Best of the Maldives: Covered Tennis Court – Velaa

Velaa - covered tennis court

I’m always a bit surprised at how popular the sport of tennis is in the Maldives. Some visitors struggle to conceive of any pulse-elevating activity in this languorous paradise. The water sports and pool games I can understand since the water cools you off and they don’t take that much exertion.

One answer to the tropical heat is to move the activity into an air conditioned buildings like most of the fitness centres. But then you are sort of segregated from the natural fresh air and environs you came to immerse yourself in. Plus, a full sized indoor tennis court would be a lot of AC.

It’s an issue for people like my father who as it happens turn 80 years old today. And he is still playing competitive tennis. Still dissecting his swing for that serving perfection. For him, the brilliant sun is more than just energy sapping and dehydrating, but it is also a medical concern as he has had a few skin cancers removed so he needs to watch his exposure to the sun.

Velaa resort has the perfect solution. Their full sized covered court provides the best of both worlds inside and out. The roof shields from the sun (and the occasional rain) while the open sides maintain an outside feel. They have also installed patented “Big Ass Fans”, gigantic ceiling fans which gently move the air around the help keep it fresh. Finally, they have set up a training wall for those who just want to practice some hitting on their own.

With all this tennis enthusiasm and innovations, I’ve added a new new “Tennis” tag to the blog.

Happy 80th Birthday Dad.

Best of the Maldives: Beach Bootcamp – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - bootcamp

 

 

National Fitness Day today in both the USA and the UK. A chance for us to work on shaping up those body shapes for our own beach photoshoots.

On the Maldives Complete Profile pages, I try to limit the material to the key things people are interested in. One of these is a picture of the Fitness Centre. A good number of folks on the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum are always when people ask about the gym or workout facilities. Why on Earth would you want to do anything with the word “work” associated with it in the indolent Maldives??

Well, on my holidays in the Maldives, workouts were one of my top priorities. Unlike when I am at home, in the Maldives, I am rested and eating well. So my body is ready for some good exercise. As a more restless individual, it gives me something to do. The climate and surroundings are idyllic which are much more invigorating for a good session than trying to motivate oneself to go out in the chilly, damp of England. The whole time can be a bit of a physical bootcamp to re-boot the body.

Like everything in the Maldives, there is usually a “Beach” version. And Jumeirah Dhevanafushi offers a superlative Beach Bootcamp. It was started by Elmer who also pioneered Zumba in the Maldives. It was a “Tabata Bootcamp” developed by the Japanese to train their Olympic athletes. A high intensity interval workout like circuit training. 20 seconds of working out followed by 10 seconds rest for 8 rounds making a 4 minute segment. I sampled it when I visited the resort (see above and directly below) and it was as challenging as any hour long session I had ever done.

The bootcamp is now offered by physical instructor Tanya Shapoval (who also guide the yoga practice – see below). Incidentally, just started practicing yoga regularly myself (ouch!).

Be fit everyone!

 

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - bootcamp 2

 

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - Tanya yoga

Best of the Maldives: Golf – Velaa

Velaa - gold sand trap

There’s “Best of the Maldives”…and then there is “Best of the World”. Velaa’s golf academy is not just a Maldivian high point, it is world class paragon of pars. One could make the case that it is one of the best short courses in the world. It is certainly one of the most exclusive.

I know that I have featured Velaa’s golf academy already. I did so on the basis of the press reports which made clear that the resort had introduced something special. But only when I visited it was I able to appreciate how extraordinary this feature of the resort is.

So expect to see a good number more pieces on various special aspects of this one piece of the island that all stand out among the resorts in the Maldives, such as…

  • Kids Golf
  • Golf Store
  • Hazards
  • Golf Pro
  • Golf Technology
  • Inflatable Hole

The course itself consists of 8 tees and 6 holes which can be combined into a 48 possible “holes” ranging from 55 to 194 yards. No worry of bumping into other golfers or being rushed or held up since when you play, the entire course is devoted to you. Sometimes when we play locally and for some reason our course is particularly deserted, we like to fantasize that we are playing our own private course. At Velaa, you actually can make that fantasy come true.

The grass on the fairways could very well be the most expensive in the world. It is made of a special variety – Pure Dynasty Sea Shore Paspalum – suited for the sand and heat that has to be planted a seedling at a time. When the resort was being developed, it took an army of workers over a month to hand plant each blade of turf.

Just the week before my visit, I had been up at the British Open at St. Andrews (coincidentally, so had the Velaa Golf Pro Frank Murray). As a result, I’m reminded that holes that overlap and share each other’s space is nothing new for links golf. In fact, Velaa sort of reminds you of St. Andews – unparalleled quality, smell of salty ocean nearby, and a pervasive carpet of short grass across fairways and greens (the weather similarities between the Maldives and Scotland are another story, however).

Furthermore, one of the lessons of the Open is the criticality of the short game. Not just the adage of “drive for show, putt for dough”, but also underscoring the importance of the approach shot. Essentially, none of the Open competitors varied much in the tee shots. In fact, very few hit their drives anywhere near as far as they could have (is that an oxymoron?). On a Par 4 (which all but a couple of the hole were), everyone drove a near identical 200 yards give or take, clean and placed precisely where they wanted it. Then, they made their birdies on either amazing approach shots landing within 10 feet of the pin, or amazing putts they sunk over 10 feet. Everything else was approach and 2-putt for par. All the birdies depended on the short game.

So if you want to perfect your short game on a course as gorgeous as the paradise that surrounds it, then Velaa is the resort for you.

Ace!

 

Velaa - golf course map

 

Velaa - Golf Digest

Best of the Maldives: Exercise Course – JA Manafaru

JA Manafaru - exercise course 1

 

Even the nicest floor-to-ceiling glassed, over-water fitness centres in the Maldives mean that you have to go inside for some exercise. You have to extract yourself from the sunshine, fresh air, squawking tropical birds, and fragrant blossoms to get your heart rate up a bit. You typically have to put on your shoes for the only time in your no-shoes get-away. But JA Manafuru sets a high bar for activity-on-offer in the Maldives…quite literally.  As their adventure exercise course actually includes a number of “bar” exercises (see photos here). The whole circuit is spread out around the island so you can jog from one set of exercises to another. All of the exercises included illustrated instructional signs. The areas are even lit at night so people can use them during the cooler evening if they prefer (as does the front office manager Jourden who told me that he does the course nearly every day himself).

 

JA Manafaru - exercise course 2

Best of the Maldives: Overwater Gym – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - over water gym 2

If you want work on your Olympic form without tearing yourself away from the signature Maldives sunshine and seascape, then Huvafenfushi is the fitness centre for you. Set out on its very own jetty with 360 degree views of the ocean masterfully exposed by floor to ceiling glass walls. Nice to see a bit of healthy activity given a place of prominence. So often the resort gyms are tucked away in some remote corner of the inner island. Probably because exertion and effort is sort of the antithesis of what the Maldives is all about.

Also Huva features a fine set of kit from high-grade machines to often-omitted Olympic free-weights and racks (one of my pet peeves is when a resort’s fitness centre is a running machine and a few dumbbells).

When we visited last summer, it was one of the few gyms that inspired her to work off a few of the pina coladas and reef fish curries she has consumed on the trip (see below).

Huvafenfushi - over water gym

Best of the Maldives: Windsurfing – Anantara

Anantara - windsurfing 1

Olympic Day today. Celebrated since 1947 to promote the ideals of the Olympic movement of sport bringing people together from across the world. The day also focuses on getting people to try new athletic endeavours. If you are looking to exploit the calm Maldive waters to just try your hand at the Olympic sport of Windsurfing (aka Sailboarding) or want to ride the waters to an Olympics standard, the the Anantara resorts provide the best windsurfing kit around.

I conferred with Maldive veteran and expert Catherine Watkinson who is both an active contributor to the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum and whose son is an accomplished windsurfer. The genesis of this post here was a posting she made to TA commenting on the troubles her son had finding top grade kit. Most of the gear you find in the Maldives is designed for beginners. That post prompted an investigation by us to find the best kit out there. The tops came out as Anantarta who described their inventory…

“We do offer a big range of top brand equipment, sails from North Sails and Neil Pryde and boards JP Australia and Mistral. Having sails from size 1.9 to 7.3 and board sizes from 094 to 205. Different harness sizes also available, gloves and booties. New equipment has been ordered from the brand Starboard.”

Catherine and her son comments, “These are good quality brands and would suit all levels of windsurfer from beginner (including children) up to the experienced wave sailor or free sailor. If we had been visiting these islands with our son we would not have needed to have flown windsurfing equipment out with us – he would have been very happy with what these [Anantara] islands have to offer.”

 

Anantara - windsurfing 2

Best of the Maldives: 5-a-Side Pitch – Ayada

Ayada - 5-a-side pitch

 

 

 

Today’s Commemoration of Atatürk in Turkey is celebrated with a traditional Youth and Sports Day featuring a whole host of competitions and exhibitions. Here in the Maldives, the Turkish inspired resort of Ayada offers its own distinctive sporting venue with the premier 5-a-Side pitch of the Maldives resorts complete with astro-turf and night game lighting.

Best of the Maldives: Astro-Turf Tennis Courts – Dusit Thani

Dusit Thani - astro-turf tennis courts

 

 

Happy St. Patricks Day. The day for celebrating all things green. So a tip of the old leprechaun's hat to Dusit Thani and their brilliant green astro-turf tennis courts. This surface combines the benefits of softer playing and less heat retention and reflection in the bright equatorial sun. A few other resorts also offer astro, but Dusit is the only one with two!

Erin go bright-green! 

Best of the Maldives: Beach Boxing – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah beach boxercise

 

Happy Boxing Day!

The meaning of “Boxing Day”, a uniquely British celebration the day after Christmas, is packed with urban mythology to rival any QI question. Rumoured origins include reference to the “boxes” (ie. gifts) given to servants and other service providers (eg. postmen) as well special gifts given to the poor in “Alms Boxes”. It definitely has nothing to do with pugilistic contests (notwithstanding a few bust-ups breaking out among families getting together and fed up from the holiday stress). But if you want to celebrate the day in eponymous style in the super-heavyweight sunshine of the Maldives, then sign up for a session of Beach Boxing at the One & Only Reethi Rah.

Resort Trainer Lindley (see photo above) runs half of all training classes and programmes outside. In the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” department, I hear people fret that there is nothing to do in the Maldives, and then conversely I hear people moan that they don’t want to be stuck in the gym on their holiday. Beach Boxing is lets you have your cake and eat (speaking of which, I think I just pop to the kitchen to finish that last bit of Christmas pudding).

Best of the Maldives: Zumba – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - zumba 2

 

Zumba is a fitness craze that has is just about everywhere now, but in the Maldives it is only at the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi resort. Like a number of aerobic trends, the key to its popularity is injecting a strong dose of fun into the workout so there is less pain with the gain.

Zumba’s fun is dance. Dance based fitness which has been sort of the core of aerobics for years (think “Flashdance”). But aerobics always seems like fitness first and dance second…exercise set to music. Zumba is more music first and fitness second. Think musical movement amped up enough to provide some fitness.

Dhevanafushi's exclusive offer is thanks to their spa staffer, Elmer Munar. In fact, Elmer was the first to introduce Zumba to the Maldives offering it for periods at a number of resorts, but now he is resident at Dhevanafushi. He holds classes at their over-water Talise Spa which provides a visual vista as energizing as the music and Elmer’s charismatic class leading. No need to wrest yourself away from the ocean to just enjoy a bit of cardio.

Elmer welcomes you with a cold lemonade and scented towel (which I found myself returning to several times during the session). He is licensed Level 2 in 5 of the 7 Zumba styles – Fitness, Sentau, Toning, Kids and Kids Jr. It’s like a buffet of Latin dance. Lori and I did cha-cha, salsa, mambo and Cubiya moves with a cool down to the bachaba. All the moves are simple and repetitive to make them easy to pick up. They all can be embellished as you get better. Elmer is clearly an expert and once the class settles into its own groove, he adds a number of flourishes to his own steps providing a bit of extra dazzle and fun to watch.

It’s hard to find a bit of dancing in the Maldives. Usually, it’s the occasional DJ enlisted for an evening or two. For any one who likes a bit of getting their groove on, Elmer’s studio is a must stop.

Fizzness. Fitness with fizz.

 

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - zumba 1