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Island time: Why some resorts in the Maldives move their clocks ahead an hour

By Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN

(CNN) — It may be true that Maldives’ luxury resorts really do have it all – the turquoise water, the rich marine life, and, in some cases, their own time system.

Referred to as “island time,” it isn’t a figurative saying that invites guests to relax and forget about the passing minutes.

Many resorts move their clocks at least one hour ahead of the country’s official time zone – which is five hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+5).

“This deliberate time adjustment is more than a mere quirk of travel; it is a thoughtful enhancement to the guest experience, catering to the diverse needs of our international visitors,” Mohit Dembla, general manager of the JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa tells CNN Travel.

The JW Marriott is one of four Maldives properties under the Marriott Group umbrella, alongside the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort and the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands.

All four resorts observe Island Time.

More daylight activities and sunset dinners

While this single-hour shift might not seem like a big deal to those who live in places where the days are long, it makes a big difference when you’re on holiday and there are only so many hours of daylight to squeeze things into.

Since most resorts in the Maldives are located on their own private islands, and often miles away from mainland Malé, they frequently operate according to their own rules, namely the ‘island time’ so travelers may take advantage of an extra hour of daylight each day to fully indulge at the resort,” explains Zhilah Vego, director of sales and marketing at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.

The time adjustment means the sun rises at 7 a.m. at the resorts instead of 6 a.m. – the official Maldives time.

Soneva, another luxury resort group with multiple properties around the Maldives, also sets the clocks at its resorts an hour ahead of Male Time. Instead of the word “island,” they name the clock shift after each of its properties. (Soneva Jani calls it “Soneva Jani Time,” for example.)

“With the sun rising at 7 a.m. and setting at 7:15 p.m., our guests enjoy perfectly timed daylight for early morning jogs or cool evening sports, escaping the peak heat of the day,” says Charles Morris, GM of Soneva Jani.

“This also gifts them the serene beauty of dusk till 7:45 p.m., perfect for witnessing spectacular sunsets on South Beach.”

Staff at other resorts have similar explanations, telling CNN the unofficial time zone helps their guests enjoy more outdoor activities before sundown and bask in the sunset at dinner. Special activities are often planned for those golden hours.

The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, for instance, hosts sunrise yoga and run sessions – dubbed WestinRun.

The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands serves dinner at its poolside bar with a sunset Maldivian boduberu drum performance, whereas the St. Regis sabers a bottle of Champagne at 6:45 p.m. for their guests.

Widespread as it is, island time may still come as a shock for Maldives’ first-time visitors, particularly as they try to balance relaxation with reality and worry about transfers back to the airport to catch their flight home.

St. Regis staff tell CNN they understand guests might be confused by the conversion. To remedy this, dedicated butlers inform the guests of island time ahead of their stays and help coordinate the time conversations and transfers, especially from the airport to the resort.

Not every island resort follows island time

Not every resort in the Maldives follows island time. That includes Kurumba, which holds the honor of being the country’s very first resort.

“Here at Kurumba Maldives we don’t use island time and never have, simply because as the first resort in the Maldives the concept of island time didn’t exist,” says Ali Farooq, resort manager at Kurumba, which opened in 1972.

“Lots of our team members commute from Malé so we also like to respect their work-life balance, and our experience is that guests find it more convenient and less confusing to be on one time zone. Kurumba is only a short speedboat ride from the airport so they don’t lose any time when staying here.”

An archipelago made up of 1,190 low-lying islands, the Maldives stretches out over 90,000 square kilometers.

The majority of the nation’s 160-plus resorts sit on individual islands, many of which are accessed by float plane from Velana International Airport in the capital, Male. These planes can’t fly after dark, so daylight hours are precious.

Over the years, resorts in other countries have created their own time zones for various reasons, but the Maldives certainly has the most of them. For JW Marriott’s Dembla, it all comes down to the traveler’s experience.

“(The resort) is not just about providing luxury accommodations and services; It’s about curating an environment where time itself is attuned to the comfort and preferences of our esteemed visitors,” he says.

“It reflects the unhurried pace and relaxed attitude characteristic of island communities, enriching the overall travel experience.”

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