Emerald makes a big impression for a small island. The juxtaposition of spacious and grand facilities on the intimate island provides an cozy luxury for those who want the diminutive island (you can walk completely around in a matter of minutes) while enjoying comfortable spaciousness in their dining, sleeping and playing areas.
Emerald is also probably the most “resort-y” of Maldives resorts we have been to. It exudes the luxury and indulgence of the resorts depicted in films (“Couples Retreat”) and television (“White Lotus”). I think it is because their common area facilities have this extravagant grandeur about them.
And yet, the property maintains its distinctive Maldivian charm – stylish touches of thatch, expansive white sand beaches, accessible house reef, and (our favourite) a sand floor in the bar (which so many of the newer and more upmarket resorts have eschewed).
Emerald is playing in the $1000/nt premium AI segment which is hugely popular at the moment as it is a real sweet spot for the affluent professional visitor willing to shell out for a distinctive holiday while keeping the outlay somewhat under control. A number of excellent 5-stars resorts are also positioning themselves in this space and choosing between them comes down to rather subjective considerations. I would recommend Emerald for those who want a big experience on a small island.
Eriyadu is another vintage Maldives classic – tiny island, fine house reef, decades long pedigree– tiny island, fine house reef, decades long pedigree – tarted up with a few reburbs inside the villas and around the property. In particular, the villa rooms themselves were quite smart. The new bathrooms were almost 5-star in quality (but I must say that situating them in a carved-out part of the previous front room and leaving the initial front door in place, was a curious aspect). The house reef is especially accessible straight off the main jetty and drifting down to the dive school jetty for coming in. We saw several sweet reef sharks and a striking eagle ray as well as even more encouraging coral growth.
Take me back to the Maldives. And take me back to the Maldives that we fell in love with is what OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli certainly does. Walkable size, retro early-tourism era structures (like their games area cement seating), sand floors in the bar and restaurant (oh how I miss these in so many of the luxury properties, but I guess they do a number on the LE BOUTIN stilettos), North Male atoll convenience (no seaplane to mess with, but sitting but on the upper fringe of the atoll, it does have a distinctively remote “middle of the Indian Ocean” feel). But Helengeli has also kept up with the times with some well-chosen revamps and additions – dining area with over water seating and big windows, charming “spa oasis” laid out around a water garden, and even and over-water gym!
And like classic Maldives, the main event at Helengeli is the snorkelling. Situated on not one but two channels provides an extra flow of water helping the corals a bit and providing an appeal boulevard for a range of marine life making it one of the most vibrant house reefs in the Maldives. We saw encouraging growth especially among the block corals like porites and diploria (brain coral) along with three of the Snorkel Safari Big 5 – shark, turtle, moray.
Tour #19 of the Maldives. Seven new resorts – Ritz Carlton Maldives, OBLU Helengeli, Eriyadu, Emerald, Cora Cora, Fihalhohi, OZEN Maadhoo – to explore and find new gems. But first, I had to try a new airline – Emirates.
My research early in the year found lots of plaudits for the UAE state airline and the schedule and prices fit well so I thought we would try it.
First, we had to a run the gauntlet of mayhem that was Terminal 3 Heathow. We arrived nearly 3 hours ahead of departure time and barely made it to the flight as Lori was literally the last person to board the plane. There were delays at every juncture, but most was the 90 minute security queue. So much for our relaxing pre-trip cocktails.
When we boarded, we encountered another first – A380. I had read plenty about these airborne behemoths and had seen them on the airport tarmac, but I had never set foot in one. It was a every bit a treat as this next generation flying machine would have you hope for. Spacious, elegant, modern. Large HD video screens. A few inches of extra legroom and seat width. Not to mention the extra aisle headroom making the whole environment less claustrophobic. Nice full power sockets at each seat. The wifi was great value ($17 for entire journey), but pretty weak and unreliable.
After a very quick stopover in Dubai (too dark to see any of its iconic structures on arrival or departure), we were off on the final leg of the Maldives. The Emirates flight is a nice balance of a two-legged trip to there (in the absence of a direct flight which BA has pulled once again from its summer schedule). A longer first leg of just under 7 hours is a good length for a meal, some reading, a few computer games and a film. Then you stretch you legs in Dubai and only have 3.5 hours to go which you can nap through.
Maldives, here we are!