Guesthouses in Maldives – Island Value

Telling colleagues that you are taking a holiday in the Maldives will prompt groans of jealousy around the office. Co-workers will lose themselves in daydreams in which coffee at the desk becomes kurumba on a deck chair, and the computer’s glare is replaced by the Indian Ocean sun.

But, snapping out of this reverie, they will then ask themselves if you’ve had a pay rise they weren’t aware of.

Kaani Beach Hotel
Kaani Beach Hotel

Renowned the world over as the home of luxury island tourism, the Maldives has strived to develop a reputation for decadence over the past 40 years. This brand now brings over one million visitors to the country each year, with 80 percent still heading directly to one of over 100 single island resorts spread across the atolls.

But the industry is changing, with budget guesthouses springing up across the country at a phenomenal pace. From 23 registered properties in 2010, there are now more than 300 guesthouses situated on around half the country’s inhabited islands.

Beach, Whiteshell Island Hotel & Spa
Beach, Whiteshell Island Hotel & Spa

While the advent of commercial tourism in the 1970s brought the delights of the Maldives’ rich reefs and pristine lagoons to the outside world, the society of those who call paradise home remained largely off limits.

Stories of intrepid backpackers making it as far as the isolated islands were rare before fears of ‘hippy-types’ prompted the government in 1984 to shut down the few unofficial home-stays outside the capital, Malé. Small fishing communities were this cut-off from the outside world for a further quarter-century.

Photo Credit: Naj
Photo Credit: Naj

After legislative changes in 2009, however, the massive potential of the guesthouse sector has been unleashed, with floods of resort workers investing their money and their considerable hospitality experience in local islands.

Akhmeem Razzaq, managing director of local publisher Maldives Getaways, believes that the industry’s development will create financially empowered communities as well as raising social and environmental awareness across the islands.

“Maldives is not just about beaches, sun and sea. It’s also about people and a very unique culture history and traditional language,” Akhmeem told Maldives.com.

Beach, Kaani Beach Hotel
Beach, Kaani Beach Hotel

Indeed, the sea-change in the industry has opened up a unique prospect of affordable holidays that can offer unparalleled beaches alongside the opportunity to experience a culture largely untouched by the outside world.

Initial fears that the island’s Islamic culture would be incompatible with budget travel have proven unfounded, with the industry growing by more than a third in the past 5 years. The absence of pork and alcohol is more than offset by the opportunity to experience Maldivian lifestyle – fishing, diving, snorkelling – for a fraction of the usual price.

Snorkeling, Kaani Beach Hotel
Snorkeling, Kaani Beach Hotel

But those who wish to swap the lilting call to prayer echoing through the sandy island streets with the music of the cocktail bar are welcome to do so. Most guesthouses are happy to arrange day trips – and even short-stays – on the resorts, so visitors can experience the other side of paradise.

While transport between 1,192 islands spread across 42,000 square km will always be challenging, more and more guesthouse visitors are utilising local public transport to island hop, embracing the unique experience of a ferry ride around atolls.

Back in the office, envious teammates can now hear stories of sun, sea, and sand accompanied by tales of life in the Indian Ocean and the Maldivian community. But the best news of all is that that the cost of a holiday in the famous atolls is now within their reach.

Anantara’s Coral Protection and Regeneration Programme

Anantara has launched their latest coral protection and regeneration programme, aiming and provide a safe environment in which life on the reef can thrive.

Named, ‘Taking A Holistic Approach To Reef Protection’ – HARP – the 5-year scheme is headed by marine biologists from Coral Reef CPR – conservationists, biologists and ecologists whose mission is to reduce threats and promote sustainable management of reef ecosystems.

“Some reefs in the Maldives are experiencing unusually high water temperatures which is causing coral bleaching,” explained the organisation’s lead scientist Dr Andrew Buckner.

“These coral animals contain symbiotic single-celled algae within their tissues, which provide the coral with up to 90% of its energy. Once stressed, the coral expels these algae, causing them to turn completely white.”

Snorkelling with fish, Anantara Kihavah Villas
Snorkelling, Anantara Kihavah Villas

Dr Bruckner noted that, despite the bleaching of the reef in the Maldives, the coral can recover. The atoll archipelago suffered extensive bleaching as a result of the intense 1998 El Nino, while the recently ended El Nino was said to have been the strongest in 20 years.

In addition to monitoring the water conditions at 10 points in South Malé and Baa atoll this year, the HARP programme saw the removal of the harmful Crown of Thorn starfish from around Anantara’s three South Malé atoll properties in 2015. Following this project, Anantara have produced and distributed a manual outlining best practice for other resorts to follow.

As a result of this year’s observations, Coral Reef CPR have discovered that temperatures on the reef have exceeded 30°C, rising as high as 32 – 33 °C in lagoonal environments.

“Under normal conditions, sea water temperatures should be 3-4 degrees cooler at depth but these high temperatures are extending beyond 35 metres depth,” noted Dr Bruckner.

As well as being caused by the recent El Nino, Dr Bruckner noted that the sea has been unusually calm, allowing UV light to penetrate further down the reef.

“Due to stressful conditions corals in some areas in the Maldives began to pale in colour at the beginning of April and several sensitive species bleached white. By mid-April between 60-80% of corals on the reef we were monitoring were fully bleached or a very light yellow in colour.”

Aerial, Anantara Kihavah Villas
Aerial, Anantara Kihavah Villas

On a more positive note, however, the researchers have discovered some corals that appear to have adapted to higher temperatures, with further plans made to analyse and encourage the wider growth of these so-called ‘super corals’.

The HARP programme is set to build upon Anantara’s award-winning conservation work, which has included coral regeneration programmes in place since 2011. Guests at Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Veli, Anantara Kihavah Villas or Naladhu Maldives can join the marine biologists on excursions as well as help to fund the project through the company’s ‘Dollars for Deeds’ initiative.

The scheme sees guests invited to donate one dollar for each night of their stay, which is then matched dollar for dollar by Minor Hotels. Subsequent funds raised in the Maldives are committed over the next five years to the key areas of marine and coastal environment protection, environmental education, and community welfare.

Maldives is Italy’s Favourite Beach Destination

The Maldives has been named the best beach destination at the 2016 Italian Travel Awards, held in Rome.

Considered the most prestigious award in the Italian tourism industry, the Maldives fended off competition from the Seychelles and Polynesia to win the prize.

A total of 43 awards were given out from 15 different categories, in the spectacular Acquario Romano in the centre of the Italian capital.

Founded by pioneering Italian investors in the 1970s, the Maldivian tourism industry now sees

1.2 million visitors arrive each year. Italy remains a strong market, with more than 65,000 Italian tourists representing 5.3 percent of the total.

After Italian visitors increased by 13 percent in 2015, Italian hotel chain Baglioni Hotels recently revealed plans to launch its first Maldives resort in early 2017, on the island of Maagau in Dhaalu atoll.

The Maldives was also the recipient of the best Indian Ocean beach destination at this year’s World Travel Awards, leaving it in the running to be named the world’s best beach locale at the global awards to be held in Maldives this December.

Arena Lodge Maldives

For travelers who want to take in the sights and sounds of the Maldives, Arena Lodge Maldives is the perfect choice. The excitement of the city center is only 17 km away. Visitors to the hotel can take pleasure in touring the city’s top attractions: Cocoa Thila Dive Site, Guraidhoo Kandu South, Last Stops.

At Arena Lodge Maldives, every effort is made to make guests feel comfortable. To do so, the hotel provides the best in services and amenities. A selection of top-class facilities such as free Wi-Fi in all rooms, 24-hour room service, room service, airport transfer, babysitting can be enjoyed at the hotel.

In addition, all guestrooms feature a variety of comforts. Many rooms even provide internet access – wireless, internet access – wireless (complimentary), non smoking rooms, air conditioning, wake-up service to please the most discerning guest. Throughout the day you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the water sports (motorized), water sports (non-motorized). Whatever your purpose of visit, Arena Lodge Maldives is an excellent choice for your stay in the Maldives.

MATATO Maldives Travel Awards 2016

Maldives Travel Awards by the Maldives Association of Travel Agents & Tour Operators (MATATO) will be organized and hosted by Think Advertising, on 22 May 2016 at Hotel Jen Malé Maldives

The (MATATO) Maldives Travel Awards is a recognized label initiated with the idea of MATATO providing the tourism sector of Maldives with recognition for their facilities and service excellence provided to guests.

Awards are presented to nominees in different categories on various sector and standard basis. The Maldives Travel Awards aim to encourage & raise service standards within the Maldivian Tourism industry.

Award Categories:

Resorts

LEADING LOCAL HOTEL/RESORT BRAND
LEADING FAMILY RESORT
LEADING LUXURY RESORT
LEADING ALL INCLUSIVE RESORT
MOST ROMANTIC RESORT
LEADING F&B RESORT
LEADING SURF RESORT
LEADING DESIGNER RESORT
LEADING DIVE RESORT
LEADING BEACH RESORT
LEADING ACTIVITY / WATER SPORTS CENTRE

Travel / Technology

LEADING MARKETING PROGRAMME
LEADING CSR PROGRAMME

Hotels

LEADING TOURIST GUESTHOUSE ISLAND
LEADING BUSINESS HOTEL

Wellness / Spa

LEADING WELLNESS & SPA RESORT
LEADING WELLNESS & SPA BRAND / CHAIN

Liveaboards

LEADING LIVEABOARD BRAND
LEADING LIVEABOARD

Aviation / Transport

LEADING DOMESTIC TRANSPORT PROVIDER
LEADING DOMESTIC AIRLINE

Dive Centers

LEADING DIVE SCHOOL / CENTER

Costa neoClassica to cruise into the Maldives this December

The new and exclusive two-week itinerary of Costa neoClassica to discover the colors of India and the beaches of the Maldives, for a unique and intense experience of culture and relaxation.

Departures from December 15, 2016 to March 10, 2017 with flights to Malé and Mumbai, and the possibility of dividing the cruise into two distinct 7-day segments.

Costa Cruises sets its sights on the Indian Ocean, announcing the arrival, in the 2016-2017 winter season, of a totally new itinerary in the array of cruises and package tours involving this destination. From December 15, 2016 to March 10, 2017, Costa neoClassica will depart from Malé or Mumbai—easily reached via flights —on an exclusive two-week journey in the Indian Ocean, around the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and India.

Created for all those travelers who prefer exotic and fascinating destinations and who seek new worlds and cultures, the “Colors of India, between Yin and Yang” itinerary will provide a unique and intense experience to those who wish to rediscover a closeness with nature and with the spirituality of ancient and different cultures, in the comfort and security of a cruise. Not just an escape from winter towards warm and sunny beaches, but an authentic cultural experience.

The cruise offered on board Costa neoClassica includes leisurely stops and overnight stays in order to allow our guests to enjoy a complete and intense experience, with the possibility of more than one excursion in the same location. It is the perfect cruise for discovering the fascinating contrasts of faraway destinations, beautiful beaches, and unchecked nature in a land that is a crossroads of religions and spirituality.

The itinerary starts out in the Maldives, where the ship will remain for two days at Malé, among the white atolls, shimmering beaches and blue waters of the coral reef. From Malé, thanks to Costa excursions, guests will be able to sail to Paradise Island Resort, an island wholly dedicated to well-being, beauty and relaxation.

Dolphin Pool, Paradise Island Resort & Spa
Dolphin Pool, Paradise Island Resort & Spa

The next stop will be Sri Lanka, the island nation also known as Ceylon. Guests will go ashore at Colombo, where they will visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, one of the best-known attractions of the island: a 25-hectare park that the government of Sri Lanka has set aside for the care of elephants abandoned in the forest, of which there are more than 60 today.

From Colombo we head to India, with its thousand-year-old culture and its intense colors. The first stop in India will be Goa, known worldwide for its spectacular beaches and for its Portuguese colonial architecture. This territory, which is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of Indian and foreign tourists, is considered one of the 21 hotspots of biodiversity in the world. Guests will be able to choose a number of excursions, including a tour of the old city and of the capital, Panjim, and a visit to the Basilica de Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Costa neoClassica will then head for Mumbai, where it will stop for two whole days in order that its guests might fully savor the distinctive contrasts of the city. This fascinating and chaotic metropolis, capital of the state of Maharashtra, has the highest population of all of India’s cities: here Costa guests will be able to admire the main attractions, including the Banganga Tank, an immense basin fed by the underwater river Bhogwati, where the faithful go to pray.

Heading back down the Indian coast, the journey will continue to New Mangalore before arriving at Cochin, in the federal state of Kerala, one of the main maritime ports in the country, where the ship will stop for two whole days. Among the possible excursions to choose from are a visit by tuk-tuk to the village of Kumbalangi and a houseboat ride in the Kerala Backwaters, in amongst the tropical canals of the Cochin hinterland, an incredibly vast system of lagoons rich in mangrove swamps and rainforests. Costa neoClassica will then return to Malé, ending the itinerary back at the Maldives, where our guests will be able to catch their flights back to Italy.

Once again, Costa Cruises confirms its ability to create exclusive itineraries in order to satisfy the needs of its guests, who will also have the choice of dividing the cruise in two separate weeklong segments. The complete itinerary offers the additional option of embarking at Mumbai, with all the same calls.

Himmafushi Breaks at Kanbili

Just outside Himmafushi’s Kanbili Guest House live an odd couple – one with a name befitting royalty, the other…not.

They can be found just yards from the from the netted joali chairs outside the reception area, past a white beach-ful of tall palm trees, which all lean forward to get a better look at their popular neighbours.

Kanbili GH. Photo Credit: Aishath Naj
Kanbili GH. Photo Credit: Aishath Naj

One is called Sultans, the other Honky’s, the sibling surf breaks that make Himmafushi one of the best places to ride the waves on the Maldives’ prolific whitewater reefs.

Following the advent of surf tourism in the archipelago a quarter of a century ago, both waves and foreign visitors travel thousands of miles to meet at the tip of Thamburudhoo island, before going their separate ways with the famous swells.

Surfer near Thamburudhoo. Photo Credit: Aishath Naj
Surfer near Thamburudhoo island. Photo Credit: Aishath Naj

Himmafushi – sitting less than a kilometre across the channel – was home to another of the Maldives’ most famous imports, Tony Hussein Hinde, the shipwrecked Australian who brought modern surfing to the country in the 1970s.

Describing the local breaks – which include the nearby ‘Pasta Point’ and Himmafushi’s own ‘Jails’ – as “like every surfing fantasy I’d ever imagined”, Hinde realised that his “sacred mission” to find the perfect paradise wave had ended.

But the island of Himmafushi, lying just an hour north of the capital by ferry (20 minutes by speed boat), is perfect for those looking for a sample of all the Maldives has to offer.  With a local community of around 1,800 people, the island has its own fish processing plant, with the impressive haul brought in each day a reminder of the strong economic currents that move beyond the surf.

Far from the harsh realities of island life initially encountered by Himmafushi’s surf pioneer, however, today’s visitors can enjoy the beauty of life on the sand and in the ocean, with all the modern comforts.

Residents at Kanbili – one of the first establishments on the island to ride the recent wave of guest house tourism – can enjoy the fabled breaks of North Malé atoll in the days, while relaxing in cool and spacious rooms (big enough to swing a surfboard in) during the evenings.

Traditional staples of island life are available to guests, with mantas, turtles and sharks every bit as common a neighbourhood sight as the surfers. Fishing trips – day or night –  are readily available, while the ingredients for beach barbecues can be plucked on demand from the ocean garden in front.

Additional extras, such as the a sun terrace – complete with jacuzzi – are welcome accompaniments after a day exploring the busy atoll.

Kanbili GH guest house. Photo Credit Aishath Naj
Kanbili GH. Photo Credit: Aishath Naj

For those who feel greater affinity with Sultans than its partner, discounted day-trips to local resorts are available, where they will meet fellow travellers paying a premium to visit the waves outside Kanbili’s windows. The nearby Four Seasons resort will host its sixth international surf championship on the Sultans break this August.

While Kanbili – with its own launch – can offer some of the cheapest airport transfers available, inexpensive local ferries leave for the capital once a day, offering the chance to add an urban adventure to the island experience.

Special for the surf, but excellent for everything, Himmafushi is ideally placed to allow visitors to enjoy all the atoll has to offer, while the Kanbili Guest House is well-positioned for the perfect break.

Kanbili GH

Kanbili GH is located on the island of Himmafushi in North Malé Atoll, 15km away from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. The property provides transfers from the airport by boat, which takes approximately 20 minutes. Free WiFi is available in public areas. Complimentary transport to the bikini beach is provided. Each room here will provide you with air conditioning, a balcony and a terrace. Private bathroom comes with a shower. You can enjoy sea view from the room. Extras include a minibar and cable channels. At Kanbili you will find a shared lounge and spa bath. An array of activities can be enjoyed on site or in the surroundings, including diving, windsurfing and snorkelling. The Male City is a 45 minute ferry ride away.

Soneva reveals details of its newest resort — Soneva Jani

24 water villas and 1 island villa to open in October 2016 in the Maldives
All villas feature a retractable roof for stargazing
The resort is set in a 5.6km private lagoon

Soneva, the world-leading luxury resort operator, has revealed details of its newest resort, Soneva Jani, opening in October 2016 in the Maldives. The brand’s newest luxury resort offering will comprise 24 water villas and one island villa, with additional island villas planned at a later stage.

Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The highlight of the resort is its location within a 5.6 kilometer lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. The main island is fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery.

Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani

Every water villa has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze. Like all other Soneva properties, the spacious villas feature beautifully designed interiors by Eva Shivdasani, one of Soneva’s co-founders, and are made from the highest quality sustainable materials.

“When we opened Soneva Gili more than 15 years ago, it stood out as a unique and new concept in luxury travel.  It is my belief that Soneva Jani is even more revolutionary.  There are many small details and improvements, for example at Soneva Gili, guests would often sleep on the top deck so that they could sleep under the stars. In each Soneva Jani Water Retreat or Reserve the master bedroom roof slides back at the press of a button. It closes automatically if it rains,” said Sonu Shivdasani, founder and CEO of Soneva.

Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani

“We live in an ever more crowded and developed world. Soneva Jani is one of the lowest density resorts in the world. Just 25 Villas are built in an area that stretches nearly five kilometers. It is not an island resort.  It is a lagoon with five private islands where only one of these will have development. When designing and building Soneva Jani, I was very mindful that when we open, the area should seem as natural and beautiful as the first day I laid eyes on it,” he added. “Soneva Jani is one of the most anticipated hotel openings in the Indian Ocean this year. We have already witnessed a huge amount of interest, with the first few weeks fully booked within a few days of opening the booking system to the global travel trade.”

Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani will include all of Soneva’s popular features including a Spa, a dive centre, an observatory, a children’s den, an Eco Centro, organic gardens and an outdoor Cinema Paradiso. The cinema will be the first ‘silent cinema’ in the Maldives, as guests will be given Bluetooth earphones to watch movies so as not to disturb the nesting wildlife in the area.

The resort will serve global cuisine at five dining outlets, and will feature Soneva’s ubiquitous cheese, chocolate, ice-cream and charcuterie rooms that are complimentary for all guests. Various destination and specialty dining experiences will also be available.

Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani

“Soneva Jani is a place of incredible natural beauty. The waters in the lagoon have the most vibrant shades of blue that I have not seen anywhere else in the Maldives. We have an extensive array of marine life, including turtles, rays and occasionally dolphins, and the lagoon is an excellent place for kayaking, sailing and swimming as it is calm, shallow and extends for miles and miles. The villas are stunning and include all the attention to detail that Soneva is renowned for. Construction is progressing quickly and we are on track for an opening in October 2016,” said Olivia Richli, the Pre-Opening and General Manager of Soneva Jani.

Soneva Jani includes 18 units of one-bedroom Water Retreats, four units of two-bedroom Water Retreats, one three-bedroom Water Retreat, 1 three-bedroom Water Reserve, and one four-bedroom Island Reserve.

Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani

In constructing the resort, Soneva kept its environmental impact as low as possible. The pools use seawater with UV filtration and the villas have been built over the sandy floors of the lagoon, with no damage to any part of the reef. Furthermore, solar PV will be a significant source of power generation at the resort, all waste-water will be collected and treated on-site, and water will also be produced on-site, including drinking water. Soneva’s Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth centre will ensure that waste is recycled, while the extensive vegetable garden will give local produce for the restaurants based on organic principles.

The resort’s soft opening is planned for October 01, 2016, while the official opening date is fixed at November 05, 2016. Bookings are now available from October 01, 2016 onwards.

Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani

In addition to Soneva Jani, Soneva owns and operates Soneva Fushi in the Maldives and Soneva Kiri in Thailand. Soneva in Aqua, an ultra luxurious yacht offering an experiential travel experience, was launched in the Maldives in 2015 and sails out of Soneva Fushi. For more information about Soneva visit www.soneva.com

Maldives holds roadshows in India

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), has started a 4-city roadshow – Lucknow, Chandigarh, Pune, and Hyderabad till the 20th of this month. These roadshows are a part of initiatives by MMPRC to promote Maldives tourism and are a follow-up to the Roadshows held in 2015 in the cities of India: New Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai which were met with tremendous success.

Organized by the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC), 5 representative partners from the tourism industry of Maldives: Dusit Thani, Sun Siyam Resorts, Adaaran Resorts, Lily Beach Resort and Spa and Travelers Street is also participating at the Roadshow.

A lucky draw, sponsored by Sun Siyam Resorts and Dusit Thani, is being held at every road show where the winner gets a free vacation in the Maldives.

India is the sixth biggest market for the Maldivian tourism. In the first quarter of 2016, 14,171 tourists visited the Maldives from India. From January to December 2015, 52,368 Indians visited Maldives which is an increase of 14.9% compared to the year 2014.

In recent years, Maldives has become a popular travel destination with Indians. It has emerged as vacation favourite for Indian celebrities like Bipasha Basu, Karan Singh Grover, Abhishek Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Sanam Puri to name a few who regularly visits, while number of Bollywood film makers regularly shoot in the Maldives such as.

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Maldives offers free 30-day visa on-arrival for all nationalities.