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A small atoll in the Maldives named Dholhiyadhoo was set to be the home of a new, luxury resort in the Maldives from the same company that built the Zitahli Kuda-Funafaru Maldives. The project was slated to be finished with a grand opening in 2011. However, someone defaulted on the loan, and this year the property was finally put up for auction, with bids starting at almost $50 million USD.
We arrived to find the buildings in total disrepair. The overwater bungalows are skeletons, window panes are stacked by gaping holes in the walls, and pools have filled up with rainwater and created their own ecosystems. It was fascinating to explore the island. Buildings were often labeled with basic signs: “spa” and “water sports”. The overwater bungalows housed nothing but shells, presumably washed up during storm surge. Roof tarps had melted and disintegrated in the sunlight.
As we walked through what we presume was the staff quarters – three-story apartment-style buildings – we encountered the caretakers. The island is inhabited by four Bangladeshis who are paid to stay on the island. They live very basic lives, fishing every day, growing food in a greenhouse, and sending money back to their families in Bangladesh.
We were glad to have Trevor from Slow Flight with us. Trevor ran his own business as a contractor, renovating residential buildings in Seattle. It was interesting to see him inspect the buildings and talk about what the builders did and didn’t get to. For example, the overwater bungalows had some pretty solid floorboards, but no fixtures. Trevor could tell us where the bathroom would be and what the building supplies were stacked up around the property.
For eight years these buildings have languished, rotting and returning to the earth. It must be better for the bottom line to start from scratch, just like they are doing on the nearby Van’gaaru island and building a new luxury resort. Out of the 1,200 islands in the Maldives, only about 200 are inhabited, with 130 resorts. How many islands will be developed?