Thursday, December 23, 2010

Luxury Vacations: I had daunting preconceived notions of what the Maldives would be like. My mind had always envisioned Tiffany box blue water, creamy white sand, and islands shaded by oceans of palm fronds. My expectations for the Maldives were more than met at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, the second Maldives resort property of the Banyan Tree resort group.

At Vabbinfaru, intimacy and care of the environment are cherished in a luxurious, natural setting. I was impressed by a number of things at Vabbinfaru, three of which I'll highlight as the most dazzling assets.

The Villas: Vabbinfaru is ringed with 48 villas, all of which house a private sunbathing deck, outdoor and indoor shower, and a jet pool. I admired the unique spiral design of our villa: our 4-post bed rested in the center of the bedroom while the bathroom unfurled into a long stretch of tiling and beach d├ęcor.

We soon learned the design mimics a seashell, which only impressed us more. Nearly half of the bedroom was composed of windows, which every moment gave us pristine, private views of the ocean just yards away. As if the ocean wasn't close enough, our private wood walkway led to a shaded escape, suspended gently over the water. As one employee mentioned to us, some guests never leave their villas.

The Marine Biology Lab: This is a first of its kind and something that just enthralled me- a fully functioning marine biology lab funded completely by a private resort. Guests are allowed to join biologists on coral evaluations, species inventory checks, and green sea turtle monitoring. We were considering one of Vabbinfaru's many water sport activities, such as wake boarding or windsurfing, but we were captivated by the opportunity to join one biologist in an enclosed area to feed young green sea turtles.

Our biologist then treated us to a guided snorkeling tour, pointing out sharks and exotic fish tucked under coral crevasses. Perhaps most impressive was the "electric reef," an electrically charged web pioneered by a handful of biologists the world over. The electric reef attracts coral growth and speeds the recovery process of damaged coral reefs. The fact that Vabbinfaru is developing and implementing technology to help keep delicate coral reefs healthy is more than a notable attribute; it's a tremendous effort worthy of international attention.

Dining: I admire a resort that seizes the sense of adventure and delight in its cuisine, especially if adventure and delight are the elements already showcased throughout the property. At Vabbinfaru, fabulous feasts are a daily occurrence. Breakfast at the palm leaf sheltered Ilaafathi restaurant offers an array of traditional Maldivian specialties as well as international staples. At night, the open-air Sangu restaurant entices guests with themed dinners warmed by fire flames and the sea breeze.


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