As a gaggle of glitzy Maldives newcomers clamour for attention, vying to outdo each other for ostentation and outrageous pricing, one company is setting itself apart with a refreshingly different approach – creating an outstanding, authentic Maldives experience that gives guests more of what they want, rather than simply milking as much money as possible from them. With over 60 years’ experience in the destination between them, the three founding directors of The Small Maldives Island Company have looked beyond tired norms and attention-seeking fads to put what guests really want at the heart of everything they do.
Their vision will be turned into reality with the launch of two exemplary new island resorts, Amilla Fushi (opening November 2014) and Finolhu (opening Q4 2015). An intimate island home that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Amilla Fushi will offer laid-back luxury and more purpose-designed houses of two or more bedrooms than any other Maldives resort - perfect for families and groups of friends. Amilla’s hot, fun-loving younger sister Finolhu meanwhile will offer an affordable beach club-style take on nu-luxury. Located in the pristine UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, both are easily reached via scheduled flights to the new Baa Atoll airport, or a scenic 30-minute seaplane ride from Malé.
Amilla Fushi and Finolhu will turn the established Maldives model on its head. No more thinking of guests as a captive audience, to be corralled into the same couple of pricey restaurants for every meal. No more stinging them with extras every time they do anything, then waving them off with a serious case of ‘bill shock’. And no more lumping in charges for things they don’t need or want.
Says co-founder Tom McLoughlin, “We want our Spa experience to be accessible, indulgent and worry free, so guests can enjoy it without worrying that they can’t afford to have treatments. So - just as it’s a given that breakfast is included – we’re including a 50 minute spa treatment for every guest, every day”.
There will be no ‘paywall’ deterring guests from making the most of the magical Maldivian ocean either: All water sports - non-motorised and motorised - will be complimentary too. No need for parents to cost-control by parking their kids in front of the resort PlayStation for hours on end; instead they will be free to splash around to their hearts’ content, with a host of supervised fun and games ensuring an unforgettable, authentically aquatic Maldivian adventure. What’s more, Amilla’s house reef even boasts its very own renowned ‘Blue Hole’ dive site within snorkeling distance of the beach.
Budding island hoppers with a taste for adventure will also welcome a refreshing, relaxed ‘open island’ philosophy: a first for the Maldives. Far from being marooned on a single island for the duration of their stay, guests at Amilla and Finolhu will encouraged to explore Baa Atoll’s other resorts, and their bars and restaurants - and vice versa. This pioneering and liberating approach puts guests’ experience first, while simultaneously demonstrating the resorts’ supreme confidence in their own offering.
Amilla Fushi - which literally translates from the local Dhivehi language as ‘my island home’ - ignores fleeting trends in favour of timeless pleasures: delicious, unpretentious food; superb wines; and relaxed yet flawless service. The vision of ‘Island Restaurateur’, acclaimed Aussie Chef Luke Mangan (described by food legend Anthony Bourdain as ‘the Michael Corleone of Sydney’s restaurant scene’) is to prepare the kind of food people really want to eat on holiday. Out goes starched-shirt service, lobster and linen, and in come barefoot cocktails, barbecue flavours, zingy ceviches and tropical ingredients – realised to perfection at relaxed pier-side restaurant Lonu. Curling around the Maldives’ biggest swimming pool, Baazaar serves up the freshest line-caught local fish with an international twist, and serious sundowners (or uppers!).
Guests are also free to grab some groceries and self-cater in style: The island’s Emperor General Store and Cellar Door wine shop are stocked with handpicked fresh ingredients, from fresh fruit and vegetables and fine cuts of meat to fresh-baked breads. A true ‘home from home’ experience for foodies who love to cook for their families and friends.
A range of purpose-designed Island Homes - one- and two-bed Beach and Lagoon Houses; 12-metre high, two-bed Tree Houses; and Ocean Reef Houses right on the house reef, with rates starting from approx. US$1,800 per night - are complemented by 12 stunning bespoke Beach Residences of three, four, five and six bedrooms.
Also in Baa Atoll, Finolhu, opening in 2015, is a buzzy, informal haven for sociable singles, fun loving travellers and Millennial families. Offering 126 rooms - 88 overwater - as well as 40 villa suites cocooned on the secluded sanctuary of Finolhu Private Island, Finolhu is all about simple things, done well. Think sandspit-hopping picnics, swim-up cocktails at the Baa Bar and stand-up snacks from the colourful shabby chic Fish & Crab Shack.
Conceived and managed by The Small Maldives Island Company, Amilla Fushi and Finolhu’s light-hearted, unpretentious approach and contemporary architecture and design will bring a new way of doing things to a destination that has found itself in a coupley conceptual cul-de-sac.