29 November 2011

9th Anniversary Celebration - Maldives August 2011 Part V

Activities - Spa & Diving

There are many activities available around the island offered by the Dive Centre and Water Sports Centre, such as diving, Big Game Fishing, Sunset Fishing, Champagne Cruise, Dolphin Sunset Cruise, visit to local villages, canoeing, snorkelling, windsurfing etc. Most of these activities are chargeable and quite costly I would say. There's also a Recreation Centre which offers free book and DVD rentals, darts, table tennis; as well as a spa.
While hubby was very tempted to try sunset fishing, the less than desirable weather conditions held him back. In the end, we only did a spa treatment and 3 dives.
The Spa, open daily from 1000hrs to 2200hrs.

We made a booking a day in advance as spa treatments were rather popular especially when the weather was bad rendering outdoor activities unsuitable.
Main entrance to the spa.
Walk through a tranquil garden and pond before reaching the spa reception.

We were served hot herbal tea and cold towel upon arrival. Was also required to complete a personal particular and healthy declaration form, which is the practise for all spas.
Thereafter, we were led by our therapists to our private couple spa treatment room.
The room is surprisingly very simply decorated. I chose Balinese Massage, and hence an elevated spa bed.
Hubby opted for his favourite Thai Massage. Apparently, his therapist is from Thailand.
Some bath salt for a foot scrub first.
Both of us had a heavenly time with our massages; the therapists were quite skilful and kneaded our muscle aches away. After that, we were brought to the relaxation lounge for some cold herbal tea.

So overall, we were quite satisfied with the service and quality of the massages. But once again prices were not cheap.

Dive Centre, open daily from 0830hrs to 1800hrs.

We were really looking forward to diving in Maldives since the atolls are so beautiful, so would expect a large array of sea creatures for us to explore.

It was already too late to do a check out dive (mandatory) when we arrived on the first day so we had to settle for the check out dive at the House Reef on the second day and 2 boat dives on the third day.

The dive centre is the large building to the left; the buildings on the right are the seaplane platforms and excursion platforms.

There are around 6-7 divermasters, with 2 Chinese ladies and 1 Japanese lady.
Overall the Dive Centre is very well kept with well maintained equipment. This is the back area for washing up and briefing before the check out dive.
This is the platform for descent.
A dive map of Noonu Atoll.
Our dive boat on the third day. There was only one other guy who joined us for the diving. So one DM (Jessica the Jap lady) to three divers.

1st Dive - House Reef
The House Reef is located slightly away from the Dive Centre, we had to swim along an anchored rope out towards a slope, then the sandy bottom about 20m depth. Some interesting corals well surviving with lots of reef fishes. Here we spotted a large stingray which is probably about 2+m in length and 1.2m in width. Other sightings included Dog Puffer, Yellow Box Puffer, not too bad.
2nd Dive - Kan'doodhoo, which is about 30 min away from the island.

This is an interesting wall dive with several overhangs. Spotted large moray, lion fish, shrimps, a few nudibranch, with lots of beautiful sea fans. Unfortunately the visibility was only about 10-15m, otherwise we reckon it would be even nicer.

3rd Diver - Snow White, 15 mins away from Kan'doodhoo.

Jessica told us this is mainly a reef site, but there's an interesting cleaning station for mantas, so I was pretty excited. Overall very boring site with nothing much or new to see, worst the visibility wasn't good. Somehow, we also didn't go to the cleaning station she mentioned.

In the end, both hubby and I were pretty disappointed with the diving. The Chinese DM told us not to expect something like Sipadan where we could see many different sea creatures in one site. Yeah, I was expecting sea turtles everywhere just like Sipadan but I guess I was wrong. They did arrange a dive to Shark Point (on our fourth day) which promises lots of shark action but we decided to skip it.

Ok, this final post concluded our trip to Maldives. The location itself was lovely just slightly marred by some service lapse. Would we return again? Unlikely... maybe 10 years later? But whatever it is, certainly not Hilton Iru Fushi. I mean, not that we were still sore over the incident but there are so many properties in Maldives that we could try. Next time for sure, no seaplane anymore. We were contemplating on Velassaru or Baros (nearer to Male, only speedboat required) previously. So maybe, just maybe, 10 years later.

Here's a parting photo, with yours truly in front of the airbus :) To me, it's rare to be able to board an airbus on ground so must take photo lah. Haha.

27 November 2011

9th Anniversary Celebration - Maldives August 2011 Part IV

Food at Hilton Iru Fushi

There are 10 Restaurants and Bars on Hilton Iru Fushi and in addition In-Villa Dining as well as Destination Dining. For our travel package, we opted for only breakfast inclusive. There's half board meal plan available but the price wasn't attractive and usually limited to the main restaurant and buffet only. We thought that it would be more interesting to try different restaurants on the island, and we weren't keen in buffets either.

Food and beverage is certainly not cheap on the island, as many travellers have forewarned. A bowl of ramen noodles could easily cost more than USD20. Understandably so since everything had to be imported. We spent USD60 to 200 for each meal, depending on what we ordered. Some food portions were quite big so for those with small appetite, sharing a main and sides could be an option. Anyway since we were on holiday, no point being too calculative.

One very important note though, due to limited capacity, it's advisable to make reservations one day ahead or at least early in the morning. Somehow, the restaurants were always fully booked and we had some trouble getting the restaurants and timeslots we wanted. The phone reservation staff wasn't very helpful and everytime we called, either no one picked up and we were asked to call another number. It was only towards the second last day that we realised there is actually a restaurant reservation counter at the main restaurant where we had breakfast. Our host didn't inform us about such a service during our check-in :(

Anyways, here's sharing some of the restaurants and food we had.

Bamboo is an Asian-style light fare on the deck featuring moodles, dim sum, sushi and sashimi; open for lunch and dinner. We had two meals here, dinner on the last night and lunch on the third day.
A very small restaurant with open concept kitchen. When weather permits, alfresco seating available.
During our first night, we walked-in for dinner at 5.30pm as we were famished but the restaurant won't open till 6pm. They really had a strict policy about opening hours! So we requested for reservation and were told that the restaurant was fully booked till 8pm! We had no choice but to go back to our villa first as all restaurants won't open till 6pm anyway. Two other places we wanted were also fully booked; we didn't want buffet nor in-villa dining. Hence decided to call Bamboo to try our luck, since there was a thunderstorm and other guests may probably delay going out :p As predicted, we could go in at 6.30pm! It's quite pathetic such situations could happen as we were the paying guests!
Anyways, we ordered a small sushi and sashimi platter for sharing. The sashimi was quite fresh.
Since it was raining, I opted for a hot bowl of chicken ramen to warm my tummy. The serving was huge. Taste-wise it was definitely not the authentic Jap ramen, but the broth was still not bad.
Hubby had a bowl of Chow Mein (Hong Kong style fried noodles), which I think he didn't like it very much. Haha.
Hubby ordered a sticky rice and mango dessert, whereas I had a bowl of fresh fruits.
Lunch on our third day. We just returned from diving and were famished :)
I had a bowl of tempura soba, which to my surprise, the soba was fried instead of in soup. And the tempura was laid over the soba, how interesting. Anyway, the taste was ok and once again I couldn't finish the entire serving.
Hubby had Thai Red Curry with rice and it was quite yummy, thick, creamy but not too spicy.

Next, Iru Restaurant, a casual buffet dining with tropical island flair; open for breakfast and dinner. We only had our buffet breakfast there. The first night we arrived, there was a Maldivian themed buffet, but we weren't really keen in buffets so didn't go in. Come to think of it, we should have tried the buffet since we won't get any chance of trying Maldivian food again.

The restaurant was huge with two separate areas of seating, according to one's preference.
A kid's corner was available but basically just taking some of the items from the main buffet.

Spread of the breakfast was pretty reasonable, with the usual bread and pastry, cereal, cold cuts, salads, juices, milk, yogurt, hot selections, fruits...
They have a large selection of pastries.
Fried noodles freshly cooked to order.
Ever popular egg station.
Pancakes, french toast, waffles.

I ordered a plate of fried noodles and surprisingly glass noodles was used and the taste was quite good.
Spread of what I ate over the next few breakfasts. There was this sausage-lookalike food which was actually fried dough. Funny that I thought it was sausage and doused chilli sauce over it :p
The pastries were ok, I thought I could make better. Haha :p
Overall, we were quite satisfied with the variety and quality, although we have had better buffet breakfasts elsewhere.

Fluid - Chilled drinks and 'light fare'around a pool with a jungle atmosphere; all day dining. We had lunch here on our second day.

The pizza was good!! Thinly crusted oozing with cheese. We liked!

Couldn't remember what drink this was, I think some lychee lime juice hubby ordered.
Hubby ordered a beef burger and it was huge. We could have just ordered one pizza to share as the portions were really big here. The beef patty was a tad dry. What I liked was these cute little bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise that came along with the orders. Kawaii!

Islander's Grill - Intriguing epicurean selections; open for lunch and dinner. We had dinner here on the second night. The seafood was highly recommended by many reviewers on Tripadvisor, so we decided to give the grilled seafood here a try.

Too bad the it was raining during that night, otherwise we could have a chance to dine alfresco on the beach. On second thoughts, maybe not since it might get too windy?
The complimentary breads were yummy, had to stop myself from eating more else no room for the main course later.
We ordered the seafood platter for two, which consisted of one lobster, two flower crab, four prawns, four osyters, some squid and two yellow fin tuna steak. Overall, the seafood wasn't very fresh and hence this platter which cost USD120 wasn't really worth it. The only saving grace was the yellow fin tuna steak which was juicy, sweet and bouncy. It was a bit like chicken but much smoother texture. Should have just ordered the yellow fin tuna steak. We also had two sides of mixed salad and mashed potatoes to go along with the main course.

In-Villa Dining, round the clock. We decided to order from the In-Villa Menu on the third day, as we were rather exhausted and lazy to go out after the villa shifting saga.

Hubby ordered this creamy pasta (couldn't remember what it was now), not bad.

Whereas I ordered a simple Club Sandwich. Couldn't go wrong with a sandwich right? Well, the bread was a little hard and dry but the innards were not bad, and fries! Fries (transfat) would always be a saviour.

As well as a Sticky Date Pudding. Oh, this was yummy! Moist, rich and sweet with a creamy vanilla sauce.

Reflections - Bliss zone by day, chill out spot by sunset. Snack from morning till evening. We came here on our fourth day for a mid afternoon snack. Had a very heavy breakfast and didn't take lunch, so felt a little peckish by mid afternoon.
I ordered a mango orange yogurt smoothie, whereas hubby, a Fanta Orange :D The cheery yellow and orange reflected the great sunshine we had that afternoon.
For snack, we ordered a plate of deep fried vegetable spring roll. Oh I must say these spring rolls tasted really good, especially with the sweet chilli sauce; crispy on the outside, moist, crunchy and savory inside.

The Trio - Food, wine, great ambience inspired by the Mediterranean. Open for dinner. We had dinner here on our final night. Had trouble booking the previous nights as the seating capacity was very limited.
Ambience was quite good.
This Consommé was complimentary before start of our dinner. Warmed our stomach and body as it was raining and quite cold.
As usual the breads were yummy, especially with EVOO and vinegar.
I ordered Lamb Chop with Risotto, which was quite nicely done, juicy and succulent.
Whereas hubby ordered a beef steak. He claimed that it was so-so only.

There is another restaurant, Flavours which features Asian and Far East culinary extravaganza, but was unfortunately closed during the period of our stay.

In conclusion, we found the choices of dining quite limited on the island, given that Flavours Restaurant was closed. In addition, the food quality didn't really blow us away. With the high costs, we would expect better quality but maybe we were just overly discerning.

Stay tuned for the final post on Activities - Spa & Diving!