Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is one of our favorite resorts in the Maldives. With some of the largest and most luxurious villas, great food, and personalized service; it is no surprise that Jumeirah Dhevanafushi has quickly become very popular with our clients. I recently interviewed Chris Ely, the General Manager of Jumeirah Dhevanafushi. Chris has been at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi from the beginning and his leadership is a large reason why the resort receives such great feedback from our clients. Chris was nice enough to take time out from his busy days and talk about Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in a little more detail.
Lindsey: You have one of the best arrival concepts. Can you explain the thought process behind the greeting?
Chris Ely: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi prides itself on providing each guest with personalized service. From the moment they arrive in Male to the time they depart Male, our primary focus is creating a personal relationship, getting to know their individual preferences and providing services accordingly. We believe a genuine relationship with our colleagues is the main reason why many of our guests have enjoyed their time with us. The traditional welcome upon arrival to the resort is in line with one of Jumeirah’s guiding principles to be culturally connected to the destination and the colleagues, hence we have Maldivian Bodu Beru drummers welcoming the guests as they arrive and we have senior managers including the Executive Chef and myself on the jetty ready to meet and greet the guests. We try to make the welcome experience as personalized as possible. It allows the guests to connect with us from the very moment they arrive at the resort.
Lindsey: You seem to always be around to interact with guests. So does the chef and other management. I love this personalized approach.
Chris Ely: Given the intimacy of Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, it is very easy to form personal bonds with our guests, especially the long stay visitors. Our management team members are all seasoned hospitality professionals who have a genuine passion and commitment to provide authentic hospitality to each of our guests. It’s not so much official policy but more a reflection of the individual personalities. Working on a small island such as Dhevanafushi, you have to genuinely love being around people whether they are guests or the colleagues, and I am delighted to say that my entire team love to be visible at all times and are quite passionate about it. They make all efforts to build relationships which in turn allow us to not only meet guest expectations but to anticipate and exceed expectations. We all firmly believe that luxury is more than the furnishings; it’s the attention to detail and the personal touches that we provide.
Lindsey: You’ve been taking care of our clients for a while now. How long have you been on the island?
Chris Ely: I was the first Jumeirah colleague to arrive nine months before opening and have spent in total just over 28 months on the island. And I am happy to see guests who are visiting for the second time and now third time as well.
Lindsey: It is amazing to me how much the island and resort has come along since it first opened. What are some of your favorite changes that have taken place?
Chris Ely: The resort took in total almost three and a half years to complete construction and has been open for close upon 18 months. Every day we are learning and improving. I cannot describe the transition that I have seen during the time that I have been on the island. But I can say the biggest change is having the right personnel on site – I believe that this has given the resort its unique personality. Besides this, we have opened up more avenues of dining experiences including the Open Beach Mumayaz Restaurant. Thus adding more options for special dining.
Lindsey: The resort, the island, and the underwater World around Jumeirah Dhevanafushi are all stunning. What are your favorite parts of the island?
Chris Ely: What’s not to love? For me the natural beauty of the island is something to be appreciated everyday regardless of how long you have lived on the island. The lush vegetation, the abundant coral reef, the diverse animal life – everything is my favorite! Turtles are an almost daily sighting during snorkeling and love seeing them thrive on our house reef. I love the architecture, it provides luxurious accommodation for the guests, yet it is a simplistic design that ensures your focus is on the views, the arrival pavilion is magnificent. Not only is it memorable, but as its open on all sides, guests are instantly relaxed and appreciative of their surroundings. The over water spa is the most relaxing place on the island. As you walk in you are enveloped by the soothing atmosphere and the treatments themselves are extremely uplifting. The other day at Khibar, one guest told me that he can see seven shades of blue in the sea – the view takes your breath away every single day.
Lindsey: What’s new? I know you are always working on making things even better. What have you recently implemented or what are you working on now?
Chris Ely: Now that the construction and the pre-opening stages are long behind us, our focus is to create memorable experiences for the guests. As we have received wonderful feedback on the themed dining experiences at Mumayaz, we will definitely add more to what’s on offer there, we are also continuously looking to include daily activities for the guests so they have the option of simply relaxing or participating with other guests. We also have a range of private experiences – dinner on the picnic island. We have received wonderful feedback from the guests and also we are working on improving based on the feedback we have received. In addition we are continuously using the feedback that we have received for training purposes to ensure that we deliver service excellence to all our guests.
Lindsey: Many of our clients don’t know that Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is unique in that the over water villas are separated a half mile out in the lagoon from the island. Can you describe this concept in more detail?
Chris Ely: The Ocean Pearls at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is an unique self sufficient cluster of water villas situated 800 meters from the main island. The Ocean Pearls feature16 villas and has its own reception, restaurant, main pool, 24 hour butler services and 24 hour security services – basically it’s almost like its own resort. Guests wishing to travel back and forth from the Ocean Pearls to the main island simply need to make a request to their butler who will make ensure that one of the speedboats are always available. Of course for our more adventurous guests, swimming and snorkeling is an option too. It’s private, exclusive, and for those guests who just want to get away from it all! The Ocean Pearls has an amazing house reef for snorkeling and you can feed the fish from the restaurant Johara. Size of the villas and space between each villa is quite outstanding. And the most unique thing about the Ocean Pearls is that it is in a separate atoll – main island is in Gaafu Alifu, and the Ocean Pearls is in the Gaafu Dhaalu atoll. We now have a traditional dhoni to take the guests back and forth to the main island.
Lindsey: Thank you for the explanation. One of my favorite things to do is snorkel from the Ocean Pearl all the way over to the Island. Our butler took us and it was awesome and easy to do! I saw some of the largest table corals I’ve ever seen!
One of the most common questions we get from clients is which resort has the best food? Chef Martin is very talented, can you elaborate on the restaurant concepts?
Chris Ely: Each of our outlets has their own personalities and I think Chef Martin and his team has done a stellar job capturing the essence of the outlet and translating that into the menu on offer. All three of the outlets offer breathtaking views, personalized service and the freshest produce available. Apart from what is available on the menu, Martin and his team are always happy to create your favorite dishes.
Azara is our all day dining restaurant and it really is the perfect place to enjoy your meals at your own pace – it is adjacent to the main pool and overlooks the ocean so you don’t have to interrupt your day too much during meal times.
Mumayaz is on the beach and offers unique seating options that encourage you to relax, take in the view, sink your toes into the sand.
Johara at the Ocean Pearls is once more an all day dining outlet and welcomes guests from the main land as well as serving the guests staying at the Ocean Pearls. The ambiance changes at night and the restaurant serves an inventive Contemporary Asian menu. Here is a sample menu from Johara.
Our Executive Chef Martin Grabner has now completed two years on the island and will continue on as Executive Chef and the Director of Food and Beverage Operations and will overlook the Food and Beverage concepts for both the front of house and the back of house. He is a very hands-on chef and he personally welcomes our guests upon arrival and will meet them repeatedly during their stay to ensure that they are happy with what is served. Additionally, Chef Martin is happy to customize dishes and menu according to personal preferences.
Considering the logistics of a small island more than 400 kms from Male, Martin and his team do an exceptional job every day. All the dishes served to our guests are made with extreme care and attention to guest preferences is key. Our bakery items are all handmade on a daily basis; the lobsters served are fresh and caught locally. Again, it’s all about the attention to detail that sets us apart. Martin’s team works closely with the Butlers to ensure that we continuously delight the guests and exceed expectations.
Lindsey: Any tips you would recommend for our clients staying at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi? Are there a couple favorite activities or experiences you suggest?
Chris Ely: Everything is a must do! But if I had to choose, I would definitely encourage the diving and snorkeling – it’s an amazing experience and we are blessed to have such a healthy coral reef. Then there is our private island experience where you are taken to your own private island for half a day with a picnic hamper. My favorite experience though is the sunset cruise and for couples I would recommend a wonderful spa experience such as the Couple Connect Treatment.
Lindsey: The butler service receives great feedback from guests. Can you tell us more about the butler team?
Chris Ely: The butler services at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is unique as the butler is your main point of contact regardless of what you need from housekeeping services, in villa dining, restaurant or spa reservations. Our butler team are our ambassadors. The entire team values your privacy and will not intrude in any way unless we have permission to do so from your butler or the guests directly. The guests have the freedom to be as interactive with us as they would like or remain secluded in their villas.
Lindsey: You’ve mentioned the Talise Spa a couple times, but I’d like to ask you more about the spa as it is really stunning.
Chris Ely: The Talise Spa is overwater and it offers magical views. There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a treatment whilst watching the gentle waves beneath you. Our therapists are trained professionals who take great care to ensure that you have the correct treatment to suit your state of mind, the correct pressure for your body type and then again the attention to detail – the ambience is key and we try to customize it where ever possible from what you smell to what you hear. Most of all the team works at anticipating guest needs and then creating surprise and delight in every step of their daily touches with the guest experiences.
Lindsey: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day! I really appreciate all the great work you do on behalf of our clients!