuisine, but I have never had a pakora in decades of living here. Not to mention visiting the Indian Ocean neighbour for nearly as long. And not only did the resort offer the treat, but they had a special “Pakora Station” which made several variations on the culinary theme fresh to order.
I’ve also decide to add a “Station” tag to the blog to highlight the distinctive “fresh, made to order” preparations available at buffets around the Maldives.
The magic of the Maldives is right at the surface. The landscape doesn’t tower above you and the seascape doesn’t plummet to the depths. Most of the vibrant colour and life takes place within 10 metres in either direction.
The Maldives features a number of different vessels from glass bottomed boats to full fledge submarines to share the undersea world with the land lubbers without getting wet. There’s pretty good sized and diverse fleet of vessels providing a glimpse into the aquatic world. So much that I’m adding a tag for “Glass Bottom” with this post.
The Best Dives semi-submersible at Olhuveli has a fun look. A bit “Yellow Submarine” Peter Max aesthetic. But its real distinction comes at night time. Not be because its bright red colour makes it easier to see. But because it comes equipped with strong underwater lights to allow for night times cruises. A good deal of the ocean creatures are nocturnal. So even if you are an active snorkeler, the Olhuveli boat provides an opportunity to see things you haven’t seen before. The resort runs regular night as well as day excursions.
“Sky of blue. And sea of green” – Ringo Starr
Olhuveli has it all (almost a phonetic palindrome).
A have your cake and it eat too property. A small quaint island with extensive facilities. An accessible ‘steep drop-off’ house reef steep as well as a vast lagoon and low tide sand banks. Extensive buffet restaurant and a la carte dining options.
The biggest win-win is the quality and choice at the affordable price. Typically, if you have a budget constraint, then you have to identify few things to do without or a few areas to downgrade a bit. Olhuveli is another 4-star resort really underselling itself with the range and quality of features and service on offer.
My reaction was curious. I am always on the hunt for “Best of the Maldives” distinctions on these research tours, and frankly, I didn’t come across that many things that I hadn’t seen elsewhere in the Maldives. It might not have had the quirkiest curry recipe or the most bizarre water sport, but it didn’t seem to lack for anything. Including, very importantly, affordability.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the 200+ guests there when we stayed. Olhuveli was at 100% capacity in late July. We normally go to the Maldives in July because it is the “low season”. It means that we can get the most affordable rates, but also the resort staff have more time to help me with my research for Maldives Complete. Mind you, there is really nothing ‘wrong’ with the end of July (more on this in my next post). It’s just that it’s not popular for a lot of markets. Most of the big European markets (eg. France, Germany, Nordic) tend to take August off as holiday. The British don’t take many tropical holidays in mid-summer as its one of the rare times when weather at home is pretty agreeable. The timing doesn’t have any particular appeal to the Chinese market. And Eid is over and done with for the Middle East market. Some of the Maldives resorts are as low as 20% occupancy this time of year and most are around 50%. 80% is the max I’ve tended to see. So to be filled to the brim is a real testimonial. And with 100+ rooms, it’s a sizeable number of testimonials.
It’s actually a bit difficult writing about Olhuveli at the moment because they are just completing a major investment programme in the resort. I got a sneak peek at some of the new villas and facilities. They look superb. Stylish bright beach villas with protected infinity pools gazing out to the ocean. And an entire second island next door being developed with higher end offerings (and joined by a jetty bridge). Don’t worry about the work disrupting your peace and quiet as most of the heavy lifting is done and throughout the work, the resort has blocked off selling any rooms anywhere near work being done. So watch this space.
For those who missed out on a draw in the Water Polo World League starting this week and want to soothe their disappointment in tropical paradise, then Olhuveli offers regular water polo matches in its pool.
Vilamendhoo used to have it in the lagoon which sounds great and reminds me of some Italian seaside towns which hold water polo matches in the seaside harbours (but they have not had matches for a while now).
The ‘safari’ chic ambience of exploring remote and exotic lush landscapes packed with colourful flora and fauna permeates the Maldives. The ‘Snorkel Safari’ is a staple of any visit, and various resorts have extended this theme with ‘safaris’ of other types. As a result, I was immediately drawn to Olhuveli’s announcement this year of a special ‘Canoe Safari’…
“Situated on the tip of the water sports haven South Malé Atoll, Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort has just launched a brand new canoe safari, ideal for those wanting to step off the island and enjoy its sparkling, shallow lagoon, deep channels, numerous sandbanks and even a private island. Suitable for both active families and adventurous couples, this self-guided safari offers the ultimate day out. It includes canoe hire, a picnic to enjoy on neighbouring Dream Island and snorkel and fins – for intrepid water-babies who want to dive into the deeper blue waters and explore the resort’s house reef.”
In fairness, I was hesitant to do a piece about the activity. It seemed like something that you could do at many resorts who offer canoeing. But, I do take my hat off to Olhuveli for putting it together as a package, while in every other resort I’ve seen with canoeing you would have to take your own initiative to put together all the stuff for such a waterborne adventure. Most people aren’t typically bold enough to row out into the open ocean so it’s a good thing for the resort to structure it as an activity making them feel more reassured and not have to think about whether they have everything they need for a fun and successful outing.
The water-proof case is a big asset for bringing key items that you would otherwise fear getting wet (or worse, lost if they fell out of the boat with a mishap). Olhuveli has the bonus asset of the nearby Dream Island that gives one a practical destination for the safari sortie (some resorts have such handy and nearby, ie. paddle-able, island, but not many).
Finally, Olhuveli’s Watersports World has gone one further offering a similar package for people preferring more wind-power with a ‘Catamaran Safari’. As such, I’ve dubbed the piece ‘Eco-Water Safari’ because while other resorts offer motorised safaris (eg. jet ski, dhoni), Olhuveli’s are non-motorised.
Kite flying is no longer kids stuff. And today marks the opening of the Kite Surfing World Cup at The Hague. May always has been prime kite flying weather and it’s as good as any time to start learning the sport of kite surfing. As I’ve noted before, the Maldives is starting to establish as strong a wordwide profile for surfing as it has for snorkelling and honeymooning. And if you want to add the kite dimension to your boarding (or the boarding dimension to you kite flying for that matter), then Olhuveli’s Watersport World has established a specialised training facilitiy dedicated to the sport…
“Olhuveli houses the first certified kite surfing school in Maldives with impressive equipment, courses and lessons…The Team: Watersports World is an international certificated watersports school. Enrolled in the VDWS association…The Lagoon: There is a huge sandy bottom lagoon surrounding Olhuveli. That is unique in the Maldives and this is even one of the best watersports area in the world!! The wave point: It takes about 10 minutes by the speed boat from Olhuveli to get to ‘Guraidhoo’. The wave/swell season is from May to October with the South West monsoon wind. This spot is still uncrowded comparing with the North Male Atoll wave spots. Mostly, the waves are only for you! Wave beginners are not recommended.”
As you can see from their commentary, May marks the onset of prime Kite Boarding season in the Maldives as well.
Olhuveli’s equipment includes kites from size 3.5 to 17 from North Kiteboarding (Buzz, Evo, Rhino, Rebel) and Cabrinha Kite (Convert IDS 2009 / Contra 08). Their boards include North Kiteboarding (Phantom 143/154, Gonzales 151) XRide 141/129, Mallory 129, Jaime S, Freestylefish 5’0″, Sumo, M2, and Cabrinha Board (Custom, Imperial).
Surf’s *way* up, up, up…
The person who first introduced me to the Maldives is former colleague in Microsoft, Andy Lees. I still remember him recounting how he simply waded over to a neighbouring island on one of his visits. In one of my first blogs, I set out to find the closest island to wade to and highlighted Rihiveli Beach. But the shallow lagoon doesn’t make it the closest companion island. That honour goes to the Olhuveli and Fun Island resorts that are just over 100 yards apart (though separated by deeper water than Rihiveli’s wade which is about 400 yards away).