The dhoni is one of the iconic images of this iconic destination. In particular, its scimitar-like flared bow sprit give it a tell-tale aesthetic signature which lends itself to all sorts of artistic application. The latest example I have found is Rahaa’s Dhirun Bar. I especially appreciate the rooftop deck which simulates the flat-top perch on covered dhonis that we enjoy sunbathing on with an extra bit of perspective across the blue tapestry of the Laccadive vistas. I also appreciate when resorts put a bit of extra care into designing their bar areas since chilling with a tropical cocktail is such an essential and memorable part of any Maldives stay (and as such, I have added a “Bar” tag).
Best of the Maldives: Dhoni Pool Breakfast – Fushifaru
A number of resorts offer breakfast in a boat, but I think Fushifaru is the only resort that offers breakfast in a boat (thanks Paola). A number of resort offer breakfast in the pool, but again Fushifaru seems to be the first to offer breakfast in a boat in the pool. And not just any boat, but a charmingly stylish traditional dhoni.
Whatever floats your boat (that certainly does).
Best of the Maldives: Dhoni Spa – Bathala
Maldives is renowned for that marooned on a deserted island aesthetic. The recently revamped Bathala resort introduced a sort of dhoni-houseboat styled villa that is quite literally (or littorally) a “Beach” spa. Sort of a shipwrecked version of Cocoa Island.
Best of the Maldives: Lagoon Boat Restaurant – Milaidhoo
You can not only lounge around Milaidhoo’s dhonis, but wine and dine too. They have adapted the dhoni aesthetic to their signature overwater restaurant:
- “Shaped like three dhonis (wooden sailing boats), our signature restaurant is the only restaurant in the world set on a boat in a lagoon featuring gourmet dishes of inspired island cuisine from the Maldivian Spice Route. Guests dine on the ‘deck’ of the restaurant where, underneath starry night skies, the team of chefs deliver an island influenced menu of locally inspired and sourced dishes. There’s also indoor seating in air-conditioned comfort where you can watch the sea-life below through glass floors. Expect to find seafood and traditional local flavours intelligently reinterpreted for the 21st century.”
17 Dhoni Inspirations
The traditional dhoni has been the life blood for the scattered Maldivian archipelago pumping people and goods across its waters for centuries. In modern times, the dhoni also provides cultural inspiration to all manner of décor and items on the Maldives resorts.
The term “dhoni” is not only essential to Maldives life since its earliest history, but has even entered the global lexicon as one of two Dhivehi words that have made it into the English language (the other is even more characteristic of the very essence of the Maldives).
I have added a “Dhoni” tag to keep track of all the nautically inspired resort features now.
1. Boat Swing – Centara Ras Fushi [ABOVE]
3. Lounge – Park Hyatt Hadahaa
4. Room Service – Constance Moofushi
5. Fountain – Park Hyatt Hadahaa
6. Buffet – Lily Beach
8. Housekeeping – Coco Bodu Hithi
11. Restaurant – Millaidhoo
13. Dining Table – JA Manafaru
14. Reception – Sun Siyam Irufushi
Best of the Maldives: Historical Cruising – Velaa
If you want to live the maritime heritage of the Maldivian dhoni with all the conveniences and luxuries of this modern day paradise destination, then Velaa offers a distinctive dhoni crusing yacht, “Baththeli Anna”.
- “Baththeli Anna, the prncess of the Southern Seas. Designed to ensure the utmost comfort for her guests, Anna is a beautiful custom built Maldivian baththeli (“baththeli” – boat on Dhivehi language). This luxurious, uniquely designed traditional sailboat was laid down in April of 2012. Then crafted under the supervision of the Master Boat Builder, Matias Luhmann, himself alongside the proficient team of Gladonia Maldives Pvt Ltd. The idea of its elegant lines and comfortable spaces was conceived by the boat design, Philippe Laurella, French at birth, but Maldivian in Spirit.”
One of my biggest pastimes is the sport of rowing. The carbon-fiber sculls are the state-of-the-art, but I’m afraid that I’m still smitten by the aesthetic romance of a boat sculpted out of wood.
- Length – 76 feet
- Weight – 45 ton
- Overnight guest capacity – 3
- Day touring guest capacity – 8
- Maximum speed – 12 knots.
- 2 Hour, 4 person Sunset Dolphin Cruise – $1,695
- 5 hour, 2 person Desert Island Dinner Cruise – $7,440
- 2.5 hour, 4 person Luxury Private Snorkel Trip – $1,895
- 8 hour, 4 person Charter Cruise – $5,495
With this post, I’ve added a new “Cruising” tag as the highest end resorts seem to be extended their super-premium arms race into a naval battle of yachts.
Best of the Maldives: Historical Artifacts – Shangri-La Villingili
World Heritage Day celebrates the sites and monuments around the world which capture and preserve bits of the local history. Shangri-La Villingili has so many such relics that they have assembled a little guide history tour of their island. It starts with the dhoni displayed (see photo above) near the entrance to the resort:
- “This Maldivian dhoni was shipwrecked on the Villingili island reef during stormy weather in the late 1940s.”
But Villignili also shared the RAF heritage of the Addu atoll as an extension to the neighbouring Gan outpost. Garrison. The historical buildings include a RAF building (see photo directly below) as well as a defensive pill box (see photo bottom):
- “Administrative building of the 1st Royal Marine Coast Defense Regiment manning the shore batteries on Villingili Island, ca. 1942. In August 1941, the netlayer HMS Guardian landed Royal Navy construction crews on Addu Atoll in the Maldives Islands to begin work on a secret naval base for Britain’s eastern fleet. The British eastern fleet had left more of its base facilities in Singapore, including dry docks and repair sheds In the event of Singapore’s loss, it was to fall back on Trincomalee on Ceylon’s eastern coast. The British fleet commander wanted an alternative base somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Addu Atoll, which became known as ‘Port T.’ The 1st Royal Marine Coast Defense Regiment was dispatched to secure the atoll.”
Best of the Maldives: Room Bonus – Safari Island
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: Housekeeping Trolley – Coco Bodu Hithi
At Coco Bodu Hithi, they might not deliver your morning breakfast in a dhoni (a la Belinda’s “haven’t seen yet”), but they do deliver your fresh linen each day in one. Making the ordinary extraordinary.
Best of the Maldives: Dhoni Cruise – Safari Island
If you want the actual cruising dhoni, then the excursion word on the water is that Safari Island’s is the tops according to authority on all things Maldivian, Adrian Neville…
“They are the dhonis from Dhoni Island, formerly Dhoni Mighili and now Safari Island Resort (Per Aquum once ran Dhoni Mighili). They are terribly nice and certainly the best dhoni cruise around.”
Gone are the days when these vessels were the villas, but they are still a cracking cruise.
They are also graced with Sakis’ portraiture…