Sand Sea & Smiles at Sirru Fen Fushi
For Singaporeans going to the Maldives one carrier you can take is Scoot – SIA’s budget airline. It is just a four-hour flight – give or take some minutes. We were not only booked in the spacious exit row seats, but one of Scoot’s signature dishes, the Nasi Lemak, had been preordered. It was good.
When we disembarked in Male, Jalaal from Fairmont met us in the terminal. Jalaal, like his name, had extra hospitality. He led us to the Moonimaa Lounge where we would wait for four hours for our midnight flight to Hanimaadhoo. From Hanimaadhoo we would take a speedboat to the island. Moonimaa offered a buffet of local dishes and sandwiches, offered cold drinks and hot coffee. There is the Serena Spa where you can get foot and back massage. Showers and wifi. Except for the Spa all else is free.
A Short Dash
Staff from Sirru Fen Fushi were there to meet us. They helped us with our luggage as we walked a few hundred yards to the speed boat. Sirrued us into the sea, into the dark, into the whispering wistful wind as the outboards ushered us forward. Horizons were distant and flat. Lights glimmered in the night. Pinpoint lights on dark atolls. It was exhilarating.
Working with Azu
Azu showed me the proper way to do some exercises, such as crunches and some moves new to me. We talked about warming up and stretching and running. She said a run around the island, out onto the boardwalk past the Water Villas and back would be about four kilometres. I prefer a bit longer run, but it was certainly one of the more beautiful runs I would do. To finish the session, she bent me this way and that, just a tad more gently than those wiry old aunties who punish with a traditional Thai massage.Work it Cowan! Work it!
There is so much on offer for breakfast that it was difficult to know where to start. I ordered an omelet first and then checked out what else there was. There is Western and Asian food. An extensive selection of bread and buns and pastry in the air-conditioned section necessary to keep everything fresh and the racks of wine pristine. Each morning I would try something different, except for the cute little jars of yogurt. I had the coconut flavor every morning.
The all-villa resort is ideal for couples or families with its 200m of infinity pools. The washroom area is larger than some hotel rooms, and with an al fresco area with its own shower and a huge round tub that I would have loved to soak in.
Throughout, are glass bobble floaters, replicas of the kind that would have been used by fisherman, with lights inside, strung together with rough rope, which like the many themes of the sea are woven into the décor. The copper bathroom fixtures provide distinction.
For our tour of the island we were joined by Nigar of the marketing department that is lead by the effusive Melanie Hofler, Marketing and Communication Manager. “This is our first Fairmont in the Maldives,” Melaine explained. “All our people are delighted to offer our guests full Maldivian immersion. You will see it in all the facilities, locally inspired design, and in the food and the service. We do all we can to provide an indigenous cultural experience.” Here, the fabled beauty of the Maldives is contained in a sand atoll that is 1.5ks long and 600m wide. The tide can be as high as 1.8m. “The sand travels,” Melaine informed us. “The shape of the beach can change.”
The 120 villas are categorized as Beach Villas, Water Villas, and Tented Jungle Villas. There is carved wood detailing on furniture and doors, not only in the villas but throughout the resort. The ropes, the wooden side tables and lamp stands, the colours, create a bohemian rustic vibe. Wooden doors are painted turquoise to harmonize with the sea.
Melanie was enthusiastic about the luxury safari-style Tented Jungle Village. “The unique tented jungle villas offer privacy and a romantic castaway ambience. We recommend at least one night here for those on longer stays. The kids will love it. It is part of our concept that we want people to experience nature – the sea and the jungle.” Guests not staying in one of the five units can have the jungle experience with glamping BBQs or jungle cinema. Families are well looked after with a Kid’s Club and Toddler’s play garden. Majaa is a dedicated Teen Town offering a wealth of engaging experiences and activities for young adults
We loved our Beach Villa with its yard and pool where we lounged, and were a few steps to the beach. They range in size from 357sqm to 520sqm. Guests who stayed in the Water Villas told us they enjoyed waking up in the morning to the view of the endless sea. Sizes begin at 185sqm and grow to 620sqm. Sirru Fen Fushi is the sole hotel on the pristine atoll, and its previously untouched location allowed marine life to flourish, with manta rays, turtles, large pods of bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins being regular visitors to the 600-hectare lagoon. The nine-kilometer-long House Reef, directly accessible from the beach, is home to vibrant coral and a thriving ecosystem. Uniquely, a manta ray cleaning station at the House Reef, offers guests a rare close and extended glimpse of one of the world’s most majestic marine creatures.
the Azur Restaurant is near the jetty. It serves the guests in that section, though they may also dine at the Raha Market or Kata at the opposite end of the beach. Fresh seafood and fish-market displays of daily local catches are complemented by quality wines and Champagnes at the Azure.
At the Recreation Centre two local ladies demonstrated painting and weaving with Maldivian motives. Making pottery and doing embroidery is also available. Onu Onu (bamboo bamboo) offers views of the sea from various types of chairs and loungers, with your favorite drink. A great place to watch the sun set.
At the Raha Market bar – there are bars on both sides of the pool – we enjoyed a cold drink.
Designed for Idleness
It was on to the Sunrise and Sunset Water Villas. They are stunning with all the charming touches and feeling of exclusivity of the Beach Villas. They can be 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms. The villas are designed for relaxing and whether you lounge inside or out everything enhances the luxurious feeling of idleness. A picture of the large copper bathtub garnered many comments on Instagram and Facebook.
Lunch was at the Raha Market. The Gespacho Soup was refreshing, and the Angus Beef Burger hit the spot.
Willow Stream Spa
The delightful Arunika, the Willow Stream Spa Wellness Manager, is from Batam. The 2,000sqm wellness area has been adapted to the island ambience with large and bright treatment rooms. There are windows that allow the light in, but shrouded by vegetation for absolute privacy. The use of endemic herbs and Indian Ocean-inspired treatments provide several options for the type of treatment you have. Again, the architectural design features hand-carved wooden doors, with sea breeze passages designed to draw fresh sea air into the treatment rooms.
Under the gentle care of Grace and Trisma we enjoyed perhaps the best spa sessions we have ever had. Understanding the mind set of their guests, they first worked on getting us to relax and slow down. They sprayed a mist over us and put a cold stone on my chest. Grace’s whispered instructions created a fairytale world where gentle manipulation of pressure points eased my tension. I’m sorry I can’t give a full description of the entire treatment as my mind was far away from note taking or objectively observing the process. It was superb.
At 7:00pm Azim and Sanha were at our door to escort us to Kata, the over-water Japanese restaurant, sushi bar and sea lounge, where Head Chef Takeumi Hirao brings creative flair and attention to detail with modern and Maldivian twists to Japanese dishes. The first thing you notice about Kata are enormous bamboo structures on the deck over the sea. Melanie had arrived ahead of us and was having drinks with Jason deCaires Taylor and Nicholas Cambden, creators of the underwater museum. We were introduced to Chef Hirao, whom we would get to know better the next day when Farah enjoyed a cooking class with him. Throughout the evening Malaaz, who would also wait on as at breakfast, brought the most delicious Japanese seafood dishes and sushi which we further marinated with wine and sake. In the Maldives you see colours you’ve never experienced and flavors you’ve never had.
The strong connection to nature is woven through all experiences. The following morning, we joined fellow guests and the experienced crew for a two-hour snorkeling trip to Nine Faro, a string of nine reefs a short distance from the resort. Farah is not a natural in the water and has snorkeled only a few times, but she didn’t hesitate to plunge into the incredibly clear waters. Rashid gave her an extra lifejacket to hang on to and he pulled her along. “At first I was a bit nervous,” a non-fish called Farah admitted, “but Rashid was great and I soon relaxed and enjoyed myself.”
There is lots to enjoy as you can see into the depths of the sea and the electric blue fish were a standout amongst many fascinating and attractive critters and coral of the deep. Turtles and manta rays have been seen there, but that day we were not fortunate enough to see them. Still, it was a great outing.
In the afternoon we joined the impeccable Chef Hirao for a cooking class. While I meandered about Kata restaurant – checking out the upper deck lounge and getting more photos, Farah and Chef Hirao created delectable sushi offerings that were as fresh as you would find in Tokyo, where he is from.
I cannot emphasize too much the thought and effort that goes into all the food and drink served at the Resort. Each night the dinners change at Raha Market, a seafood buffet one night and fresh pasta – made right in front of you – another night.
Simmi Pai, Director of Sales & Marketing who is based in Malé, joined us for dinner, but first we met at Onu Onu for predinner drinks. Simmi had arranged many of the details to get us to the resort. “Our brands have a strong reputation globally for sustainable tourism and are committed to improving the well-being of local communities and ecosystems wherever they operate,” Simmi told us. “Guests can give back to nature by planting coconut trees on the island, or by participating in our coral restoration efforts and turtle release programmes. At Sirru Fen Fushi we do everything we can to minimize our impact on the environment.”
We were served several cocktails from Onu Onu’s extensive list. Gin & Tonic is in vogue again. And, yes, I will have another. The deeper the sun settled near the edge of the world the deeper I settled into the low-slung chair. The environment was impacting me.
Back to Reality
On our last morning, when we went to board the fast boat back to reality, the personable General Manager Denis Dupart met us on the jetty. We chatted as we waited for the boat to get ready for its dash to Hanimaadhoo.
“Our resort and the destination itself are inextricably linked,” the experienced GM told us. “As the location for the Maldives’ first Underwater Art installation we hope to raise awareness that encourages long-term reef protection and sustainable tourism. The entire design, the concept, the activities, is for guests to connect with the environment and, hopefully, gain a greater respect for it. Perhaps when they return home they will do something in their lives that helps improve the environment.”
Weeks after returning home the feeling of being close to Maldives’ environment still sifted through me. The sand, the sea, the sunshine was still close. While it is nice to visit paradise, it is even nicer to take it home with you.
Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi
T: +960 654 8888.
E: email@example.com, or
Flies 4-times weekly to Malé.
One flight each on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
05:19 AM, 19 Feb, 2019
04:57 AM, 14 Feb, 2019
08:19 AM, 12 Feb, 2019