April 11, 2015

The Other Maldives

So we’ve been poking around the islands swimming in this gorgeous, utterly unreal, aqua water for a couple of weeks now. Some days we’ll sail for a few hours to another atoll. Others we’ll stay put and spend the day snorkeling and the evenings watching the sunset (often from the beach with a cold beverage in hand). On one level our experience is very similar to that of every other tourist who comes to the Maldives, but on another level it’s utterly different

The Maldives is a fairly unique place. Unlike most tropical holiday destinations, people coming to the Maldives are typically headed to a luxury resort on a private island. This means you arrive at the airport in Male and immediately transfer to your hotel transport. A short while later you’re on your own island—no local hawkers to contend with and other than the occasional cultural day-trip to a local island, no rubbing shoulders with riff-raff.

We’re kind of keen on the riff-raff and are really grateful to be here after the 2009 Local Tourism Law which lets us visit the villages. But recently we (sort-of) got a view of how the other half live when we visited the Zitahli Dholhiyadhoo Resort.

For a pleasant day we wandered the resort pathways, explored the amenities, played with the turtles in the conservation program and swam on the gorgeous resort reef. The major differentiation was we still ate and slept on the boat, and oh, the resort was built but never opened so it’s kind of abandoned.

part of the show suite--to let prospective buyers know how the resort could look
Maia checking out our over-water bungalow
Apparently there are quite a few abandoned resorts in the Maldives. Information about why they are tourist free is a bit scarce—but it seems that a combination of politics, financial and environmental factors have conspired against them.

checking out the turtle conservation program
the staff spend their off-time fishing for the turtles
The result is both a bit eerie and heartbreaking. It seems like a huge waste and the workers who are left behind to try and maintain the resorts face an uphill battle. Zitahli Dholhiyadhoo was started in 2008 set to open in early 2011, but rather than looking like an almost new resort it’s looking fairly forlorn. Still gorgeous though.


Jonathan said...

Sorry, but this is really craaazy. Investors have lost their shirts but yet the govt let's this potential revenue sit idle? What am I missing? Are there multiple other similar resorts operating successfully? So this operator just didn't pay enough bribes to someone? Perhaps you cannot comment until after your departure...

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Jonathon--politics are incredibly complex here right now and this resort and its sister resort(the sister resort is complete and operating well) are both on the market. It seems like a couple of the resorts that were due to come on line in the middle of the worst upheaval are the ones that were abandoned. It's hard to get clear information on what's up--but other resorts are still doing really well and a sales are rumored to be pending on some.