There are “Best of the Maldives” features…and then there are like “soul mate” features. Features that I just adore. Not everyone will have the same effusive reaction I had to Dhigali’s “Buggy Tracker” application, but for me it was one of the highlights of the 2019 Tour.
The Buggy Tracker is an app that is both part of the resort’s own “Digalhi Maldives” app which you can download onto your smartphone (for iPhone’s, see the AppStore or you cann scan the QR code which is on every room key) – see photo below. It is also supported with an array of monitors dotted around the island at each buggy stop. The app/screen shows a map of the island as well as an icon for the constantly circling buggy so you can see how far away it is from you (see video clip at bottom).
Why a Buggy Tracker? Because Dhigali is sort of a middle sized island. We can and did walk around it, but a complete circumparaumbulation (yes, I love that word) takes nearly half an hour. If you are on the opposite end of the island to where you want to go, you might prefer to forego the stroll and just take the buggy ride. Maybe you are particularly relaxed, maybe you refreshed or it is especially toasty and you don’t want to sweat, maybe you need to be somewhere and are running behind (eg. excursion departing). On tiny island, you just walk everywhere because you are always a couple minutes away from anywhere. On big islands, you have to call for (or wait for) a buggy. When you call, you still have to wait which can be a while if they have other pickups scheduled. On a middle sized island like Dhigali, you can find yourself constantly debating “Should we walk or should we wait for the buggy?” And if you want to take the buggy and it is an on-call service, you sometimes feel a bit lazy and guilty ringing it up for a relatively short journey.
The Buggy Tracker takes all the questioning away. You look at your app or look at the screen and you can see exactly how close the buggy is. If you see if is coming round the bend, you might pop out that minute faster to grab it rather than miss it and wait for it to come around again. If it is on the other side of the island, you might choose to just hoof it. Or if you do decide to wait, it is reassuring to know exactly how far away your ride is and not have to wonder if you are going to be there forever.
Why do I love it so much?
Innovation – The whole spirit of “Best of the Maldives” is really about innovation. Sure, a property might be able to be the biggest or the blingest by just spending the most on some feature, but more of my pieces are about creative touches and distinctive aspects that no one has done in quite the same way in the Maldives.
Technology – As a software guy for my day job, I have a special appreciation for cool applications in this area. I have a particular software soft-spot for geo-location apps. Snorkel Spotter, Dive Site Database and the Admiralty Map DeepZoom all essentially mapping apps.
Utility – The system is so simple and so useful. I love innovations that truly enhance the customer experience.
Maldivian – I always enjoy meeting the fascinating people behind the scenes of the Maldives resort operations especially the local Maldivians to bring this paradise to life. Many have such distinctive talents and contributions. The entire project was the initiative of Mohamed Furuqan, the resort’s IT manager (see photo top). We got to meet up during my stay and geek out a bit about tech. It’s also especially inspiring to see the innovation stem from a homegrown initiative supported wholeheartedly by the management.
In many places, being “close to the airport” is seen as a negative. The new Mercure Maldives Kooddoo actually boast its aeronautical geography with its press releases announcing: “Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort is the first ever water villa resort built on an airport island in Maldives.”
Kooddoo is an airports like Heathrow with jumbo jets roaring in and rattling the rafters every 30 seconds. Instead it gets one or two flights a day from relatively small planes. The infrequency makes it more of an event than a disturbance (“De plane, de plane!” – Tatoo, Fantasy Island). On the positive side, it makes for an incredibly convenient outside-Kaafu transfer. For most distant resorts, you can either take a seaplane that will land at your resort but many consider very loud inside and too small and cramped for some people’s liking (not to mention expensive). Or you can take small jet planes to an increasing number of mini-airports around the country, but then you still have one more transfer by speedboat to finally get to your resort. At Kooddoo, you have the comfort and cost-savings of a conventional flight and when you touch down, you are just a short buggy ride to your villa.
National Aviation Day and National Photo Day today. Sooooo…photos of aviation are in order methinks. And the Maldives fashionistas are more than ready to oblige. 35 for each of the years RAF Gan operated as an airstrip…
From the high ways of water usage to the water used as highways. Maldives Complete does focus on resorts (as opposed to guest houses or general destination information like inhabited islands), but I am also trying to assemble a collection of top online links for guests to this paradise. One of my original motivations for setting up Maldives Complete was my disenchantment with the quality of websites about the Maldives. Too many sites provides a thin veneer of weak, pedestrian and dated information as a lure to get you to buy expensive holidays through them. But on Maldives Complete, the “Online” tag provides a compilation of the most useful sites.
“Development and promotion of budget travel to the Maldives. From $50/night. Beach holidays, scuba diving, exotic fishing, adventure trips, transfers. Wild Maldives aims to develop and promote budget travel in the Republic of Maldives. We link travellers directly with the local service providers – guest houses, restaurants, speedboat operators, diving schools, guides, and many more. Ideal for the self-sufficient travellers, who don’t want to overpay for services they can easily attain by themselves through the internet, yet would appreciate a helping hand during their trip to an unknown faraway land.”
What I really appreciated was their interactive ferry schedule. The route calculation form provides a parameter driven filter engine that then displays the route options graphically on a Google Map. Two of my favourite web components – database interrogation and GIS (geographical information system).
I have taken a ferry a few times for some of my more obscure tour detours. For DIY and budget travellers, they would be a necessity for getting around. I’m not sure if there is some way to forge a cheaper price tag to your resort holiday with them. Everyone gets apprehensive about spending $200-300 for a seaplane transfer, but I had a boat transfer to Cocoa Island that cost me $500 (!) and the private transfer from Kurumba to Male (8 minutes) costs $80 (although they do offer cheaper alternatives). So maybe a leisurely and notably less luxurious ferry ride might just be a useful cost saver for some itineraries (though, in reality, nearly all resorts provide speedboat transfers free of charge, and if you are paying thousands for your week stay a few hundred will likely not be a big concern).
If you are pinching your pennies for a luxury yacht cruise, then you might want to check out The Points Guy’s comprehensive post on flying to the Maldives on frequent flyer points. While the piece is USA-centric, it still has lots of rich, detailed information that any world traveller looking to spend points could use (as most major carriers serve the USA, but the points required from, say, a closer embarkation would likely be different)…
“The Best Ways to Get to the Maldives on Points and Miles. Not too long ago, it seemed like the Maldives was one of the most remote spots on earth; an island paradise reserved for honeymooners or empty-nesters on the trip of a lifetime. In recent years, though, the island nation has seen a veritable flurry of flight options materialize as more airlines like the ME3 — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — as well as Chinese and other Asian carriers have expanded their route networks to include Malé (MLE).”
The piece’s comprehensiveness, analysis, and completeness is a website after my own heart. The outline of the post is…
Airlines That Fly to Malé
Airline and Mileage Options
Bottom Line (summarised in the paragraph quoted above)
If you want to take to the wheel, One and Only Reethi Rah offers buggies for their guests to drive themselves. They are available for rental (except for Grand Villa and Duplex guests which include a villa buggy free of charge). Of course, you can still opt for the chauffeured service on call. And when you pull up to their main restaurant, no worries about parking as they provide their own “Valet Parking” service (see below).
While the main jetty is often the focal point of to-ing and fro-ing, the biggest islands like Canareef (well, one of the longest), also lay on ground shuttles with little electric buggies to ferry people across the property itself. You can call them when you need them, but depending on how busy and far away they are, they might take a few minutes to reach you. Rather than expending any energy standing in the tropical sun, Canareef has constructed a number of sheltered buggy stops at its prime spots (eg. restaurants, spa).
Today is the biggest travel day of the year in America – the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. Not all Americans trek “home” (parents’ house) for Christmas (especially if they have young children of their own waiting for Santa at their own house), but nearly everyone makes the effort for Thanksgiving. Hence the “Homecoming” tradition of “Homecoming Game” and “Homecoming Queen” (all part of the day as the town converges on the local high school football game in the morning to see old friends while, typically, Mom is home preparing the feast).
The mayhem of families scattered across a continent was immortalised in the comedy film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. In the Maldives, transport is more of a planes, boats and buggies affair. When the buggy shuttle pulls up, you know you are just about at your new home in paradise. Mind you, these buggies often only go a few hundred yards, but when the Maldives laziness sets in, then any physical activity can seem daunting.
Many resorts offer shuttles on call for covering significant distances, but sometimes you do have to wait for them to arrive. Many times you can just call from the room or restaurant and linger placidly waiting for your chauffeured ride. But Athuruga and Thudufusi have a dedicated water villa jetty shuttle always at the ready to lighten you load to and from your water villa. The silent electric buggy just zips people back and forth along the quite long jetty (the resort water villas are spread out quite a bit more than typical). But instead of facing an 100 metre trek along the jetty to your door, the shuttle will zip over to pick you up as soon as he spots you emerging from your door or stepping onto the jetty.