Bed decoration, with petals and blossoms from local gardens, is a longstanding tropical resort tradition practiced with great panache in the Maldives. Kuramathi has innovated on the concept with towel sculptures. And Anantara Veli provides another twist with coral floor decorations (see photo above). They create a variety of artistic greetings to guests using coral bits from the beach.
This distinction seemed appropriate to call out today with the passage of another romantic rock flirtingly brushing by the earth more closely than it has in over three decades – Asteroid 433 Eros (‘Eros’ of course the ‘God of Love’). Mind you, that intimate encounter is still 16 million miles away.
So today in Anantara Veli you can get romantic signs from above in the heavens or below at your feet from possibly the most romantic rocks in the Maldives.
Kaki is not alone in bringing the marine delights and insights home to young guests on the web. Kuramathi’s web site features its very own ‘Kids Corner’ online. Anyone on the Internet can join in the maritime fun and curiosity with material like their interactive ‘Marine Life Alphabet’…
“In here, you shall find all those familiar fish you often see swimming about in the ocean in Alphabetical Order, each described in a playful manner. From Angelfish to Zebra Moral Eel, learn the names of the fish and their unique characteristics in a snap! Little guests, have also the chance to experiment with colours, with the new Marine Life Colouring Book which comes as a downloadable PDF booklet. Learning was never made this easy! After absorbing the interesting bubbles of Marine Life, test your skills by going snorkelling and prove yourself the winner when you can name the fish you see!”
Actually, seeing a baby Zebra Moray Eel, at Kuramathi’s sister resort Kurumba, was the underwater highlight for my wife Lori during our last visit to the Maldives. There were wonderful reef sharks swimming all around us, but all she wanted to look at was this shy little black and white stripped critter ensconced in a crevasse.
It’s not just the wee turtles and anemone fish that get special nurseries for their development at Four Seasons, but the littlest guest get their very own special area inthe Marine Discovery Centre. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has put in its trademark attention to detail to a special young kids area of the Discovery Centre with colourful decoration and a hands-on ‘discovery’ tank. It even has it’s own special mascot, ‘Kaku’ (short for ‘kauni’ which is ‘crab’ in Dhivehi). Kaku has his own email address, postal address (“3rd Hole on Landaa’s Palm Tree Road”), and Facebook page where he posts his ‘Reef News’ articles. So kids can keep engaged and keep learning even after their family stay.
“Hi, I’m Kaku – Landaa Giraavaru’s resident journalist hermit crab. Join me on Facebook and I'll keep you informed of all the pioneering conservation projects underway at Landaa’s Marine Discovery Centre.”
A real ‘Born Free’ story in the Maldives are the turtle nurseries that a few resorts support. Our family delighted at the nursery tank that Filtheyo had and visiting it fostered our daughter Isley’s love of turtles and her adoption of them as her favourite creature to this day. But, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa have taken a page from their sister resort of Landaa Giraavaru to creative a comprehensive turtle conversation programme around their newly launched nursery and discovery center.
Kuredu may be the destination for big, monster turtles in the wild. But at the complete other end of the spectrum, Kuda Huraa is now the place to experience these charming critters up close and personal in their infancy. Taking a page from their sister resort’s (Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru) stunning Marine Discovery Centre which focuses on Mantas and Anenome Fish, Kuda Huraa has opened a comparable centre but with a focus on turtles…
“Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles live in the Maldives, and two of these are regularly seen. The critically endangered hawksbill turtle lives on coral reefs, while the endangered green turtle feeds on seagrass, keeping the seabed healthy and productive. The Resort’s Kuda Velaa (‘Little Turtles’) Protection Programme works with island communities across the Maldives to increase awareness of turtle conservation and protect nests from poachers. The project also gives endangered green turtles a head start in life by rearing a select number of hatchlings from protected nests for up to 15 months to improve their chance of survival in the wild. For the first nine months they are kept in land-based pools before they are relocated to larger enclosures in the lagoon where they will start to forage for themselves on sea grasses, adapting them to the wild. Guests can attend daily turtle feeding sessions to learn more about Kuda Huraa’s most delicate little residents.”
Not just kids are enthralled by these terrapin tolders. In fact, this month’s Harper Bazaar features international model and actress Nargis Fakhri posing with them (see photo above) in her shoot there…
“’It’s awe-inspiring; I feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere,’ she says. Her favourite part of the Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda Huraa is the children’s activities section. She’s also thrilled about shooting with turtles, something that the Bazaar team has captured in this shoot.”
The best free divers in the ocean are our aquatic cousins the cetaceans. As I said yesterday, that’s not ‘free diving’ as in ‘free beer’. Nor is it as in ‘born free’. But in Rihiveli Beach it is. Rihiveli have their own resident dolphin pod in their lagoon.
‘Swimming with dolphins’ is one of those magical experiences that are regularly found a top people’s bucket lists. So popular that an industry is growing quite lucratively to provide dolphin swimming experiences. Some of these are tracking dolphin pods down to jump in the water and snorkelling with them. We tried one of these excursions in Mauritius and the dolphins seemed quite bored with our presence and simply kept their distance. Because of the dolphins independent mindedness, another popular alternative is swimming with dolphins in captivity. Either in large swimming pools or enclosed ocean spaces. The Maldives has approved a Dolphin Lagoon, the website for which was launched yesterday.
Such a facility has stirred, and always does, much debate about the ‘zoo issue’. The arguments essentially boil down as follows. Opponents say it is inhumane and immoral to extract creatures from their natural habitat and stress them with confinement purely for our entertainment. Proponents say that such facilities allow people to connect with these creatures they normally would not get a chance to encounter which in turns build financial and political support for environmental causes which in turn enhances the lives of the entire animal kingdom. I personally line up on the proponent side. Of course, I am all in favour of regulation and oversight to ensure that the animals’ captivity is as healthy and comfortable as possible. But in our increasingly virtual, urbanized, manufactured world, the more voters (especially powerful ones who take posh holidays) and walking pocketbooks (especially affluent ones who do the same) who have the chance to be enchanted by these whimsical creatures, the better the prospects for their species overall.
But if you want see the ‘born free’ diving version, then Rihiveli is your resort.
Not ‘Free Diving’ as in ‘Free Beer’. ‘Free’ as in free of any artificial aids.
A bit of a crazy and often quite dangerous sport. Its practice has been reigned in over recent years after some fatalities. But now the sport is more restrained and even more meticulous about safe practices and limits.
Six Senses Laamu is featuring iconic world champion diver Umberto Palazarri in a special programme this week which offers a rare, up close glimpse of this extreme sport…
“Hot on the heels of hosting a memorable inaugural Water/Wo/Men event attracting the biggest names in watersports and water conservation, Six Senses Laamu is delighted to host a week of free diving activities by iconic world champion diver Umberto Palazarri…Umberto will host daily free diving clinics teaching them the unique techniques of free diving and explorative dives around the beautiful coral reefs surrounding Six Senses Laamu. In the evening he will host dinner talks at LEAF where he will give talks on his dives and discoveries.”
I’ve regularly try just taking a plunge down a bit deeper when I am snorkelling in order to see something a bit close. Pretty much as soon as my body is inverted, my eyes and sinuses start to ache feeling the extra water pressure just a couple metres down. It always fascinated me when the locals and dive masters could descend several metres at will. How Umberto plummets to the bottom of the ocean is beyond me.
Sakis also features some cool videos on the event and free diving in his post on the week.
“Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.”
– Robert Burns, Address to a Hagis
Scots at heart around the world will be raising a wee dram in honour of ‘Rabbie Burrrns’ tonight. And if you are in the Maldives, then the best place for a Burns Supper is Island Hideaway with its Meeru Bar which boasts “the largest malt whiskey selection in the Indian Ocean.” Indeed, they serve up 60 different types of whiskey including Macallan 25 Year and Handmade 1976 Vintage Bourbon. The bar manager tells me that Macallan and Glen Moray are the most popular.
If you are having difficulty deciding on which malt to fill your glass with such a baffling array of options, then I suggest the following handy guide – Single Malt Whiskey Flavour Map.
To the health of the women!
Happy National Day!
A celebration of Maldivian independence from Portuguese rule in 1558. Our recommendation for the resort to celebrate all things Maldivian is Park Hyatt Hadahaa. For starters, they add a bit of an authentic twist to their local island excursion. Most resorts offer day trips to local island which provide a glimpse of daily life through a cursory tour. Perhaps the chance to pick up a more native piece of handicraft. Hadahaa has put a bit more effort into introducing its guests to the Maldivian culture with it ‘Journey to the Maldivian Passions’ with 3 distinct experiences on offer..
- Identity, Faith and Celebration – Take a journey to an outlying island and explore the Maldives first hand. Your personal guide will accompany you to Kondey or Dhandhoo on our high-powered speedboat and then provide an educational tour on the intricacies of local culture, religion and festivities.
- Artisans – We visit the source of this unique skill and meet the local artisans in their workshops to glimpse a moment of their life. Incorporating traditional values and skills of the people of the islands, handicrafts of Maldives which combine skilled craftsmanship with artistic techniques.
- Food and Family – Meet a local host and share a moment in the daily life of a fisherman’s wife and her family devotions, and see them living in coral houses furnished with handicrafts. Discover the simple existence of Maldivians in harmony with nature, learning the women’s daily household chores, how they prepare the unique main meals from scarce wood in the smoky traditional kitchens.
Each take about 3 hours, cost about $200 per person and have a minimum of 2 and maximum of 4 people.
Hadahaa’s interest in the local culture is not relegated to fancy forays, but rather are woven into the entire resort. Just this month they launched a community development initiative called ‘Hadahha Thrive’ which involves the contributions of all of the Maldivian staff…
“Currently more than 55% of the resort’s employees are Maldivian and despite most coming from the nearby islands, the remote location of Hadahaa means nearly all staff live on the island. With this in mind, Park Hyatt has begun to develop a symbiotic relationship with the neighbouring islands and has formed a committee of elected ‘Ambassadors’ to represent the different communities. Through better connectivity, shared knowledge, development of business skills, and encouragement and participation from both sides, Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa hopes to create a mutually beneficial programme that inspires sustainable development projects, allows the resort to gather supplies and recruits from nearby islands, and ensures the local communities develop and prosper…Park Hyatt has selected Gemanafushi and Dhandoo as the first communities to take part in the kick-off projects, based on the number of employees from each of these neighbouring islands. The programme will initially focus on improving five key areas – Business Development…Career Development…Hospitality…Environment…Social Awareness”
Finally, at the resort itself, Hadahaa features the distinctive Battuta restaurant (photo below)…
“Here at our signature Maldivian restaurant, we provide our guests with a distinctive and authentic dining experience. Battuta’s delivers guests with a culinary journey that samples local flavours and regional spices…Nestled into the native flora of the island, guests are offered a thoroughly indigenous experience in a beautiful open space cooled by ocean breezes….An open kitchen is central to the restaurant where you can experience the ultimate regional food experience being cooked right in front of your eyes. This restaurant offers food specialties from the Maldives, India and the Middle East.”
In the Maldives you can marvel at nature’s artistry through such masterpieces of its coral gardens, and some resorts feature reef regeneration to aid and complement such artistry, but Soneva Fushi showcased underwater art (which is coming up for a benefit exhibit soon in London) as a part of their long term sponsorship of the Blue Marine Foundation…
“Olly and suzi’s manta ray and shark art will be exhibited in 2012 and 30% of the sales will be given to Blue Marine Foundation, a new charity formed by a group of influential individuals, brands and organisations to protect the world’s oceans through the establishment of a global network of marine reserves. Six Senses’ Maldivian resorts – Soneva Fushi, Soneva Gili and recently launched Six Senses Laamu – are sponsoring the foundation for the next three years.”
Reef-frames are the only things with better labels as I have this week updated the ‘Tags’ used on Maldives Complete. Of course, you can always use Google or the Search facility on the blog to search for text like ‘snorkelling’ or ‘surfing’. But, text search will indiscriminately bring up any mention whatsoever of that word. Tags are used by sites to indicate important topics in the post or page. If you select one of the ‘Tags’ at the bottom of the posts (or in the ‘tag cloud’ – see above – which highlight the most prevalent tags scaled to proportion of their use), then it will bring you all the posts that are focused on that subject.
For a long time, I have had a collection of tags corresponding to the various ‘Best of the Maldives’ categories (eg. Sport, Activity, Service, Online). And over time, those have morphed a bit as certain sub-categories grew big enough to merit their own break out (eg. Surfing, Shopping). For starters this week, I have added another breakout to ‘Activity’ which is ‘Boating’.
But I have also added the following Tags which don’t relate to ‘Best Of’ categories, but rather to my other types of posts…
- Destination – about the Maldives itself in general (eg. weather, family tips)
- Industry – about tourism in the Maldives (eg. rating system, tourist numbers)
- Tour – reviews of my days there when I do personal trips
- Site – about the Maldives Complete site itself like new features (like this post here)
- Fun – whimsical stuff that just brings a smile to my face.