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.
It’s official! Baros has its own plot of sand and this one is actually a “registered” sand bank. The only resort to do so with the Ministry of Agriculture.
(photo courtesy of Luxury hotels TravelPlusStyle.com)
Olhuveli and Fun Island might be the closest geographic neighbours, but Angsana Ihuru and Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru are the closest operationally (not attached).
“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.
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).
Life’s a beach. And in the Maldives, it’s all beach.
Most Maldive islands are little more than a plot of sand and a few palm trees. In short, they are all beach. But, some of the more substantial ones actually have a few discrete beach areas with their own character (eg. east facing for sunsets, west facing for sunrises). One & Only Reethi Rah are a pinnacle of beach choice with a dozen separate (and named…see picture above) beaches to choose from. My favourite is “Frangipani Beach”…a great name for a lovely flower (the white petalled one with soft yellow touches in the centre).
From flyboarding to free birding.
This post is also a contendor for “Most Nostalgic for My High School Years”. First, “Freebird” was the Ipswich High School Class of 1979 “Class Song”. Second, me and my buddies were big Monty Python fans (perhaps shades of my eventual UK life) and one of my favourite skits was “Albatross.
While I had parroted the “Albatross” sketch endlessly to pubescent tittering, I had never actually seen one. Until I visted Nika. Lori and was even more mesmerised by him, and his goofy wing-flapping walk, than I was I think. We dubbed him “Albert Ross” (my adolescent sense of humour has matured that much since high school).
Nika has its own bird sanctuary. But not in a cage nor in a segregated section of the island, but right in one of the main thoroughfares are the two main pathways converge in front of the dining area. All of the birds roam freely around the island, but they tend to congregate in this area where they are fed and they have some shelters.
A truly diverse bunch too. Bandito the peacock (see above), exotic dove, hens, parrots (see bottom) and ducks.
The sense of being in the Maldives in the middle of the Indian Ocean is outstanding. And a Gangehi you can literally (or should I say “littorally”) be out standing in the middle of the ocean.
One of the absolute distinctions of the Maldives destination are its pervasive shallow lagoons. Lots of places in the world have atolls and coral reefs, but the Maldives has an elevation that just hits sea level. A few inches above sea level and a few inches below. This topology means you can snorkel in waist deep water a kilometre off shore, and walk or wade to the neighbouring island.
Or you can, on some resorts, just amble out into the middle of nowhere. One of our favourites is Kuramathi’s which points nearly due west making it an ideal sunset “point”. Other prominent powdery promontories are at Ranveli, Cocoa Island, Palm Beach and Kuredu (thanks Adrian), but the longest is Gangehi’s which juts out a full 800m from shore. The picture above provides some perspective and we weren’t even all the way to the end because the tide wasn’t fully out.
It is a truly romantic sensation to be standing in the middle of the ocean in the middle of nowhere just you and your loved one.