Live from Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

My friend Moira is at the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi. Follow her live blog here!

Arrival day

So we have arrived! Pretty tired but first impressions are good:-) quick update and will write more tomorrow.

Domestic transfer was very straightforward – we landed at 9.45am, collected our bags and were met then taken to check in for the flight which left at 10.55. Quicker than we have waited for a seaplane on occasion! We then had a 15 minute speedboat journey to JD and were the only two on the boat which was great. Arrival involved drums, lots of handshaking with the GM and others and a fresh coconut to drink from and fruit skewers. Oh and we got a necklace made of a palm leaf in the shape of the Maldives star?? Basically some very cool origami with a palm leaf:-)

We were then taken to our Ocean Pearl water villa. As most will know these are reached by boat as no jetty to them and set on their own with a restaurant and bar. The water villa is sunset facing and HUGE! Even bigger than it looks in photos and so light and airy with amazing ocean views from everywhere! The views from the shower looking out over the water are amazing.

Has a very quick walk around the main island! Beach is lovely on two sides but very rocky with a couple of groynes on the third. Would not be happy if I had a beach villa on that side but then again the villas are all so big with pools some folks won’t mind and it does make them very private on that side!

We have just watched the sunset and are off to Johara for an early dinner then an early night! Johara is the Asian restaurant on the water villa island!

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Day 1/ 2

Good long sleep in our crazily huge bed – it really is 7 feet long and 8 feet wide and very comfortable. They have cool touches here that I have not seen anywhere else including under bedside cabinet lights that come on when you get out of bed to go to the loo in the night – feet movement activated! Also, a pet hate of mine in hotel rooms is the bright light from telephone screens and here they have a little cloth “flap” that sits over the screen at night that is velcroed to the back of the phone so you can flip it up if you do want to make a call in the night! It’s the little things…

Dinner last night was in Johara which is over water. It is an Asian restaurant and we were really very impressed with the food. I has crab Californian rolls then beef in black bean sauce and Mike had prawn and chicken dumplings then blackened cod. We had rice with both main courses and Mike mentioned to waiter he would have noodles next time. The waiter asked what his favourite noodles were and he said Singapore noodles. We thought nothing of it until the waiter came back with a bowl of Singapore noodles for him as the chef comes from Singapore and had made him some to try. Mike says they were the best he has had. The food was very very good and the service excellent. We are on half board and could have had pudding too. If we were both too full! There were a few dishes on the menu that had supplements (lobster and kobo beef) but that is to be expected and there was plenty of choice of other non supplement dishes.

Breakfast – you can have breakfast either on the water villa area (the overwater complex is called Ocean Pearl) or on the main island. We decided overwater for our first day which is a la carte (main island is buffet and a la carte). You choose from the menu and they bring you a stand with cut fresh fruit and pastries – plenty and you can ask for more which Mike did as he likes two croissants and two pain au chocolates! He had an omelette and I had Dhevanafushi eggs Benedict which was with king crab instead of ham. Both were very good. The waiter told us that we can just ask for anything we want if we cannot see it on the menu. They really want to make you as happy as possible here:-)

Butler – we have a lovely guy called Yassir who is very charming and quirky efficient. We mentioned at breakfast that we drink lots of water and could we have an extra couple of bottles in the room ( you get 4 large as standard) and we came back after breakfast to find a large cool box full of ice and 12 smaller bottles of water!!! We will be going to the loo constantly if we drink all them!

Water Villa – as mentioned yeastersay it really is big. Lounge is lovely and I am sat in the lounge now in the window seat which is surrounded by glass and looking out onto the dead calm sea. There are windows and glass doors and same in bedroom. There is dressing room area with two double wardrobes – plenty of hanging space. A large safe and a vanity unit/ dressing table with huge makeup mirror and seat which I love. Bathroom is big with a walk in shower area surrounded by windows and looks out onto the water. The shower area is very big (rectangular shaped) and has a full length free standing mirror at one end! Makes for interesting showering:-) The loo (toilet) is in a separate room and we have a “guest” loo off the main entrance too!

Decking – there is a free standing circular bath on the upper deck with two long day beds in the shade then you step down a level and there are two sun loungers then the pool which is an infinity one and 1.5 metres deep. I can swim 8 strokes from one end to the other and because it juts out from the deck you can just lean on the edge and watch fish swim by from it.

Sea – so far we have just a quick couple of snorkels from our villa. Very good fish so far and this is not even the best area as main house reefs run between Ocean Pearls and the main island and around the main island. Coral we have seen so far is alive and so far not seen any bleached areas. We saw two turtles, a shark and a very large wrasse on this morning’s snorkel. However the highlight for me so far (and one of the best things I have seen in the Maldives) was the fish hunting frenzy this morning we saw from our deck. The sea is dead calm this morning – hardly even a ripple and we have seen so much from above the water. Lots of big pipe (needle) fish, so many parrot, lots of fusiliers and a turtle swim by and stuck its head out:-) But the fish hunting frenzy was AMAZING! About 40/50 jacks zipping back and forth with all he sardines (?) and other little fish leaping out of the water. Now we have of course seen this before and it was going on from a distance all morning here but never so many hunters and so many hunted leaping out of the water and right in front of our deck!! Mike also saw something I missed – a sail fish leaping right out of the water. We are very close to the drop off / deep water here so guess it is bringing big stuff in.

Getting from Ocean Pearl to main island. It is about 850 metres and a boat runs vbacj and forth every 20 mins (or basically when you need it) and we don’t find it an issue at all. We actually like it as it feels pretty special to be out here on the ocean. There is covered seating by both boat jetties and lots of fish to watch in the water.

Right, we are off to the bar now for late lunchtime beer. Sunday night is lobster and champagne dinner on the beach so naturally we felt it would be rude not to go….

deck

Day 2 evening/ Day 3

As mentioned dinner last night was the weekly Lobster & Champagne Dinner on Mumayaz Beach (a wide expanse of sand on the east side of the island) As it was full moon last night this made it even more special as at one point they extinguished the flames on the beach and we just ate by moonlight and a few candles – very atmospheric. It was a six course menu with a bottle of champagne and if you wanted more champagne there was a 40% discount. Food was excellent and menu was a crab cigar (spring roll!), tuna tartare, bouillabaisse, a whole lobster each with rice and a choice of sauces and a really great chocolate pudding. The pastry chef here is really good and is French – the breakfast pastries and puddings are some of the best we have had in the Maldives.

Breakfast this morning was again in the overwater restaurant but tomorrow we will go the beach island and have breakfast there for a change. We had lunch today at Azara today (on the beach island) and it was so nice sitting under the palms with our feet in the sand and only a few feet from the shore where we could watch baby sharks. Azara has in indoor area too which I think gets used for more dinner but the outdoor area is really pretty and is where we will have breakfast tomorrow.

We snorkelled all the way around the water villa island this afternoon and got a good look at the coral. It is mostly alive and well and we saw no white bleached coral at all and only a couple of dead areas but only about 5% of what we saw was dead. There are lots of colourful fans and soft coral. Fish life is excellent and everything is bigger than we have seen elsewhere – huge parrots and batfish (I didn’t know batfish could get so big) and we saw another big turtle and a couple of big barracuda. There are large jack fish everywhere. We only saw one shark today but evidently we will see plenty at the main house reef which we plan to snorkel tomorrow not that my Easy Breathe mask has arrived in the missing suitcase as I have just been using a borrowed one from the dive shop. We have also seen several turtles from our deck in the deep water sticking their heads out of the water which is very cool – glad we brought our binoculars!

A few more observations below now that we have had time to absorb.

Guests – 50% Asian and 50% Western. Not many matchy matches except for a very cute couple with a little girl of 4 who all match. Mum and girl have matching dresses and Dad’s shorts always match.

Villa locations – we asked for water villa 34 (or 33/35 as next choices – as there are only 8 sunset water villas this was not a big ask) and we got it. It has a perfect view of the sunset directly in front of us. We get the sun on the deck from 10 am until sunset. It is great having two options of where to sunbathe – either the sunbeds on the upper deck with the infinity pool in front of us or on the lower deck where we have a huge couple’s day bed and the steps into the water. The villa is totally private and if you are on the upper deck and passing snorkeller would not even see you. I love our pool – definitely the best we have so far in the Maldives in a water villa – I loved Kihavah’s water villa pool too but prefer this as I can be at the edge and watch the fish below.

We will check out the beach villa locations another day and report back but anything on the west or east side would be fine but not the north east side which has the rocky area and the two not so pretty groynes (island only has 3 sides).

Kihahava and Huvafen are prettier islands than Dhevanafushi (don’t get me wrong it is lovely here too but I would say the beach island here is more rugged and sand not as soft as Huvafen (but then it is surrounded by a close to the shore reef) or as manicured perfect as Kihavah and the water villas, whilst stunning inside, are not as aesthetically pleasing from the jetty outside. However, this is just an observation and not a criticism

Food – without a doubt, even in a couple of days, it is clear the food is really good here. Much better than anywhere else we have eaten. We are looking forward to dinner in Azara tonight on the beach island (where we had a snack lunch today).

Weather – I don’t know if it is beacuase we are so far south but the weather has been really good. Clear blue skies with hardly a cloud and not a drop of rain overnight. Sea is calm and whilst today had a slight breeze it stayed calm.

Day 3/4

Had dinner on the beach island last night in Azara. On the boat to the beach island we had a wonderful encounter with about 20 dolphins just swimming around the boat – the boat boy stopped the boat and let us watch then for a few minutes. With the sun setting and dolphins around us both of us got quite emotional! According the boat boys this is regular occurrence on the few minutes boat journey between the beach and water villa island. Typically we didn’t have our camera with us but will keep it with us now just in case we get to see them again.

Dinner was very good again and we met and chatted to the F&B manager, Isabelle (from Spain) who said anything we wanted we just had to ask and if we wanted anything special to give her a days notice. She is going to arrange an Indian meal for us one night as my husband loved his chicken tikka masala last night and she said they have two chefs from India. The menu in Azara is extensive with Meditteranian options, grills and some Asian dishes but as Isabelle said you can pretty much have whatever you want.

We still have not made it to the beach island for breakfast as today we again went to Johara overwater and enjoyed another great feast for breakfast. I had traditional eggs benedict and Mike had another omelette and then he ate so many pastries I don’t know how he got off his chair but he says they are soo good he cannot stop! We then went to the beach island for a walk – it was low tide so we could walk all the way around. We had a nosey at a couple of empty beach villas which look just as spectacular as the water villa ones. From a quick recce we think beach villa 4,5 and 6 are the best located but I will do some more exploring another day.

A couple of things to mention –

The beach towels here are the biggest we have ever seen and they give us 8 a day! Four on our loungers and four spare just to have…

Mini bar – they only have “fancy” chocolate (according to Mike) so no Mars bars, Kit-kats or Bountys to tempt us like we had at Kihahva, A good thing I think but some may disagree like Mike.

According to the GM they don’t get many British here – lots of Germans, French and Scandivians but not Brits for some reason.

Weather – we think this is the best we have ever had. Still blue skies and sunshine, no wind (just light breezes) and still not a drop of rain.

Here are some photos of the main island and lots of our water villa. Underwater ones to follow in a day or so as Mike is the underwater photographer but is having a break from snorkelling today after getting a little burnt yesterday after 4 hours in total snorkelling….

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Day 4 evening

So I have been a little tardy with my blog – mainly because we are now in fully chilled Maldives mood and have been too busy enjoying the island and nature:-)

Evening of day 4 was the weekly managers cocktail party which we always like to go to and check out the other guests. The cocktails and canapés are of course an attraction too! People actually didn’t mingle as much as we have seen at other resorts but we had a good chat with Isabelle the F&B Manager again. On offer were a champagne cocktail, a gin cocktail or wines or beers and plenty of tasty canapés. We then had the weekly Seafood BBQ at Azara restaurant on the beach which was really good again. I know I am being repetitive but the food really is excellent here! There was a huge array of starters including baby lobsters, sushi, sashimi, tuna and salmon tartare, grilled prawns and crabs with some meat and vegetarian options and lots of salads. Main course you chose your fish, shellfish or meat to be grilled then helped yourself to rice, noodles, potatoes, veg or salad. I had steak and crab and Mike had tuna steak, crab and lobster. There was then an extensive pudding buffet – I am going to have to go running more then 3 times a week when I get home!

As in most islands where you are on HB there is a supplement for these special weekly dinners which I do feel it is a little more excessive here than other places we have been like Kihavah or Huvafen Fushi but I guess we are that much further away from Male and at least the food and service is very good!

pool

Day 5

We woke up to find it had rained and been stormy overnight AND it was still raining at 8am……shock horror, this has only happened once before to us in March a few years ago! It was very heavy rain and we had to do a dash to breakfast with an umbrella. One good thing about being on the water villa island is there is no wet sand to have to walk on when it rains and it was actually quite spectacular sitting on the edge of the water villa restaurant undercover and watching the rain come down. We went for a rainy snorkel after breakfast and it was fish soup with a couple of sharks, a turtle and one big eagle ray so that cheered us up, Then, fortunately, the rain cleared and we ended up with nice if a little overcast day then a fabulous sunset so all good in the world.

Spa – I had a massage at 5pm which was very good and the spa, whilst small, is beautifully done. My therapist was from Bali and maybe asking for a firm massage was not such a good idea as my back is a little tender today!! Whilst I was in the spa Mike went snorkelling on the main house reef and said it was AMAZING! More fish than he has ever seen and some really big stuff – parrots, wrasse, jacks, trevally and grouper bigger than he knew possible and a really big barracuda! He also saw a turtle which swam right up to him and hung around so he was able to film it. He was very happy!

For dinner, we ate in Johara (overwater restaurant) and I wont bore you by telling you how good the food was yet again…..

We then got back to our villa to find the bath on our decking had been run for us with lots of bubbles so we sat in that for 10 mins or so looking at the stars but the bubbles were all over the place so we got out and skinny dipped in the pool instead – isn’t that what they are for??:-)

Johara

Day 6

We finally made it to the beach island for breakfast today. It is another perfect day, millpond calm seas and wall to wall blue sky and sunshine. The 3 minute boat ride to the beach island was great as we it was so calm and sea so clear we could see loads of fish below us including a couple of eagle rays. We then saw, whilst walking down the boat jetty, a really big octopus in really shallow water – so stunning to sea from the deck. Mike got some good shots of it so I will upload those soon with others to Flickr.

Breakfast on the main island was good – same choice as the water villa restaurant but the difference is some of it is laid out in a small buffet (pastries, cereals etc) whereas everything is a la carte and brought to your table overwater. The tables on the beach are right at the waters edge and shaded by tall palm trees so it was great to have breakfast whilst spotting baby reef sharks just metres from us. We enjoyed our trip for breakfast but will probably mainly stick to overwater as we prefer the views from there in the morning – it is lovely looking back at the beach island across the many colours of blue water.

Rest of the morning has been spent between sun decks and our pool to cool down as it is so hot. We also went for a quick snorkel, so many tiny fish today it was just spectacular, one shark and two fighting octopi which Mike captured on his GoPro:-)

Time to go and lay in the sun again for while….

octopus

Day 6 evening

Went for another snorkel late afternoon and as well as fish soup, two turtles and a shark we saw two really huge barracuda. Mike is 6 foot 4 and they were as long as him – must admit I got a fright and was relieved when they swam past us but Mike was happy!

We went to the beach island for early cocktails as Mike wanted to do a sunset time lapse with his GoPro and wanted to start it 45 mins before actual sunset .It was a really stunning sunset and the rum and banana cocktails went down a treat! We them moved to Azara for dinner and sat on a table only a few feet from the shore. After the reds and purples of after sunset had gone we were then treated to an amazing night sky with more stars than I have ever seen on show – just breathtaking. After another lovely dinner we went back to our villa and lay on the deck using the star app on my phone to identify stars we didn’t know.

Day 7

Once again we woke to a cloudless blue sky, sunshine and calm seas (the sea has been so calm every day – never seen it so consistently like this) and headed to breakfasts. I decided to try one of their healthy options and had crushed avocado on wholemeal toasted bread with cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds – it was really tasty so I will definitely be having that again and I didn’t feel so bad when I followed it by a cinnamon brioche:-) Morning was spent in the usual fashion – sunbathing, reading and in and out of the pool to cool down. Mid morning snorkel was just a quick one as I got a little red on my lower back yesterday (despite snorkelling with factor 50 on!) so didn’t want to stay in too long. Saw the usual suspects and a shoal of large parrots as well as some really big jacks hunting all the tiny fish. Mike is going to snorkel the reef between the water villa island and the beach island this afternoon – it is about 900 metres and evidently only a few guests have ever done it. Our butler, Yasir, is going to go with him as his snorkelling buddy and from what we have been told he should see some decent sized sharks and turtles – I will report back.

Some more observations:-

Guests – still around 50% or slightly more guests are Asian. There are now two other British couples – both a little older than us (we are both 49 – but clearly look a lot younger:-)) and an Australian couple and a few French, German and Italian couples. A very glamorous Russian family arrived last night (evidently they flew in by private jet to Gan). She is very striking and was dressed in some designer flowing dress last night – Mike couldn’t take his eyes of her but said it was because he liked her dress (!!!). They are staying in the two bed Ocean Sanctuary just up from our villa and the kids are around 8 and 6 which is surprising unless their Easter holidays start very early.

Children – apart from the two new Russian ones mentioned above we have only seen a couple of others, one wee Chinese girl (4) and boy (2) from the same family who were very well behaved, polite and charming always saying hello to us. There was also an 8 month year old baby (seems a long remote way to bring such a young baby) with its French Mum and ether sister or partner but I think they have gone now. There is no kids club or facilities and we have been told they only ever have a couple of kids at the most here.

Beach villas – they are so private and even though some do have views of the sea it is not possible to take a closer look without intruding. But as mentioned number 4 up to 7 are the best location and as Azurelagoon mentioned 7, which is a two bedroomed one, is in the optimum location.

Water villas – all sunset ones are in a good location but I would avoid 38 as too close to the restaurant/pool and also 32 as next to an ugly “white box” spa room (which is currently not being used and in our opinion should either be taken down/demolished or screened with bamboo as they have done in other areas) which can be seen from the water villa pool and is an eyesore. We are in villa 34 and I think it a long with 33 and 35 are the best placed sunset ones with a perfect sunset view. All decks are 100% private if you are on your upper deck and from the lower deck only a passing snorkeler would see you. On the sunrise side I would avoid 23 as it is right next to where the boat between islands comes in and from the boat you can see the deck, pool, lounge and bathroom windows from the boat. It would also be noisy. I would also not be keen on 24 & 25 as although not as easy to be seen from the boat they are still not as private as 26 upwards. In our opinions the sunset side is the best side overall for privacy and views.

Comparison with our current favourite resorts – as mentioned in a reply to AussieAnge JD is without a doubt now in our top three but we will take the rest of our holiday (still 8 nights/7 days left!) to decide where in relation to Kihavah and Hufafen Fushi. However, it is very unique and has a real charm compared to anywhere else we have stayed and the snorkelling is, as my American boss would say, AWESOME!

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Day 7 evening

Friday was Maldivian Evening. Now we have been to a few of these in our many stays in the Maldives but often they are just Maldivian food with the waiters dressed in Maldivian sarongs. Well this one was simply the best and most spectacular we have been to. Firstly it was a beautiful evening anyway – lovely sunset and a sky filled with stars. The dinner tool place on Mumyaz beach and the tables were all along the waters edge with only flames and candles lighting the area and the buffet/grill set back under the palm trees. The food as has been the case every evening here was excellent – a large buffet with Maldivian and some more generic Asian starters and salads. The Maldives spicy salads and “small eats” (small finger food of tuna balls, spicy tuna samosa style bites and vegetable balls) were all really good. You could then choose from several Maldives curry dishes including a lovely yellow curry fish one, grilled whole fish in spices and then there were also fresh fish, shellfish and meats you could have grilled to order with fresh sauces or spices. Pudding was another buffet with several authentic Maldivian choices as well as some lovely chocolatey options. But what made the evening really special was that they had brought in a band from Gan who played the drums, sang and danced traditional Maldives dances. There were 16 in the band all wearing matching Maldivian outfits and they were really very good. They played for a bout 90 minutues in total with breaks and managed to get several guests up dancing with them. It was lovely to watch whilst enjoying dinner. Mike feigned a bad leg so he could get out dancing:-)

After dinner we took the boat back to our water villa and switched all the lights out on our deck and lay on our lower deck loungers and watched the night sky. Using my star app again we identified various stars and spotted many we had not seen before and could still see the international space station. Out of the 11 various located resorts we have stayed at in the Maldives JD’s location seems to be producing the best night skies – quite jaw dropping. We even saw a couple of tiny shooting stars. We both went to bed very happy.

 

beach tables

 

Day 8

After breakfast we spotted another octopus from the jetty whilst walking back to the villa. It is so cool to be able to watch them from above. We had a pretty lazy day just chilling on the deck, cooling in our pool, watching fish from the deck and the odd passing shark. This morning we also had about 30 squid hang around for an hour or so just in front of us. We also, daily, see turtles about 20 feet out from our deck just surfacing and hanging around for a couple of minutes before going back under. The views of marine life from above the water here is like nothing we have seen before.

Late afternoon we went to the beach island as I had a spa treatment booked – another lovely hour long back, neck and head massage. As is de rigour in the Maldives for overwater spas the treatment room all have glass floors to look through whilst being massaged and I was treated to many pipe (needle) fish passing – including some really huge fat long ones – and a trigger as well as various other passing small fish. On the way out of the spa I saw another large octopus swimming fast with its tentacles trailing – shame Mike missed this as he is octopus crazy-)

However, whilst I was in the spa he snorkelled the beach island house reef and when I met him afterwards at the pool bar he was very happy with his snorkel. Lots of fish soup and as it was after 5pm he said there was lots of big stuff out hunting – including very big jacks again. He also saw a couple of sharks (black tip) some more big barracuda and two turtles – one smallish and one very big – who both came close to him. He says the snorkelling for marine life is definitely better here than Kihavah in terms of size of fish and sharks but Kihavah still a good comparison in terms of quantity.

He did however say (and we have seen this a couple of times) that there were three Asian guests trampling/walking on coral in shallow areas which is so frustrating to see. He did try to signal them not too but they either didn’t understand or ignored him. They do have signs here dotted around (in Chinese and English) with snorkelling rules and the dive centre tell them but clearly they just don’t get it. Most are snorkelling in life jackets and full wet suits so likely they are not very good swimmers either which does not help. It really annoys us and I know the management get hacked off with it too.

Anyway, we sat at the bar for while for a drink – I have been having really lovely rum and fresh pureed banana cocktails and tonight they made me frozen version, yum, I had to have two! Then it was back to our villa where Mike did another sunset time lapse then we headed back to the beach island for dinner in Azara. We were both very tired so it was a quick dinner but when we got back to the villa we decided to watch the stars again and glad we did as we say quite possibly the most spectacular sight I have seen in the sky. A really big shooting star that even made a whooshing noise and at first I thought it was a firework as it had a trailing of sparling light after it. Just amazing and made both of us emotional!

loungers and pool

Day 9

Still only mid morning – another lovely calm sunny day – but wanted to report that we saw another octopus this morning on the way back from breakfast. Right below us from the jetty and we actually stood and watched it hunt/catch fish for a while and they way it does it by moving and changing itself was really cool to watch. It was quite large the fact the water was so calm and clear (and it was low tide) made it quite a show for us and a couple of Australians who watched with us. We now seen around 12 or so Octopi in just a few days and many from above the water.

So firstly, on the topic of Octopus, we reckon we have seen over 25 now both in and over water. We even have a “pet” octopus who lives just in front of water villa deck:-) We sat and watched him for about an hour yesterday morning – just mesmerising! He is still around this morning and we have worked out his territory having watched him and he never goes too far away! On marine life we also saw two big, beautiful eagle rays last night just under the water villa jetty – we have seen several but these were just below us in shallow water and really lovely. We also saw two really, really big fish yesterday in the shallows under the water villa jetty but we have not been able to identify them yet. Mike got a photo but has not downloaded from that camera yet so once he has I will add it to my Flickr album. But they were around a metre long, slim round fish but not as slim as barracuda, silver, forked tail and quite big flat eyes. The other fish kept a wide berth!

There are also lots and lots of turtles, sharks and barracuda here. We see turtles both snorkelling and often just popping up for air about 10 metres or so out in front of our water villa. Yesterday, we saw the biggest, scariest trigger fish we could imagine – I give it a very wide berth but Mike was happy to video it!

Sorry, we are not as diligent as Stu & Nicki with our photo/video upload. Mike has loads of GoPro video footage but he is just uploading it and going to sort it out when we get home. I will get what I can from his underwater camera and our overwater shots and stick that on Flickr but the majority will follow when we are home.

So after our morning octopus fun we settle down for another day in the sun – yet again, cloudless blue sky, calm water (it has been millpond calm pretty much every day here) and very hot. Late afternoon as it was so hot we went to the beach island for a swim in the main pool and a cocktail in the shade. We took our snorkelling stuff with us to for a quick swim on the main house reef which is really spectacular for sheer volume and size of fish. Straight away we saw a turtle and shark but after 5 mins we were swimming through thick plankton/jelly fish and it was everywhere and spoilt the visibility and was not very pleasant. Mike said the stuff was brushing against his face/lips but i was not so bad as I use an Easybreathe mask but it was not great so we got out. One of the dive staff explained what the other stuff was – we recognised jelly fish but the plankton was long very thin strands that looked like transparent worms with tiny black dots. This was the plankton and she said it should go in a day or so (which it did by mid morning the next day).

After that we got the boat back to the water villa island and just chilled on the deck watching the fish life below as and the usual 6pm fish hunting! Mike decided to do another sunset time lapse but from our water villa this time (JD is one hour ahead of Male so we get our sunset around 7.18pm) – the sunsets here are the best we have seen in the Maldives so far. No idea why – maybe being so close to the equator, who knows but they really are incredible. We then went to dinner in Johara and they had reserved us the table for two set into the pool – it has some steps down from the decking into a sunken round area with a table for two and you are surrounded by the twinkling lights set in the pool. Very romantic and when we arrived the sky was still a lovely shade of red and purple from the sunset. We both had sushi/sashimi to start and then Mike had huge prawns stir fried in spicy hoi sin sauce and Singapore noodles (again) , I didn’t choose so well as had a rice dish that was the first thing I had not liked at JD but that was poor choice rather than a poor dish. Luckily the chef had also given us some complimentary blackened cod pieces so I didn’t starve!!!

Another wonderful starry evening so we jumped in the pool when we got back to our villa and enjoyed the view for a while.

ocean pearl

 

Day 10

Watched our pet Octopus for a while when we got up – I woke up and Mike was already siting on the edge of the deck watching him – then headed for breakfast. Apart from one day we have just stuck with breakfast at Johara on the water villa island. We are very happy there with the incredible views back to the beach island and sitting at the waters edge watching the “action” below us. It is also much cooler there as you get a breeze and it is the first time in the Maldives we have been able to sit outside for breakfast without feeling too hot and sweaty!!! We now have a feast for breakfast every morning! Each time we mention we like something it gets added to our spread of food – it is getting embarrassing and they bring so much we have had to ask them to scale back a bit as we feel guilty about waste! We get their usual cut fruit platter but extra mango, bananas and papaya because we mentioned they were our favourites. We get extra bacon for Mike, extra croissants and pain au chocolates for him. And I mentioned I like the cinnamon brioche and now that gets added to our already huge platter of pastries, donuts etc…..They keep bringing us new stuff to try too so we roll back from breakfast and very rarely need lunch!

Despite all the above we did pop to the main island for a beer and some sashimi at lunch today just to escape the heat as it was really hot today with no breeze so sitting under the palm trees on the beach with a beer was a welcome respite. Quick swim in the main pool then back to the privacy and fish watching of our villa deck. Afternoon snorkel was as good us ever – if anything there were even more fish than before and they were literally everywhere of all sizes, types and colours and it really does literally take my breath away each time. A very large reef shark kept appearing near us and was not bothered by us at all – no turtle spotted this time but usual big barracuda and (sure I have mentioned this before) so, so, so many huge parrot fish here. I just love them especially the huge blue ones:-) Saw our pet octopus on the way back to our villa now we know where to look for him and also saw another one half way through our snorkel.

Dinner was back on the main island and was our special anniversary “sunken dig” dinner on the beach. We got there just in time to watch the sunset. The dig was lovely – basically a table and sofa dug out of the sand covered in cloths and with a proper cushioned sofa with reclining cushions. This was all surrounded by a hearts shape and candles and a couple of flame torches. They had, after asking us what we wanted, prepared an Indian menu for us with our favourite main course of Chicken Dansak. The whole meal from start to finish was incredible and way exceeded our expectations. They have some chefs from the India and the sous chef who had prepared the menu came out to check we were happy which clearly we were. A lovely evening and when we got back to the villa we had a lovely towel art display on the bed as well as a chocolate cake left out for us, and the bath on the deck run and filled with bubbles and flower petals. All really lovely although it does take a while to remove all the petals and art work from the bed……first world problems!

Beach villa locations – we finally did a proper recce on the beach villas and below are what we think are the best located villas avoiding the rocky/groynes side of the island.

Generally villa numbers 1 – 9 and 16 to 20 are best located.

17 – 20 are the best beach revives but not sunset set but super beach and access to best part of the reef

1, 4,5 are the best Island revives with good beach and sunrise and 9 is the Island Sanctuary which is also well located, very private and sunset facing.

10 is near the service jetty but actually on a good stretch of beach and very private if you don’t mind the jetty which I think only gets a boat docking once every couple of days

11 – 15 are on the rocky side and access to the sea is very hard and beach very rocky – I would not be happy at all if I was given one of these villas.pool2

 

 

Day 11

Woke up to another perfect Maldivian day of calm sea, blue sky and sunshine. Although we did get a very sudden 3 minute torrential downpour out of the blue (literally!) around 11 am but by the time we had removed our towels from the various deck loungers it had stopped and the blue sky and sun was back!

Our “pet” octopus is still around just below our villa deck and he never moves to far away or if he does disappear he soon comes back. The marine biologist explained how we can spot their “houses” by the little stones/rocks they surround their hole with to mark their territory. As it was low tide and water was millpond calm and so clear, we spent quite a while watching it again and saw him catch a couple of fish to eat – so cool.

The rest of the day was spent either reading or snorkeling. At 6ish we headed over to the beach island for the weekly management cocktail party which was much busier and livelier than last week. There are a few more British couples around and some more Australians as well as a couple of Russians but the balance between Asian and Western guests is still heavily in favour of the former. Interestingly enough apart from the matchy matchy family who were here in our first week we have seen no more of this! However, the cultural difference is very evident at meal times where most guests are on their mobiles continually during meals – we have even seen tables of 4 or 6 where everyone is on a device of some sort and no conversation takes place. Mike and must look very old fashioned when at breakfast we get the hard copy of Britain Today newspaper and share it and chat about what is going on in the world.

On the subject of devices, I must mention drones! They do have a policy here that they cannot be used unless been flown between the water villa island and beach villa island only where they would only be over water. However, one Chinese couple decided that doing this at breakfast would be a good time (really?) so they set up their drone at the edge of the decking in the Johara overwater restaurant (pretty much next to our table and when there were about another 8 tables having breakfast) and decided to fly it around a bit (over the water only) but the buzzing from the drone was really annoying and they didn’t even say anything to anyone around them but just carried on. People were starting to get annoyed and the waiter was about to go and tell them to stop when luckily they stopped themselves! But they clearly had not concept of when would be appropriate to use it and didn’t seem to bat an eyelid at all the glares they were getting! Maybe the policy needs to add “not at meal times”……

After the cocktail party, and another fabulous sunset, we headed back to the water villa island for dinner. Another lovely Asian influenced dinner then an early night as we were both tired. Amazing how not doing much can tire you out!view out

 

Day 12

Yet another perfect day weather wise – in fact with no breeze at all today it was almost too hot so lots of dips in the pool or sea to cool us down. “Pet” octopus was not seen this morning so not sure where he has gone after having him there for the last 6 days or so – hope he comes back! We did see a huge barracuda leap out of the water this morning though during the morning hunting session with the water just filled with jacks and other hunters and tiny fish leaping everywhere. Spectacular sight.

As it was so hot we decided to head over to the beach island around 5pm to snorkel the main house reef. It was one of our best snorkels yet. Thick, thick fish soup and so many huge parrots, jacks, wrasse, bat fish, emperors, butterfly fish and many more. Also saw a few more large titan triggers and some big fat yellow pipe (trumpet) fish which I had not seen before, But the highlight this time was SHARKS! And so many of them. We have seen one or two each time we have snorkelled but we must have seen 8 or 9 of varying sizes black tipped sharks including one really large one – around 6 feet in length – that quite happily and lazily swam around us. Mike managed to film most so I think his highlights video this year is going to be very sharky:-)

After our snorkel we had a swim in the pool and a couple of cocktails enjoying the early evening cool down. There were a couple of models doing a photoshoot at the edge of the pool (evidently for some Russian magazine) and I suspect Mike was pretty happy watching that as well as the sunset!!!

We headed back to the water villa island for a quick turnaround and back to Azara for dinner. Food is still really great and the head chef (Italian) came out to check we were still happy with everything and to ask if we wanted anything else special done for us. So after a chat he is going to prepare a Thai menu for us on Thursday evening.

Some more observations/comments:-

Butler – here your butler pretty much does everything for you. I guess as there are only 37 villas over water and land it makes sense. So for example, it is our butler who does our minibar and places our turndown treats in our room and refills our coolbox with ice and copious amounts of bottles of water each day. He books our dinners, any trips, spa treatments did our check in and will do our check out. There is no reception area as such just two “libraries” – one overwater and one on the beach island and only the beach one has a member of staff manning it. And it is in the library where we will do our check out (check in was in the room) and where there are books, magazines and board games.

Watersports – we have not done any but as in many resorts the canoes, glass bottom canoes, paddleboards, sailing boats and windsurf boards are free (but if you need lessons they are charged for). They do have jet skis, seabobs and parasailing which are chargeable but, fortunately, we have only seen the jet skis used once and they were far out from the islands.

Boat between islands – we wondered if we might, after so long, find this tiresome but not at all. We genuinely like taking the boat back and forth (reminds us a little of Conrad Rangali where you do the same between islands). To be honest we are relaxed about the boat and just wander down to the jetty and most times it is either there or on its way and it not the longest we have to wait is around 10 mins which we don’t mind as we just watch the fish if day time and stars if night time. Saying that, I could see that some people may find it more of a nuisance but you can be more organised and check times or ask your butler to call it for you but hey, we are in the Maldives, and slow pace is fine with us:-)

Buffet/special dinners and supplement prices – we have done the 3 weekly dinners once (Maldivian Night – fantastic, Lobster and Champagne – good, Seafood buffet – good but not really worth the cost) but didn’t bother doing them again this week mainly because the supplement really is crazy on top of our half board and it is not that we are being tight it is just we actually don’t think it is value – apart from the Maldivian night which was different and special – and can eat just as well in the restaurants. As I already mentioned most of the resorts we have been to in the Maldives do charge a lot for these special dinners and I get that but paying another $400 (approx.) on top of half board is getting a little crazy. The two restaurants already have quite a few supplements on them over half board too and is a little annoying as in Johara (which is their speciality restaurant) around half the dishes have supplements. Some of the supplements are only $15 dollars which I find more annoying as surely they could be included). However, again, I know all the resorts do this at this level and we did get complimentary upgrade to half board so not such a big deal to us as it might be to others.

This does not take away anything from our stay here and there are plenty of dishes without supplements but I thought it worth mentioning. The food here really is fantastic and they have gone out of their way to make sure we eat what we like and want and, to be fair, when they did our special Indian menu their was no supplement which considering the effort they put in was a surprise to us. So this is not a complaint just an observation…..

Mike – for some reason our fellow Asian guests are fascinated by him! Many (ladies!) wave and smile and giggle at him! Any kids we have seen seem mesmerised by him and stare, wave and clap at him! I am guessing it is because they may not see many 6 foot 4 blonde chaps where they come from!! He thinks it because they assume he is a famous movie star or sports personality……!!!Beach tables 2

 

Day 13

So after Mike’s morning snorkel with the nurse shark we headed off to breakfast as usual. It was another of those perfectly calm days with hardly a ripple in the ocean nor a hint of a breeze! Most of our morning was spent between the pool on our deck and our sun loungers keeping cool. Then, around noon the best Maldives experience ever started…..

Dolphins! Now we are lucky enough to have seen dolphins fairly frequently in the Maldives – usually from our water villa deck but mostly from a distance. We also saw them in our first week here swimming by the dhoni on one of our trips back and forth between the islands which was pretty cool. However, today was just amazing. We were leaning over the edge of our villa pool watching the fish below us when I spotted dolphins about 100 metres out from a villa a few up from ours. We watched them for about 5 minutes – they just seemed to be playing – then they disappeared out of our sight. Mike went out to water villa jetty with his camera to walk up a bit and see if he could see them again. I lay back down on my lounger and thought that was the end of the show. Then, suddenly Mike came back in saying “can you see them, can you see them” so I jumped up and there they were – literally about 25 metres out right in front of our villa:-):-) They were around 12 of them just playing around turning this way and that and popping in and out of the water. It was the most magical and emotional sight we have ever seen. Just quite simply dreamlike. But then it got even better for Mike as when they started to swim away from our villa he decided to go in the water with his GoPro and although he had to swim hard to where they had moved to he finally realised one of his dreams and swam with wild dolphins:-) He didn’t get great footage as he was very deep and they were moving fast around him but he said it was really special and there were two baby dolphins with the group who came fairly close to hi, The decent bit of footage he has also has him squealing with delight in the background!

We did wonder if we would see dolphins close to the water villas – as there is about 20 metres of coral out then the water is very deep (not quite a drop off on our side but very deep) and the sunset water villas face out into a deep channel. However, no way did we dream we would see them so close up!

After that excitement it was a quite afternoon with some more snorkelling in fish soup around our water villa before we headed over to the beach island for a snorkel on the main house reef. This time we didn’t see any sharks (how weird after seeing so many at the same time last night) but we did see two really large turtles, one of which swam quite close to us. And of course the usual fish soup which is very “chunky soup” here given how much larger all the fish types are than anywhere else we have been in the Maldives. Maybe the fish here are on steroids:-)

We were back at the beach island for cocktails and sunset before our specially prepared Thai dinner in Azara restaurant. We had a lovely, spicy Thai salad to start with then I had chicken red curry and Mike had prawn red curry and lots of different accompaniments which were all really tasty. They also prepared a pudding of rice with mango and a creamy sweet sauce – it was too sweet for me but Mike loved it so ate both!

Once again, it was another stunning clear starry night which makes the boat ride back to the water villa island quite special.

We got back to our room to find the bed decorated yet again, bubble bath on the deck and a bottle of champagne on ice which we will drink on Friday which is sadly our last day….water

 

Day 14

Just have to add that this morning THE DOLPHINS WERE BACK!! Again right in front of our villa – we were in the pool so just watched them (as it is too easy to spend time trying to photo stuff and not enjoy it) but as they moved off Mike got his GoPro and snorkelling kit again and followed them and got even better footage and we can hear them making their dolphin squeaking noises this time too:-)

As they moved away with Mike swimming next to them I managed a couple of snaps

The rest of our last day, after the second magical dolphin show in front of our water villa, was really lovely. The weather was again perfect with not a cloud in the sky and very calm sea. We spent the rest of the day reading, snorkelling and lazing on our deck or in the pool. We went across to the beach island for sunset watching and cocktails – really, really love the bar area by the main pool with all the palm trees around and fruit bats flying overhead and the spectacular sunset views.

Once the sun has gone we went back to the water villa island for dinner at Johara. They had prepared our favourite table for us with flowers and lots of candles. We ordered our favourite dishes from the menu – spicy salmon and tuna rolls followed by blackened cod for me and sushi/sashimi followed by prawns (huge ones!) in spicy ginger hoi sin sauce with noodles for Mike and the chef also sent out an extra beef dish with his compliments. We were then about to order some ice cream when suddenly all the chefs and waiters appeared at our table with a chocolate cake saying “Thank you” on it. When we got back to our room there was a platter of petit fours with another “Thank you” message, gifts for us (Hermes perfume for me and Hermes aftershave for Mike), more flowers on our bed and our bath run with petals again. We were so spoilt:-)

island

Departure day

Our departure was at 7am the next morning by boat back to the local airport. Our butler brought us tea at 6.30am and we did the check out in our room. He then gave us pastries, muffins and cut fruit on ice to take with us all packed into little take away cartons in a cute picnic bag. It was a lovely trip to the airport as the sea was dead calm, the sun was rising and we were the only two in the boat.

 

Big thanks to Moira for sharing her holiday in detail on my blog!!!

 

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