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.
In many places, being “close to the airport” is seen as a negative. The new Mercure Maldives Kooddoo actually boast its aeronautical geography with its press releases announcing: “Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort is the first ever water villa resort built on an airport island in Maldives.”
Kooddoo is an airports like Heathrow with jumbo jets roaring in and rattling the rafters every 30 seconds. Instead it gets one or two flights a day from relatively small planes. The infrequency makes it more of an event than a disturbance (“De plane, de plane!” – Tatoo, Fantasy Island). On the positive side, it makes for an incredibly convenient outside-Kaafu transfer. For most distant resorts, you can either take a seaplane that will land at your resort but many consider very loud inside and too small and cramped for some people’s liking (not to mention expensive). Or you can take small jet planes to an increasing number of mini-airports around the country, but then you still have one more transfer by speedboat to finally get to your resort. At Kooddoo, you have the comfort and cost-savings of a conventional flight and when you touch down, you are just a short buggy ride to your villa.
I’ve lauded the Taj Exotica lagoon in my tour piece (“Turquoise Extremica”), but I do think it is worthy of a special “Best of the Maldives” commendation. Theirs is one of the biggest lagoons in the entire Maldives at over 200 acres. It is the biggest we have seen since Velassaru and LUX South Ari Atoll (bigger than Velassaru and more sheltered than LUX).
But Taj Exotica doesn’t just rest on its lagoon laurels, but instead has invested in it extensively to maximise the lagoon experience. As such, it is probably the most accessorised lagoon we have come across. I already highlighted their extensive coral frame initiative (see photo bottom). It includes not only the obligatory lagoon hammock, but also a lagoon swing (see photo above). The resort also has built special over water pavilions (see below) both attached (below) and detached (above) from the island. And it has even dressed up its beach preserving groynes (see below).
The horizon to horizon stretch of cyan scenery is not just something to gaze at, but also something to immerse yourself in, ever if you don’t want to get wet.
International Book Day today is an apropos time for some more Dr Seuss style magic. This time hailing from LUX South Ari Atoll. They have composed their own living Whoville landscape on the resort…
“The gardening team of LUX* South Ari Atoll worked on the Ironwood Trees of the island west point sandbank by shaping them into a Japanese Zen Garden ‘on the beach’. The idea is to have a space of silence where guests can relax and let the day go by, under the shades of the trees but without missing out on their time on the beach.“
For those less familiar with the Seuss oeuvre, I’ve featured one of the drawing from his classic “Cat in the Hat” below which not only shows the parallel inspiration, but also features Mr Cat delivering books suitable for today’s occasion. The illustration further down has some of LUX’s local residents modelling for the topiary tops.
QI Question of the Day: “In what type of landscape is the Huraa Marine Protected Area found?”
A: The ocean?
QI: <BUZZ> No, the Huraa MPA is a mangrove swamp found o the Huraa island in the North Male atoll.
Think all “Marine Protected Areas” (MPAs) are under water?
Well, one of the MPAs are actually only semi-aquatic. The “Huraa” MPA is actually a mangrove island…
“Huraa Mangrove Nature Reserve (HMNR) has been designated a Protected Area, in recognition of the fact that it is an important natural mangrove habitat which contains species of particular conservation significance to the Maldives and the rest of the world. A human community also live on Huraa Island who is itself affected by the existence of the Nature Reserve, and whose day-to-day life and activities in turn impact on the mangrove ecosystem.”
Arbor days vary around the world (even with States in the USA), but today is the most prevalent one. Maldives doesn’t have an official tree planting day, but more and more resorts are focused on the environment and engaging in a breadth of flora cultivation.
While most visitors look outward from the beaches at the legendary sea of the Maldives, the interiors of these tropical paradises have their own rich landscape. So much so, that today (on the occasion of Arbor Day), I have added the “tree” tag to the Maldives Complete blog.
One of the signature features as prevalent on the islands as branch coral is on the reefs are the multi-pod Banyan Trees. Their meandering style of growth produces a maze of smaller trunks comprising these curious tangles of growth. Allegedly, the oldest of these ancient landmarks is the Main Road tree on Kuramathi…
“Located at the Main Road, this historical landmark is an estimated 300 years old and is a gigantic plant towering 30 metres high. One could wander through the sawdust trail at the entrance and be amazed by the maze of thick wooden barks of this ancient tree, enshrouded in rich greenery. The tree is a nesting place for herons, fruit bats and other animals and is a sight not to be missed. This tree at Kuramathi can be considered as one of the oldest banyan trees found in the Maldives.”