One of the biggest trends in Maldives tourism is move from shopping for a resort to shopping for a villa. Maldives distinguished itself years ago with the concept of “One island, one resort”. People decided on which resort island was for them and they knew that their entire Maldives experience would be contained in that microcosm of aquatic terrain.
This concept contributed strongly to the development of Maldives Complete. Because you were segregated on a single island, choosing that island carefully was all the more important. It wasn’t like choosing a city hotel where the hotel part of the city break was just a small part which also included restaurants, shopping, sights, etc. outside the hotel. Furthermore, because the property was so clearly delineated, it also made developing a database on the characteristics of the resort easier as everything on the island was specific to that property.
But as I have noted on numerous occasions, guests now seek out “villas” with the same discernment that they used to seek resorts themselves. In the early years, each island only had a few room categories – Standard, Deluxe, Water Villa, etc. – to choose from. What distinguished your holiday was the island you chose and the rooms were more uniform within the island. I wrote a post in 2010 about Kurumba having the most room types with 8. Today, I don’t know of a single new property that has launched with less than that. Soneva Fushi has 27 room types today!
In 2012, I launched the Room Type database to help guests with the task that was now an order of magnitude larger of choosing a room type as opposed to just choosing an island. Just this past October, I amended the popular “How to Pick the Perfect Maldives Resort” post by removing the criteria of whether the resort had a pool or not. This characteristic was one of the very first ones I researched extensively in the 90s before all this Internet stuff as we knew that our kids loved to pay in a pool. Now all but a couple of resorts have a pools. The real question is whether you want your villa to have its own personal pool.
All sorts of special amenities that used to be distinctive for resorts are now available in your own villa (for the premium rooms on the rate card). I remember when spas were just starting to be introduced in the Maldives. Often a therapist on contract given and room and a table to work at buried in the island interior. Now some Presidential suites have their own in-villa spa rooms.
The latest distinction to have gone personal are water hammocks. First spotted at Anantara Dhigu in 2011. In 2016, I was able to post a collection of water hammocks at various resorts. Now, Amilla has added personal water hammocks outside a bank of its water villas!
Maybe this distinction should be “Cutest Bird Resident”. Amilla Maldives not only features a micro-flock of the rare Long Tailed Tropicbirds (more colourfully named “Dhandi’fulhu” in Dhivehi), but the resort island is also a nesting spot for them. We enjoyed watching them darting around the skies with their flowing tail feathers like some sort of mini-Banshee from “Avatar”. Special thanks Khateeb Shaba and Marine Biologist Chiara who captured these pictures of the latest arrival along with proud mom strutting her own tail feathers.
I have two hard and fast rules about the resorts I will visit on our tours:
- Never repeat a visit to a resort.
- Always repeat visiting a Jason and Victoria Kruse resort.
Before their Amilla posting, I made the same exception to their Kurumba property visiting there 5 times. Hence, Tour 18 brought us to the Amilla for our 3rd stay and a chance to see the Kruse’s and their latest creations.
Why do I never repeat? Because I need to use my limited time in the Maldives to gather as much fresh material for the website and extend my first-hand experience of the destination as broadly as possible. I also love discovery and adventure which drives me to seek out and explore new places.
Why do I make an exception for Jason and Victoria? Because they are our soul mates in their love of the Maldives and how we manifest that adoration with creativity and contribution to others:
- Genesis Soul Mate – Back in 2007, I had dabbled with throwing my collected research onto the web, but it was a visit to Kurumba which inspired me to put some real effort and investment into making the site more extensive. We were on a family holiday at Kurumba when one of the Maldivian servers came up to me and exclaimed, “You’re that Maldives Complete guy. We love your website.” On the heels of that, Jason reached out and invited me to come back to Kurumba and visit the other Universal properties and write about them. This was 2009, before social media (and before annoying “Influencer” types had flooded the web with lifestyle porn and annoying requests to resorts). That visit kick-started a supply of material and impetus to make Maldives Complete into the extensive compendium that it has become. The real launch of Maldives Complete was Jason’s embrace and encouragement.
- Creativity / UX Soul Mates – From the outset, I never wanted to write that same old, palm-tree pablum that most travel writers churn and hosted celebrities spew out about the destination getting all gooey over the sunsets, pina coladas and blue waters. Yes, those are wonderful aspects to this paradise, but they have been so done to death. I wanted to dig out the truly distinctive and individual touches that each resort added as their bit of spice to this bucket list essential. Similarly, Jason and Victoria have never settled for just palm trees and pina coladas for their properties. Like a Golden Ticket “Got Talent” singer, they take an island and “make it their own” with their special touches, creative offerings and staff-friendly management. They got Kurumba to punch-above-its-weight and have similarly transformed Amilla. The key reason that I shun re-visiting properties is that I want the adventure of discovering new things. And the key reason that I re-visit a Kruse place is that it always has new things. As much as I like spotting creatures (on land and underwater alike), I also like spotting distinctions. Special touches of care and creativity. And Amilla is one of those top spots where you can keep returning and be assured of lots of great and satisfying spottings. This trip, I identified 20 items to do “Best of the Maldives” posts about (in fact, I spotted 4 within 15 minutes of setting foot on the island). Their resorts are like the proverbial Zen river – you never spend the same day there.
- Destination Soul Mates – We have met in Jason and Victoria a couple who love the Maldives as much as we do. As with Maldives Complete, you get the sense that their motivation is not about the money or career, but the sincere love of the destination.
- Soul Mate Soul Mates – Jason and Victoria share a distinctive partnership collaborating to pool their energies and expertises to the best resort. In a similar fashion, my soul mate Lori is an essential partner to building Maldives Complete helping with input, insights and her equally extensive experience of coming to this destination.
While all the other resorts are competing on the best amenities (like specialised dietary preferences) and comfortable lodging for their guests, Amilla is putting the same attention to care and comfort to their…chickens. The marketing team has even gotten in on the project with alluring branding for the compound dubbed “Cluckingham Palace” (the top rooster dons the royal moniker of “Sir Clucks-A-Lot”)
The project is more than just a galliphile consideration, but also means that vegans can enjoy eggs on the island. Most vegans shun eggs because of the conditions under which they are produced. Some vegan friends keep chickens as pets so they can give them a comfortable life and enjoy their eggs in return. Ostensibly, “free range” eggs should have this same acceptability, but often the regulatory standard of “free” is lower than the vegans’. But if you have any questions or concerns or just curiosity, guests are welcome to tour the Palace. It’s so ornithologically appealing that quite a number of non-chicken birds frequent it as well.
Amilla even hired a poultry nutritionist who created 8 page guide to what scraps can be given to the chickens by the kitchen, including:
- Raw green potato peels — Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Green Potato peels, especially when they turn green from exposure to the sunlight, contain the alkaloid solanine, which is toxic. Sweet potatoes and sweet potato skins belong to a different plant family and do not contain solanine. They are safe to feed to your chickens.
- Avocado skins and pits — These contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, that can be fatal to chickens.
- Raw meat — Feeding chickens raw meat can lead to cannibalism.
- Broccoli: Yes. Broccoli is safe to feed to your chickens. It is high in numerous vitamins and low in fat; mine prefer it cooked. You can give it to them in a suet cage to keep them pecking all day.
- Tomatoes: Yes. Chickens love tomatoes! Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, K & B9, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Chickens cannot eat the plant, leaves or flowers they are poisonous as they contain solanine.
- Strawberries: Yes. Strawberries are a favorite treat; they are high in trace elements and vitamins A, C & B9. Also contains an anti-inflammatory component called quercetin.
- Peanuts: No. We are erring on the side of caution here. Peanuts can be bad for some small birds and mammals, there’s no reliable information on chickens. When in doubt: don’t feed it to them!
- Oats: Yes. They can eat raw or cooked oats. Some research indicates that oats fed to pullets helps to reduce feather picking. Oats contain vitamins and minerals also some protein.
- Miscellaneous —chickens also enjoy shrimp tails, unsweetened yogurt and spaghetti. One customer told us they serve pumpkin to their chickens because it is a natural dewormer.
Amilla certainly cares for its peeps!
One of my favourite tropical island activities with the kids when they were young was setting up treasure hunts around the resort island where the “treasure” was a box of sweeties. Various resorts have introduced their hunts for children, but Amilla has a sort of a treasure hunt with much healthier fare. A virtual walk through their “Foraging Lunch” was shared in their description:
- “This new eco-adventure sees guests led by staff including the Chef, the Landscaping Supervisor, and the Sustainability and Wellness Mentor, Victoria Kruse, through the lush island to gather edible plants including indigenous varieties such as ‘kulha fila’ (Maldivian rocket). This fun and educational interactive tour highlights the island’s indigenous and island-grown herbs, vegetables and fruit. It culminates in a feast using the freshly-plucked ingredients…Starting out on the Sunrise Beach at the southeastern end of the spacious private island resort, the guests were guided to Amilla’s jungle-clad grove known as The Plantation, where local varieties of small, sweet bananas are cultivated, as well as chillies (a Maldivian staple), lemongrass and passionfruit. Then it was on to the resort’s new Hydroponics Garden, where they discovered a wide array of homegrown greens, before moving on to the UN (short for ‘UNdo the Harm’) where the Amilla Islanders make their own cold-pressed coconut oil from the island’s bountiful supply of coconut trees. Amilla’s chicken coop, Cluckingham Palace, was the next port of call, to see if the pampered chickens there had any fresh eggs to offer…The next destination was the vast area of natural jungle that covers over 70 percent of the island. From this area, the group collected dry coconuts for coconut milk and young coconuts to make ‘mudi kashi’ (the flesh of young coconuts), with a little help from Amilla’s skillful tree climbers. They also helped harvest some wild breadfruit from 15 metres up in the jungle canopy…Finally, the group circled back to Amilla’s beautiful Mystique Garden, where the hungry team collected even more salad greens as well as sugarcane and the traditional Maldivian staples of aubergines, okra, and sweet potatoes.”
Also, helpful survival training for if you ever get marooned on a desert island. Bear Gryll’s paradise edition.
If there’s two things I enjoy in the Maldives it is exotic flavours of local ingredient and the traditional cocktail of a Pina Colada. Now, Amilla has added another screw pine concoction mashing up these two into a Screw Pine Colada:
- “Enjoy a Maldivian twist to your usual pina colada with the fresh flavours of our home-grown products. Our rum-based coladas are made with fresh screw pine juice and coconut water from our island – truly the taste of the Maldives in a glass.”
A few these walking tree drinks and you might just be walking into the tree (“screw pines” as also known as “walking trees”).
Even if you stay sequestered in your own villa pool, you still to have to be careful with safety around water. Especially with young ones in tow. And this is doubly the case if you have a water villa with a pool. A while back, most Maldives resorts did not allow children in water villas for fear of their falling into the ocean, but recently they have decided to let parent’s make their own decisions about safety. If your child is less mobile or you are diligent in looking after them, then there shouldn’t be any problems. But all parents know their attention can be distracted even for a moment.
For an extra measure of hi-tech protection, Amilla has procured a number of “Safety Turtle” devices which trigger an alarm at a base station (up to 200 feet away) if it gets wet. Put it on your child’s wrist to be alerted imediately if they fall into the pool or ocean. The devices are available for loan on request.
Furniture can be just as artistic as paintings and sculpture. It is sort of a living, functional sculpture which makes experiencing it all the richer. My favourite art is those pieces with a story as enchanting as its aesthetics. Like Amilla’s upcycled dining table in their Mystique Garden. The resort hosts chef’s garden meals there. The table itself has been made out of reclaimed wood from the island’s previous jetty. So you are dining in the middle of the island, eating produce from all around you, sitting on part of the island’s history.
While the Maldives destination is known for its distinctive blues, at Amilla’s “Mystique Garden” also features a cornucopia of Maldivian greens. And initiative of Sustainability Manager Victoria Kruse (see above) who has collected an extensive range of local produce to grow and feature in all the resort’s cuisine including:
- Moringa Drumstick – A ‘super food’ with leaves like spinash, roots like horseradish and use to make curry.
- Kullhafilafai – Like Maldivian dandelion (see photo directly below)
- Maldivian tea tree
- Loofa – While best known for its scrubbing, it is also produces a healthy veg.
For a scent that is not just reminiscent of the Maldives experience, but evokes your Maldives experience, Amilla’s Javvu spa features its own “Alchemy Bar”. There you can concoct your own magic potions to conjure up the golden moments from your visit. You are guided by a recipe book that shares its properties and other information about it (see sheet on “Moringa” below). Many of the ingredients are grown right on the island.
Travel Trade Maldives featured an interview with Spa and Wellness Manager, Laura Pagano, who developed the concept:
- “It’s an interactive laboratory where we teach our guests to make their beauty potions and bath products, so it brings a special touch to their experience. During lockdown, the first thing we made was a bath sachet from herbs like lemongrass and neem growing on the island, then we started making our own sea-salt. Then from the dried herbs we realised we could make powders. From there realised can make face masks, teas and more – the possibilities are endless. There were only seven of us ladies working on the island, so we used to have our own girls’ nights with our own homemade face masks, moisturisers, hair masks etc. We even made our own deodorant because we were running out of it in the shop! It’s the best deodorant I’ve ever used, I swear. I’ve been using it since my garden work and it really works, nobody was running away from me!”