I grew up spoiled by soft sand. Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts USA was renowned for its miles of flour soft white sand (kept clean and fine by an off-shore sand bar which acted like a filter of hard and soft debris). The brilliant white sand of the Maldives makes for great posts of the card and Instagram types. But on closer inspection with one’s sensitive piggy toes, one quickly realises that crushed coral (which is what the sand is comprised of) can be quite sharp (with plenty of broken coral bits washed up to really pierce your soles.
We have found a number of islands with soft sand (eg. Gili Lankanfushi, Safari Island, Mirihi), but we’ve not come across a property with plush icing sugar texture as Maafushivaru. I’d be wary of awarding such a kudo on just my experience, but I was convinced with veteran Maldives aficionado Francisco, who has visited over 40 resorts, made the same assertion.
Now Maafushivaru is in the diminutive island category which means they have less area to maintain. But maintain it they do. They had a team of a several groundskeepers raking the beach early every morning to sift out the shards and broken shells that had come in with the night time tide. Another aspect to tis distinction was the first impression made by the reception’s especially plush and floor like a rich, sand cashmere shag carpet whose softness you sink into.
The first story of the Maldives which first captivated my interest in this aquatic paradise was a work colleague describing to me how they spotted an island neighbouring their resort and just *waded* over to it. They were staying at Rihiveli which has two islands you can wade to. Now Soneva Jani extends this ambulatory island hopping to three plot-of-sand destinations to Kudafushi, Budafushi and a further tiny one in the lagoon off its Crab Shack. The easiest way to stroll to that Robinson Caruso experience.
A number of resorts create arbors for a sheltered tunnel of greenery (or sometimes flowers) to promenade through. At 200 metres, Soneva Jani’s is twice as long as Reethi Faru’s which was the longest we’ve seen to date. But Soneva Jani’s offers not just a flora display, but a popular fauna perch as well for the flying foxes. The fruit bats are one of Lori’s favourite Maldives creatures and she loves watching them fly past of crawl along the tree branches. Unfortunately, most of the food they are foraging for are high up so you can’t get to see their cute little faces that easily. At Soneva Jani, the extended arbor provides the same appealing canopy for these critters so they can be seen closely scampering along it. And when they want to fly away, they just fly through tunnel just past you. It’s like giant bat cave of greenery.
The Maldives may not be moving the heavens, but they are moving the earth to provide more opportunities to welcome visitors. For some environmental activists, “terraforming” is as dirty a word as the mounds of dirt it involves. But I am more supportive of the Maldives’ use of terraforming. For a country that is nearly 1000 kilometres long, to reclaim a few kilometres for living or economic purposes seems quite a reasonable trade-off. Especially, if the aquatic regions chosen are more barren sandy lagoon than vibrant reef (and even then, work done with as eco-friendly protocols as possible). The entire Crossroad complex which currently includes Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon were constructed in this manner and eventually 7 more resort “islands” will be developed in the general area. The environmental study that was performed to prepare for this dramatic transformation of the ocean was extensive but nonetheless controversial among sceptics. For those who are accepting of this strategy to building their economy, the engineering scale and sophistication is quite impressive. The YouTube video above provides a taste of what is involved, but actually the History Channel (Asia) did a fully documentary programme on the project (see trailer below) to look out for if you get a chance to watch it.
One of our favourite Maldives rituals is our pre-crepuscular circum-perambulation of the island (yes, I did enjoy writing this sentence). That’s a pre-sundowner island-rounder in layman’s terms. Typically, takes about 15-20 minutes for a small resort. Dhigali has brought the charm and adventure of an island walk to the interior with their “Jungle Walk”.
Dhigali has carved out an intimate footpath weaving through an extensive portion of their thick, tropical palm-canopied undergrowth. In addition, they have enhanced it with some signs feature fun factoids about this inner landscape you are exploring as well as with a few seats to just sit down and take in a part of the island that is all too rarely savoured. It is also lit so you can take a romantic midnight walk along it as well
Swinging on vines is one of those iconic things that characterise legendary exotic adventure from Tarzan to Indiana Jones. Shangri-La Villingili has more of these tropical tree-to-tree transports than any other island I have been to. When visiting, I couldn’t resist grabbing one from time to time for a bit of a fly through the air. Even if you don’t fancy such swashbuckling activity, just seeing them dangling from the dense jungle canopy of the island adds to the property’s equatorial vibe.
“Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness.” ― RayBradbury (thanks Conrad Rangali)
A non-resort island, Fuvamulah, is one of the most intriguing islands of all in the Maldives It does feature a number of guest houses and hotels, but it is not the little plot of sand in the middle of the ocean, but rather the second largest island in the Maldives. It is also not a pearl on an atoll necklace, but more of a sparkling broach standing solitary on the breast of the Indian Ocean.
Among its many distinctive features is the ground itself which makes up the island. The sand and the pebbles are unique to the island as they are polished by the action of the waves crashing on to the beach. Some beaches have pebbles (see photo above). One part of the island also has a pile of polished black stones on the beach. Other areas on the island have smaller grains of proper sand. But the sand grains are themselves polished. I was told that the unique texture of the sand makes the sand “sing” as you walk on it.
If you want to get away from the resort island at OBLU Sangeli, just walk down the jetty. A few resorts join islands with jetties (Anantara Dhigu/Veli, Conrad Rangali), but Sangeli joins their two islands with the water villa jetty. If you are staying in one of the overwater bungalows, then you can choose which island you want to visit.
Sunniest time of the year. Well, the longest amount of sunshine in the day (depending on your time zone). Not that it matters that much at the Equator where daytime doesn’t vary all that much. Still an occasion to call out another quirky resort distinction. After visiting nearly 100 resorts, Dhigufaru did strike me as the “sunniest”. Essentially, the property was developed from an existing sand bank. As a result, the foliage is less dense, less tall and less mature. Walking around you feel the sky and sunshine everywhere. Conversely, many parts of many resort islands have dense canopies that can almost feel like tunnels of greenery.
Maldives resorts themselves are adorned with aesthetically enchanting white sand. One of the most distinctive are the long, narrow spits of sand jutting out into the ocean. The longest stretch of sand (as a opposed to a long beach on a long island) extends from Finolhu’s southern side for an entire 1.8 kilometres. Typically, such arenaceous promontories lead nowhere in particular except an expanse of blueness. But Finolhu’s takes you to a number of resort treats including the best parts of the house reef and the its first rate Crab and Fish Shack.