Maldives Island, July 2010
Travel diaries from Roberta and Paolo
The chance of a last minute flight allows us to leave again for Maldives, after we spent our Easter holiday in Bathala.
We left on July the 5th with a Neos flight from Malpensa at 10.15 p.m which stopped over in Rome. The flight was one hour late, but despite this we enjoyed the trip: decent food and quite comfortable seats.
We arrived in Hulhule at 12.30 a.m., about 45 minutes later than we expected. As soon as we joined the passport control queue, two airport stewards came up to us and made us pass ahead of other people, while trying to speed up the luggage delivery process. They explained that our local flight was waiting for us because there were no seats available on the next one. After we took our bags we run to the national departures to catch the local flight that would take us to the South of Maldives.
There were some big clouds in the sky but during our one hour flight we could admire the atolls passing under our eyes and took some images from the plane that will remain an indelible memory about all the wonderful things that nature offers us.
We landed at the airport of Kaadhedhoo, in the Gaafu Atoll. After we took our bags we went with the steward to the pier where there was the boat waiting , which took us to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa After about half an hour of navigation, we reached again on the island we visited last year in August, when it had just opened.
Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Gaafu Alifu Atoll
Distance from Male' (Km): 405
Internal flight (m): 55 + Fast boat(m): 75
Category Resort: 5*
Total number of rooms: 50
Reef: the coral reef, easily reachable, completely surrounds the island’s perimeter
420x300 meters big, it’s composed from 14 Overwater Aqua Villas and 36 Island Villas, 20 of these equipped with a 12 square meter private swimming pool and is 120 squared meters in total.
We were assigned to the Villa 11, the same one of last year. Memories immediately become to present. The time difference from Malè is one hour forward.
The whole structure is made of wood, with large windows that look onto the external part where there is the swimming pool and the access to the sea.
The bedroom has the bed in the middle of the room and is provided with all comforts: air conditioning, minibar, 37 inch plasma screen, cd and dvd player, ipod docking station, telephone, kettle, tea and coffee, Nespresso machine, free internet access and wi-fi. A sliding door divides the room from the bathroom, which is as big as the bedroom. There are two zones: one indoors and the other one outdoors.
In the indoors part there are a shower and a toilet area. The other space is dedicated to cupboards, where you can find bathrobes, a hair dryer and a safe box, two sinks with different towels for men and women.
A wide window divides this indoors area from the outodoor zone, where there is bathtub and another shower.
The veranda is made up of a wooden plain with a little table and some chairs, and a base of bricks with big pillows that surrounds the swimming pool.
Only a few meters further in front of it there is the sea access where there are the reserved sun-beds.
The Island Villas, 100 square meters big, not counting the swimming pool, are exactly the same inside, but they only have their veranda with two chairs and a sun umbrella outdoors.
All the Villas are surrounded by a thick vegetation which offers privacy and quietness.
The fourteen 110 square meters big overwaters are made up of a wide room with the same facilities of the Villas.
The room has a wide window that looks onto a terrace where there are two sun-beds and a big sofa.
The whole structure is made of wood, reflecting the style used for the construction of the island. The overwaters are built very close to the reef, reducing to a minimum their impact on it.
The very large bathroom has a double bathtub, and the shower unit and toilet are separated.
The northern part of the isle is dedicated to the common areas, all close together.
The first structure we find at the end of the pier where we arrived is the Reception. The various parts that compose the upper part of the structure have been created in the Haa Atoll in a carpentry, where dhoni are producted, then they’ve been carried and assembled on the island. The effect is really remarkable: the roof is an exact representation of an inverted dhoni.
Inside the reception you can see the ceiling that is basically the inside part of a hull and its boards, and the structure rests on some wooden pillars kept together with some windows. Here you can find the counter, some sofas and a pool table.
The northern part of the isle is dedicated to the common areas, all close together.
Near the restaurant you find an area where there is the boutique, the bookshop with a selection of international newspapers, classic books and some other ones specialized in history and evolution of the Maldives, a plasma screen connected via satellite and the auditorium with internet access via two iMac.
Behind the restaurant you also find a gym and the yoga center.
The restaurant is divided in several areas and is situated in front of the swimming pool. The lower part is called Relish, the upper one Horizon. The ground floor part is both indoors and outdoors, if the weather allows its use.
The upper floor is also divided in outdoors and indoors. Indoors there are only small rooms that look onto the inner lower hall, with 5 flats divided by panels, 2 with tables to have dinner, while 3 are relax area where you can have an appetizer or have some talking after dinner.
On the upper floor again, but outdoors, you find a wide zone to relax and another one where you can have dinner in the open air, also privately, enjoying the sunset view.
The restaurant offers various western, eastern and local dishes. The standard treatment provides only breakfast “a la carte”. Lunch and dinner are served “a la carte” too. The chef can cook any dish on demand according to everyone’s culinary needs.
Next to the swimming pool there is Bell’s bar. The name comes from H.C.P. Bell, an English archeologist who stayed three times in Maldives from 1979 to 1922. He explored Maldives to further knowledge of pre-Islamic age and what remained of Buddhist culture. This bar is specialized in cocktails served with exquisite cigars.
Behind this area, next to the overwaters’ pier, there is the Battuta’s., the restaurant where you can taste Maldivian specialties. The name comes from Muhammad Ibn’ Battuta, who lived in 1300, a “moresc” traveler who went as far as Sumatra and China, southern Russia, Maldives, eastern Africa’s coasts and Timbuctu. All these things made him the greatest traveler of the Medieval Era.
Still behind the main restaurant, but on the inside of the island, you can find the Diving Center and the SPA.
The Diving Center Padi, “Blue Journeys” offers immersions in this area which were available until now only to those who enjoyed underwater cruises, known as Suvadiva. Best availability, new equipment and free nitrox. The Diving Center provides for free mask and fins for snorkeling.
To the Spa has been reserved a large area. It is made up by a swimming pool area, sun-beds and sofas, and 5 double bungalows dedicated to massages and various treatments, with an outside area to relax provided with a double bathtub, Jacuzzi and shower.
During our permanence in Alila, we managed to have a Balinese massage, in a really suggestive and relaxing atmosphere.
As water sports you can practice catamaran, windsurf and canoing. There are also some useful services: baby-sitting, a full time doctor and laundry.
The island is very green and surrounded by beaches with incredibly soft sand (in some places you can sink all the way to your ankle) all along its perimeter. During the day the depth of the beaches changes depending on the tide.
The leader of the projecting team of the Park Hyatt Hadahaa is Chan Soo Khian, who is the founder and the main author of the Singapore-based SCDA Architects. The company also received the prestigious Royal Insitute of British Architects (RIBA) Worldwide Award for one of his projects in Singapore and, recently, the Architecture prize for Emergent Architecture in Asia. In 2006, Chan Soo Khian was nominated Designer of the year by the President of the Design Award of Singapore.
Soo Khian’s style is evident. His architectonical philosophy tries to pull out the best from culture, traditions and local material. The design and the construction have been guided by environmental impact studies before realization. Completing the spirit of environmental management, Soo Khian has been careful to ensure his project would promote the rainwater collection and recycling, by various steps of filtering and depuration for different uses: irrigation, running water for bathrooms (shower, sink, bathtub and toilet), swimming pools all the way to water served in restaurants, both sparkling and still, thus preventing the disposal of at least 100000 bottles of plastic per year, reducing to the minimum the damage to corals all around the island, conserving and enforcing existing vegetation. Waste treatment plants guarantee that the pollution of resorts is minimal.
One of this island’s elements of pride is surely the reef, the most beautiful we’ve seen until now during our trips. Hundreds and hundreds of coral’s mushrooms of different dimensions: from a few centimeters to 3/4 meters of diameter. Real coral trees with trenches up to 20 centimeters of diameter, all vivid and with colors raging from white to blue and yellow.
A lot of anemones, with their yellow clown fishes, can be found also in a few centimeters of water. Fishes of many dimensions and varieties complete this incredible and uncontaminated reef
On the 9th of July we left Alila in the morning. An awesome resort on an awesome island with a very high level of service and treatment. An exclusive island that will reserve a rare experience for the lucky people who will stay on it.
After about 40 minutes on a fast boat we arrived at the Robinson Club, a resort which opened in December 2009, managed by a hotel company which owns a worldwide hotels and resorts chain.
Robinson Club Maldives, Gaafu Alifu Atoll
Distance from Male' (Km): 400
Internal flight (m): 55 + Fast boat (m): 20
Resort Category: 4* sup
Total number of rooms: 75
Reef: the reef, easily reachable, surrounds the Island for half its perimeter
The island has an oval shape; it is 220 meters long and 570 meters large and it’s 400 km far from Malè and 60 km North from the Equator. It can be reached only with the internal flight directed to Kaadhedhoo and a further transfer of about 20 minutes by fast boat.
As soon as we landed on the pier the attendant director was waiting for us with a fresh fruit basket and a bottle of Prosecco. That was a great start!
After the usual formalities of the registration at the reception, located in the eastern part of the island, we’re accompanied to our room to leave our bags.
The time difference is one hour less than Alila and so we got there on lunch time
We were in overwater n. 1123, in total there are 24 bungalows and one Lagoon Suite and they’re situated to the North-West of the island.
The room is very big, it’s 115 square meters large, all the furniture and floor are made of dark wood: at the entrance, on the left, there’s a big separating wall that separates the bedroom from the area where there are the cupboards with a safe-box, minifridge, kettle and coffee machine.
The sleeping area has a window that looks onto the wide terrace: beyond the bed there are a little sofa, a desk, a TV with DVD player and a little table with two chairs standing on a transparent floor which allows you to see the water below and sometimes you can see fishes passing by.
On the left there is the bathroom, with the bathtub, a wide shower and two sinks. Toiletries are complete, with the bathrobes and the hair dryer. From the bathroom there’s a door giving access to the terrace.
The terrace, completely made by wood, has a Jacuzzi on the left, two sun-beds and one little table with some chairs and a sun umbrella in the middle, and a sort of little sofa on the right.
The room is equipped with air conditioning, blades on the ceiling, telephone and wireless internet connection.
We go to the restaurant, situated West, for lunch: breakfast, lunch and dinner are always buffet, except for special occasions during which there is table service. The cooking is international, always very different, appetizers, first courses freshly cooked, second courses of meat and fish, ready-made vegetables and salads that can be prepared depending on tastes, fruit and desserts as much as one likes. There are also snacks like excellent pizzas and buns. The “all inclusive” includes drinks as well: soft drinks, white, red and “rosè” wines, beer, tea and coffee.
After lunch they brought us to see the island and the other types of rooms. Walking through the island we realized that it’s very green and the vegetation is very lush.
Next to the restaurant there is the Main Bar, the floor is made of sand and faces the sea. On the left side there is a painting room, where adults and children can paint on canvas or other materials.
On the right side, beyond the pool table you can find a bookcase and a hall used as disco, conference room or cinema with a giant screen, used during special events like now for the football world championship.
Near the Main Bar there is the swimming pool, with the Pool Bar available for guests and the Das Edel Restaurant, the restaurant à la carte.
The 18 Beach Bungalows are situated North-East and they’re 97 square meters big. Every roof is made of brown bricks and behind them they have a little wooden veranda with sun-beds, a little table and chairs available.
Like in the Water Villa, there’s a dividing wall which separates the cupboards area from the sleeping area.
The furniture is wooden like the floor: safe-box, minifridge, kettle for tea and coffee machine are in the cupboard area.
In the sleeping area there is the bed, a little sofa, a desk and the TV with DVD player.
The bathroom is outdoor. The indoor part is equipped with double sinks, Jacuzzi, shower unit and toilet unit. In the outdoor part there is the shower; toiletries are complete, with the bathrobes and the hair dryer.
The room is equipped with air conditioning, blades on the ceiling, telephone and wireless internet connection.
In the veranda there are two sun-beds and a little table with chairs. On the beach there are two more sun-beds and the sun umbrella.
There are 7 Garden Villas, which are 90 square meters big each, located South, exactly the same as the Beach Bungalows; the only difference is that the Garden Villas don’t have direct access to the beach.
The 25 Beach Villas are 117 square meters big and they’re similar to the Beach Bungalows, but they’re more spacious and comfortable. Some of them are connected by a door, a smart solution for families.
The Presidential Suite is at the end of the Water Bungalows’ pier and it’s made up of two bedrooms and a living room, two bathrooms and a big swimming pool on the veranda. The features are the same as the other rooms.
Laundry service is available around the clock for everyone.
The Diving is on the South-West; there are more than thirty local scuba diving locations, quite easily reachable. The Diving’s guys are always looking for new scuba diving locations, as, together with Alila, they’re the only two villages on the atoll, and both opened since less than a year.
Next to the Diving we have the Water Sports Center, with windsurf, a catamaran and canoing.
Returning to the reception you can find the medical clinic and the Boutique.
Between the reception and the restaurant, which menas in the middle of the island, there is the SPA. There are little bungalows with double couches, and a Jacuzzi available after the massage. We tried a massage before dinner and, like every SPA in Maldives, the relaxing effect is guaranteed: the atmosphere you can breathe in these places is unique.
The widest beaches are on the northern, eastern and southern side of the island where there are the Beach Bungalows and the Beach Villas.
The reef is intact and gourgous, on the eastern side it is about 20 meters from shore, on the western side, the overwaters’ area, about 200 meters
The Island is visited mostly by Germans, but sporadically there are also English, French, Spanish and Italians. It is a resort where the “animation” part is certainly strong even if the guests, mostly German, could not fully enjoy this.
Unfortunately the only day passed and the bad weather we found, didn’t give us the chance to live it to its fullest, but it is for sure a beautiful island with an excellent service and a staff that is really up to it.
On the 10th of July, after a fast lunch, we took the boat which brought us back in about half an hour to the airport of Kaadhedhoo. We waited there for our little plane which brought us to Gan.
In less than 30 minutes, overflying part of the Gaafu atoll, we landed in Gan, situated in the Addu atoll, at the furthest South of Maldives under the equator. Our destination is Shagri-La’s Villingili, which is located East of Gan; we reached it in less than 10 minutes by fast boat. It was raining and the sky didn’t give the impression it will stop soon.
Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa, Addu atoll
Distance from Male' (Km): 537
Internal flight (m): 70 + Fast boat (m): 8
Resort Category: 5* sup
Total number of rooms: 132
Reef: the reef surrounds the Island for about half its perimeter
We arrived at the resort under a deluge. As soon as we landed we were brought with a “golf cart” directly to our room, one of the 60 Water Villas on the island, the number 108 one. All the Water Villas are on the western side of the island.
They’re located in the lagoon in three different positions, well spaced to ensure maximum privacy, and equipped with every comfort.
Next to our Villa’s entrance there are two bicycles we’re going to use to travel around the island far and wide.
We entered, they brought our bags, we gave our passports to the person who’ll take care of us for all our vacation and when we’re finally alone we began to explore the room. In the sleeping area you can find a long sofa on the left, and a shelf to be used as a desk on the right, equipped with different accessories for client comfort: mobile phone with the butler’s numbers always available, iPod docking station, Bose loudspeakers for iPod or iPhone, internet socket even if wireless is available in the whole room. On the shelf of a cabinet we found a bottle of champagne: a resort’s tradition to welcome their guests.
In the room there are: 40 inch TV screen, stereo system, telephone, air conditioning and blades on the ceiling, Nespresso machine, kettle, tea, coffee, minifridge and a selection of spirits.
On the veranda you can find a big sofa, a little armchair with a little table, 2 sun-beds and a net on the water to rest comfortably.
In the wardrobe you also find the safe-box, oilskins for rainy days, bathrobes and slippers, and the menu for choosing the best pillow depending on your preferences.
The bathroom has the toilet unit on one side and the shower unit on the other side; there is the Jacuzzi in the middle of the real bathroom, on the left and on the right two sinks with all the accessories: bubble bath, shampoo, soap, body lotions, shaving kit, toothbrushes and hair dryer.
In front of the veranda there is a window which looks onto the outdoors shower.
All the types of room have almost the same features and accessories.
Before dinner the rain gave us a little rest and we left the room to explore the island by bicycle. The island is about 2 km long, as the crow flies, its perimeter is about 6 km long, it’s very green with almost 12 hectares of tropical forest with 45 different species of trees; it’s covered by 17000 coconut palms, and it has 3 little natural lakes, one inside the staff area. There are tours for the guests which allow them to discover the forest and the various trees.
When you go Southward, coasting the Eastern side, after one of the two natural lakes, we find Dr’ Ali’s Restaurant, then the island reduces his width and still on the Eastern side there is a fenced part of the beach which access is denied to the guests: it is the zone where the turtles go and lay their eggs or rest.
Going up from South to North on the Western side you can find the widest beaches.
At about half of the Western side there is the Endheri bar with swimming pool, the Javuu Restaurant and the Reception.
Behind the reception there is the “Village”, the boutique zone, a little recreation room, an equipped area for children and the diving. Many guests come to this resort just for scuba diving or for snorkeling. This area in fact has not been hit too seriously from the corals’ whitening, which took place in 1998, and it offers some beautiful diving spots and very colorful walls.
Still in this area there is the Health Club with a gym, two tennis courts, sauna and Turkish bath, all for free.
We quickly returned back to our room because of a storm.
In the evening we had dinner at the Main Restaurant Javvu: dinner, exactly as lunch, is “à la carte”, with a rich choice of international and Mediterranean food and an excellent selection of wines.
The following morning we had breakfast at the Main Restaurant Javvu again: besides the indoors part, it is possible to have lunch on the beach, which is equipped with a gazebo. The service is buffet: sweet, savory, fruit, vegetables, juices, omelets… you can find everything you desire.
After breakfast the morning is dedicated to the visit of the different types of rooms.
There are 15 Pool Villas, 133 square meters big, located in front of the sea, on the Eastern side of the island and immersed in the vegetation. They have a veranda and a private swimming pool.
The 8 Deluxe Pool Villas, which are 189 square meters big, are also located in front of the sea, still on the Eastern side of the island. They have a wide garden and a terrace with sun-beds. They’re made up of two different rooms: bedroom and living room and they’re both provided with inner and outer shower.
The 21 Beach Villas, which are189 square meters big, are identical to the Deluxe Pool Villas, situated in front of the sea but on the opposite side of the island, on the Western side. They are ideal for couples or families beacuse they’re situated on the side of the island with the widest beaches.
The 10 Twin Beach Villas, which are 225 square meters big, are 2 Beach Villas together with a bedroom and a private bathroom. The court and the swimming pool are in common. They can host a maximum of 6 adults or 4 adults and 2 children.
The 16 Tree House Villas are 218 square meters big, lay on structures which are raised 3 meters up and allow a marvelous view of the ocean from the Eastern side. These villas are provided with a private “infinity” swimming pool, a wide living room and a veranda with sun-beds.
The Muthee Villa is an Over Water, which is 570 square meters big, situated on the farthest tip to the North-West: it is equipped with a private swimming pool of 16 square meters, a big living room, a wide bathroom with a bathtub and outer shower, wardrobe, dressing area and a private Spa.
The Laalu Villa, the biggest solution, is 960 square meters big: it has 2 big bedrooms, a wide living room which looks onto the private garden. In the wide bathroom there is a double bathtub, which is raised from the floor with a cascade of water next to it and a shower with hydro-massage jets, a position for yoga, a private Spa with sauna and the private masseuse available every day, a little gym and a study. The garden faces the sea, on the Eastern side, about in the middle of the island.
We can also see the “Chi” SPA, situated North-East on the island, a very big structure with 12 bungalows for the treatments based on the Chinese and Himalayan rituals. Unfortunately we hadn’t enough time to try a massage.
We had a quick lunch at the Main Restaurant Javvu under a gazebo and after that we got ready for the excursion to Gan they organized for us. Luckily the sun shined high.
We took the fast boat and we landed at Feydhoo with our guide who accompanied us throughout the afternoon.
The Addu Atoll is the most Southern extremity of the country and played a strategic role for the English Fleet and the Air Force during the World War II and for the following decades. In 1930 the English established a military base on the atoll and then a landing strip was built to control the strategic air passage through the equatorial channel. The British Air Force remained on the atoll until 1976 and during his period of maximum activity gave 1200 workers a job. Addu represents the nerve centre of the Southern atolls. The atoll is sufficiently peculiar as the majority of the islands are connected by a paved road which was built by the English. Nowadays a modern road connects the islands located on the South-Western border of the atoll.
Tha Gan Island today hosts only the airport, various airport’s offices and administrative buildings, a resort, some docks, and some fuel yards. The structures built by the Royal Air Force include tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses.
Also in the Shangri-la Villingili, somewhere on the island, it is still possible to see the ruins of some old British buildings.
The island we landed on is called Feydhoo and it is part of a group of 4 interconnected islands whose names, from North to South, are Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Feydhoo and Gan.
We took a first walk around the streets of the town, while we waited for our bicycles.
After about half an hour the dhoni service, which carries Maldivian staff working at Shangri-la Villingili, arrived; we took our bicycles and we headed North on the main street.
The resort organizes this excursion for all the guests who wish to join it: a piece of Maldivian life really different from Malè, the capital.
We began the tour of the islands with our guide.
We came back South via the internal street, which is less open, but allowed us to see the inner part of these islands.
When we arrived on the Gan Island, a big gate delimitates the entrance. Maldivian people don’t live on the island anymore, except those who work in some offices, in the airport and in the only existing village, the Equator Village, which is the old village where British militaries lived that in time became a tourist village.
We asked to visit the Equator Village and they gave us the permission to do it.
Equator Village, Addu atoll
Distance from Male' (Km): 540
Internal flight (m): 70
Resort Category: 3*
Total number of rooms: 78
(You can see the new photo galley of the Equator Village here)
It seems that time didn’t pass here the old images we had seen some years before are still very up-to-date.
Walking the small path which brings you to the reception, you can find the rows of little houses that constitute the bungalows, lined and bordered by little gardens, but we didn’t had the chance to see them inside.
The Reception is located behind the bar and the restaurant; beyond it there is the swimming pool.
There are no big beaches available; the island is mostly visited by German and English people, which come here to fully immerse themselves in these area, which is certainly less popular than the ones more to the North, where you can find mass tourism.
We came back towards Feydhoo, it was getting dark and our time was running out.
We left our bicycle in the deposit and we got back to the Shangri-la Villingili with the fast boat that came to pick us up.
In the evening we had dinner at the Dr’Ali Restaurant, a place that offers Arabic, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese food.
The following morning, on the 12th of July, we took the fast boat and we reached Gan. We left behind a village quite different from those we visited until now. Maybe it doesn’t look like the classic Maldivian island, but it’s a beautiful resort, with spacious rooms, well arranged and offering a treatment worthy of its name.
It’s not only an island where you can sunbath, but also a place that you can calmly visit through the little streets that stretches inside; it is a very green island and, if you want, you really can have a taste of the Maldivian life, going to their islands, walking in their streets, talking with them and going into their bars and cafès.
When we arrived in Gan, we took the local flight directed to Malè.
After a flight of about 70 minutes, we landed at the airport of Hulhule and with the dhoni taxi we went to Malè. This time we stayed in a nice and very clean guest house that a friend picked up for us.
On morning of July 13th, at 12.50 a.m. we left again with the Neos flight directed to Milan
Even this time we had been able to see new structures and different realities. We went further in the remote atoll of Maldives and we hope that, with our report, we will give useful information for your future travels or even only that we have been able to make you relive our sensations and emotions.
Maldives see you soon!
Roberta & Paolo