Review: Huvafen Fushi, Maldives

Huvafen Fushi

Huvafen Fushi, Maldives
Room type: Deluxe Beach Bungalow and Ocean Bungalow
Duration: 12th > 19th March, 2014
Booked with: AMEX FHR

Pre-sales

I only sent them one email and they responded.  Huzzah.  Although they did take 3 days to respond.  Wah wah.  No records set, but no tears shed.

A lot of hotels leave a lot to the imagination as to whether they will fulfil your stay list, as they never bother responding to the points.  Unfortunately Huvafen Fushi finds themselves within this not-so-exclusive list, but this is not a rarity.  For all the luxury travel I have done, only Song Saa have taken the time to properly respond.  Not only did they respond, but they went through every request, line by line, to comment on it, even if it were to say they could not source something.  Iniala took a different approach to this, which was just to source every single request, which actually certifies them as insane.

Huvafen Fushi – notice the lack of tears

Getting there

Back in the day, long before reading websites like Head for Points and FlyerTalk, I would be prepared to take any route possible to get the cheapest business/first class flights possible.  I’m not saying with 100% sincerity that I would not do this now, but at least I know what I’m doing and can avoid booking something that is so evidently a terrible idea.  I look back on this journey as if I had to cross the North Pole, whilst being chased by polar bears and with it being a race against the clock until I ran out of food and starved.  The reality of flying Emirates business class and suffering an 8 hour layover may be slightly different, but let’s not make light of the peril I was clearly in.

Emirates didn’t even have my favourite nuts

You can of course take a direct BA flight to Male, which most people would consider sensible, but BA are fully aware of this and will charge you up to twice as much as flying any of the Middle Eastern Big 3 (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar), who offer a vastly superior product.  The downside is that you have to swap planes when you get to their respective home bases.  However, on the right ticket, your layover will be ~90 minutes, so the total journey time will be around 4 hours longer than BA.  To me, for around half the price and a vastly superior flying experience, I’m happy to do it and would do it again.

Once you land, you’ll only remember you’re dressed in your winter clothing when the plane door opens and you walk down the runway with the blazing heat already giving you sun stroke.   You’ll quickly be through immigration and will find someone from the hotel waiting for you.  Within a few minutes you’re outside and beside the private boat that will take you from the mainland to the island.  A “quick 30 minute” boat ride then takes place.  This of course translates into 45 minutes in human terms, i.e. non-marketing speak.

Huvafen Fushi boat

Setting

The freaking Maldives.  If you’re not familiar with the Maldives, you have probably made a career for yourself living under rocks.  When I used to hear desert islands or picture paradise, this is what I had in mind.  Whenever you see the perfect postcard of an island, it’s likely from here.  I cannot believe the number of times I read that a beach is a beach is a beach.  The rhetoric that there’s no difference between going to Hawaii vs the Maldives, as they both give you the same thing.  I will physically fight you if you have this opinion.  Perhaps this is why I have no friends.

Private deck chairs. Take note of my zero friends.

Rooms

I’m simply not prepared to pay extra for a better room in 90% of resorts.  It’s normally because I like this thing called money, which is useful for things like eating and, ya know, not being homeless.  I am not blessed with being able to appreciate a view, which is normally all is on offer. Instead I’ll often just take the basic room unless something truly stands out.  With Huvafen Fushi, in between watching all 8 seasons of House, I found myself stuck as to which room was the best one to choose. They did offer something unique.  Now here was a riddle that even Greg would have struggled to solve.  This resulted in choosing 3 nights in the Deluxe Beach Bungalow and a further 4 in the Ocean Bungalow.  I had cracked this episode and done so within the allocated 44 minutes.

Deluxe Beach Bungalow bathroom and plunge pool

Each Bungalow offered an incredible sense of space, with modern touches and great uses of technology. You have a complete private plunge pool in your garden, which also contains an outdoor shower, indoor toilet and indoor shower.  The Deluxe Beach Bungalow gives you, well, direct access to the beach.  Brownie points for correct terminology, but then swiftly taken away due to there being no privacy on the beach, as anyone can walk past.  I suppose being on a tiny island in the Maldives you can’t expect everything, but we found ourselves next door to some rather aggressive tenants who believed that they owned the beach.  Management kindly got involved to let them know this was in et not the case – oh boy I’d have loved to have heard that conversation.  I imagine having to use a child’s voice and keep saying “well done” at every junction that they understood something.

Ocean Bungalow Living Room

Which room would I choose in future?  The Deluxe Beach Bungalow, but this is mostly down to laziness – it’s right near the restaurant and all the resorts facilities.  Being on the Ocean Bungalow means ensuring you’re either wearing shoes all the time, or having to run like you’re being chased by a bear, to avoid having your feet burnt on the hot wooden floors.  The Ocean Bungalow’s have the best living area, a jacuzzi, better views, but suffer from less privacy (they are close enough to each other that if you were so inclined, you could see your neighbours, plus people can snorkel past your room), a worse location, only 1 plunge pool (the nerve!), yet the location of the beach bungalows make them a great choice as well.

Front of Deluxe Ocean Room
Ocean Bungalow plunge pool
Ocean Deluxe Jacuzzi

Amenities

You may be wondering where the submarine is.  And you’d be right to worry, as amazingly they do not have one.  However, their other amenities are truly impressive when you realise how small the island in fact is.

  • Library / The Lair
  • Swimming pool
  • Saltwater flotation pool
  • 4 restaurants
  • 2 bars
  • Marine biologist
  • Gym
The Lair

Spa

Underwater spa

The worlds first underwater spa – how does that sound to you?  Well here it is.   Does this in fact add anything to the experience?  No, not at all, but you’ll have fun putting the photos on Facebook and/or your blog.  That is providing you can afford it, as they charge an extra $100 to have your treatment here, which was one of the charges I felt was unjustifiable.

After your treatment you can use their facilities, including a sauna, steam room and couples over-water relaxation lounge.  Even without the location, the facilities are very impressive, but add in that you’ve walked across a jetty to sit on this wooden structure, beside torquiest, warm, Indian ocean water, with a gentle breeze, and it is hard to beat.

Lime Spa

Activities

Once again I was impressed with exactly what was on offer here.  You could spend your entire holiday at Float, their water sports centre.  I had no intention of doing any of this, but ended up doing 1 or 2 activities every single day.

  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkling
  • Huge variety of water sports, including parasailing, jet skis and the use of a Seabob – a very novel idea, but I’m glad they offered a choice of 15 or 30 minutes, as even 15 minutes was enough with it
  • Adopting a coral, including a follow-up 6 months later, which they did in fact follow through with
  • Games consoles in The Lair
  • Cruises
  • Feeding the stingrays
  • Playing football with the staff
Feeding stingrays – a smile or what nightmares are made of. You decide.
Parasailing
Adopting a coral

Food

Spectacular looks, terrible taste – story of my life.

With 4 restaurants to choose from, you should not run out of choice.  Raw, see pictured above, was the only one we tried once and never went back.  The concept is great, but then so is the idea of donating your kidneys, but most of us do not do it.  If you make a pizza and don’t heat it, it’s not a pizza.  What next?  Kentucky Fried Chicken, made from beetroots?  This takes you down to 3 reasonable choices.

Celsius is where breakfast is served, which offers a fantastic buffet and made-to-order options; come the evening they often turn it into a special daily buffet, where the theme changes.  Salt is their higher, a la carte option, but in order to ensure a variety of food, Huvafen Fushi offers special evening events for dinner, such as a  Japanese themed food night.  They leave notes in your room each day so you can see what is going to be made available that day.  Whilst I enjoyed it, it was priced so high that it did not offer value for money.  If I were back in sunny England, I would not go back.  So using the same logic, I didn’t return and just stuck to their standard menus.

Service

The service was very good, with a clear sense of pride from the staff about being able to work at such a luxury hotel.  Yet this is a £2000/n resort, so there are improvements they could make here.  This holiday was so soon after our visits to the Aman’s in Bali and Alila Villas Ulutawu, so it didn’t live up to those standards.  Similar to Alila Villas, you are given your own butler on arrival who then looks after all of your requests the entire time.  Not similar is quite how this works in practice.

  • Moving room was not as smooth as hoped for.  For example, whilst Huvafen Fushi was very good at following through with most of our stay list, when we moved room it was like they had forgotten it all.  Our clear emphasis on setting up the room as a fortress against mosquitos and including the Tempur pillows, all went missing.
  • The butler in Alila would be on hand during every room service to make sure that our preferences were maintained and things we liked would be included, such as fresh fruit.  That wasn’t the case here
  • Aman, whilst at its best (certainly no guarantees of this) will note down everything about you, so that there is never a need to ask twice.  We don’t drink alcohol, so therefore Aman would know never to offer it, yet here we were always offered the wine list.  At an Aman, signing for a bill is sacrilegious, whereas at Huvafen Fushi is mandatory.

I would not use this as a basis for not returning, but I would definitely see there as areas they can improve in.

Playing football with the staff

Worth Knowing

Whilst choking over being charged €15 for a glass of Coke in St. Tropez, I pondered out loud if anywhere else on earth was this expensive.  Here, supposedly, was the answer, according to some of the guests.  Yes alas, I was tricked, as in reality it’s actually not unreasonable.  With my trusty barometer of The Connaught as a base line of expense, Huvafen Fushi was pretty much in line.  Seeing that we’re in the middle of the ocean and absolutely everything must be transported in, I don’t consider that unfair in the slightest.  There are of course some exceptions to this rule.

The Good

  • Great range of activities
  • Perfect setting, perfect facilities, with no chance of getting bored
  • Incredible spa
Huvafen Fushi beach

The Bad

  • Whilst not something I particularly care about, there is no real beach area here, in that there is no communal area to go hang around.
  • Bugs – my nemesis.  Unexpectedly, they were out to get me.  Luckily they have a doctor on site who was able to provide something.  For all I know it was a placebo, but it seemed to work.
  • Some of the activities require you to have a minimum of 6-8 people if you want to do them, which meant waiting for others to agree to come along.  We ended up missing out on being able to swim with whale sharks due to this.

The Luxurious

  • You’re in the Maldives.  If this does somehow not appeal, strangely this holiday will not appeal.
  • The Maldives is the hardest place on earth to decide on which 5 star hotel to choose from.  Whilst there are a large number of beach resorts worldwide, it is often a handful.  In The Seychelles you have North Island and Fregate; in Fiji you have Laucala; Phuket has Iniala, Amanpuri and Trisara.  The Maldives has a solid 15 options that you may want to consider.  To decide on Huvafen Fushi I did more research than I may have ever done before; when we arrived, the butler quipped  that I knew the place better than her.  Yet after all of this, I still arrived and found the resort more beautiful and impressive than I imagined.  It is the only place I’ve ever been where all the brochures, websites, photos and reviews didn’t feel like it did it justice.
  • I slept and slept and slept.
Sunset music

Conclusion

Huvafen Fushi lives in my memory as one of my favourite holidays.  We went looking to relax – and boy did I manage that – but we found ourself doing something every day due to the vast amount of activities on offer.  Due to switching rooms, it actually gave the feeling of having 2 holidays.  Since visiting Huvafen Fushi, we’ve taken this same idea to other hotels where we’ve had longer stays and found it to be worthwhile.

I would definitely return, but first I look forward to trying Cheval Blanc and Velaa later this year.

Huvafen Fushi pool

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