Best of the Maldives: SNUBA – Angsana Ihuru

Angsana Ihuru SNUBA

 

Another option for kids immersing themselves in another world, is the new SNUBA offering a Angsana Ihuru. Atoll Paradise reports

“Angsana Ihuru is the first resort in the Maldives to introduce the revolutionary SNUBA snorkel-dive cross-over. SNUBA allows you to dive down to up to 6 meters while breathing through a hose attached to a floating raft. Even small children can participate in this fun activity and SNUBA Doo on the surface with the help of a special floatation device, while their older siblings SNUBA dive down below…With an access to 30 diving sites less than an hour away from the resort, you can expect to see stingrays, scorpion fish, giant moray eels and myriads more of colorful marine life.”


SNUBA uba-doo!

Best of the Maldives: Fantasy Kids Club – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi kids club 1

 

 

If your kids want to immerse themselves in an imaginary world of a less virtual type, then Soneva Fushi’s kids club is as out of this world as any level of Tron. Sort of like what Tim Burton would design for kids if he was stranded on a tropical island. Other creative offerings include yoga for kids (kids sitting quietly and contemplately…that is a magical fantasy world!).

Fantastic!

 

Soneva Fushi kids club 2

Best of the Maldives: Beach Web Surfing – Paradise Island

Paradise Island - beach web surfing

Another surfer’s Paradise in the Maldives. This time for ‘web surfers’. And offered up by the eponymous Paradise Island. The resort not only offers wifi that extends to the beach in front of their reception, but also they have run power outlets to the tables. As a result, you can surf for hours without running out of juice (well, you might need a top up for your pina colada).

Paradise Island - beach web surfing 2

Best of the Maldives: Surfer Island – Coke’s Island

Cokes Island 2

Okay, maybe not a ‘resort’, but to many surfers, still absolute luxury in paradise.

‘Coke Island’ is one of the first local island guest properties and has a special focus on surfing.

I read about it in the Maldivian Air Taxi in-flight magazine piece by Donna Richardson. I tend to keep the focus of Maldives Complete, especially the ‘Best of the Maldives’ section focused on the official resort islands. I have added a few of the Male hotels that do have a fair amount tourists (eg. Traders, Hulhule, Nasandhura). Recently, the government opened up the option for non-resort islands to host visitors in guest house as way to offer more possibilities to guests, generate direct income to local islands, and to provide more low-cost budget options. The Maldives heritage was actually in low cost diving lodges. Also, I see the Maldives becoming a more and more prominent surfing destination and I am trying to document many of the surf features. Richardson describes it…

“Just two hours dhoni ride from Male or 45 minutes by speedboat, this charming island offers a different experience to laid-back resort life. It gives backpackers the chance to live as the locals do. To boot you can get to grips with one of the best surf breaks in the country – ‘Cokes’ which too is named after the [nearby] fizzy drink factory. The first port of call for weary travellers is a new guest house specifically aimed at European backpackers called Surfers World. The camp itself features a five bedroom hostel with comfortable and clean beds with sleeps between two and four people per room.”

 

Cokes Island 1

Equalization Tips

Bruce Lynn diving Maldives

Something else that bothers me personally when I am in the Maldives, is equalising (the process of adjusting pressure in your sinuses whn scuba diving). With such world class snorkelling in the Maldives, it was some years after my wife started diving that I joined her in getting certified and one of the disincentives for me was general sinus issues which made for equalisation difficulties. For the 6 years I have been diving, these issues persist in irritating my dives, but over that time I have collected a range of tips from various divers and dive masters on how to alleviate the problem.

There are the classic tips that you learn when you get certified like…

  • Wiggle ear and jaw.
  • Hold nose and blow gently (I did find that a problem I had was trying to blow too firmly which both hurt my ears and wasted air).
  • Descend slowly.
  • Rise 2/10th metre when you start to feel discomfort.

Since taking the Scuba course, picked up the following added tips.

  • Snort salt water. Before descending, suck some ocean water up through your nose. It actually works a treat to open up the sinuses. It’s not far off the traditional remedy for throat problems of gargling with salt water. However, Claudio at Sea Dragon Diving with Maafushivaru informs me that in most places that is a good trick, but in the Maldives there are many micro-organisms in the water the practice can cause infection. If you like this approach and are concerned about this, then you could bring some pharmaceutical saline solution with you.
  • Sudafed. Or any non-drowsy cold decongestant. The scuba course will tell you not to take drugs for a number of good reasons (eg. they could have adverse side effect which is why you need to be careful to get non-drowsy ones, they could wear off and then problems could occur when you are in process of diving, they could mask serious issues or symptoms). In short, in the interest of absolute safety, the advice is that if you need any drugs to make diving comfortable, then you shouldn’t be diving. But, that advice is really geared toward people not well. If you are well, I have met a number of divers who do practice taking some Sudafed to assist the biological processes of opening up the sinuses and making equalisation easier.  Note, my friend and veteran diver Eileen Brown informs me that pseudoephedrine can causing fainting if you descend to 30 metres (rare in the Maldives).
  • Beconase (beclometasone). Same concept as Sudafed, but a different (and possibly more effective and immediate delivery mechanism).  Beconase (the OTC name) is a nasal spray that opens up the nasal passages.  It was recommended to me by my doctor for general draining of fluid from my ears after a cold.  I had had blocked ears for weeks, but after one puff of the spray, my ears started that distinctive ‘crackling’ sound of clearing.
  • Swim parallel above rest of group. Many times it just takes longer for the equalization to happen. The problem is that you feel that you need to descend to keep up with your group and it is the rushed descent that causes the discomfort. The divemaster at Lily Beach Nicole encouraged me to simply swim above the group, but keeping the group in view, and descend at my own pace (also, in addition to my buddy, she kept an extra eye out for me).
  • Relief, Not Release. Sometimes when you equalise, you get an incredibly satisfying squeak in your ears as the pressure finally squeezes through your ear channel to balance.  I used to make the mistake of trying too hard to equalise and pushing to hard to try to achieve this effect.  But this was the wrong approach.  Not only did I fail to achieve the release, but the pushing too hard meant that I probably aggravated my sinuses and wasted extra air in the process.  What I learned to do was the more gentle holding nose and puffing.  The objective was not to get the ‘release’, but simply to ‘relieve’ the pressure on the sinuses.  I soon realised that I could do the entire descent without the magic release, but I would avoid all discomfort by just gently working on keeping the pressure strong in my sinuses.
  • Turn Down the AC. Air conditioning dries the tissues in the ears, and then when you emerge into the nearly 100% tropic humidity, it expands the tissues which will tighten up the ear canals.
  • Push 2 Fingers Behind the Jaw.  Find the soft tissue just behind the end of the jaw bone and carefully push into the soft tissue.  It will feel a bit uncomfortable, but done properly with relax the tissue located there which can contribute to the tightening of the ear canals (courtesy of Thomas at Werner Lau, Medhufushi).
  • Olbas Pastilles. Any eucalyptus lozenge should do to open up the sinuses before a dive, but many melt in the heat, while Olbas brand don’t (another Eileen tip).

Here are some more handy tips from Aquaview.

Most Disturbing Sight

Pearl Fish and Sea Cucumber

 

 

For the first time ever, Lori and I did an excursion to a ‘local island’. Staple fare on the resort excursion buffet, but one we had shied away from like miso soup for breakfast. But LUX* Maldives included it as a refreshment stop on their whale watch trip so we went along. It was all very nice to get a glimpse of the more quotidian side of Maldives life. Nothing too dramatically interesting. A more rural version of the types of sites you see in Male – souvenir shops, mosques, concrete open-air dwellings.

As part of the trip we toured the local school. And there I learned something just a bit disturbing that I might be better off not knowing. Naturally, Maldivian children invest a fair amount of study in the subject of marine biology. One of the classrooms was festooned with posters crafted by the students to highlight various fun facts about marine life. Except one. Which was not so fun…

“PEARL FISH – lives in anus of sea cucumber and if it doesn’t get enough nutrients, it eats the sea cucumber’s gonads”

I am thankful for many things in life, but after my trip to Dhigurah, I am especially grateful that I am not a sea cucumber (pretty happy not to be a Pearl Fish either).

For Resort Managers Only

Papaya and Lime

 

 

Many of my post are full of tips for prospective guests, but here are some tips for all of you resort staff and especially management based on my extensive sampling of the resorts…

  • Always serve papaya with lime (and while you’re at it, teach them the difference between a ‘lime’ and a ‘lemon’. Several times I asked for a ‘lime’ and they brought me a ‘lemon’. As the old adage says, ‘If life gives you lemons, then if you had asked for limes, you must be in the Maldives.’)
  • A mattress cover/pad is an easy/cheap way to make a standard bed feel more luxurious.
  • Acoustic music (Maldivian traditional is good, soft jazz also, spa ambient even) in bar and lounges (unless you are going for the lively, upbeat, party vibe…but most Maldives resorts aren’t). For that matter, acoustic performers would often better suit the romantic mood of sipping a refreshing drink with your toes in the sand rather than putting on a mini cover concert.
  • Job #1 for the staff is smiling (amazing how many resorts miss this fact. A resort that screws up everything, but does this tends to fare better than a resort that does everything right, but misses this).

5 Star Nibbles

Madlives drinks and nibbles

 

 

On our latest Tour, a further give-away to the true ‘rating’ of an island occurred to me as we went through our nightly sundowner ritual of pina coladas (for me) and the most bizarre cocktail concoctions that captured my wife’s fancy. The drink nibbles. There is quite a diversity of offerings and here is how they roughly break down (similar parallel in escalating quality to the ‘Welcome Treat’ distinction I already enumerated)…

  • Basic (3 star) = None
  • Smart (4 star) = peanuts, crisps, Bombay mix maybe
  • Elegant (5 star) = olives, spiced nuts
  • Luxury (5+ star) = prepared mini hors-d’oeuvres

I’m still on the hunt for the Best Drinks Nibbles in the Maldives.

Rising Tide of Quality

Gili Lankanfushi - gym vista

 

Every time I go to the Maldives, I am struck by the relentlessly rising tide of quality. Refurbishments, extensions, additions. Not just at the super-premium deluxe end of the market where the ever escalating arms race for wow factors marches on. But, also at the ‘regular’ 5-stars and even middle market properties. More and more resorts are playing more tasteful and appropriate soft jazz and acoustic rather than the pop chart songs which all too often jarred a sundowner. Tasteful colours and décor have replaced pervasive white walls and pedestrian prints/drawings of tropical scenes.

Some features were innovative when introduced, but are now getting more and more commonplace, eg…

  • Telescopes
  • Outdoor cinemas (made possible by the emergence of cheap, digital projectors)
  • Resort label bottled water
  • Hydroponic gardens

With such constant change, it is not surprising that after nearly 4 years of Maldives Complete, some of the early assessments on the ‘Best of the Maldives’ would reshuffle a bit. It is coming time that some of the ‘Best’ crowns get passed on to successors. I did choose the blog format so people could alert me to rivals for these distinctions. As time goes on and more research is accomplished, I’m starting to uncover some instances that trump the incumbent.

On my latest tour, I come upon a number specific features where the resort arguably surpass the reigning ‘Best of’ such as…

  • Basketball: Paradise Island has a complete, regulation court in great shape (photo below)
  • Gym Vista: Gili Lankanfushi has a broader expanse of big picture windows from a second story vista (photo above)

 

Paradise Island - basketball