A number of islands have guide signs to help introduce guests to the distinctive flora and greenery, but JA Manafaru has helpful signs for just about every aspect of their property. I’ve already posted about their outdoor workout course where your ‘trainer’ is a series of signs to help you along the path. Their photo op sign was one of the first in the Maldives (now many have them) and the coral fragment frame is a delightful way design.
JA Manafaru also feature quite an intriguing showcase of a traditional Maldivian village which they bring to life with very informative and well designed sign posts telling the story behind the display (see below). It makes the exploration of their distinctive exhibit into a museum quality adventure.
You don’t need a water villa to enjoy the over water lounging at AaaVeee. This fresh new face in the Maldives resort crowd has added special decks that any can use for that over-water lounging vibe…
“Perched majestically in 3 sturdy decks above the sea, these 3 nature discovery decks set on stilts overlooking the calm blue lagoon, scenic beach, peaceful islands and the ocean, boasts simply stunning views of dazzling sunsets. You could sunbath on these quiet comfortable wooden sunbeds while chilling with the excellent drinks which we provide.”
If the Maldives islands aren’t small enough for you, the Ayada has created its own “Ile de Joie” (Island of Joy) in the middle of its water villa lagoon. It serves as the home for its cheese and wine restaurant.
Over water venues are great for ambience offering intimacy with the water below, but they are all wood and construction and so depart from the natural splendour of the island. Except at Ayada, they have brought the lush tropical nature to their overwater restaurant with foliage, flowers and even palm trees planted on this little culinary cay. A great place to hand out all day long with their distinctive dhoni seats on the deck.
The most discreet boat captains moor up at Royal Island. One of the least natural parts of any resort island is the marina. They need some place to park the boats. The marine craft laden jetties here are often the unsightly nook of the house reef.
Not at Royal Island where they have taken advantage of a nearby island with its own cove to park all their boats in their own sheltered mini-harbour (see photo above off shore). As a result, zero boats clutter the shore and a circumambulation of the island is unspoilt by such infrastructure.
A whole entourage of superlatives are emerging out of the headline royal visit of Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz to the Anantara this week. Most amount spent on a holiday. Most rooms booked at once. Tightest security (reportedly staff are not allowed to have their phones on them). But my favourite from all of the reports is the building of at least one helipad for the prince’s helicopter on his mega-yacht (see above). “Helipad” has long been on the “not seen yet” list ever since the surrender of the Maafushivaru Lonubo’s to the inexorable tides. I’ve seen them pencilled in on some of the extravagant resort plans like the one with the underwater golf course, but nothing “on the ground” so to speak until now.
One of my favourite parts of the Maldives are the jetties. They are like boulevard balconies to the spectacle of Maldivian marine life cavorting below often attracted to the pseudo-reef structure of the jetty itself. Resorts will often equip them with lighting which provides further attraction to the nocturnal creatures after dark.
Mostly these jetties take you to the arrivals welcome or the water villas, but Jumeirah Vittaveli has one which simply encircles part of the island. It really is more of a boardwalk than a jetty. And boardwalks are classic ocean-side features. Another benefit they bring is that people can walk along the water’s edge without the challenge of the sand if they are so disinclined (eg. less mobile folks, people dressed up for dinner).
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.”
Bridges are often icons of the places they join together. The Golden Gate. The Brooklyn Bridge. Today is the anniversary of the Budapest Bridge which has a personal connection to me as its miniature cousin graces the banks of the Thames in my hometown of Marlow.
Most cities are situated on some body of water, a river or a harbour, due to a heritage of waterway commerce. And yet with all of the water surrounding the Maldives, I had never come across a bridge until One and Only Reethi Rah. They actually have two. You can see the second one in the distance in the photo above. It is a charming Kodak moment spot with distinctive vistas in both directions.
Bridges also have their own romance about them. Pont des Arts in Paris started the now worldwide trend of “Locks of Love” where lovers attach locks and throw the key into the river. The Khaju Bridge in Isfahan, Iran is a famous as a lovers tryst as it is elegantly captivating.
Reethi is sort of a Rialto Bridge for Venice of the tropics.
Sometimes the “no shoes” ethos isn’t all a walk in the park. It is meant to embody the relaxed and casual atmosphere of the Maldives combined with its pervading sensual nature right down to the powdery soft sand across the island. This element is so prominent that during this last tour, I started collecting data for a “Walkway Rating” by resort (stay tuned). But, when I got to Gangehi, their walkways defied Maldivian categorisation. They are unlike anything else you will tread on in the Maldives. Instead of sandy, hardened or paved walkways, Gangehi features wooden walkways snaking through the island interior.
When I first saw these, I was quite intrigued. I wondered if they would be a real detraction, but over the stay I grew to appreciate them more and more. For starters, they are a ‘natural’ solution to folks who need hard walkways. The sandy by-ways seem romantic, but for people who have difficulty getting around – wheelchair users, otherwise unsteady individuals, and ladies who want to enjoy their high heeled fashion on their holiday – they are actually quite an inconvenience. Also, some people have sensitive feet and the aboriginal avenues can be a bit uncomfortable at times if there are stray stones and coral pieces that you can step on.
Some islands have paved paths, but somehow that often seems to take away from the natural feel. Gangehi’s wooden paths preserve a very natural aesthetic. They even impart a bit of stylistic distinction to the place. Because they are slightly elevated, it almost seemed as if I was traversing something out of Swiss Family Robinson’s lush tropical settlement.
Of course, if you hanker for the sand between your toes, you can always circumambulate the island beaches (quite easily as Gangehi is so tiny).
Magic coconuts in the Maldives news this week: “Police summon white magic practitioner to investigate possible cursed coconut” meant to influence yesterday’s long awaited elections. Everything seemed to go smoothly and peacefully which hopefully paves the way for the people’s voice to settle all of the political controversy of the past year and a half.
For some real coconut magic, though, Kandooma architecture is nuciferally inspired reassembling coconut husks.
These dramatic structures aren’t the only soaring design features of the resort which takes extensive advantage of vertical space with not just these massive vaulted ceilings (see photo below), but also tented canopies, a dramatic reception area and a unique tower even.