Meet Hurawalhi Bars Manager — Lalith Payu

The opening of a new property is the pinnacle of any hospitality manager’s career. The excitement of new concepts and the bond that forms among team members with the coming together of a new resort is a magical experience. Hurawalhi Maldives is no exception: its 5-star character combined with the beauty of the island is a major draw not only for guests but also for the people who will soon call it ‘home’.

The recruitment is underway and in addition to a number of new faces, we are thrilled that Hurawalhi guests will be taken care of by quite a few team members who developed their expertise at the sister resorts Kuredu and Komandoo. One such individual is Lalith Payu who has been entrusted the Bars Manager role. His dedication to delighting patrons ensured he was one of the first talents to be selected for the opening of Hurawalhi Maldives. Lalith’s eye for detail and his charming social graces, paired with the luxury surroundings of Hurawalhi, is a winning cocktail in itself.

Lalith’s experience has seen him work at the 5-star Mövenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, the Wateredge Inn in the UK and several other properties; yet although Lalith’s heart is scattered around various places of the world, it is the Lhaviyani Atoll where he is happiest. Having said that, it is our pleasure that we can help him climb the career ladder and introduce his talents and joyful character to Hurawalhi guests.

Lalith will showcase his talents as a master mixologist in Coco Bar, Aquarium Bar and the Champagne Pavilion – three very different venues with equally stunning oceanfront vistas, charm and intimate ambience. He will also oversee the beverage service in Canneli and 5.8 Undersea Restaurants.

On behalf of the whole Hurawalhi team, we say welcome Lalith and a heartfelt congratulation!

Slow Boat to Naifaru

On the northern side on Malé, away from the coffee shops and the government buildings, lies a harbour where few foreign visitors roam.

In the commercial heart of the island capital – where it jostles for space with local markets, the main port, and countless fishing vessels – the northern harbour, or ‘anni jetty’, acts as the gateway to many of the Maldives’ further flung atolls.

Malé harbour. Photo Credit: Naj

In a nation that contrasts the throbbing ocean metropolis of Malé with pristine and epicurean resorts, the northern harbour offers a doorway to the other Maldives. A chance to experience this unique country as few outsiders have; an opportunity to view authentic island life.

Taking the less-trodden path will often require local guidance, with those in the burgeoning guest house sector best-placed to facilitate your journey into the isles. For our trip, an exchange of messages with Hamdhaan from the Nafaa Inn in Lhaviyani Naifaru soon secures the passage north.

Malé, Naifaru, Maldives
Malé island. Photo Credit: Naj

We arrive at the ferry amid jostling crowds and thick heat. Separate luggage compartments for Naifaru and neighbouring Hinnavaru ensure that boxes of groceries and other necessities successfully make their way to eager recipients 140km away.

As we board, one crew member passes a small plastic bag in which to keep our footwear. We won’t be needing those. Others hang fishing lines from the back of the boat, hoping to pick up additional passengers on the journey.

Soon the ferry rumbles away from its moorings, painstakingly extricating itself from the guy ropes of the surrounding fishing dhonis, whose crews break from chores to assist our flight. Slowly, the city lets go. The entanglements of Malé are left behind and the engines open up.

Naifaru Island
Naifaru Island. Photo Credit: Naj

In a territory spanning 90,000 square km, the Maldives’ 1,200 or so islands make up just 0.3 percent. Subsequently, for anyone seeking a truly Maldivian experience, a long ocean voyage is a must. That the ‘nearby’ Lhaviyani atoll (officially known by its geographical name of Faadhippolhu) is 7 hours away indicates the daunting logistics that still shape island life.

Steaming north, the ferry passes so close to some resorts that room service seems a realistic prospect. Further on, the sprinkling of islands on the horizon grows thin, offering a glimpse into the perspective of countless sailors for whom the precious isles meant sanctuary and survival, rather than the ultimate in rest and relaxation as they do for today’s foreign visitors.

Five hours after setting off, the sun sets unfettered into the sparkling ocean – an intimate moment, far away from the prying eyes of the land. Moments later, the lights of Lhaviyani begin to beckon and Naifaru is reached within the hour.

Approaching new island after dark lends a further element of mystery to any trip in the Maldives. The harbour lights of Naifaru draw us in as the hum of the engines give way to the comparatively deafening silence. The sandy streets soak up the sounds from the small crowd gathered to receive the new arrivals; just as it has soaked up the intense heat throughout the day.

Naifaru is the capital of the atoll and the fifth biggest population centre outside of Malé. Despite this, the community is just 4,000 strong, and a large number of absent resort workers, fishermen, and travellers to Malé means the actual figure is far less.

Best known for the unique lilt of its dialect, and the skill of its fishermen, Naifaru maintains the sleepy character of island life, unencumbered by traffic or crowds – recalling the Indian Ocean calm that Malé forgot. The rhythm of the day mirrors the pattern of the sun, stirred into life at dusk as islanders venture out to one of a handful of coffee shops dotted across the island’s 0.5 sq km. Others recline in the steel-framed joali lining the dusty streets, their repose punctuated by the maghrib prayer.

Nafaa Inn, Naifaru Island, Maldives
Naifaru Island. Photo Credit: Naj

Guests at the Nafaa Inn – currently the only guest house in operation on the island – are invited to embrace local life, blending into a community that is more familiar with the concept of friends and guests, than it is with tourists.

Fishing trips, barbecues, and visits to nearby uninhabited islands (locally known as picnic islands), allow guests to share in the recreational activities of the island’s permanent residents. Travellers to Naifaru can also swim with Mantas in nearby Vavvaru, or explore the imposing hulk stranded next to Felivaru, witnessing the duplicity of the reef.

The guest house offers comfortable surroundings – with air-conditioned rooms and wifi – from which visitors can truly explore Maldivian life in Lhaviyani atoll. Here, travellers can wean themselves off the stresses and pressures that lie far away, across the open ocean.

Boat, Naifaru Island, Maldives
Boat, Naifaru Island. Photo Credit: Naj

Should you ever grow weary of island life, however, and feel the pull of Malé’s bright lights once more, ferries ply the expanses between atoll and city life three times a week.