Driftwood is alluring in its own right. The original tree shaped and coloured by months at sea. So Baglioni’s reception centerpiece – an expansive piece of driftwood is as captivating as it is apropos. The behemoth was washed up on the shores of the island with the 2004 Tsunami.
The tsunami had a transformative impact on the Maldives. Not just their geography and so the losses suffered in human life and property, but also in the very politics of the nation. So many resources were required for the reconstruction effort that the Maldives had to turn to global funders who put as a requirement for their aid and loans and number of radical reforms in the government and economy. Many resorts feature memorials to this dramatic part of their history several of this I’ve featured here, so I have added a “Tsunami” tag to assemble them all
One of the first words people think of to describe the destination of the Maldives is “natural”. And (short of going full grass thatch hut), the most natural material is wood. I have a bit of a soft-spot for wood. Our house is filled with burr-wood furniture and natural grain finishes. I had a tradition of giving my godson a wood gift every Christmas. Amilla Maldives imbues this [natural] aesthetic with an extensive collection of wood items in each villa – desk accessories, cocktail utensils, room instructions. And to remember your trip, your own complementary luggage tags (see above). We’ve been using them for the past year and not only are they stylish, but they are also especially sturdy with their wire cable attachment.
Soneva Fushi has pioneered the design style of Swiss Family Robinson chic in the Maldives, but perhaps the acme of this arboreal aesthetic is its Villa 37. While the rough trunks are standard elements throughout Soneva, Villa 37 take the timber to a new dimension with a tapestry of cross sections forming the ceiling and various highlights.
Looking for an all-natural workout. Joali features possibly the most natural workout equipment I have ever come across. In the Maldives or elsewhere. No plastic or metal (!), just wood. It has a real Flintstones vibe. If the Swiss Family Robinson ever opened a fitness centre on their castaway island, this is what it would look like. And yet, free weights are free weight. Plenty of heft for good workouts.
I’m a big aficionado of woodwork (admiring, not making) and I’m surprised I don’t yet have a “Wood” tag for all the features using this rich, natural material (but I do now).
With all of the glitzy bling scattered around the Maldives like toddlers throwing tinsel on a Christmas tree, some of the old school décor with retro charm stand out even more distinctively. One example is Rihiveli extensive oil on wood paintings. The reception features one of the most handsome island maps I have seen, and I love the little vexillological (word of the day for you) retrospective.
No wood week can go without a nod to Soneva Fushi and its all natural aesthetic. One of my favourite features was this ligneous lave at its main restaurant restrooms.
The eco-chic natural look is becoming more and more in vogue in the Maldives. Especially with the recent launches of resorts like AaaVee and Drift Thelu Veliga. Maldives resort styling has gone through a number of style periods from the initial Spartan simplicity, to the more colonial rococo, to the modernistic swank, and now the artisanal natural look. Long before it became trendy, “Soneva” had embraced the aboriginal rustic vibe in its original properties – Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili (now re-launched as Gili Lankanfush).
Lori and I are big fans of natural wood. Our 18th century barn is packed with exposed ancient timbers and our furniture from our baby grand to our custom doll cabinet is made from burr wood. While Soneva Fushi is duly packed with natural design features, we were particularly captivated by Gili Lankanfushi’s. From artisan coat hangers to a bamboo bike and the drift wood furniture shown here (with Lori doing a bit of her own ex-tree hugging).
Over the 10 days of Tour #5, I did uncover 143 new Best of the Maldives candidates, and over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing the first of these for each resort visited in the order of the tour. These selections are not necessarily the most stunning or dramatic, but just ones I picked out that I was especially fond of. The others will be posted over the coming months.
The first island up was Chaaya Island…Chaaya Island Dhonveli. After 55 resorts, I’m always a bit surprised to see something I’ve never seen before. Living in a culinary capital of the world (London) and travelling extensively, I especially surprised to find something on a menu I haven’t seen or tried before. Well, at breakfast at Dhonveli, the array of exotic fruit juices included a something I not only hadn’t tried, I hadn’t even heard of it – Wood Apple.
“Wood apple” is one of the most apt names for a fruit since “Orange”. It looks like an apple…encased in wood. In fact, you have to whack it with a spoon to crack the hard exterior. It comes from Sri Lanka, but can be found in the Maldives.
The juice isn’t your typical reddish or orangey colour of most fruit juices, but a rather earthy brown. And not in a golden “apple juice” kind of way. Imagine the pulpiest, mocha-est apple juice. Supposedly extremely good for digestion.
Dhonveli will serve you wood apple on its own (see below), but it is VERY tart (much like rhubarb). So it is typically served with honey or sugar on top.
One irritation to the most discerning Maldive aficionados are the “groynes”. Water defences that extend perpendicularly to the shoreline to impede erosion. The purists feel that such structure detract from the natural beauty of the pristine beach and the azure waters. And certainly and beach without them is nicer than a beach with them. But in many cases, a beach without them would be no beach at all. The natural currents would have washed them away.
In addition to their island preserving utility, they can also have certain charms and other benefits. They can be a handy way to enter the water for snorkelling, sometimes right at the house reef “drop off”. They serve as reefs themselves attracting an array of colourful sea creatures (we have often found lots of moray eels hiding in the crevasses of these structures. They can also provide a handy romantic dining spot right over the water.
Baros has taken the extra step of making the structures themselves a bit more aesthetically pleasing by investing in wood cladding. It does give them a bit more style and visual appeal. And for some (see photo above), they too have embraced their silver linings by setting out deck chairs and making them a feature not a bug.
Kandooma has employed nature as its artist for their creative wood motif (starting with its Coconut Husk inspired reception and restaurant) for an artistic touch throughout the main area of the resort. Burl wood is a particular favourite material of mine (we have a burr wood piano, and doll cabinet) and it is used throughout the imparting a natural whimsy to the décor.
Totally gnarly, dude!