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Maldives

KAte Moorfoot goes island hopping

Be assured the Maldives are utterly stunning. It’s hardly surprising with it boasting the best beaches in the world, a beautiful year-round climate, warm crystal-clear sea and an enthralling rich and diverse underwater world. The sand really is white and powdery, the sea really is the colour of emeralds. It’s a destination of envy, a place where most people dream of taking a glorious holiday and it’s the top destination of choice for a honeymoon.
The resorts which occupy the atolls pull out all the stops to give you fine service and the best possible time for your hard-earned cash. With over 133 resorts to choose from, how do you choose one over the other? Other than the price, what ticks the boxes to make the final decision on where to holiday when the resorts are all located in this perfect paradise destination?
I made the ten-hour direct flight from Gatwick with British Airways to the Maldives to find out how two resorts place themselves in the market and operate to offer you the holiday of a lifetime.

To get to Noku Maldives I took a seaplane from mainland Male. It’s just a 45-minute flight with TMA (Trans Maldivian Airways) from the international airport to Noku situated on Kuda Funafaru in Noonu Atoll. In my view this is an incredibly glamourous way to island hop and it gives you a superb birds eye view of the atolls below.

I describe Noku Maldives as a luxury boutique resort on an island sanctuary of calm. It’s a perfect resort for those who want to be peaceful and relax. Expect nothing apart from luxury on this barefoot island. ‘Take your time, no rush’ is their motto. It doesn’t take me long to wind down from the journey where I had a wonderful lunch by the sea overlooking the ever-varying blue hues of the Indian Ocean.

The menu is changed daily and caters for all dietary requirements. Taking into consideration that the island is in the middle of nowhere, it is undoubtedly world-class restaurant quality. The breakfasts were incredible, as were the descriptions about your options, which also changed daily!

For drinks; ‘Breakfast without coffee and juice is like a day without the sky and ocean.’ Options for bread; ‘Love and baking cannot be hurried.’ For granola; ‘Flakes of pleasure.’ Even the menu became a simple pleasure of what Chef Tarique had thought of today….!

It’s fresh and interesting and many of the dishes have Maldivian and Asian flavours and influences. Fresh fish is caught daily so depending on the catch you can enjoy tuna, reef fish or snapper. At this resort there’s only table service, perfect for those who dislike buffets. Noku didn’t disappoint with diverse food choices and quality of fresh ingredients. Both Palms Restaurant and their waterside ‘dining under the stars’ ‘Thari’ Restaurant were both excellent, the menus were tasty with food influences representing their portfolio of hotels which include the Maldives, Thailand and of course, the Maldives.

Noku Maldives has 30 over-water villas and 20 private beach villas. My beach villa was beautifully appointed with high ceilings and spacious rooms just steps from the white sandy beach. The super-sized king bed was situated opposite the French doors accessible both with a view or a short walk to the sea. The roll top bath with luxury sea salts accompanied an indoor shower and outdoor rain shower with access outside to the sun deck with sun loungers, an outdoor table and a hammock. The villas have all been created with the utmost privacy in mind and I was pleased not to have a TV to interrupt the peacefulness I had come to treasure. The fridge is stocked daily with fresh juices and milk in attractive glass bottles and homemade breadfruit crisps.
The island is focussed on being plastic free, no plastic bags, straws or bottles to be seen. They are also active with its coral growing programme and buys produce where possible from the local farm islands.

Things to do? Apart from relaxing by the infinity pool or on the pristine beach, there’s the Sub Oceanic at Noku Maldives. Noku’s five-star PADI dive center has a friendly and professional team boasting brand new scuba equipment, it has an excellent dive boat ‘dhoni’ to take you out to the best diving locations in the area. I took my Aqualung scuba diving kit, but it’s not necessary unless you like having your own gear, because most resorts hire good top diving equipment.
The resort location in Noonu atoll is right in the middle of a thriving marine ecosystem which is surrounded by rich and beautiful house reefs. Here you will find their coral garden project where they are planting coral to create additional habit for the underwater life and eco-system.

I explored some fascinating dive sites in my quest to become an Advanced Open Water PADI diver. In addition I completed my knowledge development back home online via PADI eLearning®. I then went on to complete five dives with my PADI Instructor at NOKU.
One site is called ‘Shark Point’ which didn’t fail to deliver on tremendous shark spotting!

On my dive at Orimas Thila, I saw many white tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, shoals of trumpet fish and many colour fish and corals.
At Bodurah Gaa Giri we found sleeping nurse sharks, sting rays in caves, shrimps and families of lionfish, not to mention snapping moray eels! On another dive I was fortunate enough to scuba with dolphins and say hello to a passing turtle at a depth of 17m and view spotted eagle rays.
The diving visibility is excellent and there’s an abundance of underwater life. The house reef beyond the sunset water villas is also excellent for snorkelling. Paddle boarding and kayaking is available to explore the island shores as well as catamaran sailing, fishing or kite flying. Sunset and dolphin cruises are offered as well as an island excursion. With average sea temperatures of around a warm 26 degrees, it’s fantastic to enjoy the sea and lovely sunshine.

I was fortunate to be invited to visit a neighbouring island Ken’dikulhudhoo where my dive instructor lives with his wife Shadia and their three sons.  The island is the tenth biggest island in the Maldives archipelago and according to the census 2014, Ken’dhikulhudhoo is home to 1767 people. It was interesting to get an insight into the lives of the islanders, who mainly work in fishing, agriculture and tourism. I walked past island women sitting under the shade of the breadfruit tree happily sorting through their sea almonds.  I visited areas of land growing pumpkins and courgettes and Lake Maafalhu which was formerly a place for growing sea cucumber.  It’s the only lake to be found on any of the Maldivian islands.

Shadia and Ismail were most gracious and hosted me in their home with tea and homemade spicy deep-fried fish balls and cakes before I departed back to Noku by speedboat. I will be forever grateful for their hospitality and for Ismail being a brilliant dive instructor and getting me through my Advanced Open Water PADI exam.

Noku hosts fish feeding evenings attracting many fish as well as juvenile reef sharks while serving tea and homemade treats, movie nights and traditional dancing and music evenings. 

There’s also daily morning yoga in the Spa Alcove overlooking the sea, a well-equipped gym for working off the excess food and a more tempting Noku Spa, where you can truly relax and unwind with four professional treatments, with indoor and outdoor showers, a swimming pool, together with wonderful lotions and potions to really help you switch off.  

What can you expect from Noku Maldives?  Five-star personal service, space, tranquillity, luxury, privacy, safety, nature and above all, deliciously fresh food served with a smile in true paradise.

The Maldives are made up of an archipelago of 1,192 islands set in 26 natural atolls so expect to have to travel to get to your resort either by speedboat, a seaplane or a charter flight.  To get to my next destination at Reethi Faru, I took a 20-minute domestic flight from mainland Male to Dharavandhoo with Flyme and from there a 40-minute speed boat ride where you are welcomed by happy staff who kindly gave me a traditional Maldivian necklace.

Reethi Faru Resort is a newly opened resort located on the island of Filaidhoo in Raa Atoll. It has a wonderful choice of accommodation including 20 garden villas, deluxe beach villas some with Jacuzzis and pools and deluxe water villas and suites. Reethi was designed to utilize and coexist with the natural surroundings.  

It is a stunning tropical eco-resort with a clear and determined focus on sustainability and nurturing its precious natural environment that bans plastic straws, bottles and bags.  It’s hard to believe the resort has only been open for 18 months, but great care was given to building around the trees and nature that existed also taking care not to disturb the underwater world as well as the natural landscape. With that in mind, their vision has been to create a resort, leading the way in sustainability while combining the highest levels of attention to creating the place to holiday for fun, romance, seclusion and privacy.

I stayed in a luxurious water villa and enjoyed very much waking up to the view of the Indian Ocean. It was beautifully appointed and spacious with walls decorated with traditional Maldivian artwork. The king size bed was placed overlooking the view to the sea, also you have a choice of a large bath, an indoor or outdoor shower. The mini bar is stocked daily with drinks.  The outdoor space has two decks, one shady area with sunbeds and another level nearer the sea for sunbathing. Sitting out on the sun deck watching the sunset was something I never get board of.  My neighbours spotted a shoal of dolphin from their water villa, a memory to treasure from their honeymoon they will never forget.

Reethi Faru prides itself on being a guardian of the island and a leader in sustainability.  With the urgent need to care for our environment, the Maldives is under severe threat by global warming.  In the event that seawater levels will rise due to the warming of the atmosphere, these atolls that are at no more than about two meters above sea level will be most vulnerable. The mean altitude above sea level is 1.5 meters, the lowest in the world, the highest point at Vilingili island on Addu atoll is only 2.4 meters above sea level.  Saying no to plastic is one positive thing, however, Reethi Faru Resort goes many steps further and will pave the way by setting a leading example for more resorts to do the same. 

It has the latest Photovoltaic panel technology (1 Megawatt) harnessing sunlight which gives Reethi Faru up to 80% of its power.  There’s load sharing with three generators for the other 20%. Amazingly, these generators have technology to harness waste heat to heat water for the entire hotel complex, kitchens, staff quarters and all facilities, water is piped through a buried insulated pipe network to ensure maximum efficiency.  All food waste is processed through an onsite Biogas plant with four hoppers to create biogas which is used for the kitchens to cook with.

There’s an onsite hydroponics system designed to grow herbs, salads and edibles leaves with minimal environmental impact as well a mushroom farm. They have a plant nursery that grows flowers, indigenous plants and edibles with an irrigation system that uses clean wastewater. There’s also a desalination and bottling plant powered by solar energy providing water for the entire island, also the on-site water carbonation.

Some plants thrive on ‘living walls on many buildings established there to improve biodiversity and air quality in addition to enhancing the greenery contributing to the look and feel of the resort.

Their resident marine biologist is developing a comprehensive reef conservation and development scheme aimed at increasing coral diversity.  Smrutica works closely with projects including the Olive Ridley Projectfor turtle conservation ‘Parley for the Oceans,’ the Manta Trust Marine Conservation and local islands such as Meedhoo where she helps to educate school children of the importance of the quality of the  environment.  

Not only leaders for their environmental activity, but also for their activities, Reethi Faru has been awarded prizes for its water sports centre and is one of the top ten in Asia.  They have an incredible set up offering so much including dolphin and sunset safaris, island visits, new sea bobs, fly-high jet packs, jet skiing, parasailing, tornado sofa and banana experiences, paddle boarding and sailing.  Enquiring how jet skiing fit with their environment philosophy, I was informed that the jet skis are the best in the market for low fuel emissions and they are only used over certain areas of the sea away from the coral reefs.

Scuba diving in the Maldives is one of the best locations in the world to see sea turtles, sharks and parrot fish.  It’s also known as a Manta hot spot.

Sea Explorer runs the PADI dive centre, I experienced some excellent dive sites at Aarah Bodo Thila, Lhohi Island and Saddle. All scuba diving centres require the correct travel insurance, I always use www.insureandgo.com which includes scuba diving risks on the policy.

I dived capturing the magic of underwater ‘mountains,’ with walls covered with hard coral and surfaces of soft coral that was teeming with clown fish.  My dive guide took me to discover caves housing sleeping nurse sharks and sting rays.  The dive guides were brilliant at pointing out the small species such as the amazing camouflaged stone fish, the Nudibranch, the shrimps and snapping moray eels.  Large shoals of tuna swam by, also parrot fish, trigger fish, a napoleon and shoals of blue lined snapper.   The prize eye capture for me was a magical manta gliding majestically towards me.  I was mesmerised by two mobula rays circling a small reef, truly incredible.  The house reef is also exciting for snorkelling, if you are lucky you will encounter the resident Hawksbill sea turtle named Blanka.  There are daily guided snorkelling tours that are worth joining to find the best location for the coral and abundance of fish.  In parts the reef has sadly succumbed to bleaching, but new artificial coral nurseries have been planted to help with regeneration. 

This boutique resort plays host to visitors who want seclusion.  The island although at 98% occupancy never feels overly busy. The infinity pool has space for sunbathing, and there’s secluded areas on the wonderful sandy beach.  The thatched bars along the beach are convenient to pop into for drinks and snacks, also at the main bar where you will find shade and evening entertainment.

There’s plenty of dining options where you are spoilt for choice between the six restaurants and bars.  The resort’s main restaurant ‘Vakaru’ serves buffet-style meals, or you can opt for other choices depending on your appetite.  For example the over-water restaurant offers 24 hr dining or you can opt for a la carte dining in ‘Dhiyavaru’ and the romantic open-air ‘Reethi Grill’ restaurant lit up by candles on the beach.

For those not on the in-inclusive option, the restaurant menus are reasonable priced, this in my experience is unusual for islands in the Maldives which are highly priced due to having to import most goods. I particularly liked the Maldivian food corner where you can try dishes including Maldivian tuna curry and traditional roshi flat bread.

Set amid the coconut groves, the Coconut Spa has nine treatment rooms there is a steam room, a sauna and a jacuzzi.  It’s the perfect place to cast away any lingering work stress and relax with heaps of options for facials and massages all expertly delivered by professional therapists.

Reethi Faru resort captures the essence of a luxury eco tropical hideaway. It has so much to offer the active holidaymaker as well as those of us who prefer a relaxing and romantic high end beach holiday with picture-perfect sandy white beaches draped with palm trees set against the crystal clear emerald coloured ocean.

AREA INFO

How to get there:
Parking with Airport Parking & Hotels01342 710 071 (https://www.aph.com/gatwick-airport/parking)
Kate flew direct from London Gatwick to Velana International Airport with British Airways. 

Book via the NOKU Resort for their best prices https://www.nokuhotels.com where a seaplane can be arranged to get to the resort.

Reethi Faru Resort

Book Reethi Faru for their best price  https://www.reethifaru.com/
A domestic flight via Flyme and a speedboat to the resort will be arranged by the resort.

Low Season: May to Sep

 Water Villa for 2 Adults– USD 5110.00 for 10 nights on All-Inclusive package.
Deluxe Beach Villa for 2 Adults- USD 3632.00 for 7 nights on All-Inclusive package.

High Season: Oct to April

Water Villa for 2 Adults– USD 5980.00 for 10 nights on All-Inclusive package
Deluxe Beach Villa for 2 Adults – USD 4227.00 for 7 nights on All-Inclusive package

Please note room rates are subject to change.
Internal transfers (Male to the resort, return) costs are separate.
Green tax US$6 per peson per night will be additional.  

Scuba Diving: PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) is the world’s largest and leading diver training organization with more than 6,600 dive centers and resorts and over 137,000 professional members worldwide. PADI Travel® is an online travel resource for divers and adventurers alike, offering information and online booking for more than 300 dive destinations around the world. 

Travel Insurance:

Travellers will find that InsureandGo’s lead-in budget policy includes 50 activities and sports as standard. An InsureandGo annual Worldwide (excluding USA, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean) Budget policy starts from £40.99. For more information or to purchase a policy, please visit: www.insureandgo.com

For more information about the Maldives, Visit Maldives

 For more pictures, videos and information follow Kate’s trip on Instagram @love2eat2travel