Maldives: Spa-tastic time!

20140619-194054-70854924.jpgYes we just made up a word spa + fantastic = Spa-tastic. As designed, there is not much to do when you are in Maldives. Thankfully that is the case – it allows us to truly quiet our minds and bodies.

In all 3 islands we visited we went to the spa. Here are our brief encounters.

Ginger Spa – Gangehi Island
This is a very Indian influenced spa. We had a great Ayurvedic body scrub followed by an outdoor shower, then finished off with a relaxing massage.

Yes, we were served ginger tea as the finishing touch! Felt great and started off our vacation and tanning on the right tone.
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Tip: we did this first evening we arrived so our bodies had a healing overnight before hitting the beach and ocean the next day. We recommend this, it will help you get a longer lasting and more even tan.

Duniye Spa – Komandoo Island
This is a Balinese and more Asian influenced spa. We had Thai massage done — as fans of this technique we loved it. 20140619-195024-71424490.jpgSerenity…

Duniye Spa – Kuredu Island
Yes, this is the same spa name as the one at Komandoo. We still wanted to go both to relax and we heard the one at the O resort section had glass floor to watch fish while getting a massage. We could not pass that up!
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What did we see??
Little to medium sized fish. We kept hoping for sharks but maybe they were on vacation too 😉
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This experience costs you $10 more than the other location at the island. For us it was worth it.
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We had the pleasure of having an Oriental massage that combined various techniques like Balinese and Thai. We also had a facial done; we gave it two thumbs up.

You may not be at Maldives, but you should treat yourself to a Spa day or just a 60 min massage. Be good to your body and it will be good to you!
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Maldives: Komandoo island resort – full report!

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Komandoo is located north of Male and takes about 35-40 min by seaplane to get there. It is surrounded by couple other islands, some where locals live.

The resort is operated in partnership by a Swedish and Maldivian firm. It also operates the Kuredu island which is very nearby. The general manager is Patrick who greets everyone at arrival and he is Belgian. We were greeted by songs, cold coconut juice and homemade coconut ice cream. They know how to start your holiday on a positive note.
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We found the hospitality and level of service to be much better here than Gangehi. Also the beach front villas are better and cleaner. But we would advise to pick one not facing the local islands, the view is better. Our villa is nearly at the end tip of this 500 meter long island. Also the villas have outdoor bathroom, shower and jet tubs. Rooms are cleaned twice a day, but as a environment conscious island they won’t change sheets everyday unless you leave the cute wooden turtle on the bed. We love that they are eco friendly.

At first we were ambivalent about the half board but we love it now – the food is quality and lot of fresh fruits.

There is a bit of nightlife as well — last night we had a great cover band with a great variety of songs and sang some requests too.

The staff is better trained in hospitality and services in general. There are also women working at this island which we did not see at Gangehi except for the spa and the souvenir shop.

Water is fantastic – private beach with deafening quiet except of the sounds of ocean. The black tip sharks and stingrays go up and down the beach. So exciting to swim next to them and be in their presence. They are harmless and very cute (we think).
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While this is the rainy season we have had great weather on both Gangehi and Komandoo. Occasional rains in the evening or overnight have been welcome after the heat of the day.

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Now we are off to snorkeling – catch you later!!

Maldives: Gangehi Island Resort – full report!

This is a small island in middle of the ocean, only 25 min by seaplane from Male. Likely you will stop at other islands before you get to it. What’s small? To give you an idea – we walk around the island in 5-10 min max.

The island has no locals, only the resort. The locals, Indians, Sri Lankans etc that you see are the staff. The resort is owned by Italians so you will be in luck if you speak Italian.

We recommend this island to people who seek complete quiet and peace, or families with children. There is no nightlife, or excessive crowds or activities. Perfect for relaxing and enjoying the pure nature. Also this happens to be one of the cheaper islands; but you get what you pay for. If you like to be attended hand and foot – don’t visit this island. Set expectations accordingly – for us the food got boring. Tonight they have a Maldivian dinner so we hope that will be exciting.

There are light activities like snorkeling, diving, kayaks, spa, and daily yoga. Highly recommend the yoga at 5:15 everyday, here is a look:
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What a peaceful setting to practice your daily yoga.

Rooms are decent and kept clean. You get fresh beach towels and good spa quality toiletries. However, you won’t find free water! Yes you heard it right not even a glass of water. The water in the room as well as anywhere else will cost you at least 2 or 3 euros per 1.5ltr bottles. Keep hydrating 😉

There is one restaurant, one buffet, and a bar. Prices are all in Euros. We prefer half board to full board as we don’t eat all day long. Also we found that this is cheaper than the full board. Btw don’t expect great service, you maybe sitting for more than 5 minutes at the bar before you see a menu or someone you can hail down. We are not sure if this is unique to this island or not – we will let you know from our next island!

Best way you can enjoy this unreal Maldivian colors beauty is with lot of protection. Bring a lot of sunscreen – buying it here is not a good idea, since it is triple the cost. We sunbathed in the shade for the first two days and still got color.

There is a great sandbar that is exposed every morning and evening perfect for a nice walk and swim. We can’t get over the colors and clarity of water; the sharks, mantas, the little fish that basically swim with us right off the shore.

So before we leave Gangehi in 2 days – do you have any questions for us about this heavenly place??
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UPDATE: 06/01.
We got lucky to see the resident small black tip shark right on the beach swimming next to us.

For American Express folks – insist on asking them to use it. They state that they accept this card in their print materials but at front desk they will tell you another story.

We have one regret 😦 we don’t have underwater camera. You should seriously consider buying one before coming to Maldives!! Really ! Really!
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Maldives: Tips, Tricks, and what others won’t tell you!

20140528-161106.jpg Cost – Not all islands are super expensive. You too can have a Maldivian holiday without breaking the bank. For example Gangehi Island and Resort is such place; it is decently priced under $200 – $300 and still beautiful and comfortable. We steered clear of cheaper locations because at some point you do get what you pay for. Make no mistake, this is not a cheap vacation no matter which way you do it, but you have options of paying $5000 per night vs $300 per night.

Male – not an exciting destination. Unless you care to see the local culture up close, you can skip it and head directly to your island.

Transportation between islands – none will tell you the truth about this one. Basically all resorts claim to pick you up from Male and drop you back off. So like us, if you plan to travel to multiple islands they won’t offer a solution to take you from one to the other. Makes sense for the at nearly $500 per person per flight – they know how to make money! What might help is to stay at island that are very close and you can proactively ask before booking if there is a speed boat option. This is what we did for the other two islands – they are close to each other 25 min by speed boat at $75 per person.

Prices – when you are at Male best to use Rufiyah. But at the islands you can use dollars, euros, or credit cards. But beware some islands like Gangehi will charge you in euros, you have no other choice, plus 10% service charge and 8% government tax.

Maldivian food – don’t expect to see it except in a street dive at Male. Resorts serve international fare. Anyhow there is not such a thing as original Maldivian food – it is a fusion of Indian, Sri Lankan, Arab types of foods. This is day 3 – so if we do encounter something different we will certainly tell you and show pictures.

Seaplane to Gangehi – first stop!

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Today we hopped on a seaplane for the first time. We are certified travel junkies and love trying new things.

Yesterday we walked around Male – literally, yes it’s that small. We walked all the way down Majeedhee Magu (street) until we reached the artificial beach, about 15 min from our Hotel Octave. Male does not have natural beaches so they made one. Locals were swimming, it was great to see women enjoy a dip in cool waters. They were fully dressed, per their culture they could not wear skin revealing clothes let alone bikinis. Official religion is Islam here. Tourist are expected to be modes, but we have seen people in short and tank tops.

We also sat at the BreakWater cafe, it was filled with locals. Don’t be surprised at ratio of women to men. Generally it’s like 10 to 1; did not deter us but does make it uncomfortable at times when the whole place is filled with men.

Took a long walk by the shore; was fascinating to see the modern and old ships side by side. The seamen had returned from the sea and were pulling out the fish – this was a sight to see. Endlessly rewarding mentally and culturally when one sees others’ way of life.

We also dipped into the local food markets to see the fruits and veggies. We ate cocoa-chocolate sticks, and drank fresh coconut juice. We tasted this lovely fruit, but don’t know it’s name:
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Dinner was had at a seaside sweet restaurant called SeaPort. Again mostly filled with locals; we and one other tourist were the foreigners. Naturally we had seafood – we are yet to sample true Maldivian food. Male had contracted the global disease called ‘modern food’ – so you have higher chances of eating a pizza than stumbling on something really local.

Ok — we are off to book spa and catch a yoga session!

Next episode: tips, tricks, and what others won’t tell you.
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