Best of the Maldives: Lowest Density – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - islnd

While there might be miles of open ocean to gaze out on, the Maldives islands themselves are famously diminutive. For people seeking the get-away-from-it-all (including getting away from everybody), they sometimes wonder whether these tiny islands mean that people are crammed in (which led to me adding the “Population Density” field to the Maldives Complete database).

Soneva Jani now boasts the least inhabited of the resort islands with 10,650 square meters per guest. The Daily Mail reported…

  • In terms of space, Roman told us, Soneva Jani (the Sanskrit word for ‘wisdom’) is one of the lowest-density resorts in the world, with only 25 villas on 150 acres of land.”

Coincidentally, previous low crowd mark was its sister resort, Soneva Fushi (with 10,592)

Shifting Sands

Shifting sands - Maldives

If you try sitting on the sands of the bay in the Maldives for too long, you might just find yourself in the bay itself. This very item was going to be a “Haven’t Seen” until I found it on Facebook just a few days before my post.

  • Only from a time-lapse like this you will see clearly how the Maldivian Islands change shape so fast. Lhaviyani Atoll Veyvah and Vavvaru (26-08-2015 to 28-11-2018)

Still an opportunity for a resort to provide one. Resorts AaaVee and Mafushivaru’s Lonobu have dramatically shifting sands, for example.

  

Best of the Maldives: Southernmost Point – Equator Village

Southernmost point

Shangri-La Villingili might be the “Southernmost Resort”, but Equator Village gets you to the Southernmost Point, the tippy-toe, of the Maldives on its Gan island (as you can see from the map below, Villingili resort island extended below the position of Equator Village, but the rest of Gan island outside the resort compound goes further south).  Maldives Complete roving reporter Paola posted the above photo of this geographic extremity on the very tip of Gan’s southern promontory.

Compass point extremes have a strange allure. Like you have gone to the very edge of the place in question. The planet carries on pretty much like the surrounding area, but still you feel like you have reach to the limit of this destination. Especially in the Maldives which stretches so extensively from north to south for nearly a thousand kilometres. Our son, Chase (himself a veteran of many Maldives trips) has explored these topological margins with his field recording both in the USA (Key West where we stayed at the Southernmost Hotel) and the UK (where he undertook a project to record all for compass points extremes in Britain which ended up in the British Library).

Southernmost point map

Best of the Maldives: Darkest Skies – Filitheyo

Filitheyo - dark skies

While the Black Moon might be the darkest month to the do some stargazing, where is the darkest place in the Maldives. Lots of factors affect visibility – light pollution from the moon, cloud/haze cover – but one of the biggest is light pollution from the ground. This light is what makes star gazing so difficult in built up areas and why the best observatories are located in the remote locations far from ambient light sources.

The question came up on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum as few months ago. I pulled NASA’s night time photos of the world.  As expected, there are not many lights in the Indian Ocean.  The high-res TIFF shows basically 3 tacked vertically north to south.  The northern most (and by far the brightest) is Male, the middle is Gan and the southernmost is the British Indian Island Territory.

I was going to examine which parts of the Maldives were the furthest from Male (without getting close to Gan).  I’ve overlaid Google Maps onto the NASA photo to provide some perspective –

But doing a bit of research on skyglow shows that it doesn’t really extend beyond a few dozen miles from the major light. Check out the UK map on this site.

There is also the question of “glare” which is the light from the immediate vicinity.  This light does add to the sky glow, but more importantly it adds “glare” to your viewing.  So in short, you are looking for a resort who has relatively secluded villas (ie. away from the dense infrastructure of the resort operations and main public areas) and ideally one where the lighting is used sparsely. 

A simpler resort like Rihiveli comes to mind (less infrastructure).  A resort without water villas (at least on your side of the island) will eliminate the inevitable jetty and water villa lights (they don’t want people stumbling into the water).

This methodology narrowed down the possibilities to a couple of possibilities in some more remote, less populated atolls…

  • Filitheyo, Faafu (distance to capital island – 20 km)
  • Alimatha/Dhiggiri, Felidhoo (distance to capital island – 12 km, lowest population atoll)

I decided to lean to Filitheyo because Alimatha and Dhiggiri, though smaller and simpler resorts, are both near each other throwing skyglow on each other, while Filitheyo is all by itself 20 km (about the right distance for avoiding skyglow) from the major island in the atoll.

Best of the Maldives: Beachiest – Dhigufaru

Dhigufaru - beach

The first thing that hits you about Dhigufaru is the beach. It leaps out of the promotional pictures when you are researching and planning your visit (see above). And its vast expanse of dazzling white hits you again as soon as you step off the seaplane.

Many resorts make bold claims about being the biggest or the best. Often these aspects are quite subjective. I might consider a “Best of the Maldives” piece if they have something substantive to hang their claims on, but sometimes I can get some real numbers for comparison sake especially for Geography superlatives (eg. Biggest Island, Lowest Population Density). So I took out my trusty calculator (spreadsheet) actually to estimate what portion of the Dhigufaru island was actually beach. The resort wasn’t making any claims about it, but I was.

By my calculations, the island is 42% beach by square metre which is the top of any active resort I can find (the runners up were Rihiveli, Gili Lankanfushi, Cocoa Island). If you are looking for that plot-of-sand-with-a-palm-tree aesthetic (pile of sand, a little vegetation, and all set in a vast ocean), then Dhigufaru is it.

Best of the Maldives: Curious Shape – Nalandhoo

Nalandhoo - aerial

Earth Day today. A time to appreciate the diverse and curious planet we call home. In the Maldives, Not all the earthen mounds of islands are round dots. Some extend across elongated table reefs on the edges of the atolls. And some like Nalandhoo (not to be confused with Anatara’s Naladu) in Shaviyani atoll have a totally unique shape viewed from Google Earth(thanks Paola)…

Nalandhoo is particularly supportive to Earth Day today as its own emblematic exposure to environmental impacts especially of rising and shifting seas…

  • “The smallness of the [Shaviyani] atoll indicates to the islands’ vulnerability to environmental impacts. Hence the Nalandhoo is one of the island in Shaviyani atoll with its own unique beauty”

Nalandhoo  - vista

Spitting Distance

Cocoa Island - sand spit 2

One of the fav features of any Maldive island is the sand spit. The spit is the Kodak Photo Spot. Surrounded by the India Ocean on all but a few feet of sand. If you are planning your next photoshoot and scouting for a bit of shallow wallowing, here is a list of the top resort sand spits in the Maldives…

  • Cocoa Island [ABOVE]
  • Gangehi
    Gangehi - sand spit
  • Sun Island
    Sun Island - sand spit
  • Kuramathi
    Kuramathi - sand spit
  • Kuredu
    Kuredu - sand spit
  • Kanifushi (thanks Paola)
    Kanifushi - sand spit
  • Finolhu
    Finolhu - sand spit
  • Palm Beach
    Palm Beach - sand spit
  • Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
    Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - sand spit
  • Rihiveli
    Rihiveli - sand spit
  • Ranveli
    Ranveli - sand spit
  • Dhigufaru
    Dhigufaru - sand spit
  • Loama at Maamagili
    Loama at Maamagili

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Sea Barrier – Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu - underwater sea wall

Resort islands face all sorts of new environmental challenges from COTS to rising sea temperatures taking their tolls on the coral reefs. But an endemic and ancient plague on the islands are the simple currents shifting the precious sands of their tiny plot of real estate all over the place. Of the over 100 active resorts, nearly 40 have either rock groynes (still vertically out from the beach) or sea walls (sit horizontally parallel to the beach)…or both…to limit this natural erosion. Unfortunately, these measures to keep the sand in place can keep guests away who prefer an unadulterated ocean vista.

Some resorts have gotten clever about turning adversity to advantage dressing their groynes up as everything from lounging areas to wedding pavilions. But Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is the first resort to address the less slightly seawalls by introducing ‘turtle-friendly’ submerged ones that wouldn’t impair the view over the water…

“This project consists of a ‘belt’ of breakwater walls built in the North Eastern side of the lagoon, at a distance of 100 meters from, and parallel to the shore line. The purpose of the wall is to control the sand movements by reducing the impact of rough seas and the strong circulating currents. The first phase of the project consists of 9 walls, each of 25 meters in length and with gaps between each wall to allow the passage of turtles and fish as well as a controlled amount of currents. With Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu being a regular green sea turtle nesting ground, these gaps are very important for them to navigate their way onto the island. The wall is built with eco-friendly coir gunny bags filled with a mixture of sand and cement ; the bags will eventually dissolve naturally, leaving the cement ‘blocks’ in place. We are in phase one of this project and 5 walls are now complete, with the 6th at 90% and the remaining 3 all 50% completed. We have already started observing a stable beach near our Lagoon Villas which used to be severely affected. The image above is from a stay a couple of months ago in October, and the thin line that you see near the Lagoon Villas is the breakwater wall that has progressed.”

Sometimes the best resort innovations are hidden just beneath the surface.

Best of the Maldives: Water Lovers – Canareef

Canareef - pool water

Perhaps the greatest allure of the Maldives is its intimacy with the ocean. The diminutive islands are nettled just at the water level so you are never far from it vertically or horizontally. Some of the bigger islands lose a bit of this aquatic intimacy. But one of the longest islands, Canareef, has as much if not more pervasive ambience of surrounding seaside. Primarily, because it is so skinny. With the shoreline only a few dozen meters away on either side of the island, the ambient noise of gentle waves permeate the air up and down the island.

And this stereo seaside is just one aspect of the resort’s water immersed motif. If you are a water lover, then Canareef is the resort for you. It features water of every size and shape…

  • Seashore – One side dramatic surf, the other side mill pond calm. Both along the longest coastline in the Maldives resorts.
  • Lakes – 3 of these relatively rare bodies of water in the Maldives
  • Pools – Also a top of the league table number.
  • Channel – A relatively rare feature in the Maldives.

Even your own Jacuzzi if you like in the Jacuzzi Villas. If water is what drew you to this destination that is 99% ocean, then Canareef tops it up just a bit further.