Best of the Maldives: Open Spaces – Equator Village

Equator Village - Gan


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.

Best of the Maldives: Canopy Entrance – Four Season Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru grand entrance

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.

Best of the Maldives: Parakeets – Paradise Island

Paradise Island - parakeets video




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!

Best of the Maldives: Natural Frontage – Holiday Island

Holiday Island front



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.

Eau naturel.

Best of the Maldives: Orchids – Kanuhura

Kanuhura orchid



The sellout Chelsea Flower Show in London started yesterday and tickets are scarcer than some of the prize blossoms trotted out for the horticultural world to admire. Flowers have always been part of the Maldivian paradise spectacle. From lining the flour soft sand paths to arranged in stunning bedtime displays.

Of all of the fabulous flora, only Kanuhura has its very own flower – the ‘Dendrobium Kanuhura’ (yellow and orange) registered orchid developed by Kanuhura nurseries.

And the orchid extravaganza doesn’t stop there. Kanuhura has over 15,000 orchids on the island when they are in season in over 15 colours.

Bloomin’ marvellous!


Kanuhura greenhouse


Kanuhura registration certificate

Best of the Maldives: Beach – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru beach

Whether it’s weddings, tanning, games or just relaxing, one of the best beaches in the Maldives is Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. Now, the entire Maldives nation is renowned for its seaside, so what makes FSLG so special…

  • Size – FSLG is certainly one of the largest beaches in the Maldives where scale is often a rarity. Some people prefer the tiny little island feel with a little plot of sand, but if you want the grand expanse of open seaside vista, then Landaa has that for you.
  • Facilities – Befitting the Four Seasons ethos and its luxury marque, Landaa offers a distinctive array of services and across the beach from one of the best stocked water sports centres in the Maldives to a convenient restaurant. Despite its massive size, the brilliant white soft sand is kept immaculately groomed. There are plenty of loungers with parasols and more than plenty of free sun crème in meg-sized dispensers. The beach-side pool is also a handy way to get a salt-free dip if you prefer.

Life’s a beach!

Best of the Maldives: Arboreal Signs – Kuredu

Kuredu tree signs

If you don’t have a tree guide book to hand but still want to know the identity and stories behind some of the striking landscape on the island, then you will appreciate Kuredu.

We often describe the Maldives as a plot of sand and a few trees. Everyone loves the sand bit, but the trees often go unmentioned and unappreciated. The palm trees are certainly a prevalent fixture, but the islands also have an arboretum of tropical curiosities like the Banyan, and (one of our favourites) the Walking Pine.

“Hernandia Nyphaeifolia – English Name: Lantern Tree…Grows up to 20 meters high and found in coasts of East Africa, Asia, and Polynesia including South Pacific. The seeds of this tree are spread by bats, the leaves, fruits, seeds and bark of the tree is said to have medicinal values. Tahitians polish the seed and make necklaces.”

Kuredu has posted a series of handsome and informative signs at prime examples of arboreal distinction across the resort which adds a bit of natural interest and insight during your strolls.

Kuredu tree signs 2

Maldives QI, Part 4

Maldives coconut

Having recently had a beer with a writer from QI and keeping up the humour, I thought it time for the next installment of ‘Maldive QI’…

  • Q: Where do you find the ‘Maldives Coconut’?
  • A: Maldives?
  • Buzzzz!

The ‘Maldives Coconut’ is very much a part of the Maldives history, but curiously not part of the Maldives itself. Der Spiegel recently did a piece on the intriguing nut

“The captain surely imagined it all a little differently. The French adventurer Francois Pyrard intended on sailing to India in 1602. But when his ship Corbin gave out on the open seas, he had to seek refuge in the Maldives. Unfortunately, the king there wouldn’t let the shipwrecked party leave for five years. When Pyrard and his crew were finally able to flee, they took the tale of the strange fruit with them back to Europe. It had been found frequently on the beaches of the islands. It wasn’t just that they were gigantic, the fruit’s shape was also reminiscent of a woman’s pelvic region. The king demanded that these alluring finds be delivered directly to him, and threatened that those who didn’t comply would lose a hand, or even be put to death. What Pyrard saw was the nut of the Coco de Mer palm, one of the rarest palm trees on the planet, also known as the Lodoicea maldivica. It is three to four times as large as an average coconut. They are also heavier than anything comparable that biologists can find, weighing up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds).”

It actually grows in the Seychelles, but makes its way to its namesake islands (“maldivica”) floating on the Indian Ocean waters which may account for its colloquial name, ‘Coco de Mer’. Der Spiegel describes this intriguing species in some detail on the occasion of the Botanical Garden in Berlin succeeding in germinating it. Despite its rather fertility-suggstive appearance, it is actually dubbed the ‘Panda of the Plant World’ for its difficulty in growing.

I researched the beguiling nut talking to Verena Wiesbauer Ali who not only helped with the previous QI pieces, but also co-authored the first definitive picture guide to the flora of the Maldives ‘Maldives: Trees and Flowers of a Tropical Pardise’. There are dozens of various guide books to the underwater delights of the islands, but this is the first that provides a comprehensive catalogue with dazzling colour photos for land lubbers. You can get a copy by writing to the co-authour Peter Dittrich (25 Euros) to find out what coconut palms and every other type of colourful and curious tree and plants that do grow there.

Maldives Tree and Flowers

Best of the Maldives: Biggest Lagoon – Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa

Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa lagoon

To each his own. Many Maldive aficionados focus on the best house reefs as a critical decision criteria. The deep, coral and fish filled features stand in stark contrast to the shallow and sandy lagoons that also permeate the archipelago. Typically, the two are mutually exclusive. The geography of an island that makes for big lagoons tends to make for distant or less prominent house reefs.

But not everyone is all house reef obsessed. With Olympic-class pedalos on hand, a nice big lagoon to cruise around in can be a good thing. As CastawayGR noted on the Trip Advisor Forum post “Looking for the perfect turquoise lagoon in Maldives” –

“I was wondering if anyone can help me find an island surrounded by the best turquoise lagoon…What I am looking for is a really small almost desert romantic getaway with white beaches and turquoise water for as far as my eyes can see.”

And Suzan3 echoed in the post “Biggest Lagoons” –

“You’re after what I’m after, except I’m not a fan or snorkelling, nor am I of coral reefs. I want a resort that has crystal clear waters all round…”

Lagoons don’t just have aesthetic appeal. They are great havens of aquarium-like snorkelling. Maybe not as dramatic as house reef drop-offs, but you still see a variety of small fish especially in scattered coral droppings as well as the occasional ray stirring up the sand looking for food and the ubiquitous mini reef sharks. Great for young kids to explore snorkelling for the first time. It was also a great way for my 80 year old mother-in-law to feel comfortable enough to try snorkelling (even though she was in 2 feet of water, she still had a life jacket on, a floatation noodle and my wife standing at her side to help her – see photo below). But she loved seeing the smattering of colourful tropical fish that scampered by her.

In theta posts, a few suggestions were offered for the biggest lagoon and I had some of my own guesses. But for something so common in the Maldives, I had to turn to the real expert, Seven Holiday’s Adrian Neville. He took time out from writing his latest update to his essential guide “Resorts of the Maldives” to pen the follow guest post for me which is a veritable ‘Lagoon Guide’ for the biggest and bluest in the Maldives…

“First of all, we need to be a bit clearer about what constitutes ‘biggest’. Let’s assume that we are looking at the total area of the lagoon – the length and the width. We are not looking at ‘volume’ as we are looking for shallow lagoons rather than deep ones. You can look for the biggest lagoon with a single resort in, but that’s a bit precious. As long as the next resort island is not too near, I’d say you’re going to be happy. (And of the ones below, only Fun Island and Olhuveli are way too close. Though Reethi Rah is a touch too close to Summer Island for a Six Star, as Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is to Huraa, the inhabited island)…


  • Velassaru [ed. one of my nominees] does have a large and attractive lagoon 7 kms long, but just across the atoll is Taj Exotica…
  • Taj Exotica has a lagoon that is twice the length at 14 kms.
  • Meeru has a 14 kms lagoon which is also wide on one side.
  • Reethi Rah [ed. a lagoon cited in the TA post], I must say, is a non-starter. The length of the lagoon is 5 kms and little in the way of width.
  • LUX* (formerly Diva) has a length of 11 kms and is wide to one end.
  • Gangehi’s is 9kms long and wide too.
  • Kuramathi has a curving lagoon of 18kms length and looking into the interior of Rasdhoo Atoll it is shallow for much of the area.
  • Sun Island and Holiday Island share a lagoon 18 kms long.
  • Fun Island, Olhuveli and Rihiveli share a lagoon some 20kms in length.
  • Amari Addu sits in a lagoon that bends 20kms around the NE corner of Addu Atoll at the southernmost end of the country.
  • Equator Village is at the tip of the 25 kms lagoon that runs up to Hithadu.
  • Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa has the biggest lagoon I measured. It was 33kms in Meemu Atoll. It is also wide and shallow around those two resorts. (3 more resorts are planned further down the lagoon).

Those are the current active resorts, but there are some notables to mention of resorts not on line…

  • The proposed resort on Maafushi island in Dhaalu sits in a 26kms lagoon.
  • The two proposed resorts just off the end of Gan island in Laamu share a 30kms long lagoon.
  • If Hudhufushi ever gets finished, in the relatively northern atoll of Llaviyani, it will have a lagoon of 32kms length and a wide, shallow area adjacent.


And finally. It’s notable that it is the southern atolls where the lagoons are large. In the north, the atolls are more ‘split up’. The country actually slopes in height from the north down to the south, so the northern islands are as it were propped higher and so the large lagoons have not formed or have worn away. Well, that was fun and diverting. I’m not quite up to drawing a definitive conclusion though.”

While Adrian won’t claim it definitive, I’ll go with his call Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Hura.

Filitheyo lagoon snorkeling

Best of the Maldives: Skinniest – Jumeirah Vittaveli

Jumeirah Vittaveli skinny


With so many tempting treats to savour, my wife Lori has decided that she needs to shed a few of the pounds that she brought back with her from our last Maldives trip. She’s started the ‘Rice Diet’ whose first phase includes eating nothing but rice and fruit and she lost 4 pounds in 4 days.

If skinny is your thing, then Jumeirah Vittaveli has the smallest waistline of all. It even has an hourglass figure (see map above).

Some visitors (us included) like the smaller islands for the charm of a pre-sunset (or whenever) circumnavigational stroll. But, if you want to get from sunset to sunrise side in the fewest footsteps possible, then skinny is the trick.

This post was inspired by our stay at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa where we took one wrong turn and were on the opposite side of the island in seconds. But checking out Maldives Complete’s exhaustive list of lengths and widths, Vittaveli came up with the literally narrow victory at 70 metres across at its shortest point.

[image credit: Jumeirah Vittaveli]