While every resort is now a coral-sand catwalk especially for the Instagram throngs of thongs, no resort has hosted a most extensive Instagram photoshoot than the eco-resort AaaVeee. It hosted a photoshoot for Destination Cover with not only a expansive group of 8 models (many photoshoots are a single person and maybe go up 3), but the quality of the posing, shooting and post was first rate. And a the number of shots shared on Instagram was unprecedented.
People often ask about the most authentic Maldivian island. A number of resorts are inspired by Maldivian tradition and local aesthetic, but by and large the resorts are enclaves of landlubber creature comforts shipped in. In fact, even the famous water villas were a concept imported from Bali. But “Nature’s Paradise” resort, AaaVeee, is really the ultimate “Maldives paradise” for sheer indigenous authenticity. Most everything on the island was made on the island, by islanders from materials from the islands.
For example, the stools in the bar are carved from a single coconut tree trunk (see photo above). And I have already written about their distinctly traditional Maldivian “koari” throughout the island (see photo below) and even its tradition breaking local snorkel guide.
Today Earth is celebrating Earth Day to appreciate the special blessing that is this spinning ball of rock and water. Its fragility as a home to humanity and millions of other species has becoming increasingly clearer in recent years and more people are looking for ways to live in harmony with the planet rather than conquering new frontiers. I’ve always described the Maldives as “that iconic plot of sand with a palm tree on it”. The palm tree is very much symbol of marooned life floating in the ocean and palms are indeed the centrepiece of the island ecosystem. And if one island exemplifies and nurtures this Arecaceae appreciation, it is AaaVeee.
There must be more palms trees per square foot than any island I have ever been to. The resort goes to considerable lengths to keep and foster even more. Many of the buildings were simply built around the trees with their trunks sticking through holes in the roof. The main bar has 5 palm trees piercing the rooftop rather than removing them.
In fact, the palm trees themselves do their bit as well. Nazeeh showed me a few seedling “twins” on the island (two trees growing out of a single pod). And the island features a very curious specimen which refuses to shed its fronds when they die (see photo at bottom) creating quite a striking collection of old fronds.
People question why you would want to sit in a gym when you have travelled thousands of miles to be in a natural paradise. I was one of those guys who would do workouts on my Maldives holidays. I wanted to keep momentum in my training, I could get great sessions in because I was eating and sleeping extra well, and the general enthusiasm of the whole holiday gave me an extra boost. I did appreciate when resorts made an effort to bring the outdoors in with big picture windows and well situated views. But AaaVeee’s fitness center goes a step even further. Bringing the inside…out. Their gym is fully outdoors. It does have clear wind/rain sheets to lower during inclement weather. It is so outdoors, that it even has a palm tree going in the middle of it through the floor.
One resort that is always dressed in traditional Maldivian garb is AaaVeee. The entire resort is not just inspired by local Maldivian design, but most of the infrastructure was produced in the Maldives itself. In fact, a good number of things like chairs and tables were made on the island by Maldivians using materials from the island itself.
Perhaps the most “Maldivian” aspect is the ubiquitous “koari” adornments. “Koari” means “cone” and is a traditional form of decoration found on the islands. It is a cone made out of palm thatch placed atop a tall pole. I’ve already posted about the koari used to mark the navigation channel to the resort, but it is also used at the reception jetty (see above), in the lagoon (directly below) and various other places across the island. The resort’s chef even baked a “Koari Kake” (below).
While the waters surrounding the Maldives islands are a tapestry of aquatic beauty, they can often be marred by the necessary accessories of practical infrastructure like shallow water warnings and channel makers. But at AaaVeee, stylish “koari” plot the channel into the resort with a rustic and native aesthetic that hits you before you have even stepped foot on shore.
One of our favourite parts of visiting the Maldives over so many years and working on it so regularly with the website are the many friends we have made from this paradise. One of my motivations for all the work (and money) I put into Maldives Complete, is that I feel more like a participant and more a part of this wonderful place rather than just a here-today-gone-tomorrow spectator with a credit card. This year’s tour in particular was full of reunions with old friends. And we had the chance to meet other fascinating individuals during our travels.
People like Thoyyibaa Ahmed at AaaVee. She is the Maldives’ first female resort snorkel guide. Well, I should say “snorkel guide apprentice”. She is still learning the details under the auspices of the guruVa dive centre. But she inspired us with her enthusiasm for this iconic activity in her home country where many women historically haven’t even learned to swim in the past.
Those gender biases are shifting you are now seeing more and more women entering into the activity both for fun and professionally. Women like Zoona Naseem who became the first female PADI instructor (working out the Male suburb Villimale) and many more like her as demonstrated by the recent Women’s Day Dive which attracted record numbers.
Maldives Complete had the opportunity to sit down with Thoyyibaa to learn about her quest to share this aquatic scenery with all guests…
- What is your name? – Thoyyibaa Ahmed
- What atoll are you from? – Male
- What got you interested in being a snorkel guide? – The ocean is my love. I first tried to dive, but I had health problems that did not allow me to dive. So then I choose to look at snorkeling. My best friend was a snorkel guide, but had to stop when she had a baby. She recommended that I try it.
- What languages do you speak? – Dhivehi and English mainly, but I am learning Italian and German. I am studying all the fish names. The names are very important.
- What is the favourite thing you see snorkeling? – Turtles.
- When did you start learning to swim? – Three months ago. It is my new experience. The dive master is teaching me. The first time I went in the water, I was very scared. If I am tired or weak, I will use a life jacket for safety. I am really grateful to AaaVeee for giving me this opportunity to learn to become a snorkel guide.
- What do your friends and family think of your job direction? – My mother is very surprised because this is the first time I’ve ever done something like this. All my family and friends are giving me their full support. I never give up. I keep trying. My mother is always asking questions about how it is going.
- Who uses a snorkel guide? – Any guest really, but some guests come here alone and they need a buddy to accompany them.
- Any advice for any other women interesting in snorkeling? – Snorkeling is the best thing I have done. There is no reason to be scared. Women and girls who have not learned to swim should not be scared. You can do whatever you want. Don’t give up.
For someone who has been coming to the Maldives for 20 years, arriving at AaaVeee was like seeing an old friend. In more ways than one. Not just its classic, retro-Maldive simplicity and rustic style, but also on a personal dimension as well.
This tour is turning out to be a Reunion tour of Maldives friends – Bunyamin, Aima…now Ahmed Nazeeh who is managing sales and marketing at the property. Nazeeh and I first met in 2012 when he was looking after Holiday Island (see photo at bottom). So arriving at AaaVee treated me to another greeting by a Maldivian friend.
“AaaVeee” means “revival” which refers to their revival of the resort style that first started the Maldives tourism industry back in 1972. Like Holiday Island (well, the way it was in 2012, they have changed the villa exposures now), you can’t see any villas from the exterior. Just uninterrupted, unspoiled luscious lushness. Indigenous rusticity pervades the property reminding me of an Italian agri-tourismo vibe. Not only is the food sourced locally, but the furniture and villas themselves are as well made by local artisans at workshops on the island.
There must be more palms trees per square foot than any island I have ever been to. And AaaVee goes to considerable lengths to keep and nurture even more. Many of the buildings were simply built around the trees with their trunks sticking through holes in the roof. In fact, the palm trees themselves do their bit as well. Nazeeh showed me a few seedling “twins” on the island (two trees growing out of a single pod). And the island features a very curious specimen which refuses to shed its fronds when they die (see photo at bottom) creating quite a striking collection of old fronds.
The seaplane to the resort is a pricey addition to your holiday cost, but if you are looking for a long stay, it is an economical option with attractive value pricing. Another bonus is that you can actually go on a whale shark excursion to the famous South Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area.
If you are looking for a value priced eco-resort, you won’t get much more native nature for the dollar than AaaVeee.
You’ll need a day alone just to acclimate from your plane journey if you want to do some scuba, but you will have plenty to see if you head to the Dhaalu atoll. The atoll appears to have more caves and overhangs compared to other atolls. And the resort at the centre of it is AaaVeee whose dive centre visits the following caves sites and has shared these photos with Maldives Complete…
- Aaaveee caves – south west of the island, reef is formed like a wall slopes to 35M covered with small and big overhangs depth from 8 to 23M.
- Dhonbileh hoholha (Dhoorees kuda gaa) – long pinnacle overhangs from 4 meters to 25meters, reef slopes to 37 meters. More over hangs on south, north half of the pinnacle slopes and another half like a wall covered with soft corals and over hangs.
- Rinbudhoo hoholha – south west of the island, reef is formed like a wall slopes to 35M covered with small and big overhangs depth from 8 to 27M.
- Rinbudhoo corner – north east corner is also a wall with overhangs and there is swim through start from 12 meters to 22 meters.
- Vommuli caves – near the spa end of the island have a big overhand on the corner.