I had the pleasure to stay at the Grand Velas…
Where do I start….bucket list item ~ The Maldives ~ definitely top of my list. The thing about the Maldives is it’s so far away; it’s best paired at the end of an experience like Africa or India. But rest assured, if you only go the Maldives, you will definitely not be disappointed. Once you get there, all your travels and time spent on the journey seem to disappear.
My trip started from LAX, 16 hours to Dubai (Emirates really is an amazing air carrier), 7 hours in Dubai (took a little excursion to Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa), then 4 hours to Male, Maldives.
There are over 1,000 coral islands and about 200 inhabited islands. Each resort in the Maldives is on its own atoll and they are spread all over the area. There are 2 ways to get from Male to your resort…by boat or by sea-plane. However, it’s not a choice, there’s only 1 way to each resort. So that plays a bit into selecting your resort.
I had the pleasure of enjoying the wonderful JA Manafaru (Jay Aye Man-aye-far-rue) on the Maldives northern most atoll, Haa Alif. After arriving in Male (and a slight layover) we boarded our Sea-plane for the 75 minute flight to the resort. The resorts closer to Male allow you to get there by boat, however, those resorts are closer to the city and therefore don’t offer the same feeling of location. However, picking 2 resorts, one by boat and one by plane allows you to cut down on the travel time a bit. Additionally, while the resort is 75 minutes away, and there are closer resorts, the additional flight time really doesn’t matter since you’re already in the plane. Saving 15 minutes of flight time isn’t worth missing an amazing experience like JA Manafaru! Besides, the view from the plane is fantastic, I kept taking pictures of atoll after atoll because each one seemed a bit different, but all were beautiful.
Upon arrival at the resort the sea-plane pulled up to the dock and we were taken to our over-water bungalow. Going to a destination like the Maldives (similar to Bora Bora, Tahiti) I think an over water villa is the way to go!
Each accommodation comes with a pair of bikes that you can use to get around the island, but if you prefer to get a ride, just call a buggy and they’ll come and get you. The trails through and around the island are great, mostly covered in tree canopies with dirt paths. It’s easy to find your way around and enjoy all the amenities of the property. There are 7 dining venues, a spa, a water sports area, numerous beaches and beauty everywhere you look. I walked around the entire island in about 30 minutes.
The food was great, from the buffet breakfast, to the pool-side lunch, dinner on the beach or wine and dessert in the Cellar (originally the first one in the Maldives). The way the Maldivian head chef put together flavors and ingredients was exceptional. Each meal, from the first to the last, was great. There is nothing I would have done different, definitely one of the high points of the resort!
Aside from the normal pool and beach activities, we enjoyed snorkeling in the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen, followed by lunch on the boat and a quick tour to find the spinner dolphins, who played in front of the bow of the boat for a bit. One evening we went out about 5pm to go fishing (for our dinner) in the typical Maldivian style. We dropped our lines in the water, and let the line drop to the bottom of the ocean. When we got a bite we pulled the line up (we were given cloth gloves to protect our hands) and brought in our evening meal. When we arrived back at the resort, a bit after sunset, the chef met us, took our catch and later that evening provided us the best and freshest sushi I’ve ever enjoyed.
JA Manafaru is definitely a place I’d go back to. The accommodations were great, the food amazing and the setting beyond description. As I sit and write up my experience I continue to remember so many special places and moments, but then, if I included them all, this would be way too long and no one would read it….so please ask me for more info. I’m happy to share so much more of my first Maldivian experience!