Although Maldives resorts usually involve staying on the one island, there is no shortage of things to do, see and eat on Finolhu. From the famous Crab and Fish Shack to a beautiful private beach dining experience I can't think of a better place to have a birthday.
It's day two in the Maldives and it's 9am. It's amazing how quickly the body can adjust to local time. I peel back the curtains and sunshine greets me. "Look!" Mr NQN says coming up behind me peering out the window. He's pointing at a school of silver fish jumping high, rippling the surface of the water. It's my birthday and if ever there was a call for that annoying hashtag #blessed, I'm feeling it now.
The weather in the Maldives during monsoon season is unpredictable so we are determined to make hay while the sun shines. We dress to have breakfast early. It's quieter at breakfast around 9am than it was yesterday around 10:45am. We take a seat at a table on the sand and help ourselves to the food. We feast on Belgian waffles with Nutella, vanilla bean creme anglaise and raspberry coulis, an egg white omelette, fruit salad and crudites and dips with pita bread.
Today is a day of activity. At 11am we have a booking at Finolhu's Camp Cove spa. This unique and retro themed spa centres itself around divas-namely Cher, Bette Midler, Janis Joplin and Barbra Streisand among others.
You choose one of the treatment rooms named after your favourite diva, they'll play music of your choosing related to that diva and they'll also address you by whatever rock star name you want.
We have the Bette Milder room. I have a 50 minute face massage that uses pressure points on the face and head to administer a truly blissful experience. Guests can also use the saunas or steam rooms at any time during their stay. Mr NQN has a full body massage and we are both rendered speechless.
After a dip in the Indian Ocean swimming among tiny iridescent blue fish we follow it with a dip in the freshwater pool. We're water babies today and our next stop is to try our hand at jet skiing.
There are several non motorised water sports that are free (stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing and snorkelling) but motorised sports have a tariff. We climb on the dual jet ski and go for a ride around the harbour for 20 minutes with Mr NQN driving. I'm constantly trying to get him to slow down and he's trying to go faster and it's a battle of whimpers and wills.
It's nearing 3pm and we're starting to get peckish as dinner is booked at 8pm that evening. We make our way to the arrivals and departures jetty where we take a speedboat across to the Fish and Crab Shack, one of the island's most popular lunchtime only eateries. Situated at the end of a 1.8 kilometre sand bank its secluded enough to feel special but close enough if you did want to walk there. It's a popular day trip for those staying at sister resort Amilla.
This is the beach hut lifestyle but with upscale polish. There's a good wine and cocktail list and the menu has different options from food packages to a la carte.
Soft shell crab tacos $26USD
We start with one of the most popular items, the soft shell crab tacos which are crispy crunchy with chilli aioli and lettuce. They're fabulously moreish.
Seafood sampler plate $42USD
Then we nibble on the seafood sampler with king crab legs, tuna tataki, salmon ceviche, scallop ceviche, reef fish sashimi, sauteed prawns, California roll and a dynamite roll.
Bucket of prawns $38USD
And then they bring out a bucket of king prawns with a Marie rose dipping sauce and I sink my feet into the sand and wiggle my toes. I'm not moving anywhere else for a while.
Jaffna style Sri Lankan Mud crab curry $48USD
But our main is one of the most delicious crab dishes ever. It's a mud crab served with a Jaffna style Sri Lankan sauce. This is rich with a roasted curry powder, onions, coconut milk and drumstick or Moringa leaves.
It's the creation of the executive chef of Amilla and Finolhu Nishantha P. Vithanage. It comes with a serve of coconut rice. The sauce is so deliciously rich and full flavoured while the crab is surprisingly easy to break and eat thanks to the crab pliers that it comes with that not only crack but also cut the crab shell. Even though dinner is only a few hours away we can't help but dive in and get our hands dirty as we lick, suck and crack our way through the first crab only to find a whole second crab underneath it bulging with glistening sauce. The pliers come to our aid again as we feast on the second one.
The heat is high as we make our way back to our villa and we go for another dip in the pool. Mr NQN goes off to expend some energy while I go to shower and watch television. Sloth is my name and I also discover I got a bit sunburnt so I am laying low for a while.
At 8pm we make our way to the main restaurant area where they direct us towards the beach where they have created a wonderful set up for my birthday! There is a dig out on one side where they offer us a tropical bellini made with mango and lychee and snacks to nibble on while we sit in the dig out.
Next to this is a rose petal strewn table with glowing pink lights that form a heart shape. The sun sets and the skies turn a glorious pink and blue enchoing the setting. As the sun disappears the sky darkens to form a shibori pattern of clouds while an almost full moon glows in the sky.
Tonight's dinner is from the Baa Haa restaurant, the resort's North African restaurant. The food there is cooked on charcoals and we will get a taste of it on the beach. Chef Nishantha comes out to chat with us.
They bring out a large wooden pail filled with ice and topped with fresh seafood. There are scallops, prawns, reef fish, baby lobster tail and crab legs. To accompany this are three sauces: a salsa verde, ranch sauce and Marie Rose sauce as well as warm house baked breads. The food is superb, the seafood wonderfully fresh and you can't beat the view. Service is accommodating and friendly but never intrusive and they seem to know when you need them as they wait at a distance to give you as much privacy as possible.
The bread basket-oh so tempting!
The main comes out in a portable charcoal grill. There's beef, chicken, lamb cutlets, pork sausage and vegetable skewers with three sauces: tahini yogurt, harissa and red wine jus. They are all perfectly cooked but the pick are the juicy lamb chops that are so delectably good.
Dessert is a beautifully presented rose petal sorbet, perfectly light and pretty.
And then comes the part where they seriously wow guests. I look up and see a dozen staff coming towards us with the resort band's saxophonist. He's playing Happy Birthday on the saxaphone and they're carrying a cake on a mini replica of the resort's mushroom motif.
They all sing happy birthday, the saxophonist plays and they set down the chocolate cake, a red velvet sponge generously laced with chocolate ganache. It's a stunning surprise and one in which I am rendered speechless for the second time today. My heart does somersaults and we supp on cake and well wishes.
And the surprises don't end. When we head back to our villa, they've spelled out happy birthday on the bed and created hearts strewn in rose petals as well as intertwined swans. Best birthday ever.
So tell me Dear Reader, how often are you rendered speechless? What would you perfect birthday consist of?
Take a look at the Not Quite Nigella exclusive package deal for Finolhu where the two of you can stay for 4 nights from just $2,720USD (plus taxes). Reserve your package today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, dates, promo code "AMILLA-NQN1" and your preferred room package. Click here to download a pdf of the various packages for Finolhu on offer.
NQN and Mr NQN stayed as guests of Finolhu but all opinions remain her own.