Best of the Maldives: Industry Reception – Velaa

Velaa - reception1

Recognizing their industry partners, Velaa hosted a reception last week at the hip Mayfair venue MNKY House inviting operators, travel writers and travel agents from the area with whom they have been working (including Maldives Complete).

General Manager Mr. Michal Smejc spoke about Velaa’s personal connection to the property. The owner is his brother and the family treat it as a home that they share with guests who want to visit. He outlined their constant process on re-examining what could be improved and making constant re-investment into the island touching on some of the recent enhancements and planned refinements.

Perhaps the most striking testimony to their attention to detail and authenticity were the refreshments served during the evening. I had just assumed that they would be hiring in some caterers for a few tasty canapés, but they actually flew into London their Executive Chef Gaushan de Silva a number of their sous chefs from the resort itself to share their treats with the guests personally.

One of these delicacies was worthy of a “Best of the Maldives” itself – Mini Lobster and Langoustine Burger with Thermidor Aioli and Fried Quail Egg. Sort of a bit-sized lobster egg benedict with bonus flavours. As regular readers will know, I am an aficionado of both lobster and benedict (and Velaa has already distinguished itself with the latter).

Velaa - reception 2

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Best of the Maldives: Music Competition – Kandima

Kandima - music competition

Sights, spaces and now sounds. Kandima’s artistry pervades its island with a fresh approach that engages its guests and fans. Its artist studio is run by an up-and-coming local artist to produce fresh works as well as to collaborate with the guests themselves. And the same spirit of creative engagement is being applied to the resort soundscape with the Maldives first ever music competition:

  • The first ever ‘Music Boss Wanted! Competition’ invites aspiring music writers, composers, singers and DJs to submit a video to Kandima Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win an amazing US$7000 cash prize and a full-paid holiday to the new island destination – how Kool is that?! To enter the competition, the applicants must upload a short video of themselves singing, playing a musical instrument or DJing to Instagram or Facebook using the unique hashtags #KandimaMusic and #KMusicBoss…Then the TOP 10 shortlisted applicants will be picked, and their videos will be uploaded to Kandima Maldives blog, followed by the K’Music Boss announcement on 21st August 2018. The winner will get a chance to create the Oh-So-Kool playlist with eight tarcks, which will be officially launched during the resort’s grand launch of its new Pool Party Series on 15th November 2018. The K’Music boss will also be setting the K’Mood with their playlist on the resort’s hop on/hop off buses, in all the studios or villas, and during the super Kool events both locally and globally – as a K’Music Boss should!”

The entries to date that have been selected and can be sampled here.  But, *NEWS FLASH*, Kandima has extended the deadline to mid-September!  So anyone needing a bit more production time (or just finding out about the competition now) can get their creative juices going and join the jamboree.

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.