Meeting Eric and his wife at Manta Air seaplane lounge
Éric S., a traveller from France, is a notable name among the tourists who love and cherish the Maldives the most. He first visited the Maldives as a teenager with his family in 1987, and since then he has returned 28 times and explored over 94 resorts. We sat down with Éric to hear more about his passion for the Maldives, the transformation of the industry throughout the years, and his stories and adventures in the Sunny Side of Life.
1. What first drew you to the Maldives and what keeps you coming back?
I first came to the Maldives in 1987 with my parents. I was only 17 years old back then. My parents were searching for a destination that could be paradise. The Maldives was the best option. We fell in love with the Maldives instantly. We came to the Maldives during Christmas and New Years and we stayed for 3 weeks. Then we decided to come back again, and when we left. My parents cried, I did as well. It’s difficult to leave paradise. So of course, I said I want to be back.
Eric in Rihiveli Maldives Resort in 2002
2. What sets the Maldives apart from other tropical destinations?
You have the best beaches in the world. The sand is also amazing, of course. But mostly, I like the people. Maldivian people are very kind, and I make new friends every time I come back to the Maldives. I like that the islands are so small and the communities are close-knit. I feel more comfortable here compared to other larger tropical islands. I also keep in touch with all the Maldivians I’ve met. The first time in 1987, I made a friend called Moosa. He’s at the airport right now waiting to meet up, we have stayed in touch for over 30 years.
Eric in Fun Island Resort in 2000
3. What’s some of your favourite experiences in the Maldives?
Eric and his daughter in Laguna Beach (now Velassaru Maldives) in 1999
Each time I come to the Maldives, my favourite pleasure is to rent a boat from the resort during the day, and I curate my own journey to visit different islands and different resorts. Because I want to explore the resorts to see which one I would like to stay at when I come back. This is my 28th time in the Maldives since 1987, and since then, I have been to 94 resorts.
So when I stay about two weeks, three weeks, and sometimes even a month in the Maldives, I want to stay in at least 2 resorts and explore six or seven other resorts. I can do it because I rent a boat. So my favourite experience is renting a boat and exploring the Maldives.
His wife and travel companion added, “what we especially love is the warm welcome and hospitality when we visit different resorts. There are always people waiting for us with flowers and they take us on these big tours around the island. The quality of service is unbeatable in Maldives.”
4. How do you think the tourism industry has evolved in the Maldives over the years?
Eric with his friend Moussa in Thulhagiri Island Resort in 2001
It was almost nothing before and now it’s so much more. It’s just incredible how the Maldives have grown throughout the past years. To that I say, bravo!
The first resort I stayed in the Maldives was Thulhagiri. We had to take a dhoni back then, there were no speedboats. It was a 2 hour boat journey, now it’s just a 10 minute speedboat journey. When I came here in 1987, it was a 24 hour journey from France with 3 transit zones, and then after that, we still had to take the long dhoni journey. It is much more connected and easier now.
Bandos Maldives in 1998
5. What was a crazy experience you had in Maldives?
I came to the Maldives in 2002 or 2003 for the opening of Reethi Rah, and a friend of mine was the manager at the time. He also organised the opening of Kanuhura. I spent one week during the opening of Reethi Rah, went back to paris. And in 10 days time, I said no, I cannot stay in Paris any longer and I was back in Reethi Rah again.
When my friend saw me, he said, “I can’t believe you are actually back”.
6. Do you think each resort has its own personality and unique feel? Sometimes people ask, how do they choose a resort in the Maldives?
Of course, there’s a lot of criteria when it comes to choosing a resort in Maldives. These include the size of the island, the size of the lagoon and more. What I love the most in the Maldives is the natural islands that blend traditional Maldivian elements, run by Maldivian teams. When you walk on the sand, you can feel that it’s almost powdery.
Resorts are always competing with each other to make something better and bigger. But sometimes simplicity is best. Simple luxury, that’s what the Maldives does so well.
7. And our last question for you, when are you going to come back?
April, if not. I’ll be back in August!