Best of the Maldives: Tower – Velaa

Velaa - tower exterior

For a country whose highest natural elevation is no higher than your average stoop, the few places where you can get some height is a real rarity. The seascape is so uniquely exquisite, but the sea-level topology precludes much of an expansive vista overlooking it. This is why the sea plane transfers are such a special treat providing that breathtaking perspective that eludes the beachside gaze. I’m a big fan of Kandooma’s tower and whenever I am in Male I always stop by Traders’ roof top Azure lounge.

While not open for another couple of weeks, Velaa has started to post pictures of its ravishing new resort online including a number of shots of the surreal Tavaru Tower…

Tavaru houses a Teppanyaki restaurant and makes up the centerpiece of the island: a visually striking ivory-white tower where live cooking and Velaa’s extensive wine cellar take center stage.”

High standards.

Velaa - tower interior

More That I Have Now Seen

One and Only Reethi Rah Maldivian curry

The Maldives keeps evolving and adding every year and invariably the things I hadn’t seen as of twelve months ago have popped up in a few cases. Here are a few of the past gaps that you can now find in the Maldives…

  • Zip line – This wasn’t on any of my earlier lists, but I had jotted it down for mentioning this year…until until I visited Reethi Rah and saw theirs.
  • Banoffee Pie – Not quite Banoffe Pie, but Banoffee inspired.
  • “Gourmet Maldivian Restaurant” – Kurumba and Jumeirah Vittaveli (see above) are getting close with their extensive range of Maldivian influenced haute cuisine (more to follow).
  • “Snorkel Lilo” – 2 models in fact (stay tuned for posts)
  • Sea Horses
  • Beach Wheelchair
  • In Ocean Dining

Best of the Maldives: Paddleboard Yoga – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa paddleboard yoga

In the Maldives, it’s all about the water. Many yoga sessions are often at water’s edge. But Four Seasons Kuda Huraa has taken that aquatic intimacy one step further.

Resident yogi began offering Paddle board Yoga about 5 months ago and has been doing this on a guest request basis here at Kuda Huraa.” GM Tulio Hochkoeppler

I’ve always been intrigued by those big exercise balls which provide a soft, unsteady platform which target the core muscles used for stability. If you thought balancing on land was tricky…

While FSKH’s sessions are literally as close to sea level as you can possibly have a yoga session, if you prefer the other extreme, check out Slovenian climber Martina Cufar’s nosebleed sessions.

What Else I Now Have Seen

Mirihi restaurant

After last year’s tour, I wrote one of the highest profile pieces of the blog to date called ‘What I Haven’t Seen Yet’. It got a bit of notoriety when the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board sent a copy of it around to resorts for their interest and local press felt that MTPB was taking my ideas (I clarified that I am a big supporter of MTPB efforts to promote tourism in the Maldives and they were welcome to my pieces).

During my recent visit, I came up with yet another list of stuff I haven’t seen, but might just appeal to a segment of Maldives visitors. But before I post that tomorrow, I thought that an update of the previous list was in order since I have NOW seen a few items on the list…

  • Golf Course – Shangri-la opened the biggest facility for golf yet.
  • Restaurant Deck – I said ‘Star Shaped’ as a way to optimise water proximity for the diners, but Mirihi’s circle is close allowing an inner ring and outer ring of diners to all have front and centre access to the water (see photo above).
  • Water Slide – This one was the marquee item item with the accompanying illustration on the post. Gili Lankanfushi does have one at its Private Reserve.
  • Gourmet Sausages – Sun Island and Lily Beach. Both chicken sausages, but nonetheless finally approaching the savoury quality that would be considered a standard good enough for an English fry-up.

A lot happens in a year.

Best of the Maldives: Seahorses – Kuredu

Kuredu sea grass

The Queen has been such a supporter of of all of the June Jubilee activities including rocking out at the Buckingham Palace Concert which is probably not her dream Saturday night out. Rather, one’s favourite day in June is most definitely Ladies Day at Ascot today such is her love of all things horses. And ‘horses’ in the Maldives are a bit fabled and mystical creatures themselves…sea horses that is.

It indeed exciting to see the big game of snorkel safaris (and diving). But sometimes it is just as exciting and curious to uncover the tiny creatures. A baby manta, nudibranches, leaf fish. Perhaps the most enchanting and illusive is the Sea Horse.

Sea Horses are indigenous around the world including the Indian Ocean, mostly prominently Hippocampus borboniensis, dubbed ‘Réunion seahorse’ for its prevalence in this Maldive neighbour. I have asked many a dive master and no one has ever recalled seeing one or hearing reports of any. In fact, the TripAdvisor Forum on the Maldives posed this question last year and none of the Maldives veterans and experts had ever heard of a sea horse sighting.

Part of the issue is that sea horses live in sea grass which is not that common in the sand-bottomed lagoons and reefs prevalent in the Maldives. One resort which does feature sea grass is Kuredu (see photo above) and, lo and behold, they have reported sighting sea horses a few years ago. So if you want to start a holy grail hunt for these unicorns of the shallows, then start at Kuredu. Still, a bit of a long shot…or ‘dark horse’ if you will.

 

Seahorse

Best of the Maldives: Golf Course – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangi-La Villingili golf course

Well, it’s about time.

As I’ve discussed before, the absence of a proper scale golf course is one of (if not *the*) major inhibitor to prospective high visitors to the Maldives. Today, Shangri-La Viligili has plugged that gap opening the first full sized (well short par 3s…more of an ‘Executive’ course, but bigger than the Kuredu pitch-and-putt) golf course in the Maldives. Minivan reports

“The nine hole course sits on seven-and-a-half hectares of previously undeveloped land at the southern end of Villingili Island. Most holes par three and average 123.4 yards in length, and are set amongst the island’s natural veggetation including of palms, pandanus and other tropical plants. The course includes a clubhouse, refreshment bar and a pro shop. ‘It’s a recreational course, not a professional course,’ explained Shangri-La’s Assistant Communications Manager, Cristina Acenas. ‘It is accessible to beginners but advanced golfers will also enjoy it.’”

It might not end there if the plans for a fully engineered ‘floating course’ with underwater connections comes to light…

Well played, Shangri-La.

Best of the Maldives: Lagoon Breakfast – Mirihi

Mirihi lagoon breakfast

If the lure of the Maldives is the pervasive surroundings of water, then after your morning bath or shower similarly encircled. If you want to have breakfast in the water rather than on the water, then you can enjoy your breakfast completely immersed at Mirihi. They offer a ‘Feet in the Water Breakfast’ for $68 per person which covers whatever the guest wants (not the ‘caviar’, but normal breakfast fare). Assistant Front Office Manager Bastian Singer describes…

“As you can see the table is directly set up at the shoreline and the guests really have the feet in the water during the breakfast. It’s mostly used for special occasions like birthdays or wedding anniversaries as there is as well a bottle of champagne included.”

We love the beach dining concept. From the beginning of our family’s trips to the Maldives, we loved to eat right out on the sand by the ocean’s edge. In the go old days, years ago, the resorts were pretty laid back and were happy to move a table out to the beach for you. Now, many of the resorts are even more happy and set up to do so, but they usually bill it as a special meal or service. I don’t begrudge the resorts for doing so. It is both a bit more of a kuffufle that would impede their operations if everyone did it every day. And it is definitely extra value. Now Mirihi takes beach dining a step forward from water’s edge to water itself.

Best of the Maldives: Wheelchair – Baros

Baros beach wheelchair

Nighttime arrivals aren’t the only difficult and awkward movements in the Maldives. For many disabled or mobility challenged guests, the ubiquitous sand only makes footing and moving around problematic. Not at Baros though where the resort offers the latest in beach mobility. The Daily Mail covered it in its piece “Meals by moonlight, diving with sharks and rolling on Beach Wheels in the mazy Maldives

“My eyes also fell on another device that looked as if it had been lifted from a Nasa lunar project. Beach Wheels was an aquatic wheelchair, an Australian invention with huge tyres that allowed someone like me to glide smoothly over the sand or be dumped neatly into the sea.”

How people use the beach wheel chair? 

“Disabled guests who asks for the wheel chair are provided with our Beach wheel chair. It has big air filled wheels and therefore is easy to manoeuvre on sand, even on the most soft one. One person has always to be there to push the chair.”

What people have said about it?

“People are really happy about it, as it is incredible convenient for them. We offer it also sometimes to guest, who have problems to walk or are injured – they are really impressed by this service.”

Anything surprise you about its use when you got it?

“Not really surprising but interestingly – even if it was not built for that usage – guests tell us, that they feel like being able to float in the water. It is made of very strong material like fibre glass, and therefore does not rust at all.”