For a chakra-friendly walkway, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi’s new refurb includes a reflexology path leaing up to its new spa…
“A pebbled path winds amidst wild tropical blooms and endless shades of green. Splashes of light filter through the palms, dancing on the rippling water of a gentle stream. Luring you, a faint aroma of sandalwood and jasmine, heady with the scent of the earth. Rounding a curve, a sala appears – a haven of tranquillity, yours to revel in.”
When the world gives you lemons…make lemonade.
When the world gives you lemonade bottles…make eco-friendly walkway.
One of the more creative solutions to the earth-friendly plastic bottle disposal issue in the Maldives is Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo’s walkways. They have coated their discarded plastic bottles with a layer of natural looking cement and used the result cylinders to make an extensive set of walkway liners.
One of my favourite parts of the Maldives are the jetties. They are like boulevard balconies to the spectacle of Maldivian marine life cavorting below often attracted to the pseudo-reef structure of the jetty itself. Resorts will often equip them with lighting which provides further attraction to the nocturnal creatures after dark.
Mostly these jetties take you to the arrivals welcome or the water villas, but Jumeirah Vittaveli has one which simply encircles part of the island. It really is more of a boardwalk than a jetty. And boardwalks are classic ocean-side features. Another benefit they bring is that people can walk along the water’s edge without the challenge of the sand if they are so disinclined (eg. less mobile folks, people dressed up for dinner).
Bridges are often icons of the places they join together. The Golden Gate. The Brooklyn Bridge. Today is the anniversary of the Budapest Bridge which has a personal connection to me as its miniature cousin graces the banks of the Thames in my hometown of Marlow.
Most cities are situated on some body of water, a river or a harbour, due to a heritage of waterway commerce. And yet with all of the water surrounding the Maldives, I had never come across a bridge until One and Only Reethi Rah. They actually have two. You can see the second one in the distance in the photo above. It is a charming Kodak moment spot with distinctive vistas in both directions.
Bridges also have their own romance about them. Pont des Arts in Paris started the now worldwide trend of “Locks of Love” where lovers attach locks and throw the key into the river. The Khaju Bridge in Isfahan, Iran is a famous as a lovers tryst as it is elegantly captivating.
Reethi is sort of a Rialto Bridge for Venice of the tropics.
Sometimes the “no shoes” ethos isn’t all a walk in the park. It is meant to embody the relaxed and casual atmosphere of the Maldives combined with its pervading sensual nature right down to the powdery soft sand across the island. This element is so prominent that during this last tour, I started collecting data for a “Walkway Rating” by resort (stay tuned). But, when I got to Gangehi, their walkways defied Maldivian categorisation. They are unlike anything else you will tread on in the Maldives. Instead of sandy, hardened or paved walkways, Gangehi features wooden walkways snaking through the island interior.
When I first saw these, I was quite intrigued. I wondered if they would be a real detraction, but over the stay I grew to appreciate them more and more. For starters, they are a ‘natural’ solution to folks who need hard walkways. The sandy by-ways seem romantic, but for people who have difficulty getting around – wheelchair users, otherwise unsteady individuals, and ladies who want to enjoy their high heeled fashion on their holiday – they are actually quite an inconvenience. Also, some people have sensitive feet and the aboriginal avenues can be a bit uncomfortable at times if there are stray stones and coral pieces that you can step on.
Some islands have paved paths, but somehow that often seems to take away from the natural feel. Gangehi’s wooden paths preserve a very natural aesthetic. They even impart a bit of stylistic distinction to the place. Because they are slightly elevated, it almost seemed as if I was traversing something out of Swiss Family Robinson’s lush tropical settlement.
Of course, if you hanker for the sand between your toes, you can always circumambulate the island beaches (quite easily as Gangehi is so tiny).
If you prefer simpler activities on the water’s surface, then at Jumeirah Vittaveli you can actually walk on water! I would tell you how it’s one, but a conjurer never reveals his secrets.
The sense of being in the Maldives in the middle of the Indian Ocean is outstanding. And a Gangehi you can literally (or should I say “littorally”) be out standing in the middle of the ocean.
One of the absolute distinctions of the Maldives destination are its pervasive shallow lagoons. Lots of places in the world have atolls and coral reefs, but the Maldives has an elevation that just hits sea level. A few inches above sea level and a few inches below. This topology means you can snorkel in waist deep water a kilometre off shore, and walk or wade to the neighbouring island.
Or you can, on some resorts, just amble out into the middle of nowhere. One of our favourites is Kuramathi’s which points nearly due west making it an ideal sunset “point”. Other prominent powdery promontories are at Ranveli, Cocoa Island, Palm Beach and Kuredu (thanks Adrian), but the longest is Gangehi’s which juts out a full 800m from shore. The picture above provides some perspective and we weren’t even all the way to the end because the tide wasn’t fully out.
It is a truly romantic sensation to be standing in the middle of the ocean in the middle of nowhere just you and your loved one.
The ‘Best of Maldives’ I probably never thought I would give. Not only did I think I would never find ‘streets’ in the Maldives, if I did find them, I probably wouldn’t want to showcase them as I adore the no shoes, sand between the toes Maldives. But the streets on Sun Island aren’t just any streets.
An island as big as Sun Island starts to depend on a little conventional personal transport to get from one end to the other. Most bigger islands make do with electric buggies, but use sand paths in keeping with a natural, rustic aesthetic. Sun Island has a different ambience to it. Less deserted island and more tropical plantation. More retro-colonial than uninhabited. It still has acres of unspoiled natural splendour, but they are accented with touches of civilised elegance.
The ‘roads’ on Sun are a striking example of this design. Sun still has plenty of sand paths and the ‘roads’ are just a few main thoroughfare to get from one end of the island to another easily and smoothly. But the roads do not detract, but actually enhance to the look and feel having been laid out in such a refined way. No pedestrian asphalt or concrete, but rather colourful red and black brick lattice. In addition, the main streets are lined with smart lanterns hung from palm trees.
The combined effect also gives the island a bit more of a homey feel to it. Instead of feeling like some plot of sand with a few dwellings, you feel like you are in some exotic tropical community. It seemed a bit Dharma Project with its own distinctive exotic allure.
The arrival jetty is a just one step of an august procession of anticipation when arriving at a Maldives resort. It starts with spying the first splotch of turquoise out your airplane window. It continues boarding your transfer boat/seaplane where you spy a few colourful fish frolicking around the jetty. Your heartbeat picks up when you see the green dot of an island emerge on the horizon. You pull up to the resort jetty welcomed by cool scented cloth, refreshing tropical concoctions and warm smiles. Then you make tke the long walk down the jetty towards reception seeing even more lively and colourful fish circling beneath you.
At most resorts, the reception greets you at the end of the jetty. But a Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, the expectation builds further as you first arrive to their entrance boulevard. A grand avenue of coconut tress planted by the previous Maldivian owner leading into the island interior. Dubbed ‘Coconut Corridor’, it adds even more buil up to the big arrival. Along with Club Med Kani, one of the great palm corridors of the Maldives.
Guinness World Record Day today.
Only natural that Maldives Complete ‘Best of the Maldives’ collection of distinctions would rank not just among the best in the country, but across the world as well. One such example appears to be Constance Halaveli’s water villa jetty. They have the longest jetty in the Maldives at 850 metres. Two-thirds of the Maldives resort islands themselves aren’t even that long. And with the Maldives leading the way in the world with water villas (due to its unique shallow reef/island topology), some research indicates that it appears to be the longest in the world.
Back here in blighty, we have to console ourselves with celebrating distinctions like ‘Fastest bog snorkelling triathlon’ (see below – slide 36). With the current UK weather, it might become the new national pastime. If Maldives is the ‘Best Snorkeling in the World’, then the UK has probably achieved the distinction of hosting the ‘Worst Snorkeling in the World’.