Best of the Maldives: Value Buffet – Medhufushi

Medhufushi - value buffet

I’m pretty flexible on the quality of my villa (I’ve always said that you could sleep in a cardboard box in the Maldives and it would be a 5-star experience) and don’t need many amenities or recreational distractions laid on (happy to put on my snorkel in fins any time I’m a bit bored), but I do enjoy my food. Mind you, it doesn’t take much to lay out a decent spread in the Maldives – freshly caught reef fish, tropical fruits, a simple pasta station (or egg station for breakfast). But I do appreciate it when the resorts treat me to something a bit tasty.

Medhufushi features quite possibly the best value buffet in the Maldives. The resort positions itself as 4-star, but the food punches way above its weight class and is absolutely 5-star cuisine. Reminded me of Mirihi back when it was a 4.5 star, but served up gourmet food. But Mirihi is now 3 times the price of Medhuifushi! And there are a couple of 5-star properties (including some where people raved about the food in the reviews) that were nowhere near as good as Medhufushi.

Here are just a few notes of the fine dining we enjoyed during our brief stay…

  • Chicken Laksa – Possibly my favourite soup of the trip. Rich and flavourful. Made to order with vegetables and eggs in the bowl that the broth is served over.
  • Tom Yam Seafood Broth – More delectable soup.
  • Tuna Sashimi – Not the sushi which you can find at 4-star buffets but it mostly rice in seaweed wrap. But rather prime slices of fresh tuna.
  • Tenderloin – Perfectly cooked medium-rare at the roast station.
  • Tandouri Chicken – With Nan bread cooked fresh in front of you.
  • Curry Variety – Another “Best of the Maldives” post coming on this. My favourite was “Beetroot Curry”.
  • Rice Pudding – With Sultanas almost like my mom makes (she uses raisins). Second best rice pudding I have had in the Maldives
  • Ice Cream – Variety to rival super-luxury property Soneva. Here are a few of the flavours set out during our short stay – Earl Grey Tea, Passion Fruit & Yogurt, Peanut Butter, Carmelised Banana, Raspberry and Lime Sorbet, Lime Sorbet, Kiwi Sorbet, Apple Sorbet (Lori got just a bit addicted to their ice cream bar).
  • Coconut Cake – Why isn’t this served more extensively??
  • Mango Yogurt – And this too…why isn’t this more prevalent on the buffets?
  • Mas Huni – Hard to say whether it is the “best” in the Maldives, but it is the only resort that serves *two* types of Mas Huni.

Feel free to bring a big appetite to Medhufushi even if your wallet is a bit small.

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Offer – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi - eco offer

First rule of exploring the undersea world is “hands off”…but if you do want to get “hands on”, then Soneva Fushi there to lend you a hand. They are offering a special deal where you actively engage with their extensive eco-sustainability initiatives and get special pricing (thanks Paola)…

  • “Stay five nights with us at Soneva Fushi, and if you agree to participate in the following initiatives, your next five nights will be on us. A tailored programme will be prepared for you for a few hours per day, over five days, incorporating the following elements:
    • Land: Assist our horticulturists, mycologists, and gardeners in maintaining the vegetable gardens and learn how to grow your own vegetables. Deliver the vegetables to our restaurants and learn how to create a seed bank to ensure future sustainability of important crops. Help us to make sustainable bricks in our Eco Centro Waste to Wealth facility
    • Water: Snorkel with our marine biologists to help with turtle identification and coral rehabilitation. Spend time each morning clearing debris from the island that may have washed up, and help us to register the fish caught by the local fisherman. Participate in reef clean ups in the Baa Atoll to reduce marine debris and prevent injuries to marine life.
    • Community: Work alongside our community engagement manager on established projects with nearby communities, which may include local swimming classes, composting projects, beach clean ups, and other education initiatives.
  • To book the Stay for Good offer, contact reservations@soneva.com or call at +91 124 4511000 and quote ECOPKG17. Upon confirmation of your stay, we will begin tailoring a programme to suit your preferences.”

You have to hand it Soneva for their handy way to handle the many environmental challenges in paradise.

Best of the Maldives: Danish – Canareef

Canareef - Danish tour operator

Danish Liberation Day today. And for those Danes who want to be liberated from the chills of the North Sea, then Canareef has just the sort of sunshine escape to the Laccadive Sea. They have partnered with Primotours to provide a special Danish treat (not the breakfast kind):

  • Direct flight from Billund (Denmark) to Maldives
  • Accommodation for 7 or 14 nights in Bungalows with half board
  • All-inclusive upgrade option
  • Exclusively focused on the Maldives for Primotours wintertime holidays
  • Danish representatives in country arranging excursions and servicing our guests (photo above features two, both named Emma)

Note: If you are interested in more details, see their website, but they only have Danish guests travelling to Maldives so their webpage is in Danish.

Den solrige side af livet!

Best of the Maldives: Day Passes – Anantara Dhigu

Anantara Dhigu - ticket to island

One of my top 10 FAQs is “where can transient visitors to the Maldives (eg. flight and cruise stopovers) visit a resort island for a single day (no night stay)?” By and large, the resorts have not had this offer for part time guests. The fear is that the island gets overrun by low margin guests just cherrypicking some of the sunshine and beach space without spending money in the restaurants, bars, activities or lodging.

One resort, Anantara Dhigu, is making day visits available. They are managing the risks by tightly containing the number of passes issued. The pass is not a standing offer, but is issued on a case by case basis, mostly when the resort is at lower occupancy. At the moment price is USD 150++ per person (10% service charge, 12% GST) and out of this USD 100 will be used as F&B credit which is non-refundable.  I think Anantara is clever thinking that many people stopping in will love the resort so much that they will make it a point to come back for a proper stay  Also, by keeping the offer to lower occupancy periods, it can help the overall resort experience for all because the resort can run at optimal efficiency (eg.  there’s not a lot of food waste on the buffets with few people there, but the resort wanting to maintain the choice and options for the guests).

Best of the Maldives: Budget Private Island – AaaVee

AaaVeee - private island

If the price of oil has got your sovereign fund in a slump or interest rates have hit your hedge fund, then maybe you want to consider the value priced private island hire available at AaaVeee. (thanks Paola) You can only bring up to 50 of your posse mates, but in the low season you can get away at a mere snip of a price of $50,000 per night…

  • 01-Nov-16 through 27-Dec-16 (Full Board) – $50,000
  • 28-Dec-16 through 06-Jan-17 (Full Board) – $100,000
  • 07-Jan-17 through 20-Apr-17 (Full Board) – $75,000
  • 21-Apr-17 through 31-Oct-17 (Full Board) – $50,000

And if this deal wasn’t inviting enough, AaaVeee has a Special Offer on its website – “7 nights on a Private island with All-inclusive Meals, accommodation & with your your invitees ONLY.  (Max 50pax)  Entire Island in nature’s paradise for your Private event JUST $100,000.”

Your very own plot of paradise that easy on the pocketbook (relatively).

Best of the Maldives: Biggest Private Island – W Retreat

W Retreat - group

Your own private island in paradise for just you…and 150 of your closest friends. A billionaire fantasy that might just be reachable to mere multimillionaires.

Coco Prive is notoriously *only* available for renting out in its entirety, but it is a mere 5600 square metres in size with only 7 rooms (there are some suites larger than that in the Maldives). Finolhu recently gave its entire island to the Delavingne girls for a week, but that was a one-off launch publicity stunt. I supposed any resort island would rent itself out entirely to a single customer (and their posse of friends). I have heard tell of a few Middle Eastern princes doing just this. It’s not easy to do as most resorts allocate out inventory to distributors and agents over a year in advance. But W Retreat has introduced a “island buyout” package with a standard advertised rack rate. The package includes:

  • Island buyout of all 78 rooms
  • All dining venues
  • Free flow of food and house beverages
  • Unlimited spa (inside operation hours)
  • Unlimited water sports
  • Shared seaplane transfers to and from the resort

Mind you this is not a budget punter’s paradise with rates at these levels…

  • 7 nights – USD $6,250,000
  • 6 nights – USD $5,500,000
  • 5 nights – USD $4,750,000
  • 4 nights – USD $4,000,000

Start saving your pennies…

Best of the Maldives: Tech Bracelets – Kandima

Kandima - key

Friday the 13th! Day of bad luck. According to List 25, keys and amulets have been good luck charms for centuries. At the soon to open resort Kandima, you room key is also an amulet…with a bit of its own magic charm (according to Clarke’s Third Law at least)…

  • “RFID wrist bands that allow guests full freedom to roam the island without needing to worry about a key… A key concept at Kandima is being tree friendly. That means that we have chosen to use digital signature capture technology where ever possible. Guests can sign with a stylus and see their signature captured at the same time. Our systems will have the ability to retrieve the captured signature at any time a guest would like to review a transaction… Some of the other initiatives that are driving the Kandima experience include the ability to have a range of services at all times of the day, technology enables this via APPS, in-room ordering, vending machines which will react to you at the wave of your arm band… We will have kiosk and app drive “build your own burger/pizza/omelets’ options… Our technology alignments will provide on demand video streaming which can also be ‘flicked’ to your mobile device, allowing you to continue watching a movie or TV program from the comfort of your porch, while your significant other lazes in bed surfing the net or updating their social media wall.”

We keep all our stuff in your room when we good for a walk, swim, etc. But you have to take your room key. Our swimsuits don’t have pockets so keeping up with the key is always a bit of an aggro. A stylish and fun bracelet is a great solution. Or is can wrap around anything like a beach bag or snorkel bag handle.  Or you can just keep them on your “handily” (yes, I intended that) on your wrist as you swim or snorkel as they are water resistant.

Kandima also provides slap bracelet USB stick with resort information and material. For those who didn’t enjoy the slap bracelets of the eighties, see mini-video below for a demonstration below.

Best of the Maldives: Room Bonus – Safari Island

Safari Island - dhoni room bonus

Bonus room! Not just an extra bed, but a completely distinctive experience sleeping on the water. Not just in a water villa perched over the water, but in a Maldivian-styled dhoni yacht. Not just hearing the ocean gently sloshing below you, but feeling the ocean languidly rock you to sleep.

If you are lucky, some resorts will occasionally offer a free upgrade for a night or more from their beach villas to their water bungalows.  But Safari Island, if you stay 7 nights you get a free dhoni tour like a sunset cruise or fishing. If you stay 14 nights, then you get a free night on the dhoni.

Best of the Maldives: Tree Planting – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - tree planting 1

The first day of spring today as we passed the Vernal Equinox. A natural cause for celebration (especially up north) as the days now get longer than the nights. This celestial event is celebrated in a number of ways from throwing coloured powder (for the Hindu Festival of Holi) to balancing an egg (ancient Chinese belief says that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring since due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, gravitational forces are balanced out).

But spring is especially a time of sprouting and rebirth. The baby lambs have started emerging on the farms in our area. The Mirror describes, “Spring equinox is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in ancient Italy, it was traditional for women to plant seeds in the gardens of Adonis on this day. The custom persists in Sicily, where women plant seeds of grains – lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers – in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on graves on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.”

A number of resorts have offered tree planting on their property, but a few have stopped (running out of space) and others don’t support plaques. I appreciate that such commemoratives need to be done with taste and aesthetic sensitivity, but I do love the notion of being able to leave a positive part of yourself after your departure. Giving a people commemorative opportunities builds the sense of connection to this paradise and a reinforces an enduring empathy and support for its environmental challenges.

Sun Siyam Irufushi does support tree planting accompanied by simple wooden plaques noting the special occasion of the visit (cost is $300).

May your spring blossom with the vibrant colour of the Maldives wherever you are.

Sun Siyam Irufushi - tree planting 2

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Beauty – Coco Bodu Hithi

Coco Bodu Hithi - Raudha Aathif - advert

Athif Raudha is literally the face of the Maldives. She displays the classic sun-kissed, delicate features of the Maldivians, except for one extremely striking exception. While most Maldivians have dark brown eyes, hers are an iridescent blue more like the cerulean sea that surrounds the country. Even her Facebook handle is “Wild Blue Lustre

Her captivating look has drawn her into modelling for a number of years now including Coco Bodu Hithi’s recent campaign (see above). She is also a favourite subject of artistic fashion photographer Alexey Vladimir (in fact, her red hooded portrait featured in yesterdays Christmas Red post is Alexey’s Facebook Profile picture).

Raudha agreed to do a first-ever, exclusive interview with Maldives Complete to share some insights into this intriguing poster child for Maldivian beauty (thanks Paola)…

  • How were you “discovered”, ie. how did you get started?

It was always a hobby, because I grew up posing for pictures. But it wasn’t until I did a few shoots with Sotti (a professional photographer) that things really kicked off. I started getting offers for ads, and I always had people advise me not to take any of them until something good came up. And that worked out quite well.

  • What was your first modelling gig?

If I remember correctly, it was something like a PSA, for national TV, encouraging people to stop using plastic bags, and choose eco-friendly stuff. I was 14 years old, and quite the environmentalist, so, naturally very happy to be a part of it.

  • Do you have an agent?

I don’t. Anyone’s free to contact me directly, regarding any business.

  • Where did you get your distinctive eyes from (do other members of your parents families have similar eyes)?

My paternal grandfather, his eyes were a sort of dark hazel. And my beautiful great grandmother had a greyish blue.

  • What types of work would you like to do in the future?

Contrary to popular belief, modelling isn’t all I want to do with my life. I’d like to work as a doctor, in many places all over the world. I’m leaving to Bangladesh to study for a Bachelor s of Medicine next month. And that, becoming a doctor, has been my dream, and primary interest, since I was 5, maybe.

  • Is there a model whose look/work you most admire?

I can’t possibly name just one. Adriana Lima, Cara Delevingne, Angelina Jolie. And I can never leave out Deepika Padukone. These women are beautiful, inspiring, and I love them for the things they stand for.

  • What’s been your most lucrative modelling gig?

That would definitely be working for Sotti in his “Maldives” series.

  • What’s been your most enjoyable modelling gig?

A collaboration shoot with Alexey Vladimir, where I got the chance to entertain my inner daredevil. I had to make my way to the middle of the reef. Beyond an area called Usfasgandu in Male’ where there’s a destroyed, unused platform-like bit covered with seaweedy things. Between land and the platform, we had steep, slippery tetrahedral rocks to climb down, then the reef, with more rocks and sharp corals. Strong waves too, because it was a rainy day. Had I slipped or fallen over, or lost my balance with an incoming or outgoing wave, my face would be in coral hell. And then I didn’t fall. And it was all done with me in a full length dress. I LOVED it. The result was a beautiful picture titled “The Night”. Everyone lived happily ever after.

  • Are any particular pressures you face doing modelling?

Well, before a shoot, there’s almost always pressure. A weird, unspecific kind. Ha ha. I suppose it’s natural, wanting to do well, feeling nervous for how it’s going to turn out. But once it starts, it’s always fun and an amazing experience. I’ve been lucky to work with great people.

  • Any pet peeves when you are working modelling?

I think the only thing would be, when people fail to communicate very well. Maybe my friends think otherwise, and I don’t express this very often. But, I actually have very little tolerance for rude or bossy people.

  • What are your favourite pastimes?

Modelling IS a pastime for me! Ha ha. Okay seriously though? I have phases. All in all, I love learning new things. And a lot of that happened while I worked at the military hospital and then IGMH, for a year and a half.

Besides that, I’ve also had my time with yoga, painting, dancing. At school in India, I played the congas – that was fun. And also failed quite terribly at singing. When I want to laze around, there’s always a good book to get lost in. Most recently, I’ve taken up open water diving and trying to play the piano. New things are excitingly endless, you know.

Coco Bodu Hithi - Raudha Aathif portrait