The Sunrise Lagoon Villa, with direct access to the shallow waters. (Photo courtesy of Club Med Finolhu)
Leave the Kids, Take the Bikini
BY :CHRISTABELLE PALAR
FEBRUARY 24, 2015
It was every shade of blue glimmering under the golden sun. As far as the eye can see, waters so crystal clear one can easily spot baby sharks swimming around among schools of fish.
On a table in the corner was breakfast -- a Japanese breakfast menu consisting of freshly baked salmon, rice, soy sauce, seaweed and a bowl of miso soup, with a fruit platter and a bread basket on the side -- delivered by a butler whose phone call had woken me up that morning to tell me he had set up my morning meal on the patio while I was asleep. He hoped I didn't mind.
I set a portable speaker -- provided by the hotel -- on the table and connected it with my music player so that the tunes of my choice became the soundtrack to the exquisite morning view before me.
Such was the typical morning for guests at Club Med Finolhu, the French resort chain's newest and first adult-only resort, located in the Maldives.
Known back in the '80s for its wild, non-stop partying and youthful flare, Club Med today has taken on an almost completely different form, with most of its resort, including those in Indonesia's islands of Bali and Bintan, catering more and more to families and businesses.
But the establishment of Club Med Finolhu, the resort's second chain in the Maldives, marks its foray into even newer territories.
Its first Maldives resort, Club Med Kani, located a short five-minute boat ride away from Finolhu, boasts 260 rooms and villas in total, and still has a touch of the Club Med holiday-goers are more acquainted with. Various forms of entertainment -- ranging from comedy performances to musicals -- is a nightly affair, and both guests and Club Med staff blend together in the parties that typically follow these shows.
At Finolhu, however, the number of rooms is cut down quite significantly. Home to only 52 villas, guests, most of whom are couples on their honeymoon or those taking a break from their daily grind, are guaranteed premium, uninterrupted tranquility and privacy. Every villa is assigned its own butler, who would readily cater to room service requests.
A pathway divides the island into two. One part, which hosts the Sunrise Lagoon Villas and the Sunrise Beach Villas, looks out to where the sun rises every morning -- a treat for the early risers.
The other, upon which the Sunset Lagoon Villas and Sunset Beach Villas are located, is where guests can enjoy the crimson Maldivian sunset.
Each villa boasts a spacious bedroom, living room, and shower room, and a private pool with a view of the sea. For guests occupying a lagoon villa, a staircase next to the pool leads right into the shallow water, calling for a dip.
In the resort's main area, absent is the sound of upbeat, dance music blaring from the speakers I remember from a visit to Club Med Bali last year. All around at the main pool that overlooks the pristine blue waters and a beach, guests are free to sunbathe and relax to soothing, down-tempo music playing. A bar is located just right next to the pool, so that guests are able to maximize on the all-inclusive policy -- drinks, food, and activities are covered for in the nightly rate -- which Club Med pioneered.
The resort's adult-exclusive policy is not the only thing that sets it apart from its predecessors. Upon reaching the island and walking on the jetty, guests would easily notice solar panels neatly attached on the roof.
"All of the electricity in Finolhu is solar-powered," Club Med's country manager for Indonesia Bruno Courbet explains. "There is a lot of sun, although on days when it's raining and there isn't enough power, we have a generator to use as backup."
While popular as a holiday destination, especially among honeymooners, the mention of Maldives over the past few years have not only included tales of its natural beauty, but also its potential to be one of the countries in the world most geographically prone to be affected by climate change and rising water levels.
In December 2004, the Maldives was also one of the countries that had to bear the brunt of the Indian Ocean tsunami, which in the Indonesian province of Aceh saw hundreds of thousands of people killed and missing.
"It was not as bad as Aceh, we did not have a big wave wash over the islands, but the tide was very, very low, my sailing instructor recalled one afternoon as we were slowly leaving the shore on our small sailing boat for four.
"All of these areas were dry, you could see lots of fish jumping around because there was no water," he says pointing at the waters around us. "After a while, water suddenly kept rising and rising and before you know it our lands were flooded."
Club Med Kani, built in 2000, was among the holiday destinations affected by this natural disaster.
"All the over-water bungalows were damaged. We closed the village for a few months and rebuilt them," Bruno says. "We reinforced their structures with concrete [as part of our] prevention [efforts]."
No guests and staffs of the resort were hurt, although electricity was cut off for a while, Bruno explained, adding that sufficient food and water was provided and everyone was evacuated within on week.
With the establishment of Finolhu and its strict use of solar power, Club Med aims to contribute to the environment and the nature that surrounds and sustains both of its Maldives resorts.
"The use of solar-powered electricity is one example of how we can pursue this [as part of our] corporate social responsibility's direction, particularly so in the Maldives, given its strategic importance in resort destinations," Bruno adds.
"We hope it will set the benchmark on further development in the Maldives as this country has to be the pioneer of sustainability."
A snorkeling excursion to several nearby reefs with guests from the resort made it clear just how valuable the surrounding ecosystem was, not only to Club Med, but to the Maldives and its busy tourism industry.
In these deeper waters, colorful fishes I've never seen during previous snorkeling trips, swim about in large numbers and feed from the seemingly endless corals. If lucky, one would meet sea turtles, seahorses, and even manta rays. An attempt to count all the different types of fish with my fingers failed, not because my goggles were fogging up, but because one would simply lose track.
Maldives and all of its beauty, above and underwater, proves itself a gem.