Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Fashion Design – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - Funoas

Who puts the “fun” into “Funoas”? Kandolhu has introduced the “Funoas” range of swimwear which you can buy at the resort. Her designs based on the distinctive and colourful sea life of the Maldives are truly inspired. We caught up the Maldivian born Funoas designer Sumii Haleem for her first exclusive interview:

Q: Where are you from in the Maldives?
A: I was born and raised in Male’, Maldives. My mother is from Henveiru district and my father is from Maafannu district.

Q: Where are you living now?
A: I am currently living in Perth, Australia.

Q: What brought you there?
A: Education brought me here to Perth. Back then, when I finished high school, there were no universities in Maldives. Anyone who wanted to get a tertiary level education, had to go overseas. So my parents decided to move to Australia so my little sister and I could have a chance at a quality education. Ever since then I have been moving back and forth between Maldives and Australia.

Q: What inspired your career in art?
A: I have always been fascinated by nature and science and have always used art as a way of expressing this fascination. I also grew up around my aunt who was a seamstress. So it was a combination of curiosity and exposure to designing clothes, that started my career in art.

Q: What was the first piece you sold?
A: The first piece of artwork that I ever sold was in 2012, an abstract ink on paper drawing called “The City Never Sleeps”. It was on Society6 that I sold this print. I felt ecstatic, that someone had actually bought my artwork!

Q: How did you move into fashion?
A: Initially, I started printing my artwork on t-shirts, mugs, laptop and phone covers on Society6. I got a lot of positive response from friends and with their encouragement decided to start my own clothing line. At the time I started working on Funoas, I had also just started scuba diving and was blown away by the beauty and the vulnerability of our coral reefs. I wanted my brand to be an environmentally conscious one, so I could use clothing and fashion to create awareness about issues faced by Maldives, such as climate change, global warming and sea level rise.

Q: What’s your biggest selling item?
A: My best selling item is the Thaana printed clothes. Thaana is the unique writing system of Maldivian language, Dhivehi. I created this piece because I thought Dhivehi is a unique language spoken by a minority of world’s people and the scripture is also visually so unique and eye catching. So I think this print is very sentimental to Maldivians, especially those that live away from home, like myself.

Q: Who are your favourite designers?
A: My art is influenced by people from different walks of life, nature and scientific concepts so it is difficult to narrow it down to only designers. Some of the people that influence my work include Ashish Gupta, Adam Manik, Hassan Manik, Aishath Shafeeg, Moosa Mamdhuh, Ahmed Shafeeg, Maya Arulpragasam, Karl Lagerfeld, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Nicola Tesla, David Attenborough,Fibonacci, Neil Degrassi Tyson, Scuba divers and all underwater photographers, just to name a few.

Q: If someone gave you $1 million to invest in your business, what would you invest it in?
A: If I had a million dollars I would invest it on building Funoas to become an internationally recognised brand that creates quality clothing, 100% ethically and eco-consciously. I would concentrate on creating our products solely from recycled polyester, which is something I am currently looking into for my future collections. Once Funoas is a well established clothing brand, I would love to be able to work with local Maldivian environmentalists, marine researchers and climate change advocates to study more about our own marine ecosystems and bring a positive change to Maldives’ growing environmental crises. I believe this is a social responsibility.

Funoas suit
Manta crop-top

Funoas suit 2
Nudibranch two-piece

Funoas suit 3
Oriental sweet lips

Funoas suit 4
Thaana printed swim shorts

Best of the Maldives: Restaurant-to-Guest Ratio – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - restaurant

Two of my favourite things in the Maldives are the gourmet food (yes, I am a bit of a foodie) and the diminutive charm of the tiniest islands. Unfortunately, it is difficult to have this particular cake and eat it too as the small islands are limited in space and capacity to serve up as much variety.

But Kandolhu provides the best of both world – culinary and cosy delights – with the highest Restaurant to Guest Ratio in the Maldives – 4 restaurants for a mere 30 villas. In rowing (a sport I coach), we call this the “power to weight ratio” and it is the holy grail for high performance.

Each establishment is, like the island, intimate. Like the 6 person Japanese bar, Bonzai. Or you can choose Olive, Sea Grill, or The Market. All of the restaurants are situated on the same side of the island, but segregated in their own spaces and décor. For even more dining options, you can also do villa dining, private dining or grad a bite at the Vilu Bar.

Below I am enjoying the elevated vistas over the ocean of the Olive restaurant while savouring the “Crested Consomme of Oxtail” by Chef Mickaël Farina (hailing from Marseilles in France, he has his own pedigree in fluffy pastry that I just need to find a way through to get to my soup!).

Kandolhu - crusted soup

Best of the Maldives: Glow SUP – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - SUP glow

Flying above the house reef with its own night time navigational lights is Kandolhu’s inspired night boarding…

We attach LED lights to the bottom which can change colour (or guests can select a colour) allowing you to see into the water without getting wet.”

There is something surreal about the ocean at night. And as with many habitats, a whole new host of creatures come alive and active. Not to mention a captivating way to surround yourself with a canopy of stars.

Offered Monday through Friday 6:30 to 7:30 for 1 to 2 guests per tour at $45 pp

Best of the Maldives: Over Water Bathrooms – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - over water villa bathroom

Kandolhu puts the water in the “water closet”.

During the past couple of decades that we have been visiting the Maldives, the tubs have gotten larger and the showers more decadent. The bathrooms have emerged from being tucked away to standing out with al fresco opulence.  These days villa bathrooms have become almost mini private spas with their lavish design, bountiful space, and luxury fittings. Kandolhu resort exemplifies this trend with their over water villas whose bathrooms exemplify the flair of the resort’s contemporary design with its soaring airy motif, clean lines and crisp styling.

Kandolhu - over water villa bathroom 2

Maldives Tour 2016 – Day 7: Kandolhu

Kandolhu - tour

Small but perfectly formed.

Kandolhu is a great example of building on your strengths. With very little real estate to play with, the resort shuns trying to pack in facilities and amenities. Instead, it amplifies the “palm tree and plot of sand” idyllic existence that makes the Maldives so unique in the first place.

Part of this deserted island aesthetic is a pervasive quiet. The intra-atoll island sits protected from big ocean currents at the atoll edge and its own distinctive reef surrounds the island with a strip of shallows that further buffer the water. So the only waves hitting the beach are tiny laps of water tickling the shores edge with more of a trickle than a crash. The resort preserves this peace and calm by not playing music in the common areas or even offering entertainment in the evenings. While they do have a water sports centre, all motorised activity is done at a separate deserted island (Merenfenfushi) over a mile away that guests are taken to.

Even with careful selectivity of whats on offer (eg. no pool, no entertainment, no tennis courts, no golf courses) the resort uses every trick in its book to make the most of its precious [real estate]. The rooms are exquisitely designed with a simple contemporary style. Some of the rooms extend upwards as duplexes to exploit the most of each square metre. Many resorts this size would simply have one restaurant, but Kandolhu has cleverly carved out several different eateries by keeping them small and intimate. Like a collection of tropical pop-ups.

Another natural feature that does amplify the scale of Kandolhu is its reef. Renowned as one of the best in the Maldives, its greatest strength is its expansive layout in such a tiny area. Lori and I swam completely around the island in less than an hour. You can easily access it from one of two jetty jump-in points. But the 50 meter shallows which lead to it are also packed with coral and creatures to explore endlessly. The drama and scale of the reef comes with its dramatic drop-off. A sheer plunge of 30 meters in places.

Kandolhu has long been renowned for some of the densest, most vibrant coral in the Maldives. And with more coral on hand, it has been hit like all of the reefs in the Maldives by the triple whammy of rising sea temperatures, the added wallop of this yearís El Nino, with attacks from Crown of Thorn Starfish (COTS) to top it all off. The resort responded aggressively to defend the reef from COTS and they seem to have won the battle as we didnít see a single one during our snorkel. Still, it will be a little time before the coral recovers to its former glory.

But the coral isnt the only aspect of the reef which makes it such an irresistible draw.  “Kandolhu” must be some sort of Maldivian dialect for“Kingdom of Turtles”. The reef is crawling with them. We saw them every few minutes. A total of six during our semi-circumnavigation of the island. Neighbouring resorts occasionally bring guests to Kandolhu to see this terrapin spectacle.

If Kandolhu was a celebrity beauty, like the parade who are drawn here from around the world, she would be Eva Longoria…petite charm, elegance and stylish beauty with a dramatic impact and personality.

8 Out-Standing Dining Rooms

NIYAMA - Subsix

One of my favourite dining themes is over the water (if not IN the water). The Maldives offers diver menu of in-ocean dining.  Now, I’m not talking about mere “over water” dining.  Just about every self-respective 5-star resort has one of those.  I’m talking about surrounded-by-water dining.  In fact, NIYAMA’s “Subsix” (see above) goes so far as to be both in the ocean and “IN” the ocean with its underwater dining room.

For an outstanding meal out standing in the middle of the ocean, here’s the full list…

1. NIYAMASubsix

2. TAJ EXOTICAOcean Pavilion
Taj Exotica - Ocean Pavillion

3. BAREFOOTBlack Pearl
Barefoot - Black Pearl

4. JUMEIRAH DHEVANAFUSHIJohara
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - Johara

5. BAROSPiano Bar
Baros - Piano Bar

6. ANGSANA VELAVARUAzzurro
Angsana Velavaru - Azzurro

7. KANDOLHUSunset Pavilion
Kandolhu - Sunset Pavillion

8. GILI LANKANFUSHIWedding Pavilion
Gili Lankanfushi - Wedding Pavillion

Best of the Maldives: House Reef – Kandolhu

 Kandoludhoo House ReefKandolhu House Reef

One of the very first and most common questions to ask of any ‘Maldives Best Of’ selection is what is the ‘Best House Reef’.

Maldives is easily one of the world’s top dive areas up there with the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean. But it really stands out for snorkelling. It’s topology of eroded atolls (check out Atoll Terms and Atoll Formation) provide endless shallow and protected areas for leisurely snorkelling as well as steeper reef walls for a different perspective.

The subject was raised on the premier travel review site, TripAdvisor – “Which are the Top 10 Best Resort Reefs?” – and the expert opinion for the top one is Kandoludhoo. The assessment comes from one of TripAdvisor’s top Maldive forum experts, ‘spammie’ with 1,946 posts on the Maldives to his credit. He writes…

“Kandoludhoo has been not been harmed in the ’98 el nino due to lucky currents. So while the other reefs have had to recover from severe coral bleaching, Kandoludhoo looks just like the Maldives used to. To my knowledge its the only actually intact reef in the Maldives. It’s generally considered the number 1 reef because of that. It’s full of huge table corals and just impressive. Also easily accessible. However, several of the other reefs are recovering nicely and are quickly catching up again.”