Adrian Neville, The Daily Telegraph, January 14, 2013
New resorts and dramatic developments continue to spring up in the Maldives. Here Adrian Neville looks at six of the most ambitious and unusual projects taking place across the islands.
The average golf course is larger than most resort islands but a few smaller versions have nevertheless been built. Meeru has a pitch and putt, a green and a driving range and Kuredu has a full-size driving range and a lovely six-hole, par-three course. Shangri-La has built a nine-hole, mostly par-three course averaging 123.4 yards, beautifully set around its coastline. The Dutch Docklands’ 18-hole floating course – a world first – will be extraordinary. But the first course in the country was made by the RAF in 1962, on its airport island base of Gan in Addu Atoll.
The Five Lagoons Project
The concept of one island, one resort has been at the core of tourism in the Maldives since Kurumba welcomed the country’s first visitors. That is about to change, in a dramatic way. Dutch Docklands is developing five entire, empty lagoons. Two will have water villas; one will be made up of private islands; another will have a starshaped hotel with conference centre, oceanographic institute and shopping centre, while the last one will be a floating golf course. These futuristic visions are actually taking shape, with the first of 185 water villas now up for sale.
Expansion north and south
The story of development in the Maldives is one of expansion from the centre. Seaplanes extended the range of boat transfers but it is only with the coming of new regional airports that visitors can stay at the outer atolls in the far north and south. The airports were built by investors incentivised by being given a nearby island on which to build a resort. The finest is Huvadhu Atoll in the south, where you will find the new Park Hyatt Hadahaa, a perfect, small, round island with a superb beach and an outstanding reef. It was also the first to be built to the highest eco-friendly standards.
A Louis Vuitton resort
In 40 years, the accolade of “best in the country” has passed from one resort to another, as good ones are upgraded to become great and new ones are built. There is likely to be a new leader in 2013 and a discernible change in standards. Cheval Blanc – the ultra-luxury hospitality brand developed by the LVMH group, of which Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Ruinart are part – will open a new Maison on the island of Randheli in the north. There will be 46 villas on a lagoon, and four islands in addition, one of which will accommodate the spa. The award-winning chef Yannick Alléno will be in charge of the kitchen.
The day before the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the first tourists in the Maldives (October 28, 1972), the brand new Niyama resort launched Subsix, the world’s first underwater nightclub. In line with the hip and happening ethos of its owner, Per Aquum – whose other Maldives property is the fashionable Huvafen Fushi – Subsix boomed to the sounds of the global star Tinie Tempah, who played at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.
The roll-call of high-end resorts in the Maldives increases every year. In the past 14 months, no fewer than eight have opened: Ayada Maldives, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Jumeirah Vittaveli, Dusit Thani, Niyama, Viceroy Maldives, The Residence and Centara Ras Fush.