My friend Moira is at Ayada now. Read her live blog here!
So, after a lovely return visit for a week at Konotta we have arrived at Ayada….
The Ayada speedboat picked us up from Konotta at 1pm and 30 minutes later we arrived at the island. We are right at the southern edge of the Gaafu Dhaalu atoll and we are only about 40km from the equator. There are several uninhabited islands near Ayada so the arrival is quite spectacular as you first see these islands with their white beaches and swaying palm trees then Ayada comes into view and it is surely one of the prettiest islands viewed from the arrival boat we have seen. Lots of tall palms and dazzling white beach and shimmering blues of the lagoon.
We were greeted with drumming and several staff including the GM, Simon, who was the first to welcome us to the island. We then met our butler Ahmed who after checking us in took us on a tour of the island by buggy before taking us to our villa. I have to say that if you believe first impressions matter then WOW we were both impressed by Ayada straight away. The island is large and I thought similar in size to Kihavah and having checked Bruce’s Maldives Complete sight (which has stats for all islands) I discovered it is indeed a similar size (a little smaller but with a few more villas) and like Kihavah has a beautiful interior – lots of wide sandy pathways and pretty tropical flowers to give colour.
Everything appears to be very well maintained and all we saw looks aesthetically pleasing and blends into the nature of the island. We had booked a water villa sunrise pool suite and had requested number 616 (which is right at the end of the jetty) and we were really pleased to discover we had been allocated it:-) The villa is really beautiful and the views are breathtaking – a couple of uninhabited islands in the near distance and nothing else. It is beautifully decorated and much bigger then it appeared in photos and videos we had seen before arriving. The outside space is just gorgeous with decent sized pool, day bed suspended over the water plus three hammock areas and two very comfortable sun loungers, There is also a covered area with a table and four seats and an outdoor shower on the deck. All the villas have recently been re thatched with a new style of thatch which looks good and is evidently longer lasting and more eco friendly.
The lounge, which has a large glassed floor area, bedroom and bathroom all have floor to ceiling windows/sliding doors onto the deck with sea views. The bath tub is right by the bathroom window and the bi fold doors open up so you can have a bath with a view. The shower and the loo also have a view with window/door type things you can open and watch the sea life swim past. I am impressed with the “tech” in the villa – plenty of USB points and a really good Bluetooth system with really good speakers/sound. Do note that plugs points here are not UK but European which is unusual for the Maldives but fortunately I knew this and brought plenty of adaptors. However the bedside tables have multi national socket points which is useful.
As the island is big we have two bikes and went for a quick cycle this afternoon to get some fins from the dive centre and check out the island a little more. All looks good, especially the bar/pool area which has a nice vibe to it.
Mr D went for a quick snorkel and was happy to see a shark and turtle within 10 mins but says he will give his view once he has seen more!
We we will do some more exploring tomorrow including walking around the beach but are currently back in our villa and about to enjoy our complimentary champagne and watch the sun set.
So, in summary, after only a few hours we are happy with our choice of Ayada and are excited to explore more.
Last night we had dinner in Kai restaurant which is there speciality Asian restaurant. The restaurant itself is really stylish and if it was not for the lapping waves and views of the fading sunset we could have been in a trendy London Thai restaurant – it is really beautiful with tables raised of glass floors surrounded by water and the décor is red and black. The menu is fairly extensive with a mixture of Thai, Chinese, Japanese Sushi and a couple of Indian dishes too. (We are on the Diamond AI package which means we can eat in any of the restaurants including the cheese and wine one on the water villa jetty). I had dim sum and then a chicken noodle dish and Mr D had tempura soft shell crab then tandoori chicken with freshly baked naan bread. We thought all the food was excellent and can see why the restaurant has won awards.
After dinner we popped into the bar/pool area which was next door and could not believe how incrediblty stunning the pool looked. It had hundreds of tiny (changing coolour) lights in it (we have seen something similar at Huvafen Fushi’s pool but this was really pretty and quite breathtaking). The whole pool area is definitely the most stylish and prettiest we have seen so far in the Maldives. We didn’t stay for a drink as it was really hot and we just wanted to get back to our villa and cool off.
One thing to note is that we always go barefoot in the Maldives and the paths around the island here are not quite as sandy as other islands we have been to and there are lots of little stones/coral in some areas which make it hard to walk on. Mr D struggled as he has quite sensitive feet (poor boy!) but whilst I managed it was slightly disappointing to have to, literally, tread so carefully and in some areas you could see the concrete underneath. We will persevere as we don’t want to have to give in and spoil our record of 12 years in the Maldives with no shoes. Perhaps they top the sand up at times and we just happen to be here when it is due for a top up as everything else in the resort is clearly maintained well and there are lovely flowers and greenery all around the island which makes the interior really pleasing to walk/cycle around.
We had a good night’s sleep and woke to sunshine and blue skies although it was clear it had rained heavily in the night again (has done so most of this holiday so far and assume it because we are experiencing particularly hot and fairly humid days) but happy any rain comes when we are asleep!
This morning we biked to breakfast (so no sore feet issue) and Magu, where breakfast is served, was fairly quite when we arrived about 8.30am. It is a buffet breakfast here and it is extensive and nicely laid out. Usual egg and pancake/waffle stations and healthy/Japanese/Maldives/European and English style breakfast options. There is also a juice bar section where you can whatever you fancy made up. Mike had his usual omelette which he said was very good and I had scrambled eggs on toast. Really good fresh fruit display and plenty of variety of bakery and pastries.
We saw Simon, the GM, and breakfast to say hello to and there was generally a good management presence which is always a positive. Staff were all friendly and efficient. The setting of Magu is really nice and for a large restaurant has been designed with lots of different areas – outside overlooking the beach, covered deck area, tables around an ornamental lily pond and also an indoor air conditioned area for those that want it. We were happy as there is always a slight worry that on a larger island breakfast can be a bit chaotic but it was calm and peaceful and food was good.
We then came back to our villa which had been cleaned thoroughly – the attention to detail here in the upkeep and cleanliness of the villa and all public areas is exemplarily. I have to say we are really, really enjoying our water villa suite (forgot to mention that the direct sunset views were incredible last night) and our current thinking is it might well be our favourite water villa inside and outside so far in the Maldives…..
Today we will do more snorkelling and explore the reef some more and report back later…….now the deck and my Kindle are calling me…….
I realised I had forgotten to mention the mix of the guests here which is very varied. I would say about 40% Asian and the rest a mix of European, US, Middle East, Russian, Indian and some Australians too. We have noticed more US guests than usual for a Maldives resort. We have seen a few families at breakfast and at lunch today by the pool (but the kids are all very well behaved) but the majority are couples as you would expect.
The AI Diamond package we are on includes a complimentary hour massage each which we have booked for tomorrow evening and I have also booked a 90 minute massage for Thursday and will probably book another couple of treatments too.
This is only our third time of being on an AI package in the Maldives (as we usually book b&b and the other resorts we have been to didn’t offer AI only half or full board) so we are not experts on AI but at both Moofushi and Outrigger Konotta the AI packages (even the basic one at Ok) wine was included both by the glass and by the bottle and both resorts had a good selection of bottled wines. Here at Ayada, from perusing the wine list last night, it appears that the only wine in the AI package is by the glass – I will check again tonight pretty sure this is the case. We were surprised but to be fair they did bring the bottle and pour my glass and came and topped it up without me having to ask. Again I will double check tonight but think there were 4 or 5 white, 4 or 5 red, 2 rose and one sparkling available by the glass on AI. No problem as the wines were decent enough but after coming from Konotta where there was so much choice (of red, white, rose and sparkling) available by the bottle it is noticeable, and given we are on the Diamond AI, not expected. Not a complaint just an observation to be aware of. The wine list itself is extensive and has plenty of options to suit all pockets and we may well have a nice bottle one evening as there are some we really like on the list.
With regards to our mini bar it is included and is replenished daily with wine, beer and soft drinks as well as some snacks. We asked to change the beer from Carlsberg to Tiger (as Mr D doesn’t like Carlsberg) and the coke to diet coke which they did very quickly and will do so each day for us.
We had lunch by the pool today – lovely Caesar salad for me and Mr D has a burger – good service and great food.
Now off for our early evening snorkel.
Last night we had dinner at Ocean Breeze which is the Mediterranean restaurant set over the water. We sat on the deck at the water’s edge with quite the most incredibly breath-taking view of the end of the sunset and watched the sky change colour over the uninhabited islands in the distance until it was dark when we then had the stars above us to gaze at on a very clear night. Really like the menu at Ocean Breeze and took a while to decide what to choose as everything sounded lovely. I had tuna tartare and lobster spaghetti and Mr D had sesame seared tuna and avocado and lobster spaghetti too! All dishes were really tasty. I forgot to mention that here, as at Kai last night, we got a lovely little amuse bouche each and lovely home-made breads and dips. I have to say that so far the food is of a really high standard and the little touches and attention to detail is impressive. Service is also excellent – friendly yet professional. Just to add there were some different wines by the glass at Ocean Breeze but only some were included in the AI and I was correct in that no bottles of wine are included in the AI package. However the wine I chose by the glass was presented to me to taste again and topped up without me having to ask so no issues for us at all.
Breakfast this morning was very good again – I had steak and scrambled eggs just because I could (well I do work for a US company!!) and it was delicious. We had out juices made fresh to order and Mr filled up on his usual Omelette and pastries. We saw the GM, Simon, to say hello to again during breakfast – very impressed with his continued presence and chatting to guests.
Having been to a small island last year (Konotta) and the year before (Jumeirah Dhevanafushi – now Raffles) and coming from Konotta this year it has taken a little getting used to being on a big island again. However now we explored some more we feel more “at home” and know where everything is! Ayada’s first WOW impression has not lessened and we are really enjoying this island.
I know I have already mentioned this but Ayada is without doubt the best kept and maintained island we have stayed at so far in the Maldives. The interior is filled with plants and pretty areas with thoughtful additions – like a lily pond garden with pretty stones next to the Spa and we discovered a wishing tree this morning hung with red and white ribbons next to an area where guests can have plant shrubs/trees and have their names on wooden planks. The only thing, again mentioned, is the lack of sand on pathways and having cycled the whole island this morning it is even less sandy around the paths to the beach villas – definitely need flip flops if in a beach villa and not using beach to walk around on. Given the excellent attention to detail and upkeep everywhere else we think this lack of sandy paths is strange. Ayada’s island interior is even prettier than Kihavah’s which we thought was the most beautiful and if they can sort the sand out it would be perfect!
The beaches are picture perfect and the sand, in all areas of the beach, is pure white and soft – there is really beautiful sand spit at low tide on the south west side of the island. From our walk this morning we think beach villas 232 – 237 and sunset beach suites 306 -312 are the best positioned for lovely part of beach and views over a sandy lagoon out to distant uninhabited island. It would be a little swim to the reef but not too far in our opinion.
We also discovered a secret garden this morning (a very large secret garden!) where not only are vegetables, herbs and fruit grown but there is also a flower and plant nursery which explains the abundance of pretty flowers around the island.
We then went to the games/recreation area and had a couple of games of pool (1 win each!). Very nicely laid out open sided games area with full size pool table (with decent cues and chalk which is not always the case), table tennis table (both pool and table fan have ceiling fans over them which is very welcome in this heat) a couple of foosball tables and, out of the way behind a screen so as not to disturb others, a couple of tvs with PlayStations and armchairs to sit on. There is also a giant chess table in a shallow pool!!!
Just realised I have not mentioned snorkelling! So far it is good – similar to Konotta with even bigger sharks and different types of fish including lots of big bat fish. We have seen turtles now on each snorkel and on Mr D’s morning snorkel today he say three so he is happy. Coral on the water villa side does not the show the regrowth we saw at Konotta but we will snorkel the other side later and report back. Everything is bigger here – I saw a huge barracuda just metres from our villa steps in quite shallow water that gave me such a fright that I nearly turned back!
After such a “busy” morning of discovery and pool we are now back at our villa for a rest in the sun with our kindles!
Ayada is captivating us more by the minute and is creeping up our league table…..
.yesterday was a really hot day and we went for a late lunch to the Zero Degrees which is the bar/pool area. After our lunch we did something we rarely do in the Maldives and we sat on one of the huge day beds by the pool and had a swim and people watched for while. As we always book a water villa with a pool using the main pool is never appealing but the pool and the setting of the pool here at Ayada is so beautiful we couldn’t resist. Around the pool there are lots of cabanas, huge day beds (with ingenious table/trays that can sit at the bottom of the day beds but can be pulled up closer to eat from/sit drinks on – kind of like a hospital bed tray thing but a thousand times more glamorous!!!) and single sun loungers sitting in the shallow areas around the side of the pool
We then returned to our villa and chilled on the deck or in our pool as it was really hot again. Our late afternoon snorkel was great – couple of turtles and sharks including one white tip reef shark – and lots of fish soup. We saw a large group of around 20 oriental sweetlips (my favourite fish – which we usually just see in pairs), hundreds of convict surgeons, big groups of jacks, butterfly fish and a really huge dense ball of grey snappers. We also saw a couple of really huge parrot fish and a scarily large trigger fish which we gave a wide berth.
It was then time for our complimentary massages. The Spa here is strikingly designed – it is a large spa with really picturesque areas such as an outdoor relaxation area in a pretty garden with plunge pools and day beds. The changing rooms are beautifully laid out with every amenity you might need and our couples massage room had an outdoor garden with large bathtub for two. Mr had an aromatherapy massage and I had a Balinese one and boy did she get all the knots out of my back! Mr D is not usually a huge massage fan, as he likes a very light pressure, but said he really enjoyed his and felt very relaxed. I have booked a 90 minute massage for Thursday night which I am now really looking forward to.
Dinner last night was back at Kai restaurant as we so enjoyed our first night there (there was a beach BBQ which we didn’t fancy having done plenty of Maldives beach BBQs in the past and the main buffet restaurant, Magu, had a Maldivian/Indian night). Both our meals at Kai were delicious again – we had sushi to start then Mr D had a prawn dish and I had chicken teriyaki. We sat at a table at the edge of the restaurant overlooking the beach and the sound of the waves and stars in the sky never fail to remind us how lucky we are to be able to come to the Maldives each year.
Day four at Ayada started early in the wee hours with a huge thunder storm and rain which was still going when we got up at 8am. We were going to cycle to breakfast as the rain seemed to be easing but then another downpour came so we called a buggy (which is another first for us in the Maldives as we are always walkers/cyclists!) as it really was lashing it down! During breakfast the rain stopped but the skies were still ominously grey so we went to the recreation area and had a couple of games of pool and a game of table tennis. Our combined Ayada games tournament score is now 3 all……
Back in our room waiting for the sun to come out – Mr D has gone snorkelling but it is a little choppy for me so a good opportunity to do this update. This is the first time in all our years coming to the Maldives (always in the dry season either end of February or March) that we have had a whole morning of rain/grey skies and on most trips we have not seen any rain during the day time! Thank goodness we are on a large island with things to amuse us…..
and after a very damp day yesterday I am pleased to say the sunshine is back! First ever time we have had a full day like yesterday in all our trips to the Maldives. It did clear up around 5ish and we ate dinner outside on the Ocean Breeze deck. One plus was that we experienced the most astonishing night sky ever last night – the stars were so clear and the Milky Way was the clearest and most dramatic we have ever seen. We sat on our deck in the dark just gazing at the sky in awe. There are no inhabited or resort islands the vicinity of Ayada so very little ambient light which I am sure helped.
We managed to fill our day yesterday with a long lunch in the bar and enjoyed people watching and watching the rain on the pool. We also played more table tennis and pool and as the sea was not rough, despite the rain, we snorkelled twice so all good.
Last night we went to Isle de Joie which is the wine bar built on the water villa jetty (you can also have cheese with your wine if you wish it) and it is really pretty and unique. They have a huge selection of wines and we sat and chatted to an American family whose first time it was in the Maldives. They wanted a deluxe resort and chose Ayada based purely on it being number 1 on Trip Advisor so just shows how much influence being in the top 10 can be…. We really liked Isle de Joie and plant to go there again tonight before dinner.
We had dinner at Ocean Breeze which again was as good as the first time – we both had scallops to start then Mr D had tuna steak and I had a tuna tartare and lime risotto which I can hand on heart say was the best risotto I have ever had – it was really tasty and very different to anything I have had before. It was lovely eating on the deck of the restaurant with the cooling breeze and the super starry night above us.
This morning so far has been a cycle around the island so Mr D could do some GoPro filming, breakfast, couple of games of pool (it is now 5 3 to me!) and now back in our villa. Mr D has gone for a quick snorkel whilst I update this.
Snorkelling continues to be excellent – yesterday Mr saw the biggest turtle he had ever seen, in fact he said it was so big it made him jump. Unfortunately he didn’t have his GoPro with him as he only went for a quick snorkel! (I missed it as was napping after said long lunch!) We also saw a turtle this morning just floating around outside our villa and yesterday we saw a common eagle ray from the water villa jetty and also a lovely spotted eagle ray who swam around our water villa for a few minutes
We are at day 6 here on Ayada now and still very much enjoying the island. Our sunset ocean suite is just amazing and we have both decided it is our favourite accommodation we have stayed in so far in the Maldives. We loved Kihavah water villa for its large pool and deck and JD (Raffles) ocean pearl for its sheer size in and large pool/deck but this Ocean Suite is just perfect. Beautifully decorated and comfortable inside and the deck is really lovely and well designed with loungers, huge day bed over the water, a covered area with table and four chairs and a lovely infinity pool. The whole villa is in pristine condition and newly thatched and I love the bathroom with the large tub overlooking the water and shower where you can open up the windows to outside and watch fish below. And to top it all the views are breathtaking. If we come back we will definitely book the same villa type.
Last night we ate at Mizu which is the Teppenyaki restaurant – it usually sits 10 and is all white marble sunken into the sand near the main restaurant. It is spacious and airy despite being outdoors. It has two sittings and we were at the later sitting of 9pm but unfortunately we were the only two guests which does not really work for Teppenyaki as the chef’s show needs a larger audience otherwise it just seems a little cheesy! However the chef was very nice and chatty and the food was good – just a bit too much of it for us! We had a quick drink before dinner at Zero Degrees pool bar and the lit up pool is really special – I will make sure Mr D takes his camera tonight to get some good photos of it.
This morning at breakfast we sat at a table overlooking the millpond ocean and were rewarded with seeing a huge pod of dolphins going past – never seen quite so many at once. Our fellow diners all missed the spectacle as they were too busy on their mobiles…..
We then went for our morning games of pool – Mr D is catching up as it is now 6 5 to me!!
A few comments observations below:-
Guest mix has changed slightly in the last few days. Now more Asians but still a good mix of Europeans, Americans and some Indian families. We really love the eclectic mix of nationalities and the fact there are not too many Brits here😀
We have seen lots of brides and grooms having their photo shoots around the island – two this morning. One bride was in the a really beautiful dress but more suited to a Home Counties church wedding than a tropical island and groom was in Black Tie – they must have been boiling hot!!!
Mr D amused me yesterday by deciding to go for a ride in a 6 seater canopied bicycle – he looked like one of those London TucTuc drivers!!
We have not seen or been bitten by a single mosquito here and we have seen them digging the island daily.
Not sure if it is my imagination but I am sure the paths are sandier then when we first arrived…..
There are lots of herons here – there were none at Konotta which was strange!
Four green parrots live on the island. They provide much entertainment at breakfast but seem very polite parrots and don’t steal your food!
I have discovered that the glass floor in our villa lounge makes for a good dance floor when you have had a couple of glasses of wine and are playing music……
The sunsets here are incredible and the way it sets over the nearby uninhabited islands is really pretty.
We have seen the best night skies of anywhere else we have been in the Maldives.
There are a lot eagle rays around!
The interior of the island is so pretty and we love cycling around and exploring/taking in the views.
That is all for now. It is another hot. Sunny, millpond sea day so off to chill on our lovely deck!
Day 7 on Ayada and another beautiful, sunny hot day.
Yesterday was really hot so much time was spent in our pool although we did go for a walk around the beach. For all of you that love powder soft sand and stunning blues of a lagoon then this is the place to be! Up until now we thought the most beautiful lagoon we had seen was at Moofushi but I don’t think I can think of the right adjective to describe how breathtakingly gorgeous the views from the beaches here are – especially around the sand spit where the sea is every colour of blue/green you can imagine with a couple of uninhabited islands in the near distance with dazzling white sand and tall green palm trees. This view even beats my previous favourite of the breakfast view from Kihavah!
Snorkelling was great again yesterday – I just love the area right out from our villla (which we call fish soup corner) where there are 7 or 8 different schools of fish all hanging around near each other. The large school of sweetlips are my favourite as well as the two HUGE bat fish that let us come up really close. We saw a few sharks as usual but no turtle in the morning but Mr D saw one in his afternoon snorkel. We did however see a huge napolean wrasse which was like nothing I had ever seen before – Mr D got lots of GoPro footage.
We have managed to obtain a “pet” Eagle Ray which hung around our villa all afternoon yesterday and is back again this morning. We got lots of photos of it from our deck and Mr D managed to creep down our ladder and film it too as it does not seem bothered by anything and just keeps circling in front our steps/pool! Most strange but very cool!
Mr D snorkelled the sunrise side in the afternoon and said the coral is in better condition there. It is a sandy bottom swim out to the reef but he said fish life was good and he saw a turtle and some barracuda.
We had lunch yesterday at Ocean Breeze for a change which serves a buffer lunch. Lots of choices and a live pasta and grill station. We had some fresh penne in tomatoe sauce and a glass of wine but could have had lots more and dessert. Lovely setting at this restaurant and we sat at the edge and watched fish below us but could also stare out to sea! The lunch was very good but we prefer the bar for lunch as more our cup of tea and we only need a snack not a full lunch.
We had a glass of wine before dinner at Isle de Jolie (bar on water villa jetty), which is one of our favourite spots, and watched the sun set over the ocean suites. Then we went to dinner at Magu for the first time – this is the buffet restaurant and it was the first time we had had a buffet dinner since Moofushi 7 years ago! We are not really buffet fans but I have to say the restaurant lay out works and you don’t feel that you are in a large restaurant as there are lots of different areas to sit in. It was Mexican theme and as well as all usual dishes you would expect (including some gorgeous tuna ceviche) there was a pasta station, stir fry station, grilled fish and lots of other choices. A really good choice of breads and salads and an extensive dessert buffet. Service was excellent (always a worry with a buffet) with drinks served and topped up promptly and plates cleared instantly. Very impressed with the service everywhere here at Ayada. We, unfortunately, had to request to move tables halfway though our meal as the gentleman of the couple next to us appeared to have issues with his sinuses which was not pleasant at all and was putting us off eating. The waiter clicked right away what the issue was and with a minimum of fuss moved as to an even nicer spot (which was taken when we arrived).
This morning we were a little earlier to breakfast and it was really quite (even when busy the service remains excellent and buffet never runs out of stuff). Afterwards it was pool at the recreation area and the score is now 7 6 to me!
There is definitely more sand in some areas of the paths now and we can see it is being topped up. Still one long path where it is tricky to walk barefoot but otherwise not as bad as it was. Although as it happens we are actually enjoying cycling around.
Also, the loud slapping noise of water under our villa we heard the first couple of days has stopped so maybe it was an extra high tide those days as has not happened since.
We both agree that Ayada is growing on us more and more by the day. After a few years on much smaller islands it has taken a while to settle into a larger one. It is certainly very beautiful which helps and whilst it is not as “personal” as on a small island where everyone knows your likes and dislikes the service is really, really good here and we cannot fault anything.
Still considering a return next year and as we have only repeated a couple of times that shows how much we like it here.