The holidays are filled with treats and at Paradise Island this week one fashion feast is the annual holiday pageant where one lucky sun-kissed guest will be crowned “Miss Paradise”….
- “’Miss Paradise’ is one of the evening events included in our Christmas and New Year program. The participants/pageants are from the in-house guests and panel of judges are also selected from the house. It is a short event conducted at the Main Bar floor with a small runway selecting and announcing the winners.”
Most Christmas pageants I’ve ever been to involve toddlers dressed up as shepherds and sheep falling over each other while they mumble out contrived verses.
If you fancy a bit of personal archaeology into the Digital Age, then you can undertake your own digging about for a Maldives geocache.
Thulhgiri (that resort’s first Best of the Maldives award) and Paradise Island are the two resorts which feature geochaches in the Maldives (there are 8 in total across the country). As the Paradise Island description says…
“If you are bored wink by snorkeling, diving, swimming, looking for fish, shells, sharks, manta’s, crabs or just of relaxing and enjoying the beach and the sun, this box can be a little alteration.”
Another “Finally Seen” (Not Yet Seen Part 8 – item #25). As I’ve mentioned so many times, the Maldives exudes a tropical paradise pirate treasure mystique. And so “treasure hunts” are particularly appropriate entertainment during a visit (so much so that with this post, I’m adding a category tag “Treasure”). We used to stage them for our kids, but with geocaching, all ages can join in the fun.
Bed art, tub art, towel art, tree art. How about Fruit Art? The creations by chef Riju Kumar at Paradise Island are a carving cornucopia of Cucurbitaceae. He does both an exquisite array of floral geometric designs (see above) as well as renditions of animals and people. He uses a variety of fruits but mostly sticking to the melon family with watermelons and pumpkins.
With these inspired works, I have created a new category of “Maldives Fruit Art” in the Maldives Complete Pinterest collection. Usually on my boards, I try to show a range of resorts. But the prolific prodigy at Paradise has filled up the collection right from the get go.
Check out the post the time on this entry. How cool is that?
Looking for something to mark this unique moment of ‘12’, I’ve chosen Paradise Island’s Haven Suite doors which are 12 feet tall. So are the showers. The drench showers do really feel like rain from heaven. In England, we moved to a converted barn just to get that vertical, cathedral-like spaciousness.
Big island means big stuff, The spaciousness is as vertical as it is horizontal in places especially The Haven Suites. Spa rooms were bigger than many gardens in the UK. And there were 15 of them. The spa seemed to go on for acres. And the spa entry itself had 3 distinct and distinctive water fountains with water cascading down.
I guess combined with their basketball supremacy and their super sized Haven Suites, Paradise Island is the also best for tall people.
You can get up close and personal with musical creatures on land as well. Paradise Island features an extremely friendly family trio (mom, dad and kid) of parakeets. My Maldive expert network informs me that another resort also has one, but Paradise Island has 3! The video clip above shows just how appreciative they are of their fans!
Another surfer’s Paradise in the Maldives. This time for ‘web surfers’. And offered up by the eponymous Paradise Island. The resort not only offers wifi that extends to the beach in front of their reception, but also they have run power outlets to the tables. As a result, you can surf for hours without running out of juice (well, you might need a top up for your pina colada).
Every time I go to the Maldives, I am struck by the relentlessly rising tide of quality. Refurbishments, extensions, additions. Not just at the super-premium deluxe end of the market where the ever escalating arms race for wow factors marches on. But, also at the ‘regular’ 5-stars and even middle market properties. More and more resorts are playing more tasteful and appropriate soft jazz and acoustic rather than the pop chart songs which all too often jarred a sundowner. Tasteful colours and décor have replaced pervasive white walls and pedestrian prints/drawings of tropical scenes.
Some features were innovative when introduced, but are now getting more and more commonplace, eg…
- Outdoor cinemas (made possible by the emergence of cheap, digital projectors)
- Resort label bottled water
- Hydroponic gardens
With such constant change, it is not surprising that after nearly 4 years of Maldives Complete, some of the early assessments on the ‘Best of the Maldives’ would reshuffle a bit. It is coming time that some of the ‘Best’ crowns get passed on to successors. I did choose the blog format so people could alert me to rivals for these distinctions. As time goes on and more research is accomplished, I’m starting to uncover some instances that trump the incumbent.
On my latest tour, I come upon a number specific features where the resort arguably surpass the reigning ‘Best of’ such as…
- Basketball: Paradise Island has a complete, regulation court in great shape (photo below)
- Gym Vista: Gili Lankanfushi has a broader expanse of big picture windows from a second story vista (photo above)
Let the games begin.
London proudly hosts the world this fortnight and Team Maldives has arrived to compete in badminton, athletics and swimming.
If the Maldives ever hosts the Olympics, the first sport sorted will obviously be beach volleyball. Beach volleyball is super popular in the Olympics and was the second fastest sell-out of tickets after Athletics. Lots of resorts offer great beach volleyball courts and many of the resorts sport quite competitive teams, but the Wembley of the beach volleyball circuit is on Paradise Island.
The resort pitch includes lighting (for night games) and a sheltered (against sun or rain) seating area. The picture above was against Club Med (playing in yellow and blue) where there was quite a buzz with a crowd of both staff and guests.
I made the quick switch from Maldives-trotter to flying over to New York to help with NBC’s Olympics coverage so I’m getting lots of beach volleyball, football, table tennis, field hockey and a dozen other sports on the go at any time.
I love the Telegraph’s profile entry on their Maldives in their Olympic guide which could almost serve as a cheer for the Paradise Island beach volley team: “The country's history in six words – Paradise, paradise, paradise, tsunami, paradise, paradise.”
The tour is done. Thankfully, we returned to England just in time a break in the 4 month downpour. The 27 degree, sunny days made the return transition less jarring. I’ve shared my daily initial impressions, and over the next week I will share in tour order some of my favourite ‘Best of the Maldives’ features that I uncovered. Not necessarily the biggest or most impressive ones, but ones that caught my fancy. Before then, here are some parting overall reflections on the Maldives after our stay.
- Flights to Premium – The inexorable tide of stronger and stronger quality remains as unabated. It’s not just the refurbs that turn tired fun-in-sun style holiday resorts into showcase luxury experiences. Even the value resorts and 4-star properties are raising their game with slicker looks and offerings.
- Shifting Bests – As the resorts constantly invest in new and better, I realised more this trip the need to revisit some of the ‘Best of the Maldives’ pieces that are now going on an eternity ago
- Ambient Music – Finally, the majority of resorts we visited seem to have shifted their music selection in the bars and lounges to more appropriately relaxing playlists of gentle acoustic tracks (sometimes taken from the spa music library) or something like a soft jazz instead of the tiresome top 40 pop selections that have prevailed in the past.
Weather – Another visit during the ‘monsoon’ season. The only two times that we felt the ‘monsoon’ (ie. bucketing down rain and very windy) was (a) while we were snorkelling at Vakarufalhi (underwater everything was fine), and (b) returning from our whale shark excursion (and we were all laughing at the dhoni wrestling with the bumpy seas). There were a few other passing Winnie the Pooh-esque ‘little black rain clouds’ who let loose a couple drops, but we barely felt them. The other dimension to ‘monsoon’ season is the breeze. Throughout the week there was near constant breeze. While this reduced the calmness of the water and the visibility underneath it (stirring up more sand than usual), Lori savoured the fresh breezes.
‘Best of Tour’ – maybe not ‘Best of the Maldives’, but a distinctive highlights to the tour trip…
- Gili – Lunch: tempura reef fish, seafood bisque
- Paradise Island – Nature interaction: Bats, birds (that land on your arm), a good snorkel meant we were doing our Dr. Doolittle thing for most of the stay.
- Lily Beach – Coral: Dense tapestry of vibrancy and colour
- Vilamendhoo – Dessert: German Chocolate Cake. Very hard for resorts to get puddings right and baked goods never seem particularly fresh or more-ish, but this cake was an exception.
- Maafushivaru – Tiny Size: We love the small island feel and Maafushi had the smallest
- Vakarufalhi – Snorkel: Complements of and compliments to effervescent marine biologist tour guide Tania.
- Mirihi – Dinner: Lobster with Champagne and Truffle sauce.
- LUX* Maldives – Special touches: My obsession, LUX* Maldives’ promise, and they delivered.
- Sun Island – Shark feeding: I’m still of mixed mind of this controversial practice, but the event was quite impressive.
- Holiday Island – Value: Hope for the average tourist to experience paradise without winning the lottery.
Results – Overall, I came back with…
- New Best Of Candidates –96
- Other Blog Pieces – 11
- Room Type Photos – 82
I made more friends and supporters, and gathered more insights and data for the database. But best of all was a first hand perspectives on 10 more wonderful Maldivian resorts so I could talk about them with more authority and perspective.
Just a literal (or should I saw ‘littoral’) stone’s throw away, we proceed onto Paradise Island / The Haven.
We’ve have been very close to visiting Paradise (the resort, not the notion) several other times before. A few years back when the family was seeking out a more value-for-money place, it made the short-list. And subsequent North Male visits took us to Manta Point for diving which is just off Paradise’s house reef.
Paradise pioneered the concept of the split personality island. Where a newer part of the island, typically water villas, are developed to a significantly higher standard than the rest of the resort. Often an entire ‘star’ difference (eg. 4-star and 5-star). Now over half a dozen resorts have this sort of ‘split’ set up. Often the adjacent properties have completely distinct branding, logistics, service, etc. This trend was just one reason the contributed to the development of Room Type database to provide people with more granular information on possible destinations. Just a profile on a resort as a whole doesn’t really tell the whole story of what’s on offer.
One of my discoveries was that The Haven water villas allow children of any age. Pretty much all of the water bungalows that I know of have restrictions against children staying there for safety reasons of them falling into the water. The policy at the Haven is to firmly warn the guests of the risks and if they do want to still stay there with children, then they are allowed to do so. This flexibility will be very welcome to families looking for the water villa experience but often restricted from doing so.
Another aspect of a big island is that it often sits on a big lagoon table making the house reef hard to reach and the snorkelling less exciting. But, as duly logged in Snorkel Spotter, we had a delightful snorkel seeing a shark, sting ray and more lion fish in one little rocky overhang (about a dozen) than we had ever seen.
I uncovered a further 6 Best of the Maldives candidates during my stay to add to the 2 already done. Great to finally make it all the way to Paradise after so many close callings.