The big advantage to being big in the Maldives is that you can introduce a wider, and more creative range of activities. The newly launched Siyam World has not only introduced an exciting collection of features (many of which will be featured here on the “Best of the Maldives” in coming weeks), but perhaps the most ambitious is the introduction of a horse ranch:
- “One of the Maldives’ largest natural island resorts at 54 hectares – more than 25 percent larger than Aintree racecourse – Siyam World had ample space in which to purpose-build the new 15,000sqm ranch. With dedicated stabling and large fenced paddocks and fields, the fully-equipped ranch is now the proud home of four beautiful, rare breed Indian horses – meaning Siyam World guests can saddle up and start living the dream of galloping along the island’s breath-taking beaches with the wind in their hair… Noor, a six-year-old full white mare; Jasmine, a six-year-old white and grey mare; Habibi, a five-year-old black stallion with white spots; and five-year-old full brown mare Kanbulo – meaning ‘sweetheart’ in Dhivehi – are all rare Marwari breed horses from the Jodhpur region of Rajasthan, India…The horses are happily settled at the Siyam World Horse Ranch, built specifically to ensure their safety and comfort. No expense has been spared in integrating them into island life, including stabling with stalls; feed and tack rooms; water troughs; dedicated storage areas for hay and bedding; abundant fenced paddocks and fields where the horses can gambol freely; and a full array of maintenance equipment. Experienced hostlers have been employed for each horse, overseen by a specially trained equestrian vet – permanently based on-island, and on call at all times. Regular checks by the Ministry of Fishery & Agriculture provide ongoing additional independent oversight of the animals’ welfare.”
Some folks have questioned whether horses are truly authentic to the Maldives. Well, the Maldives resort experience long ago stopped being purely indigenous with the introduction of the now ubiquitous water villas (concept imported from Bali). Since then, the Maldivians have crafted a range of updated interpretations of their marine wonderland and tropical paradise to appeal to a range of guests. The Maldives is big enough (with 1900 islands) to accommodate a range of tastes and preferences for different fun-in-the-sun holidays.
A few have raised concern over the welfare of the horses. Some tourism horses riding (eg. notably the city horse-drawn carriages) are indeed often mistreated, but actually part of the inspiration for the offering is Mr. Siyam’s personal affection for horses so he has kitted out facilities for them as top standard as the resort overall. Someone raised a concern over having horses in such a hot climate without appreciating that many breeds are indigenous to hot, sandy areas. Most famously the Arabian horse. The resort has selected breeds who native to hot climates so they feel right at home in their surroundings.
And if you are speaking of iconic images, right up there would be riding a horse along the water’s edge. So much so that it was the climax of the famous Old Spice “Smell Like a Man, Man” advertisement presenting a catalogue of romantic fantasy culminates with the protagonist on a horse on a tropical beach.
“I’m on a horse.”
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.
With a dolphin cruise this luxurious, you don’t mind if it takes forever to find them. Soneva Fushi provides guests with a private motor launch with long padded settees for a comfy journey while the captain sets out in search of these playful creatures. In the meantime, you are served champagne, ceviche and Maldivian roshi. Nonetheless, it wasn’t but a few minutes before we spotted the spinners cavorting at the edge of the reef.
The exhilaration of the Maldives begins well before you land. It actually begins about 30,000 feet above the Indian Ocean about 20 minutes before arrival at Male airport. As you cross the first of the northern most islands, you are treated to an ultramartine vista that seems like you are descending on different planet with some bizarre aqueous landscape.
The Maldives are defined by their geography. They occupy a rare “Goldilocks” point right at the sea level’s edge. Not mostly below the water (like the Great Barrier Reef and Red Sea reefs), and not relatively high above the water (like the South Pacific islands). But right AT the water surface’s edge. As a result of this topographical anomaly, the islands paint a cobalt tapestry of colours. You can’t help but ask ‘how did all of this come about?’
The magical formations didn’t happen over night. They are the products of eons of plate tectonics, volcanic eruption, implosion, erosion, and coral formation. Many resort marine biologists cover this subject as a part of their routine bar presentations. But Park Hyatt Hadahaa has taken this odyssey a literal step further with their Island Creation excursion.
The guide walks you through millennia by taking to to an island that is partially submerged and then to another less so, all the way through the various phases of island formation until you finish at a large inhabited one. They show how different formations are representative of different stages of island (or thila or reef, etc.) development. A gee-whiz geology lesson.
The whole concept reminds me of our expedition in the Grand Canyon (another one of those rare destinations where you feel that you are on another planet). You start at one end and as you progress, you don’t just get a history of the canyon, you get a history of the Earth itself.
All of the most stunning places on this planet are so because they provide a glimpse to the ancient miracle of the Earth, its majesty and its mystery. Maybe they should name this excursion ‘the Majesty Mystery Tour’.