Paradise Pitch

Séan Garnier (France) – Cocoon – Freestyle World Champion

With the football season winding down, the stars of the pitch will be planning a bit of premier league grade relaxation. The luxury of Maldives will be one of the top destinations for the golden boots (and wallets). Here’s a starting 11 (with an added hat tip to talent scout Bunyamin Ahmed) of footie fashionista in paradise…

  1. Séan Garnier (France) – Cocoon – Freestyle World Champion [ABOVE]
  2. Federico Fazio (Italy) – NIYAMA – AS Roma
    Federico Fazio (Italy) – NIYAMA – AS Roma
      
  3. Ciro Immobile (Italy) – Halaveli – Lazio
    Ciro Immobile (Italy) – Halaveli - Lazio
      
  4. Mykola Matviyenko (Ukraine) – Paradise Island – Shakhtar Donetsk
    Mykola Matviyenko (Ukraine) – Paradise Island - Shakhtar Donetsk
     
  5. Fyodor Smolov (Russia) – Velaa – Krasnodar
    Fyodor Smolov (Russia) – Velaa – Krasnodar
      
  6. Tomás Rincón (Venezuela) – Constance Halaveli – Torino
    Tomás Rincón (Venezuela) – Constance Halaveli - Torino
        
  7. Diego Tardelli (Brazil) – Velaa – Shandong Luneng
    Diego Tardelli (Brazil) – Velaa - Shandong Luneng
      
  8. Kevin Bonifazi (Italy) – Havaveli – Torino
    Kevin Bonifazi (Italy) – Havaveli – Torino 
       
  9. Ricardo Goulart (Brazil) – Cheval Blanc Randheli – Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao
    Ricardo Goulart (Brazil) – Cheval Blanc Randheli - Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao
        
  10. Lanzafame Davide (Italy) – Safari Island – Honvéd
    Lanzafame Davide (Italy) – Safari Island - Honvéd
       
  11. Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) – St. Regis Vommuli
    Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) – St. Regis Vommuli

 

Best of the Maldives: Football Camp – Amilla Fushi

Amilla Fushi - football

More “fullback” than “full bodied”, Amilla Fushi introduced its own training programme for guests (who are a bit too young to sample the wine cellar) of a football training camp:

  • Designed and developed by former professional football players, Jason and Glen Trifiro, FUTBOLTEC focuses on the techniques of young footballers in a professional and enjoyable learning environment. Sign up your kids for an exclusive 3-day football camp and let them participate on a field where players have the freedom to play and creativity is the most important thing. Choose from Junior camp for players aged 5-11 years old or Senior camp for players aged 12-16 years old. Each player will receive 9 hours of experienced coaching, training shirt, shorts, socks and training equipment.”

Best of the Maldives: Beach Rugby Pitch – Cinnamon Hakura Huraa

Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa - beach rugby pitch

Six Nations might have concluded this weekend, but you can carry on your place kicks in paradise at Cinnamon Hakuraa Hura. They not only have one of the only rugby pitches, complete with regulation goal posts and boundary line, but it is also set on the beach beside Hakuraa Hura’s expansive lagoon. The Sri Lankan run resort has a number of Sri Lankan staff you play regularly if you are looking to join in a seaside scrum.

Best of the Maldives: Tennis Club – Amilla Fushi

Amilla Fushi - tennis club 1

The Australian Open is in full swing this week kicking off the 2018 Grand Slam season. For a bit of Aussie tennis in the Maldives, the best courtside seats are Amilla Fushi. A number of resorts have invested on some pretty sophisticated tennis facilities, but Amilla Fushi has the biggest range of tennis amenities I have seen at their “LUX Tennis” club

  • ·Two floodlit tennis courts, nestled amid tropical trees – Amilla allows guests improve every aspect of their game through personalised tennis programmes and events. Amilla has partnered with LUX Tennis, which provides professional tennis coaches to luxury resorts and private clients worldwide for a tailored solution that manages all tennis activities.”

The “club” offers lessons and player partners with ATP Pros, exhibition matches by visiting ATP Tour players, kids instruction, ball machine (see photo below)and serve speed radar. Not to mention a range of rackets and tennis wear including shoes. A bit of above and beyond by the resort from down under.

Amilla Fushi - tennis club 2

Jocks on the Docks

Youri Zoon (Netherlands) – Maafushi - Surfer

Surfer girls aren’t the only athletes drawn to the idyllic shores of the Maldives. I’ve noticed that Bunyamin Ahmed’s Instagram feed has been particularly chocker recently with footballers arriving in the Maldives. But every manner of athlete finds a bit of regeneration and recovery from this relaxing setting. Here is a top ten sample (sorry there’s not more ladies, but the guys just don’t post as prolifically as the gals)…

  1. Youri Zoon (Netherlands) Maafushi – Surfer [ABOVE]
  2. Michael Phelps (USA) – Conrad Rangali – Olympic Swimmer
    Michael Phelps (USA) – Conrad Rangali - Olympic Swimmer
  3. Almog Sharf (Israel) – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi – Surfer
    Almog Sharf (Israel) – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi - Surfer
  4. Irshaad Sayed (South Africa) – Kanuhura – Mixed Martial Arts
    Irshaad Sayed (South Africa) – Kanuhura – Mixed Martial Arts
  5. Cornelius Atkinson (United Kingdom) – Soneva Fushi – Acrobat
    Cornelius Atkinson (United Kingdom) – Soneva Fushi - Acrobat
  6. DL Scott (USA) COMO by Maalifushi – Body Builder
    DL Scott (USA) – COMO by Maalifushi - Body Builder
  7. Alex (United Kingdom) – Komandoo – Racing driver
    Alex (United Kingdom) – Komandoo - Racing Driver
  8. Constantine (Bulgaria) – Olhuveli – Yoga
    Constantine (Bulgaria) – Olhuveli - Yoga
  9. Matteo (Italy) – Amilla Fushi – Body Builder
    Matteo (Italy) – Amilla Fushi - Body Builder
  10. Faissal Zouhir (USA) – Six Senses Laamu – Fitness
    Faissal Zouhir (USA) – Six Senses Laamu - Fitness

Best of the Maldives: Links Golf – Shanrgi-La Villingili

Shangri-La Villingili - golf course start

Golf is a good walk spoiled” – Mark Twain

And if you are going to “spoil” your walk, you might as well make it a great one along the coastal beauty of Maldivian paradise. According to Shangri-La Villingili (and I haven’t been able to find any examples to contradict them), their 9-hole golf course is the *only* course in the world where *every* hole is on the ocean. Of course, Scottish links are the world showcases for links play, but even the legendary St. Andrews only has its front nine on the ocean (the back nine returns inland).

I love it when Maldives resorts push their activities out to the ocean. For years, the “activities” (eg. spas, fitness centres, sports areas) were sequestered in the middle of the island. I guess this made use of this interior and they figured that people would be so busy doing their thing that they wouldn’t need breath-taking views. But the whole point of doing these activities on holiday in the Maldives is to enjoy them *with* the bonus of the enchanting ambiance. Now, the top properties put their spas and gyms and other activities right on the water which lured people to the destination in the first place.

During our Tour visit to Villingili this summer, Lori and I actually got to play a proper round of golf on this distinctive course. As I noted in my tour report, it might be just a par 3 course, but it is still a serious course – seriously laid out, seriously challenging, seriously beautiful surroundings and seriously fun. Not our best round of playing (see Twain quote above), but certainly one of the most spectacular rounds we’ve ever played.

The course does require a very precise approach game as the fairways are narrow (limited real estate) and unforgiving (eg, the big, blue ocean looming to the right of every shot). Elite golf these days is all about the approach. Everyone on Tour can drive plenty far enough with accuracy, but the birdies are made on heroic approach shots landing close to the pin or heroic putts from further away from the pin (and the former are a bit easier to achieve for a pro).

Also during our stay, I had a chance to meet one of the course designers and architect, Kai Smit, and ask him a few questions about this Olympic calibre course. As the Rio Games finish up today (including the first ever Olympic Golf Tournament), here is an in depth look at Maldives’ own tropical golf course…

• What was the inspiration to build a golf course on such limited space?

The southern tip of Villingili Island was undeveloped and the location where the Project Contractor Dormitory was located. This parcel of land was also the logistics centre for materials and equipment that had to be imported to construct the Hotel. It also served as a centre for project waste collection before shipped off the island. The Challenge was twofold, namely 1) to restore the natural habitat and environment to be consistent with the rest of the Island and 2.) try to introduce a value added recreational activity for Resort Guests without harming the environment. The orientation and scale of the peninsula lent itself to be a superb 9 hole – Par 3 Golf Course. Providing a pleasant walk at Dawn and Dusk. All Golf Holes could be routed alongside the ocean, creating 9 greens next to water and ensuring that when playing at dawn or dusk – the players did not look into the sun on the first five outward holes and the last three inward holes. The only hole that the player may look into the sun at Dawn is the signature 6th Hole that faces eastward – and what a sight that can be!

• What was the biggest challenge to building the course?

The limited supply of sand and elevation of the land . Neap tide also presented some challenges as the course is low lying and the eastern shoreline on the peninsula can experience some rough sea conditions.

• What is your favourite hole?

The signature 6th Hole with the ocean backdrop of breaking waves.

• Any tips for playing for course?

Ensure that you have enough golf balls and stay out of the ocean. Generally, the course favours the player hitting a draw as opposed to those players who like to shape the shot from left to right. Below is a photo tour of the course with the overall layout map directly below, with the individual hole layouts below that. Then following is each of the (a) tee shot views, and (b) green views.

Clubbing at its best!

Shangri-La Villingili - golf course layout

Shangri-La Villingili - golf course card

(click on picture for a zoom in)

1st HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 1 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 1 - green

2nd HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 2 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 2 - green

3rd HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 3 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 3 - green

4th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 4 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 4 - green

5th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 5 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 5 - green

6th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 6 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 6 - green

7th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 7 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 7 - green

8th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 8 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 8 - green

9th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 9 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 9 - green

Maldives Guide to Gymnastics

AERIAL - Sjana Elise Earp (Australia) – Amilla Fushi - 2

The final day of the most aesthetically enchanting event of the Olympics – Gymnastics. Perfectly honed athletes performing exquisitely choreographed routines with balletic grace. For those of you who have not quite figured out the difference between your triple salto and your Yurchenko loop, Maldives Complete has assembled a small primer for you…

AERIAL – Sjana Elise Earp (Australia) – Amilla Fushi [ ABOVE]

HANDSTAND – Ea Nitsche Holm (Hong Kong) – Anantara Kihavah
HANDSTAND - Ea Nitsche Holm (Hong Kong) – Anantara Kihavah


LANDING – Jade Kiss (Canada) – Conrad Rangali
LANDING - Jade Kiss (Canada) – Conrad Rangali

PIKE – Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
PIKE - Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 9

PLANCHE – Jess Watson (Indonesia) – Maafushi
PLANCHE - Jess Watson (Indonesia) – Maafushi

RING JUMP – Sjana Elise Earp (Australia) – Amilla Fushi
RING JUMP - Sjana Elise Earp (Australia) – Amilla Fushi

ROUND-OFF – Chloe Lambertt (Australia) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
ROUND OFF - Chloe Lambertt (Australia) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

SPLIT – Alana Kay (USA) – Anantara Dhigu
SPLIT - Alana Kay (USA) – Anantara Dhigu

TUCK – Tara Stiles (USA) – W Retreat
TUCK - Tara Stiles (USA) – W Retreat

TWIST – Melissa Pretorius (Australia) – Kandooma
TWIST - Melissa Pretorius (Australia) – Kandooma

YANG BO – Maiama Khateli (Netherlands) – Canareef
YANG BO - Maiama Khateli (Netherlands) – Canareef

Fashionable Footwork

Emelie Natasha (Sweden) – Sheraton Full Moon

The biggest event of the biggest world sporting competition takes place today – the 100 metre dash. The fastest human alive. Despite the aesthetic appeal of sunny sports like Beach Volleyball (the second fastest sport to sell out at the Olympics), it is always the 100 metre Final that is the top seller. In honor of just shy of 10 seconds of running, here are 10 perfect 10s getting into the striding spirit in the Maldives…

  1. Emelie Natasha (Swedish) – Sheraton Full Moon [ABOVE]
  2. Natallia Yakimchyk (Poland) – Anantara Kihavah Villas
    Natallia Yakimchyk (Poland) – Anantara Kihavah Villas
  3. Mona (Russia) – Kurumba
    Mona (Russia) – Kurumba

  4. Tatiana Vasilieva (Russia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Tatiana Vasilieva (Russia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi

  5. Luo Zilin (China) – The Residence
    Luo Zilin (China) – The Residence

  6. Jelena Petelinkar (OAE) – Kandooma
    Jelena Petelinkar (OAE) – Kandooma

  7. Alain Antonenko (Ukraine) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Alain Antonenko (Ukraine) – Sun Siyam Irufushi

  8. Faya Nillson (Sweden) – W Retreat
    Faya Nillson (Sweden) – W Retreat

  9. Camille Brady (USA) – Maalifushi
    Camille Brady (USA) – Maalifushi

  10. Missy Rayder (USA) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
    Missy Rayder (USA) – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Best of the Maldives: Kids Golf – Velaa

Velaa - kids golf

Not only do the Olympics introduce you to some sports you might not have seen regularly on TV, but the Games themselves are introducing new sports keeping up with the athletic trends around the world. One of the new sports is Golf. Well, not totally new. It was a part of the Ganes back in 1904, but dropped ever since. Assuming it will stick around a bit longer this time, you have the chance to get junior or lil miss ready for Paris/Rome/Budpest/LA 2024 at Velaa’s elite links. Maybe a lil’ course for the lil’uns, but make no mistake…these are no toys. Velaa kits even the little ones out with top of the line Callaway equipment (see above).

Best of the Maldives: Astro-Turf Badminton Court– Velaa

Velaa - astro-turf badminton court

The Olympics give the lower profile sports their moment in the global, primetime spotlight. Sports like badminton, typically relegated to the sports center or back yard set up. But Velaa resort provides a pro-quality badminton outdoor venue. Most outdoor courts are on hard sand or asphalt. Their court has top of the line astro-turf which provides great foot grip, a softer surface which is easier on the joints, and a cooler surface in the tropical sun. But to get the ‘grass’ just the right height, the court is sprinkled with soft sand imported from Europe. And the court is properly measured and lined for singles or doubles matches. Olympic-standard badminton for fun-in-the-sun volleying.