The Interview Game

Dianna and Steve Interview game 1

Luxury is not about buying expensive things; it’s about living in a way where you appreciate things.” – Oscar de la Renta

Happy Thanksgiving. Today is a day for celebrating gratitude especially first and foremost the company of family and friends. As the pandemic resides, appreciation for such company has never been so strong. Last Thanksgiving, Lori and I were huddled around our small kitchen table with a Zoom session to our children. We can’t wait to all be together sharing thanks for so many blessings we cherish all the more.

Appreciation is also a traditional part of our family travel experiences. Also around a dining table (typically the final meal of our stay) we play something we call the “Interview Game”. The exercise derives from my journalistic inquisitiveness and consists of a number of very simple questions (as a opposed to deep, philosophical ones) which I find to be very illustrative of the highlights and impact of the adventure. Regular followers here will recognize many of the questions used in my interview profiles. The activity is really an exercise in reflection, appreciation and sharig. And that is the heart of Thanksgiving.

On my recent tour, I had the serendipity to meet one of the esteemed TripAdvisor Destination Experts, “Dianna53” and her husband Steve. Their extensive expertise derives from decades of regular Maldives visits dating back to their honeymoon in 80s (!), as well as the fact that their daughter ended up living in the Maldives (Addu) for a stint.

Actually, we’ve now met 5 Tripadvisor Destination Experts while in the Maldives (except for MioraD)

  1. Dianna53 – Met up at Amilla this tour.
  2. Turquoise23 – During visit to Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo
  3. ActiveGirl – Met at Mirihi.
  4. HideawayKatRetired DE and we remain friends now she is in the UK
  5. MoiraD – We worked together in the 2000s and she helped advise on the construction of Maldives Complete during its inception

Our meet up took place at the end of their couple of weeks at both Reethi Beach and Amilla so we decided to share the Interview Game with them. Below are their responses as well as Lori’s and mine from the end of our stay:

  • What is omething you packed that you didn’t use?
    • Dianna: Torch
    • Steve: One shirt
    • Lori: A dress, a top, some underwear and some shoes
    • Bruce:   Several button shirts and some books I brought to read.
  • What is something you wished you have packed?
    • D: Extra backet of biscuits for tea in my room.
    • S: I had everything I needed.
    • L: A small satchel to carry my phone, room key, etc.
    • B: My good razor from home (thinking my disposable one would be good enough…it wasn’t)
  • What most exceeded expectations?
    • D: Coral regeneration at Amilla (especially by the jetty).
    • S: Transfer efficiency (we were quick off the plane, there was no queue at immigration, our bags came off first and it was a total of 35 minutes from landing to being at the seaplane).
    • L: The diving in general as had lots of great sightings and in the past, many times, we have seen anything on some dives.
    • B: Soneva Jani design details. I knew from the pictures that it was a stunning property, but being there you can see and appreciate the tiny details put into nearly everything.
  • What didn’t meet expectations?
    • D: Didn’t see any turtles.
    • S: The sea conditions were so rough the entire time with all the wind.
    • L: We’ve been disappointed in recent years by the quantity of coral seen during our snorkeling, and now there is (naturally) a real sense of the fish populations being noticeably smaller.
    • B: The Biyadhoo house reef was renowned to be one of the top ones in the Maldives years ago so its state of dead coral and limited fish was particularly painful to see first hand.
  • When did you laugh the hardest?
    • D: When we emerged from the sea from snorkelling and trudged along the beach in the torrential rain and it was so heavy we couldn’t see where we were going so I donned my full face mask (wishing it had windscreen wipers!).
    • S: When a Titan triggerfish swam straight through Dianna’s legs.
    • L: When Bruce said “Gee, thanks” when I commented “That man over there is quite handsome. He looks like you (Bruce)…when you were younger.”
    • B: Lori’s first slide at Sonevi (which you can witness here and I will be playing daily for the foreseeable future).
  • When was your most stressful point?
    • D: 3 days before arrival, Reethi Beach were on monitoring.
    • S: 3 days before arrival, Reethi Beach were on monitoring.
    • L: When my mask broke during the dive. It kept filling up with water and I couldn’t clear it. Fortunately, the dive master was able to fix it good enough to finish the dive.
    • B: When we got word that Soneva Fushi was on monitoring which was going to cause us to rejig our entire itinerary.
  • What was your best bite of food?
    • D: Good ole “fish & chips” at Reethi Beech
    • S: Grilled lobster at Amilla
    • L: Prawns a la Plancha at Soneva Jani’s Crab Shack
    • B: Prawn Burger at Amilla Fushi’s E Beach Club
  • What is something you learned?
    • D: That the Maldives has passed a law prohibiting the interference of baby turtles (even measures intended to help them survive).
    • S: “Bondee” (coconut and coconut milk cocktail wrapped in a coconut leaf) tastes very nice.
    • L: What a “Sponge Snail” is.
    • B: Using a torch for dive photography can scare off fish.
  • What was your favourite avourite Sighting?
    • D: Octopus (both at Amilla and at Reethi Beach).
    • S: Lemon Shark (never seen one before).
    • L: Spanish Dancer Nudibranch (video)…though I loved the bats at Soneva Jani in their arbor.
    • B: Manta on the Amilla dive.
  • What would you do if you had an extra day?
    • D: Go on a turtle excursion/.
    • S: If the weather was calm enough, go to Amilla Fushi’s Blue Hole.
    • L: Do more diving.
    • B: Spa treatments (Biyadhoo so good and such value)

Dianna and Steve Interview game 2

Tour 2021: Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - Sonu

I might have to break my own advice with Soneva Jani.  My most frequently asked question is “What is the best resort?” and my steadfast reply is “There is no ‘best’ resort overall…just the ‘best resort for you’.”  Each resort has its own individual personality and distinctions that appeal differently to different people.  The question is like asking, “What’s the best ice cream flavour?”  But, I’m afraid that after 20+ years of visiting the Maldives and 100+ Maldives resorts stayed at, Soneva Jani might just be my “best resort” (or at least “best” in the “big island” category).  It is my “Rocky Road” (my favourite flavour) of resorts.

When I make that “best” assertion, I am not really talking about the most desirability because that is so individual and so subjective.  For starters, Soneva Jani doesn’t have the classic house reef and that is an absolute deal breaker for many Maldives afficionados.  Secondly, Jani is one of the most expensive standard villas (not talking about the special “Presidential” one-offs often found on islands) which is a wallet-buster for many.  Finally, the property is not quaint, but expansive and imposing.  It is in the top ten of largest islands and the two sets of jetties extends its reach even further.  Not great for the people who come to the Maldives for that diminutive plot of sand in the middle of the ocean experience.

When I talk about the “best”, I am really talking about the resort as a creation.  As an almost artistic rendition of the paradise experience.  Like the art-world itself, the collection of tropical styles found in the Maldives is quite varied – sleek post-modern, traditional artisan, baroque ornamentation.  Soneva’s style would best be described as neo-rustic fantasy.  It takes the primitive naturalism of a Swiss Family Robinson mystique and propels it into the future with imaginative innovation.

The Soneva group has long been a standard bearer in the Maldives for creativity and innovation especially with aesthetics, wellness and sustainability. Like most masterpieces, the property is the culmination of many studies (many of which are themselves considered prized works, for example Picasso’s 42 studies for “Guernica”).  In the water villa, you could certainly see the layout, material and other design features that germinated in the early works of Gili Lankanfushi (originally “Soneva Gili”) and Six Senses Laamu.  But the Jani product is expanded, refined, updated and innovated.  Soneva Jani is to Maldives resorts what Segrada Familia is to cathedrals – futuristic and primal at the same time.  The apotheosis of the craft in a jaw-dropping, whimsical tour de force where nothing is ordinary down to the finest detail.

As much as I adore all of the inspired aspects of Jani, it does cause me a bit of inconvenience.  So many of my heretofore “Best of the Maldives” posts are made obsolete by Soneva taking so many heretofore leading features just a step further: eg. Crab Shack (Finolhu), Honey (Gili Lankanfushi), Swing Chairs (Malahini Kuda Bandos).  Jani hasn’t just outdone others, but they’ve leapfrogged Soneva itself in some areas.  For example, Soneva Fushi pioneered the outdoor cinema, but Soneva Jani takes it a step further with an overwater, even larger screen version.  It’s like Soneva is a catalogue to “Best of the Maldives” features.  Soneva Fushi already has the notoriety of the most “Best of the Maldives” posts – 76 (the next closest being Reethi Rah with 68).  Soneva Jani is like a “Best of the Maldives – Water Edition”.

A final treat to our stay was that I not only got to see *the* resort, I also got to meet *the* man behind the resort – Sonu (see photo above with Commercial Officer Carissa Nimah – unfortunately, the woman behind the resort, Eva, was not available at the time). For creativity and distinction, Soneva Jani is a bucket list resort in this bucket list destination.

Maldives Tour 2013 – Day 4: Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo arrival

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo is like a 4 star Kurumba. Primarily because of it being a classic round Maldivian island shape surrounded by a ring of sea barriers. Some people are put off by the stone defences saying that they detract from the idyllic views over the ocean. But one dividend they provide is a safe haven of snorkelling for beginners and weak swimmers. It is the closest thing to an open water swimming pool. Yes, the sandy lagoon that are all over the Maldives also provide this sanctuary, but they also offer very limited things to see snorkelling. The sea defences themselves often provide a vibrant platform for all sorts of creatures. And the seas defences are positioned at the precipice of the house reef drop off, so the resort does offer that dramatic snorkelling for those who wish to venture out a bit more at some point.

But another reason for the comparison is its value for money. Kurumba is one of the best value-for-money 5 stars and I think Ellaidhoo might just be one of the best value-for-money 4 stars. Don’t take my word for it. I got the notion from a real Maldivian expert and veteran. Known as “Turquoise 23”, as she is known on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum, we overlapped on our visits this trip and arranged to meet up during our stay (see photo below).

My tours are starting to become TripAdvisor Meetups. We swapped stories and perspectives from her 15 trips to the Maldives. She has run the gamut from Shangri-La Villigili to the now defunct Lohifushi. Ellaidhoo is the third resort that she has graced with a return visit. She explained her decision to me saying she had a really great time here on her last visit and doing her research this time around, it was the best value going.

During my short stay, I uncovered 5 distinctives to write out in the coming months.

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo T23

Best of the Maldives: Lemonade – Mirihi

Mirihi lemonade

“If life gives you lemons, then make lemonade.”

This is the week for blogging milestones as my other major (and longer standing) blogging pursuit – ‘Bruce Lynn Blog’ – celebrated its 7th anniversary yesterday. The site explores the themes of ‘Leadership and Management’ as well as ‘Embracing Failure’. The two subjects are united in the common thread of how people deal with risk.

To celebrate the occasion, I thought I would post something apropos. Perhaps one of the all-time classic ‘embrace failure’ sayings is about making lemonade out of lemons, so I thought I would turn to the best and most varied lemonade I have found in the Maldives.

Mirihi offers 10 different signature cocktails at Muraka bar including the following tart treats…

  • Mihiri Lemonade – “Fresh muddled strawberries, aged rum, strawberry and vanilla liguer with soda.”
  • Wild Honey & Orange Lemonade – “Vodka, Drambuie, Cointreau, honey, oranges and orange lemonade
  • Green Tea & Chili Lemonade – “Green tea, fresh limes, Southern Comfort, Brandy and a bit of chili” (see above enjoyed with fellow TripAdvisor Forum contributor).

Admittedly, ‘embracing failure’ by drinking lemonade in a tropical resort isn’t too hard of a sell.