Your experience in the Maldives is very dependent on the resort you stay at. So if you ask me, “which resort should I stay at in the Maldives?” I will need to know your travel personality first.
There are over a hundred resorts in the Maldives. Each of them varying in rating, price, theme, and overall resort ‘character’.
To kick off our 2-week stay in the Maldives, Zombie and I eased in to the chillaxed mode slowly. We stayed at Maafushivaru Maldives, a resort that offers barefoot and no-fuss luxury. We did feel pampered, all right. But we were also given a lot of space which makes this resort ideal for those who do love to indulge, but are overall independent resort guests.
From Male Airport (Capital of Maldives), we took a seaplane flight. It was a short 25-minute flight. We were dropped off ‘in the middle of the sea’ — well, this is putting it quite dramatically. Yes, somewhere in the ocean indeed, but on a pontoon.
From there, we were picked up by Maafushivaru’s dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat) and it took about 2 minutes to get to the island itself. (all resorts in the Maldives are their own separate islands)
We were given cold towels and quite a refreshing drink. Though abit too sweet for me, we welcomed it with appreciation and gusto as a cool drink is just what you need in the middle of a perfectly hot day.
Immediately, we could see at this point that management was very visible. Resort manager Ronald Schweighardt, and Assistant Manager Marie Dooley were personally either welcoming new guests, or attending to queries of existing guests at the reception.
Check in was done at the sand-floored open reception. Though it was abit early for standard check-in time (this was around 11AM), we were told that our Water Villa was ready.
ROOM (WATER VILLA)
Maafushivaru has 3 Villa types: Beach, Pool, and Water. The water villas (or overwater bungalow) are located at the end of the island.
The moment the door was opened for us, I immediately felt fresh wind, the sound of lapping waves, lots of natural light in the room, and of course, that endless stretch of turquoise.
It was really, really hard not to be mesmerised by the turquoise waters. Waking up to this each morning was pure joy. As early as 6:30AM, the azure waters first whisper to you by the sound of waves and the fresh seabreeze (we sleep with windows open). And with eyes half open, you gaze into this magnificent blue- that’s been my 2-step process into jumping out of bed.
Here’s a mini panoramic view of the room:
Which I believe is not enough to fully see the room, so here you go, a video tour of the water villa:
I loved that the room is mainly white, with lots of natural wood–giving a lot of breezy atmosphere.
This I love:
I really love how natural light comes into the shower. It’s not a completely outdoor shower feature (as is popular among water villas in the Maldives), but this is a good middle-ground to those who are still not that uninhibited enough to take a shower under the open skies.
All toiletries are from L’occitane Verbena line, which made Zombie, well- a really really happy Zombie.
As all resorts in the Maldives are in their own island, rates normally come in either full or half-board packages. Ala Carte is also available, but most have their meals buffet-style at the Cuisine Gallery (above). We had all our meals here. The dining area keeps to the overall design of the resort and rooms – airy and lots of natural light and wood.
The buffet selection, I’m pleased to say, offers LOTS of vegetable dishes. I don’t think vegetarians need to request special meals. I was really impressed with the various ways they served vegetables – roasted, fresh, stir fried, baked – you name it.
Salad station, entrees, mains, desserts- all were served in separate stations. I have to say that I enjoyed the vegetable dishes much more than the meat based ones.
My tip would be to order (separate from the half or full-board plan) the seafood platter.
This platter was really fresh and so good that we had it twice! I loved that they kept the flavouring simple (tomato and pepper based) so it wasn’t too heavy.
Though we had most meals at the Cuisine Gallery, we also had dinner on our last evening at 135 East, a contemporary Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurant, located in its own pavillion in the island.
The chef was very entertaining, cracking witty jokes and puns without missing a dice, stir, and beat. There were lots of antics too, such as the ‘egg catch’ – where he tries to catapult a piece of fried egg towards you, and you thereby try to catch the morsel with your mouth. (Mine ended up in my brows!)
There’s a very breezy and tranquil aura in Maafushivaru. When we arrived, I was still kind of nursing jet lag from our late arrival into Male the night before, and I immediately snapped out of my jet lag when I saw the scene above as we were making our way to reception.
The occupancy of the resort at this period was almost full, yet it was hardly felt.
They hold movie nights every week in this venue. This is also where a band plays during the night.
There are many ways to relax independently in Maafushivaru.
Even when there was a 10-minute mini storm, Maafushivaru was still a picture of serenity:
Maafushivaru offers the “no shoes, no news” laid back atmosphere. No shoes – you can simply kick back, and as most of the area are on sand ground you can literally do without your shoes in the resort. The sand had zero litter, we can see staff unobtrusively cleaning the sand regularly. No News- it was really tempting to plug off from all connection to the ‘real world’. Just imagine being here without any connectivity? It must be complete heaven. Not to me though, as social media is part of all my relaxation. And how else was I to give ‘live’ updates? 🙂
If all the atmosphere wasn’t enough to make you feel relaxed, The Spa at Maafushivaru offers wellness treatments in a quiet corner of the island.
I had their signature relaxing massage, ( too much relaxation has never harmed anyone, now) and their treatment rooms were all overlooking the water. After the massage, I chanced upon their outdoor spa/jacuzzi area and it does look very zen.
I debated whether I should hop in or meet Zombie back in the room (who snorkelled while I was spa-laxing) and decided to head back to the room. I just knew I would not want to heave myself out of that jacuzzi if I had a dip!
Well now, here’s where Zombie aka The Happy Snapper takes the helm. Here’s a clip of what the house reef of Maafushivaru is like.
There are tons of underwater activities that can be done in Maafushivaru. We joined their Whale Shark diving trip and had lots of fun. (This will be on a separate post, stay tuned!)
Here are the things we love about Maafushivaru:
1.) Located in Ari Atoll, this is one of the best places to swim with whale sharks
2.) Well done to the Management (husband and wife team Ronald Schweighardt and Marie Dooley). Despite running the resort for less than 6 months (as of March 2014), they have kept the resort in overall top-notch condition. They are also very visible throughout the resort and can be seen liaising with guests daily.
3.) The unhurried and laid back atmosphere. Unlike bigger resorts, they do not have a rigid ‘schedule of the week’ kind of roster that suggests things like “0930: join a session of yoga zen at the gym/ 11:00: kids class” etc.
4.) The water villa itself. Loving the L-shaped window panel that allows you to have a view of the water anywhere you are in the room.
5.) The staff offered warm and genuine service. From pre-arrival emails up until we were brought to a seaplane on departure, the sincerity of the staff can be felt.
And as with all resort love affairs, there are always things that we think can be improved for better experience.
1.) Attention to detail in the room such as a non-working light bulb (it was only small, one of those tiny ones that stand on either side of the mirror)
2.) Food was not bad at all but it wasn’t the highlight of the stay.
Having said that, we would still personally return to Maafushivaru and recommend it to: couples, honeymooners, families with grown children.
Maybe first love never dies, but as our first resort in the Maldives, Maafushivaru has a soft spot in our warm and sunshine-y memories. Perhaps its because we could also identify with the ‘barefoot luxury’ theme that prevailed. We do love to be pampered, that’s for sure. But we appreciated that this was done without any of the staff being obtrusive.
Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives
*We were guests of Maafushivaru, however this has not influenced my thoughts about the experience. All views and opinion are my own*