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.”
One & Only Reethi Rah inverts the one of the most classic landscapes of the Maldives. The archipelago is renowned for its pointilistic array of white sand dots punctuated by green centres strewn across an aquatic tapestry of variegated blues. Those “dots” mean that nearly all the shorelines are convex, ie. outer curves. These shapes protrude the beach comber out toward the ocean with limited shoreline in view as it wraps behind him. But Reethi’s shorelines are terraformed into a collection of cosy coves. These convex harbours provide a completely different ambience which amplifies the sheltered sensation of the shallow lagoons surrounding the island.
“You have Angsana which is literally a 2 minute hop by hourly water 'taxi', so you have the benefit of two islands in one resort (you can also charge any costs on Angsana to BT, and visa versa.” (thanks John)
You might not be able to go pick watermelons, but you can enjoy any of the other amenities (perhaps a watermelon martini).
This weekend was a chance to catch up on some updates to the website including the addition of new property, White Shell Beach Inn Maafushi. I came upon it after finding this great picture of a “climbing tree” that has gone completely horizontal creating its own unique arch canopy.
White Sheel Beach Inn is really classified as a guest house and I have made a concerted decisions not to focus on guest houses. I have never stayed in one and so I’m don’t feel qualified to comment on what makes for a good experience, what sort of things should people be looking for, etc. As it happens, it is located on Maafushi island which has more guest houses than any other Maldives islands (a distinction in itself).
There is a big call for budget options especially close to Male (for limited duration trips and to avoid high transfer costs). White Shell Beach Inn has a good website and quite a good property so I decided to add it to the database as a further step to even more completeness.
For a more natural hang-out over water, take stroll down “Climbing Tree Alley” at Vilamendhoo. The nearly horizontal palm trees are nearly as iconic a shot of paradise as the sunsets and the turquoise lagoons. The palms start to grow this way by the water’s edge when erosion undermines the stability of their root system and on the water’s side and the start to gently tilt and eventually grow in that direction. You will find such orthogonal specimens across the Maldives, but Vilamendhoo has a particularly extended stretch of them along the northeast side which they have named after many people’s favourite activity on these arboreal jungle gyms.