You can imagine the excitement when we received the invitation to attend the opening of Finolhu Baa Atoll in the stunning Maldives earlier this year.. The plan was simple, pack light, follow the dress-code instructions for the parties and get ready for arguably one of the best reviews I’ve been asked to do. I have tried to include as many photographs as possible in this review simply because, seeing is believing.
So here goes..
Setting the scene: The Maldives is a tropical oasis nestled in the Indian Ocean and composes of over 26 coral atolls and sprinkled with hundreds of stunning islands. Known for her stunning beaches, blue lagoons, extensive reefs and captivating beauty, it should come to no surprise that some of the world’s most exclusive resorts have long called her home. Often dubbed by so many as being “the most beautiful place on Earth”, the Maldives has long been a favorite for celebrities, high-net individuals and corporate elites.
The resort: Situated in Baa Atoll, the UNESCO-declared World Biosphere Reserve Finolhu Resort is part of exclusive portfolio owned and operated by The Small Maldives Island Co. Also referred to as your personal “Beach Club Haven” – the resort has positioned itself to attract a more “lively” crowd than her sister, the nearby Amilla Fushi (30 minute away by speedboat).
The architecture is effortlessly chic with a clever design and layout. It’s easier for way-finding and not to mention surrounded by gorgeous surrounding. It’s clear that mother nature was also on the design team when the resort was being conceptualized.
Planning the trip: From the minute you book your stay, the personalized Finolhu service begins. A friendly travel representative will immediately make contact to learn more about your incoming flights, transfers and meal restrictions so the appropriate arrangements can be made. Seeing that we brought our young daughter with us, this was most helpful.
Getting to Male from Singapore was a breeze. Singapore Airlines has 2 flights a day. After flying into Male International Airport, we took a 15 minute domestic flight to Dharavandhoo Domestic Airport in Baa Atoll followed by a short 20 minute speedboat ride to Finolhu. If you arrive into Male during daylight hours, a Finolhu seaplane will whisk you directly from the international airport to the resort. We did that on our return journey.
The resort describes itself with a very fitting tagline “A true one-of-a-kind resort where the glamorous charm and style of a former era can be enjoyed today.” This is not only true but very evident as you walk through the property. We were told that the island is half a kilometer long, with a splendid boardwalk that stretches out for one kilometer – housing 99 water villas. There are buggies shuttling passengers every 15 minutes continually so those in ‘island mode’, need not have to break a sweat!
Designed for the jetsetting beach-erati set, the resort makes sure to offer up dining options that can rival some of the finest restaurants around. The BAA BAA BEACH CLUB acts as the central control center and serves up a fantastic buffet, day or night, together with a well-designed a la carte menu.
Those in the mood for something more exotic, the pre-Moorish North African restaurant BAAHAA Grill offers just that. From mouth-watering mezze to selected cuts of meat grilled to perfection, BAAHAA aims to please. If the orient is on your mind, then head to Kanusan – a classic Chinese restaurant that captures the Asian spirit, while being surrounded by the sights & sounds of the ocean.
If however you decide to stay in for the night, a very good in-room dining menu will guarantee to please.
OUR PERSONAL FAVORITE “Fish & Crab Shack”
They say that every trip has a “high-light” moment. An unforgettable experience that will keep you smiling long after you come home. This was ours.
During a gorgeous seafood lunch at the Fish & Crab Shack, the DJ put on the track “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and everybody were on their feet, on the tables dancing and a few minutes later on the pier dancing. So much love, laughter and dancing. Perfect strangers becoming best friends for those few minutes. In so many ways, this best describes the true personality of Finolhu and what it represents.
I’m still smiling.
Our villa: We stayed in 180 Sqm “Ocean Pool Villa”, which boasted a private decking area, a private pool and our very own ocean to enjoy. Only 41 villas of it’s type in the resort, the ocean villas typified what a luxury Maldivian villa should look and feel like. Wi-Fi was provided (and very strong I might add) and everything you could possibly think of was at your disposal too. The retro interior design came complete with a Marshall speaker which can connect to any device via Bluetooth.
The festivities: It would probably be an understatement to say Finolhu knows how to throw a party. The opening weekend’s party program was carefully crafted with 3 amazing themed parties that captured the hearts and imagination of all who attended.
Finolhu CEO Mark Hehir told me “I told my staff to prepare for a massive new year’s eve party.. only to do it 3 times in a row”. Those strong instructions clearly set the tone for the festivities and boy, it was one hell of a show!
Day1: White Heat
A fantastic opening night party which saw everybody dress in white. The drinks were flowing and the atmosphere electric. Things were instantly taken to the next level when super talented Cuban Brothers from Miami took to the beach stage and performed an electric set that certainly got the party started. Fireworks took to the skies after our friends from Miami ended with a bang! A rocking international DJ was quick to keep the party going and the rest.. well, that stays on Finolhu!
Day 2: Rouge
After dusting off the previous night’s hangover, hydrating ourselves, getting into some sassy rouge themed outfits, we were ready for Day 2’s party – Rouge. Instantly bringing the crowd to their feet was singer Katherine Ellis. A born performer who belted out some anthems from yesteryears and joined by the eye-candy dancers. A real treat and a party that ended in the wee-hours (just the way they like it at Finolhu)!
Day 3: 50 Shades of Blue
We were told to channel our inner Godfather or Bond Girl with Day 3’s party – 50 Shades of Blue. This 60’s and 70’s themed party brought out the inner child in all of us as we shimmy’d, shaked and boogied till the music stopped. One thing about Finolhu, the bar will always be opened and seeing that there are no neighbors, the music will keep playing as long as there are people dancing.
Traveling with kids: Bringing children on holiday requires advance planning and patience, which for many people can become a deterrent – especially when planning a holiday to a place like the Maldives. The clever folks at Finolhu have however taken the stress of traveling with children away by creating the Oceaneers Club. A unique program that is developed around the children on the island (at the time) as opposed to a predetermined program. Genius.
The friendly staff were very experienced when it came to children and were there to entertain and care for them every step of the way. In fact, parents were encouraged to drop the little ones off and go off to have a great time. If you wanted to book them for a late night babysitting service, simply give them a little notice and in true Finolhu style, it will get done. This was absolutely brilliant (and another highlight of our stay) and our little one is still asking to go to the “kids club” – months after our trip.
Summary: To say that Finolhu captured our hearts would be an understatement. She did much more than that. CEO Mark Hehir and his amazing team are precise in their planning & execution and make you feel that you are exactly where you need to be. Traveling with children to Finolhu was easy, enjoyable and in fact a real pleasure.
I think the most ‘eye-opening’ realization for my husband & I was that the Maldives is a quick flight away from Singapore. In 4 hours you can be in Male and shortly after that, in your resort of choice (often by jumping on a seaplane). So why haven’t we done this before – especially since we have been living in Singapore for so long? I guess it was because places like Bali & Phuket have so often (for so long) been front-of-mind that the Maldives quickly became a bucket-list option – when really, it’s an hour longer to get to than Bali, and much more stunning once you are there.
Our next trip is booked.
Below, I got a chance to catch up with Finolhu CEO Mark Hehir, and this is what he had to say:
INTERVIEW WITH FINOLHU CEO, MARK HEHIR
1. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into this business?
Started in Melbourne Australia as a Chef at the age of 15, passion for creation took me on a culinary path for 19 years around the world, worked my way up through the industry, in great establishments as the London Dorchester, HILTON Tokyo , Crown Casino before becoming General Manager over 12 years ago at Huvafen FUSHI, then working as GM with Anantara in Bali and Thailand.
In 2011 As GM of ONE&ONLY Reethi Rah I was able to really excel in ability to create experiences at the elite level and deliver for a true international clientele some memorable moments .
Now as CEO of The Small Maldives Island company I can take the past 33 years of hospitality experiences into developing concepts through design into a reality in which I believe our customers would like to enjoy and share moments together, from a luxury boutique Amilla FUSHI Experiance to our new Finolhu retro take on a beach club experience .
2. You have created some magic with Finolhu – how long did it take to build her and are you happy with the finished product?
Amazing to think in 18 months we were able to finish the master plan, then jump into construction at the same time I was finishing the interiors with our in house team (Coastline), we flew all over Asia to finalize interiors and furniture including in Java Indonesia where all our furniture and fixtures were made to our design. We are super happy with the result , as we combined some retro elements into the furniture and beach washed colors which took some convincing of our partners, never the less everyone involved is super happy with the finished product.
3. What do you want people to feel when they come here?
My objective is to experience a touch of old school, take a step back to the 60’s and 70’s through music and visual , which gives you a nostalgic feel, ultimately happy and ensuring you don’t take it all too Seriously!
4. How is Finolhu going to be different to the other resorts in the Maldives?
Our style through the Retro days via music and experiences , involving our people to enhance this feeling are built around this “Beach Club” concept, ultimately with our sense of fun in design weather it’s the Fish & Crab Shack or the Baa Baa Beach Club this will give you the vibe and real difference .
5. Are you working on any cool concepts or events for Finolhu in the near future?
Yes , our plan is to have 6 three day parties in a similar style to the opening party, partnered with international brands to ensure the vibe and feel is current whilst fusing our unique Retro Finolhu vibe, next party will be in November and will be announced soon.
6. Thanks again for having us Mark we had such an unforgettable experience.. Before you go, can you please find 3 words to describe Finolhu?
“Beach Club Haven”