Colourful creatures floating all around you. Some inquisitive about your presence, while others more skittish and shy. Large and small, or all shapes and colours. Not the marine life in the water, but the bird life in the air on Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. Elaidhoo features an expansive aviary filled with fowl of all description – parrots, exotic hens, cockatoos [OTHERS]. As colourful as any collection of tropical fish you will find in the water.
We took as many pictures visiting the aviary as we did on any house reef. But my wife Lori’s favourite (so much so that she changed her Facebook profile picture to it) was of the baby chicks who hid in their mother’s wings and poked their heads out (see bottom).
100th Chelsea Flower Show, one of the bellwethers of sunshine and blossoms in climate-challenged England, opens today. To mark the occasion we have our own online exhibit of botanical curiosity. Mirihi not only has it’s very own blossom, but it is its namesake. GM Martin Vossen describes, “Mirihi is named after the flower! 🙂 I think it can be found on other Islands as well, but I have never seen it anywhere else and I would not be aware of where else it can be found, so it is really quite unique.”
Not a person in sight.
What most of the prospective visitors on Forums ask about is the lowest population density. Perhaps burnt by crowded beaches and resorts elsewhere in the world, they are drawn to the Maldives by the tranquil seclusion. Relative to these other sardine seasides, even the highest density Maldive islands we have visited always seem sparse by comparison. Seeing fellow guests on the beach and around the island is always a bit of a rare event. I often ask ‘where is everybody’.
But if you want the ultimate in Robinson Crusoe human isolation, then Soneva Fushi is the expanse for you. Unlike most resort profile pictures, the pervasive natural landscape is evident from its aerial shot (see above). Mathematically, Soneva has 65 rooms on a 688,500 square meter island which is an agoraphilic 10,592 square metres per room. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ‘Population Density’ filter was suggested by a friend (Mark Richardson) who happens to be a Soneva Fushi devotee.
In my ‘best of’ filtering, I’ve excluded resorts that are not on their own island (eg. Equator Village on Gan, Traders Hotel on Male) because even though the ‘rooms per hectarage’ is small, there is lots of other infrastructure and ‘residents’.
To be low in density, the trick is to (a) be rather large in size (the numerator in the equation), (b) not have water villas (which add rooms beyond the land area). So for some who prefer the smaller more intimate islands and the luxury of a water villa, a low density is not a big appeal.
And if that density is still too crowded for you, Soneva has their distinctive picnic island (see below) where the density drops right down to nada.
One trick to SEO is ‘keyword density’, ie. packing each page with the words ‘Maldives Resort’ every where. I didn’t think you folks would appreciate such gratuitous, self-serving clutter so I’ve avoided such contrived measures.
One trick to ‘Population Density’ (ie. rooms per square metre of island) on a Maldives Resort is lots of water villas. And the new leader is the new kid on the block. Safari Island now wins hands down in the ‘Population Density’ stakes. Maldives Complete has all the population densities of all the resorts. The previous king of cozy was Jumeirah Vittaveli with 91 rooms on 14,000 sqm for 154 sqm per room. Safari has 84 rooms on 8,000 sqm for 95 (!) sqm of island per room. Another relative newcomer has also opted for the jam them in approach, Centara Ras Fushi (140 rooms on 29,000 sqm for 215 sqm per room).
But on the horizon is a resort that Dutch Docklands is building whole resorts in lagoons with no island at all. Mathematically, a population density of infinity (that’s what you get when you divide by zero). Actually, the other Maldivian Jumeirah, Dhevanafushi, already sort of has an ‘all water villa’ feature with its complete detatched ‘Ocean Pearls’ villas set out in the middle of the ocean (see below), and Gili Lankanfushi pioneered the boat-only water villas with its collection of residences.
Another sanctuary for the airbourne is Sun Island’s Kovelivaa park, the biggest bird sanctuary among the Maldives resorts.
As it happens, today is Audubon Day established on the birthdate of the world’s leading ornithological illustrator, John James Audubon. Sometimes, Audubon Day (celebrating wild fowl) and Arbor Day (celebrating wild foliage) are celebrated together by planting trees in bird sanctuaries like Sun’s.
There is more to the Maldives fowl than herons (it seems as it every resort has its resident heron who combines stalking the lagoon shallows for fish with posing like a fethered statue for hours on end to charm the guests). Two lesser seen examples of Maldive bird life found on Sun Island are described below by the resort…
White Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) – “These white breasted waterhens are very calm and like to go along doing their work silently, unnoticed. As the name suggests, these birds are the water counterparts of normal hens and can be seen mostly near edges of water bodies. In [Sun Island’s] IIT, the best places to see them are the lake behind SAC and IITG lake. When no one is around, they are bold enough to venture on the roads, so watch out for them! Local names: Assamese”
Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) – “Asian Koel is a large cuckoo which feeds mainly on fruits and berries in trees, feasting on the ripe fruits. It also consumes insects and caterpillars. Adults often frequent orchards.”
When I need to describe the Maldives to people unfamiliar with them, I say “You know those pictures of a deserted tropical island of a plot of sand in the ocean with a palm tree in the middle?…that’s the Maldives.” But, the even more secluded, minimalist isolation comes from such plots…sans palm trees. The sandbanks.
The ultimate on open space bounty comes courtesy of Francisco Negrin, one of most helpful correspondents, who recently returned from Six Senses Laamu…
“A real, and beautiful sand bank with maafushivaru type sand as per your description and a stunning reef around it. And you can swim or kayak to it from the main island in just a few minutes. No need of a boat , no sea planes landing next to it etc etc.. And you can book it to have it to yourself too.”
Discovery of a treasured isle…in Laamu’s aquatic backyard.
If you get geographically claustrophobia, then you can still enjoy the tropical splendour of the Maldives on the more substantial plot of land, Gan. Covering 1500 hectares, it provides expansive open spaces rare in the Maldives. Big enough for an airfield which stretches from one end to another. And an old, disused golf course (built by the RAF airmen stationed there).
Not only is Gan substantial, but it is connected to a string of islands Feydu and Hittadu. The resident resort there is Equator Village. As a result, it 'open' in another way by being also the one resort located on an island where other non-staff Maldivians reside. So it is truly open to Maldivian life not just landscape.
The arrival jetty is a just one step of an august procession of anticipation when arriving at a Maldives resort. It starts with spying the first splotch of turquoise out your airplane window. It continues boarding your transfer boat/seaplane where you spy a few colourful fish frolicking around the jetty. Your heartbeat picks up when you see the green dot of an island emerge on the horizon. You pull up to the resort jetty welcomed by cool scented cloth, refreshing tropical concoctions and warm smiles. Then you make tke the long walk down the jetty towards reception seeing even more lively and colourful fish circling beneath you.
At most resorts, the reception greets you at the end of the jetty. But a Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, the expectation builds further as you first arrive to their entrance boulevard. A grand avenue of coconut tress planted by the previous Maldivian owner leading into the island interior. Dubbed ‘Coconut Corridor’, it adds even more buil up to the big arrival. Along with Club Med Kani, one of the great palm corridors of the Maldives.
You can get up close and personal with musical creatures on land as well. Paradise Island features an extremely friendly family trio (mom, dad and kid) of parakeets. My Maldive expert network informs me that another resort also has one, but Paradise Island has 3! The video clip above shows just how appreciative they are of their fans!
Could be dubbed ‘Best Curb Appeal’.
All of Holiday Island buildings have been kept sequestered behind bush so the beach looks completely natural. Walking along the beach, you could convince yourself that you were on your very own dessered island. The resort even had an instance of a guest convincing the boat transfer driver to take them to neighbouring Sun Island because they thought Holiday was uninhabited since they couldn’t see any buildings on it. Sun also has this aspect for large stretches, but a number of welcome and activity buildings belie the resort behind the greenery. The picture above is indeed the front of Holiday Island.