Best of the Maldives: India – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - India

When it comes to subcontinent vibe, Taj Exotica is the most authentic slice of India in the Indian Ocean. In fact, it by far the most popular resort for the Bollywood starlet with 5 out of 25 of yesterday’s list visiting Taj Exotica (no other resort has more than two). The character is not surprising as the Taj chain itself is based in India. The whole property is infused with Indian touches and flavours. For example, The Presidential overwater suite (photo above) features “Ghanta” bells considered to be an auspicious sound. Other India distinctions, I have already highlighted in previous Best of the Maldives pieces…

Taj Exotica isn’t alone with some India flavoured distinctions so with this post, I’ve added the “India” tag for all those Indo-culture fans out there.

Best of the Maldives: Indian Wine – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - Indian wine 2

The water villa floors are not the only place you will find an exotic glass in the Maldives. Their world class wine cellars house some of the most exquisite vintages from around the world.

One might not think of the neighbouring subcontinent as a particularly noteworthy appellation. We fell into that same trap. We went to a champagne blind taste testing which featured a Indian sparkling wine called Omar Khayam (which at the time was stocked by ASDA). We were all expecting it to taste like yesterday’s vindaloo, but in the tasting everyone (blind again) rated it as one of the top bubblys. We mistook it for Moet. It turns out that Omar Khayan had gone into to partnership with Louis Roederer and produced some actual vintage runs with exceptional quality (Unfortunately the production of at least the vintage stuff has stopped and I can’t find any bottles anywhere. We did try some N.V. bottles, but frankly, they did merit more of a comparison to curry than champagne).

But you can find some top bottles at Taj Exotica from the budding producers. Especially Fratelli Wines in Nasik, India which has produced a selection “Specially matured and bottled for Taj Exotica”.

  • Fratelli, “Sette VII” Sagiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, $95
  • Fratelli, “Vitae” Chardonnay, Barrel fermented, 2014, $75

शराब के बिना भोजन बिना धूप के एक दिन की तरह है

Taj Exotica - Indian wine

Best of the Maldives: Wake-Up Call – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - wake up service

Our neighbour wakes up his wife each day by bringing her a cup of coffee in bed each day. We’ve always thought that this was a touching and romantic ritual. If that sound lime more your cuppa tea than an alarm clock blaring in your ear or even a room phone ringing off the hook, then Taj Exotica will be happy to oblige. For your wake-up call, they bring your tea or coffee (according to your request) to your villa and present it with a gentle knock on the door. As a bonus service, they will also block all calls to your room until your wake up call time.

Best of the Maldives: Butter Chicken – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - butter chicken

If you are not Instagramming yourself, then the next most popular subject is your food. And if you want to prepare something truly worth photographing, not to mention devouring, then I recommend Taj Exotica’s house speciality Butter Chicken.

Maybe the best curry I have ever had (Maldives, London, New York or elsewhere) Our daughter Isley’s favourite Indian dish, it was one of our favourite dishes of the 2016 tour. So creamy and perfectly spiced to warm your mouth with a glow of aromatic flavours. At $43, not cheap (though not the most expensive curry I have ever had. That was a $100 Lobster Curry in Soho).

As a holiday gift to you all, Taj has shared its recipe with you all in a Maldives Complete exclusive. Remember, the is to start with fresh, juicy, prime chicken breast.

Ingredients

  • 7 pieces Chicken Tikka
  • 150 ml Makhni gravy
  • 3 grams Ginger (julienned)
  • 10 grams Butter (softened)
  • 5 grams Coriander Leaf (chopped)
  • 2 grams Kasoori Methi (powdered)
  • 10 ml Fresh Cream
  • 2 grams Sugar

Directions

  1. Heat butter in a pan.
  2. Add ginger and saute.
  3. Add cooked chicken tikkas and toss for a few minutes
  4. Add makhni gravy and allow to boil
  5. Add salt, sugar, kasoori methi powder and fresh cream allowing to cook for a few more seconds.
  6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

If you can’t get to the Indian Ocean these holidays, at least get a taste of it at home.

Best of the Maldives: Low Branch Warnings – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - low branch warning

Heads up! Not everywhere in the Maldives has expansive headroom. Especially since the tropical vegetation grows quite dense in places with some very low branches. The resorts try to send the paths clear of the low hanging woodwork, but on small islands, it often has few options and also wants to minimise chopping things down.

Sometimes the tropical canopy is so dense that it forms a lush awning over your sandy path. And sometimes that tropical growth is so dense that it can get right down in your face…literally. One resort with particular thick jungle canopy is Taj Exotica. And to help prevent periodic concussions for the somewhat taller guests (like me), they have affixed red reflectors onto the low branches for warning. Probably best to leave the “knocking you out” to the dazzling natural beauty.

This post has actually inspired a new category tag – “Safety”.

Best of the Maldives: Yoga – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - yoga pavillion

My first ever outdoor yoga session in my life was in the Maldives. I had been introduced to the discipline back during my West Africa travels with one lesson in Togo, but then it was 25 years later when Lori and I did the sunrise yoga at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. I’m not quite an avid practitioner though Lori and I have a weekly lesson. Lori is well into it, has done some special yoga retreats and did several yoga sessions during our last Maldives tour. I always check out the resort spa and scan the treatments and classes on offer in every visit. And I have never come across the range of yoga sessions offered by Taj Exotica.

Taj features and over water yoga and meditation pavilion (see photo above) as well as two breath-taking over-water couple spa suites and the Heat, Hydro and Relaxation Pavilion, with its welcoming sauna, generous relaxation deck and waterbeds.

We have been studying yoga for over a year now and no two sessions are the same. I’m regularly surprised by the entirely new collection of poses that our teacher Vivian Campbell introduces to us each week. Yoga seems to have no end to the variety of not just poses, but also different styles and technique variations. Taj reflects the diversity of this ancient art with its own equally diverse menu of sessions…

  • Asana, Prananyama, Mudara, Banda
    • Balanced – 90 minutes
    • Advanced – 90 minutes
    • Abhilaya – 60 minutes
    • Advanced Surya Namaskar – 60 minute
    • Gentle – 60 minutes
    • Dynamic – 60 minutes
    • Pranayama – 60 minutes
  • ·Shatkarma
    • Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana – 90 minutes
    • Kunjal Kriya – 55 minutes
    • Jala Neti – 45 minutes
  • Meditation
    • Yoga Nidra – 25 minutes
    • Yoga Nidra Advanced – 50 minutes
    • Hirdayakasha Dharana – 50 minutes
    • Ajapa Japa – 50 minutes
    • Antar Mouna – 40 minutes

Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.” – Sting

Best of the Maldives: Lagoon – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - lagoon service

I’ve lauded the Taj Exotica lagoon in my tour piece (“Turquoise Extremica”), but I do think it is worthy of a special “Best of the Maldives” commendation. Theirs is one of the biggest lagoons in the entire Maldives at over 200 acres. It is the biggest we have seen since Velassaru and LUX South Ari Atoll (bigger than Velassaru and more sheltered than LUX).

But Taj Exotica doesn’t just rest on its lagoon laurels, but instead has invested in it extensively to maximise the lagoon experience. As such, it is probably the most accessorised lagoon we have come across. I already highlighted their extensive coral frame initiative (see photo bottom). It includes not only the obligatory lagoon hammock, but also a lagoon swing (see photo above). The resort also has built special over water pavilions (see below) both attached (below) and detached (above) from the island.  And it has even dressed up its beach preserving groynes (see below).

The horizon to horizon stretch of cyan scenery is not just something to gaze at, but also something to immerse yourself in, ever if you don’t want to get wet.

Taj Exotica - lagoon pavillion

Taj Exotica - lagoon groynes

Taj Exotica - lagoon

Taj Exotica - lagoon coral frames

Maldives Tour 2016 – Day 6: Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - tour

“Taj Exotica”…more like “Turquoise Extremica”.

Taj Exotica is imbued with an Indian aesthetic and enveloped in an expanse of cyan shallows.

The subcontinent vibe permeates throughout the décor like the silhouette lanterns hanging from the trees. It prevails with Indian inspired best-ofs like Ayurveda treatments, and yoga courses.  But iit really comes alive in its restaurants. One of the best Indian dishes I have ever eaten was the recommended Chef’s Special Butter Chicken that tenderly melted in your mouth with just the right aromatic glow of piquant spices. All restaurants cater strongly to vegetarians offering a range of Jain, vegan and other alternatives to many dishes. They even serve Indian wine (Fratelli Chardonnay).

An aquamarine landscape frames the entire resort. Not just a large lagoon, but one that seems to stretch from horizon to horizon on both sides of the island. In fact, it actually covers over 200 acres in all. One of the largest lagoons in the Maldives. And Taj has built on this asset extensively. It has an unmatched array of lagoon accessories including lagoon swing and lagoon hammock, a lagoon pavilion, and a lagoon private jetty. One f the downsides to the shallow and sandy lagoons is that they are no very conducive to coral growth, but Taj has addressed this issue by investing in 206 coral frames in the past 4 years as a part of an ongoing reef generation project.  And the resort provides regular boat trips to a nearby coral reef free of charge.

Taj Exotic provides a truly affordable taste of luxury for people who want to immerse themselves in the unique blue seascape of the Maldives.