Maldives and Vilamendhoo Island Resort

Writing about my holiday has started to become a bit of a tradition (for those that are worthy of such time and effort!) which seem to start when I went to Bali last year. I find it's a way to pass the time in airports and flights when making the return journey home. So here's another one...

Sun, sea, sand and a beach facing hut with an open roofed bathroom... Yes, I have arrived at the Vilamendhoo Resort tucked away amongst the many other beautiful islands of the Maldives.

I’m not supposed to be here...

Vilamendhoo Island Resort - Entrance

If I told you our holiday location and resort was in fact booked by mistake, you’d probably think I was lying. But that’s exactly what happened. Originally, the holiday was supposed to be at the Preskill Resort in Mauritius. I can almost understand the travel agent getting “Mauritius” and “Maldives” mixed up, but how can the resort name “Preskill” get misconstrued with “Vilamendhoo”? Yes, I haven’t quite figured out this conundrum myself. Obviously, the travel agent had other plans and we were both talking on deaf ears. In fact, I have a tendency to fall deaf on hearing two words: “All inclusive”. :-)

It was only upon being emailed the confirmation and itinerary of the holiday, I did not get what I asked for. But being the type of person who is a great believer that there are no mistakes and everything happens for a reason through the twists and turns in the grand journey we call life, I carried out some research on my new destination and was indeed impressed what my I saw.

The Maldives

I’ve seen the Maldives through the visual haze of TV, internet and brochures. - All of which never truly sold the destination to me as I deemed everything always seemed too perfect. I think we all have experienced in the past where promotional pictures look nothing like the real thing. Thus never really planned on ever making a visit any time soon.

Vilamendhoo Island Resort - Shoreline

This could not be further from the truth.

The Maldives is one of the god given gems that needs to be witnessed in reality. This only becomes apparent when you hop onto the propella powered plane from Male airport as you soar over the infinite blue seas and islands naturally formed in all shapes and sizes. Your eyes are in for a visual treat and will salivate in glee!

The only variable is the accommodation you come to choose and Vilamendhoo did not disappoint.

Getting there

I was flying from the UK which encompassed:

  • Flight from Gatwick to Doha.
  • Connecting flight from Doha to Male International Airport.
  • A Maldivian domestic flight.
  • Small bus ride to the coast.
  • Speed boat ride that has multiple drop-off points to other island resorts depending on the number of people you’re with.

Due to my lack of geographic knowledge and overall preparedness for this trip alone, I was quite naive in comprehending the effort involved. Getting to Vilamendhoo could have been a lot more straight-forward if I opted for a sea plane transfer from Male, something that only came to light after speaking to other holiday-goers. Paying extra for sea plane transfer alone saves you around an hour (excluding waiting time) of additional travel time.

Villa Air Flight

Male airport is the central hub and  for providing various transport to the final leg of your trip depending on where your final destination resides. Trying to find the connecting transport was a little confusing and lacked clarity. But the people there are more than happy to guide and help with queries.

It’s a no thrills airport that lacks free Wi-Fi (a standard staple by todays standards) where you’ll need to make your own entertainment, so make sure you get some films and books downloaded prior to pass the time. Or, you could get your first glimpse of what is in store by sitting outside and watching the sea planes and yachts pass by as they float over the blue sea.

Due to the effort alone to get here, I would recommend you plan on staying in the Maldives for a minimum of 10 days to make it more worthwhile. Next time I plan on staying longer... if my work lets me. ;-)

Greetings - Vilamendhoo Style!

Upon arriving at the dock by speed boat, you hear sounds of a beating drum as you are greeted by one of the representatives and make your short walk onto the island. After some quick form filling and introduction on over a refreshing mocktail at reception, we’re good to head on over to our accommodation.

No Shoes, No News

What I found immediately different at Vilamendhoo compared to the other resorts I’ve stayed at before is their motto: no shoes, no news, which is evident both by the workers and holiday-goers. You can literally walk around the island, enter reception, restaurants in bare feet! All floors surfaces (excluding spa and your hut) have a thick layer of sand. It’s just like walking on a beach everywhere you go! Being the Indian I am, I still walked around with flip-flops as some areas were a little to rough for my sensitive feet.

Accommodation - Beach Villa

Vilamendhoo has varied accommodation based on where you’d like to be situated on the island and most importantly price. There are four options to choose from (ordered by cheapest):

  1. Garden Room
  2. Beach Villa
  3. Jacuzzi Beach Villa
  4. Jacuzzi Water Villa

The Garden Room and Beach Villa offer the same amenities with the main difference being the location as highlighted by the name. If you can afford to pay a little extra definitely go for the Beach Villa, you won’t regret it. How can you afford not to? You basically have a little slice of your own beach front paradise meters away from the sea. I found this to be the most exceptional location if you’re fond of snorkelling.

When I think back to my last years holiday in Bali where to access the beach was a 5-10 minute walk, the Beach Villa’s close proximity is a priceless gift that takes the headache out of a casual swim in the sea. It’s also worth noting at this point, you won’t be hassled by anyone trying to sell you anything whilst you lounge on the beach, which was a regular occurrence in Bali.

Vilamendhoo Island Resort - Jacuzzi Water Villa

Talking about the Water Villa’s would cause me too much mental anguish as I have seen how truly amazing they are situated in a prime location over the water in the lagoon. The Beach Villa’s might be close to the sea, but the Water Villa’s takes things to the next level with private sundeck and stairs to the sea. Who knows... maybe next time?

I stayed in one of the many Beach Villa’s dotted around the coast of the island. My Beach Villa faced the south side where you will see much boat activity and if you gaze further into the distance you’ll see Dhangethi island (it’s the one with a massive satellite aerial sticking up). The upside of this location is its closeness to the reception, restaurant and bar. However, I would recommend the north side with its calmer waters due to little to no boat activity and its slightly lusher sands (I swear it feels different!).

The villa is clean, simple and very comfortable with its tropical decor, controllable air conditioning and king size bed. At 55 sqm you have a lot of space to move around and at no time do you feel cramped. TV is an important factor wherever I go on holiday for times when I just want to do nothing. Luckily, you are provided with a 32 inch cable TV with access to a wide range of channels. I found myself watching a film every night before bed. Now thats what I call luxury!

One thing you’ll find very different is the bathroom. It’s slightly outdoors, or “open air” as Vilamendhoo like to call it. So you’ll find yourself either looking up at the sky, surrounding trees or the mini garden that forms part of the bathroom during a shower or toilet time. It feels very liberating! You’re literally one with nature as nature calls.

Vilamendhoo Island Resort - Bathroom Garden

The included shower gels, shampoo and creams are exceptional. I’m an absolute snob when it comes to resort/hotel provided washes as they are just dirt cheap, but I was pleasantly surprised by the naturally derived Healing Earth collection. So feel free to leave your own toiletries behind as (like myself) more than likely will not be using them.

Dining - Food Glorious Food!

If you’re an “all inclusive” customer you will not go hungry. It’s worth every penny - I’ll be talking more about this further down in this post.

The main dining area is the Funama Restaurant housed on the south-side at the centre of the island, making it easily accessible wherever your hut is.

On your first day entering the dining area you will be given a table that will be your assigned seating throughout your stay which I originally thought would be quite restrictive. I was wrong. It’s efficient and you get a sense of familiarity with the staff who serve you. It’s at this point I have to make a shout out to our waiter - Ilham. He provided first class service, gave me a plaster for my cut toe (yes!) and shared his wealth of knowledge of the resort and made recommendations throughout our stay. Miss that guy! He deserves a promotion!

The variety of food on offer is astounding that spans across breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a buffet each day. Every evening the food on offer is based on a theme, such as (to name a few):

  • Maldivian
  • Indian
  • Italian
  • Chinese

If you’re not too keen on an evenings theme, there are still other dishes on offer that might be to your liking. It’s impossible for you not to be content with whats on offer.

The food is outstanding across all meal time with a lot of variety. We were tempted to dine at the Asian Wok, but the quality buffet suited us perfectly. All the chefs really do deserve a lot of gratitude just due to the sheer quality and quantity of the food. The service runs like clockwork. As soon as one dish is all consumed in the buffet area, it’s quickly refilled.

The desserts are pure bite-sized art forms.

Vilamendhoo Island Resort - Desserts

From looking at a handful of other reviews, some have commented on the ambience of the dining hall and the dim lighting. Ignore the naysayers. I quite like it!

Excursions

Being my first time visiting Vilamendhoo Island and the Maldives, I didn’t actually partake in many excursions for the sole reason of feeling an overwhelming sense of contentment. You are surrounded by serene beauty wherever you look. Judging by the serendipitous chain of events where the stars aligned, going to the Maldives has been a long time in the coming - I just didn’t know it.

The handful of excursions I did get involved in consisted of:

  • Kayaking
  • Tour of Dhangethi Island
  • Spa (can I class this as a excursion?)
  • Sunset Punch Cruise

Kayaking

If you’re not 100% confident in going further out to sea or extreme water sports, kayaking is the way to go. You can take your time and go as far out to sea as you feel able to within the 45 minute session. Vilamendhoo Island is deceivingly small and if (like myself) you decided to kayak your way around the island, this can be done in around 30 minutes with time to spare for a little messing around.

Tour of Dhangethi Island

Dhangethi - Boat HullDhangethi is a is a 20-30 minute boat ride away - the island with a massive phone antenna you can see over the horizon from the south-side of Vilamendhoo.

The island is home to a small population of Maldivians with its primary infrastructure involving fishing, construction, boat building and tourism. Some areas you will have the chance to see for yourself during the guided tour of the island along with the local schools and hospital. For me the highlight was viewing an under construction hull of a ship. An image doesn’t give justice on the sheer scale.

At the time of the tour I wasn’t very impressed with the island visit probably because I was expecting something different, but my opinion has somewhat changed as I look back and adjusted my expectations. It was a fascinating insight looking into the culture of the locals and history.

The only thing I would say is the trip was 30 minutes too long. Myself and others found ourselves lingering near the dock waiting to leave.

I wasn’t too interested in the souvenir shops as there wasn’t anything of interest to me, however I heard the goods were a lot cheaper when compared to the Vilamendhoo’s own shop.

Sunset Punch Cruise

The Sunset Punch Cruise is a late afternoon boat trip that takes you further out to sea and immerse yourself in the tropical sunset with a glass of Vilamendhoo’s “special (non-alcoholic) punch”. You may even encounter some dolphins along the way. It was uncertain to whether we’d actually see any dolphins as the cruise from the previous day had no such encounter so our expectations were kept to a minimum.

I am glad to report that luck was on our side and what we experienced wasn’t just a brief encounter, it was a close encounter of the third kind! Not only did we see shoal of dolphins but they were also swimming up close interweaving around the bow of the ship for quite sometime in all their splendour, to the amazement and awe to all on the cruise. Sometimes I question myself on whether I really did see those dolphins and I wasn’t on some form of hallucinogenic trip from the “special punch”. Thankfully, I can confirm I was of sound mental state as I have photographic evidence such an experience did exist. :-)

Even though the likelihood of seeing the dolphins is little hit or miss, I would still recommend this excursion just to have a chance of seeing these wonderful creatures in a close proximity.

Go All Inclusive!

Vilamendhoo Island Resort - Asian Wok Restaurant At Night

If you are able to get an “All Inclusive” package at a good price, just go for it! It’s freedom! You know from a cost perspective you will not have to spend a penny more as long as you stay within the confines of the inclusive package. All in all, it’s a good value as you will also get some excursions free or at a discounted rate.

As humans we have a natural instinct of wanting more and there is always a hint of disappointment when you find some red tape when in this case “All Inclusive” has some limitations. I would list the limitations out but they are so minor it isn’t really worth mentioning.

It would be nice is Asian Wok was part of the inclusive package or offered a few meals, but I can understand why they don’t offer this as it lacks the table capacity unlike Funama Restaurant.

Final Thoughts

Going to the Maldives is what I can only call a proper holiday. You have an excuse to just relax and take life at the pace you wish. You could spend all your days being very active scuba diving, windsurfing and snorkelling through the crystal clear waters. Or just sit back on the sun lounger with a couple drinks to hand letting the days pass by. Generally, when on holiday I find myself feeling the need to explore the local surroundings to make the most of it - not here. While away your days guilt free!

Vilamendhoo is small island of paradise that puts a spell on you from the very first moment you step onto the dock to the sound of the welcoming beat of the drum.

My Time At Melia Bali Hotel

Family. Family is what comes to mind when I think of my time at Melia Bali. I only happen to come to this conclusion as I checked out on the calm and (strangely) cool evening before having to depart back to the UK.

I don't generally write about my travels (or lack of!). But my time at Melia has energised me to write something and as a result, I scribble away madly trying to make sense of processing my erratic thoughts and feelings during my long flight back. Just so I can write this post.

Melia Bali Coconut On The Beach

I find it ironic I started writing this post about "family", when I happened to visit Bali with people to whom I deem most dear: mum, dad and sister. I feel that family forms centre place to the services they provide.

If you happen to have the privilege of staying at the Melia Bali Hotel for long enough, you'd get a sense of familiarity of the people working there. To some extent I hope I am perhaps familiar to them - The Indian guy with the ridiculously frizzy hair (a result of the climate ;-) ).

These people truly are the back bone of the hotel and make it what it is. Yes, Melia is a pretty place on the surface but it's the people that make it truly shine when compared to the other hotels staggered along the beach shoreline. They are without a doubt amazing at what they do. From the lady who cooks me the most delicious fluffy omelette in the morning down to the lobby personnel who are willing to help with any query or concern.

From the moment I wake up and make my way to the breakfast hall to the moment I enter the lobby at the end of a long day gallivanting, I am greeted with many smiles. You can't help but be infected with a sense of positivity and happiness, something I don't think I've ever come across when holidaying elsewhere.

The lobby statues and wondrous ceiling mural makes for a welcome sight at any time, setting the ambience and standard for the hotel. If you're lucky to be at the lobby during the evening, you'd be greeted by two classically trained balinese dancers dressed from an era of time gone by. As they dance with delicate intricacy to the tune of the rindik, I am reminded of similarities when compared to classical Indian dances - a lost art and cultural heritage slowly eroding with time, making for a visceral experience and something you can't help but appreciate.

Melia Bali Dancers

Melia offers around five restaurants to cater for the guests varying palettes - each with their own theme and cuisines. We found ourselves venturing outside to nearby restaurants as after a few nights as we found the prices a little dear based on the portion sizes of the main meals. Even though the food was very tasty, my western belly expected something more sizeable. When taking into consideration the 21% combined tax and service charge on top of the prices on the menu - not so cheap. There are many fine eateries at the Bali Collection for consideration, just a 5-10 minute walk away.

When there are issues, it is family that are there to support at time of need. We happened to experience some very loud noises from the room above us at an unsightly hour. Spoiling the serenity we become accustomed to. Now this went on for a couple nights. We just happened to make a remark of our problem in passing to one of the workers whilst feasting on the morning breakfast buffet and within a a short period of time this was communicated to the customer service representative who apologised and organised a room change swiftly.

The rooms themselves are all very well maintained, clean and provided nice views from the balcony. Based on our room change, you can expect subtle differences in terms of the what the rooms offer. For example, our first room just had a shower, but the second room had a shower/bath. My only quibble is the shower head position - not a deal breaker. There are generous bathroom amenities, consisting of toothbrush, toothpaste, vanity kit, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, shaving kit and body lotion. All fully restocked daily. The crazy thing is that you get a new toothbrush every day! As much as I like a new toothbrush, I sometimes have to question the environmental impact.

Melia Bali - View from Lobby

Even though our noisy neighbour was no fault of thier own, Melia took us under their wing to ensure our holiday was perfect. We were even given a fruit platter for our troubles. I think what struck a chord with me is before we departed, is that the management seem to know everything about a guests stay to a granular level. The hotel manager hoped we'd comeback again to visit even with the minor inconvenience we experienced.

If I do get another opportunity to visit again, I will consider paying a little extra for "The Level" experience. I have to admit, I was quite envious of all the things I heard about this upgrade when talking to other guests on the beach. I felt like a pauper. I like the idea of having a little more privacy in terms of accomodation and your own space on the beach. More importantly it's adults only. No noisy kids! :-)

Melia Bali - Entrance At Night

I look back at my time at Melia Bali with fond memories that will be permanently etched into my memory. For me, Melia compliments Bali as the wondrous land of Bali compliments Melia.