Best of the Maldives: Welcome Drink Sculpture – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Vilu Reef - frog fish 4

The Maldivian “welcome drink” is one of the first rituals which make you feel that you have arrived at a distinctive paradise and an exotic tropical experience awaits you. Typically, the refreshment is some tropical fruit juice or a freshly hacked coconut’s contents. Sometimes the drink is a bit more elaborate…but none so extravagantly so as Sun Siyam Vilu Reef ‘s frog fish passion fruit sculpture (see photo). We’ve seen all sort of melon sculptures, but never a passion fruit. And all sorts of concocted creatures, but never a frog fish (whose likeness was quite impressive).

Sun Siyam Vilu Reef - greeting drink

Best of the Maldives: Water Breakfasts – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

The aquatic wonderland of the Maldives is all about the water. And Sun Siyam Vilu Reef have made the water a venue for a comprehensive range of distinctive dining experiences:

  • Pool Breakfast
  • Lagoon Breakfast
  • Sand Spit Breakfast

We’ve always loved eating our breakfasts by the water, and we have eaten them in the water with the increasingly grammable pool breakfasts, but we have never experienced so many and such diverse water-centric morning feasts.

I’ve added a new Tag for “in water” offerings and activities for things you normally wouldn’t do in water, but Maldives resorts have found a way to add an aquatic twist.


Best of the Maldives: Ayurvedic Dining – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Vilu Reef - aruveydic dining

You can eat well at nearly all the resorts in the Maldives, but at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef you can GET well by eating. India National Day today is an opportunity to celebrate the culture of this Laccadive neighbour whose culture is found across the islands. Ayurvedic treatments can be found in many spas, but Chef Nitin has introduced ayurvedic dining at their “The Spice” restaurant. Healing cuisine is part of the Jain tradition and uses a range of ingredients to aid with certain conditions.

Chef Nitin (honored as the 2nd Best Chef in the India Chapter at the Bocuse d’Or 2012 World Chef’s Championship) pioneered his Spice Health Concept that emphasizes the overall health benefits of each component.  He described his approach, “Our special thali dinner is more than a meal; it’s a journey for your healthy intestine. We believe in using a combination of Indian and unique herb spices to boost immunity, promote gut health, and enhance overall well-being.”

Table Amenities: Journey for Your Healthy Intestine

  • Pineapple Relish: Rich in antioxidants and Bromelain enzyme, aiding in heart health and reducing inflammation.
  • Beetroot, Clove Fruit Vinegar Chutney: High in fiber, promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut, and containing good sugars for internal healing.
  • Black Garlic Yoghurt: With prebiotic properties, stimulating appetite and contributing to gut health.

Amuse Bouche: Regenerate Your Body

  • Gluten-Free Pani Puri with 03 Different Shots
  • Tangy Green Apple and Mint Water: Rich in Vitamins A & C, acting as antioxidants to prevent cancer cell formation.
  • Beetroot and Basil Water: Anti-inflammatory properties for rejuvenation.
  • Young Turmeric Water: Antioxidant-rich, aiding the body in combating inflammation.

I enjoyed a dish made with hing asafoetida that aids digestion. Which after feasting on such much delicious food I definitely benefitted from.

Vilu Reef - ayurvedic dining 3

Best of the Maldives: Garden Islands – Sun Siyam Iru Veli / Vilu Reef

Sun Siyam Iru Veli - garden islands 3

Chef’s gardens have become fairly commonplace at Maldives resorts, but how many properties have “garden islands” of their very own? Not just one but two islands. Serving the chefs at the two nearby (within in sight) sister resort islands Sun Siyam Iru Veli and Sun Siyam Vilu Reef. The expansive scale means that Sun Siyam not only can reduce the carbon footprint of even more of their ingredients, but they can cultivate a wider range and larger quantity of food for the kitchens than the typical herb collection in chef’s gardens.

Sun Siyam Iru Veli - garden islands 2

Sun Siyam Iru Veli - garden islands 1

Best of the Maldives: Dried Fruit – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Sun Siyam Vilu Reef - dried fruit

A major acid test for me indicating the luxury level of a resort are the nibbles they serve with drinks. A little bit of savory snacks make the cocktails all the most delectable and allow us to linger longer without getting too pecking for dinner. The most basic resorts don’t offer anything, the 4-stars offer the staples of crisps and peanuts, but a luxury 5-star really needs a distinctive goodies. And Sun Siyam Vilu Reef offered us one of our favourite snacks – dried fruits. We have received various dried fruits at other resorts, but Vilu Reef and an unprecedented assortment. It turns out that they have their own food drier on premises (see photo below) so that can create dried versions of just about anything. We enjoyed the dried apples, oranges, pears, coconut with out very welcome ‘welcome drink’.

Sun Siyam Iru Veli - dried fruit

Best of the Maldives: Sand Spit Breakfast – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

The intimacy between land and sea in the Maldives is perhaps most vividly characterised by the ubiquitous tendrils of sand spits extending into the shallow lagoons. These tidally shifting, fragile peninsulas take you out into the water like a VIP gangway.

I have often celebrated the most distinctive of sand-spits in the Maldives, and now Sun Siyam Vilu Reef has made it a venue for celebrating the breaking of fast. We’ve had breakfast in lots of romantic and unique venues and this was one of our favourites. The elongated topology means that the diminutive rippled rolling in from each side crash together at your feet creating a percussive symphony of cross-lapping waves (see video).  And being at the very tip of your drop-of-sand-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean island where you are immersed on three sides by the aquatic world around you so it seems even more immersive than sand bank dining or water’s edge dining.

Tour 2023 – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Vilu Reef is probably the resort that has most exceeded my expectations of the over 110 we have stayed at.  Vilu Reef has been around as long as we have been coming to the Maldives, ie. 1998.  It is the first of the prominent Sun Siyam Resorts.  I guess I was guilty of thinking of it as an old resort.  And I hadn’t heard much about it over the years.  Also, Sun Siyam is a bit more mid-market focused (thank goodness not everyone is chasing the billionaire segment and keeping the destination affordable for mere mortals).  Its new Siyam World is very much mass market, Olhuveli is a 4+ star (with many luxury aspects), and even Irufushi is a value priced 5-star.

We thought that maybe we were being bowled over by their very hearty welcome (they are big fans of the Maldives Complete site) but looking around we observed other guests being treated with equal attentiveness.  In fact, another guest got the most elaborate welcome that we have ever witnessed.  Not a celebrity, but a repeater (stay tuned for her fascinating story).  “Mama” (her nickname) and her husband, both from Germany, first came to the Maldives in the 90s when they were young.  They loved it so much that they came repeatedly.   But they stayed at different resorts every time starting at the top of the country and working their way south.  Dhaalu is one of the furthest south atolls; they sampled plenty of properties.  But when they came to Vilu Reef, they decided that that was it.  Vilu Reef was the perfect resort for them.  Her visit this year was their 41st (!).  And they are quite discerning world travelers as Mama explained to me that they regularly travel all around the world. According to their very experienced tastes, Vilu Reef is a real “diamond”.

I couldn’t disagree.  I simply can’t find anything to fault it.  We thought it ideal for many of our friends who have always wanted to come to the Maldives without busting their bank account, but still getting a quality experience.  Vilu Reef ticks every box for a great Maldives resort – copious soft sand, vibrant reef, delectable food, and effusive service.  Even the pathways had talcum soft sand (often these areas are harder).  The reef had the most live coral we have seen in years.  The outlets were replete with delicious offerings and even gourmet quality dishes (the dhaal was as good as the Michelin starred Atul Kochhar’s “Vassu” in my hometown) and the above-and-beyond consideration of each guest was remarkable even for the Maldives.

But I must say, the cherry on the top of the cake was an extra special occasion that we have never experienced – blue diamonds on the beach.  We’ve all seen the Instagram images of the glowing blue plankton at the water’s edge.  This intensity of colour is much rarer than social media would have you believe and even those images are enhanced quite dramatically in post (much like the starry heavens shots).  At Vilu Reef, the plankton didn’t glow in blue swathes (there needs to be more concentrated plankton in the water for that which happens at a difference season), but instead landed on the beach with each diminutive wave littering an array of dazzling bright blue dots like little gemstones (or stars) along the water’s edge.  Like seeing a swarm of aquatic fireflies beaching themselves.  Absolutely magical.