Best of the Maldives: Astronomy Week – Gangehi

Gangehi astro milliionaro





Most of the special events in the Maldives take one down into the water (like Six Sense Laamu’s Water Wo/Men event). But equally as sparkling as the turquoise lagoons and shimmering reefs is the firmament of stars above. Usually at least once during our Maldives visits, we lie down on the warm sand after dinner to gaze at the night sky packed with stars with a flourish of Milky Way across the middle.

Resorts are catching on to this night time showpiece with increasing numbers offering telescopes, beach star gazing sessions, eclipses, observatories and special events. In fact, today’s post has prompted me to add a new category tag – ‘Astronomy’.

Gangehi is going a step further with an entire ‘Astronomy Week’ devoted to celestial celebration. The line-up includes…

  • Stargazing
  • “Astro-millionaire” game
  • Brief after-dinner astronomy talks
  • Let’s take a shoot to the moon
  • Astronomy walks

As it happens, tomorrow we enter the ‘Lagu’ period of the ‘Seed Moon’ which is Celtic for ‘Flowing Water’ (!). The Runic Calendar of Nordic traditions, which is governed by half months rather than full months, divides this moon of the year by Man (Human) from April 14th through April 28th, and Lagu from April 29th through May 13th.

If you are interested in marking other big astronomical events in your diary, then check out this handy reference chart for 2013 of "13 Must See Star Gazing Events in 2013".

Star attraction!


Best of the Maldives: Twitchers – Sun Island

Sun Island bird sanctuary

Another sanctuary for the airbourne is Sun Island’s Kovelivaa park, the biggest bird sanctuary among the Maldives resorts.

As it happens, today is Audubon Day established on the birthdate of the world’s leading ornithological illustrator, John James Audubon. Sometimes, Audubon Day (celebrating wild fowl) and Arbor Day (celebrating wild foliage) are celebrated together by planting trees in bird sanctuaries like Sun’s.

There is more to the Maldives fowl than herons (it seems as it every resort has its resident heron who combines stalking the lagoon shallows for fish with posing like a fethered statue for hours on end to charm the guests). Two lesser seen examples of Maldive bird life found on Sun Island are described below by the resort…

Sun Island White Breasted Waterhen

White Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) – “These white breasted waterhens are very calm and like to go along doing their work silently, unnoticed. As the name suggests, these birds are the water counterparts of normal hens and can be seen mostly near edges of water bodies. In [Sun Island’s] IIT, the best places to see them are the lake behind SAC and IITG lake. When no one is around, they are bold enough to venture on the roads, so watch out for them! Local names: Assamese”

Sun Island Asian Koel

Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) – “Asian Koel is a large cuckoo which feeds mainly on fruits and berries in trees, feasting on the ripe fruits. It also consumes insects and caterpillars. Adults often frequent orchards.”



Best of Maldives: Airport Terminal – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangri-La Villingili Gan airport terminal

One of the best ways to see the otherworldly images of the Maldives is by taking a seaplane transfer to your resort. In the beginning, such transfers were cumbersome affairs where you sat in a sweaty, open-air hangar. But now, most of the 5-stars have developed their own swanky lounges at Male airport for seaplane transfers with cappuccino, tropical juices and other amenities. Shangri-La Villingili have gone one step further building an entire dedicated terminal…

“’The terminal, at Gan International Airport in Addu Atoll, is a five-minute speedboat ride to the resort and is for the exclusive arrival and departure of the resort’s guests. A private lounge offers one-stop immigration, custom and baggage screening services. ‘With Gan airport, we have found the ideal partner to provide guests arriving by private jet a unique experience, unmatched convenience and privacy,’ said Rene D. Egle, the resort’s general manager. Guests taking advantage of the new private jet terminal also can try the resort’s ‘Private Jet Experience,’ which features a stay in a 10,000-square-foot presidential villa with a butler and daily massage. Those who fly by private jet can now land five minutes from paradise. Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa is the first five-star resort in the Maldives to open its own private executive airport terminal.”

Best of Maldives – Online: Interactive Map – Dreaming of Maldives

Dreaming of Maldives interactive map

Like the resurgent corals, the vibrant inter-web thingy just gets richer and more colourful every day. When I launched Maldives Complete, there was a really dearth of good, useful information about the resorts. The resorts themselves had weak and limited websites. Nowadays, things are much more sophisticated.

Probably my second favourite Maldives website, after Maldives Complete, is Sakis Papadopolous’ ‘Dreaming of Maldives’. Just as I started with an anchor of a comprehensive database, Sakis’ starts with simply the best collection of images on the Maldives around. But like Maldives Complete, he hasn’t rested there and has branched into a range of other areas. His section on families, “The child-friendly Resorts in Maldives, all the Kids-clubs,’ remains one of the most comprehensive reviews of resorts on the Maldives. He has started to move into videos with dazzling results. And his latest innovative addition is this ’Maldives Photo Map’.

When I first launched Maldives Complete, one of the fun bits I added was the DeepZoom control of the British Admiralty Maps of the country. As I launched it, you can zoom into the charts to exacting detail. I had fantasized about pushing this party trick even further. I had pictures for both aerial shots of the island and prominent features like the swimming pool. I had thought that once one zoomed into an island, you would see an aerial photo (see directly below). And if you zoomed in on the photo, then it would take you to a shot of the pool (see bottom). A bit like a Russian doll photographic drill down reminiscent of the second half of the iconic film, ‘Powers of Ten’.

In the end, I didn’t see a lot of traffic on my interactive map and Microsoft never really developed the Deep Zoom technology much. Its editing tool, Deep Zoom Composer, remained klunky and incomplete. So I decided it would be too much work to add these extra layers of images. Also, soon the Google and Bings maps caught up on the imagery and so the aerial shots were pretty good. And now Sakis has taken the final step of allowing you to zoom even closer into gorgeous shots of island highlights.

Velassaru deep zoom island

Velassaru deep zoom pool


Four Seasons Kuda Huraa reefscapers frame KH0327

They grow up so fast.

The Four Seasons have always had a website that allowed you to look up your Reefscaper coral frame and see how it was progressing, but now they have just relaunched a special website, Marine Savers, to provide not only frame update lookups, but also detailed information and updates on the ever broading range of their Maldives-leading conservation initiatives.

Above is our frame (KH0327) we planted in November 2010 at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. Toddler-sized growths are looking pretty attractive compared to the collection of broken pieces that we affixed to the iron frame. Curiously, our frame (LG0729) planted during our visit to Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru that same week is doing notably less well, but still clear healthy growth from the fragments first affixed.

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru reefscapers frame LG0729

Best of Maldives: Sand Castle Event – W Retreat

W Retreat sand manta

Nowhere in the Maldives are the sands shifting so creatively as at W Retreat last week. The W hosted a Sand Sculpture event with artist Peter Redmond…

“Sand sculpture is no longer a children’s only activity. As the sun shines over the Indian Ocean Peter Redmond, Australian Sand Sculpture artist, will be assisting guests at the Retreat to create and customize their very own sand art…Guests at the Retreat can stop by for sand sculpting workshops while Peter reveals the art of sculpting. With a background in Graphic design and illustration, Peter Redmond’s passion for sculpture came at young age while competing with his brothers on who would finish the first sand sculpture on Frankston Beach, Australia. Peter stated that the only difference today was the size of the sculptures as they are now bigger…W Maldives will reveal Peter Redmond’s final work, and will select the best sculpture amongst the retreats guests.”

You can check out some of the creations on the W Retreat Facebook album of the event here.

As I noted before, I grew up by the beach of Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts where sand castle building is an annual highlight so I have a special nostalgic appreciation for this oceanic art form.

Bucket list.


W Retreat sandscape

Are the Maldives Really Sinking?

Maldives beach erosion 

My first ever guest post and it’s written by Maldivian born and raised Ahmed Shareef who looks at the shifting sands of the Maldive beaches…

Maldives are the poster child of a sinking world. If the world is to be inundated by rise sea-levels, the low lying Maldives, will be the first to go under. The islands of Maldives are about a metre above sea level. Now the question is if it is really sinking or is it a myth? What can the Maldivians do if it is really sinking?

In the Maldives, and you can experience the changes taking place every few years. I’m not a scientist. But, I have been travelling around in Maldives for nearly 15 years and I could notice some obvious changes to the climate. Many islands of the Maldives suffer soil erosion making them considerably smaller in the past 20 years.The place that was once beach where we played beach volley is now a part of the lagoon. Its speed is not fast, but the islands being so small, the small change seems to make a big impact on the country, over a span of many years.

Another effect of the global warming is coral bleaching. Tip of the colourful coral becomes whitish and dies. Again this is not common and usually happens in the hottest periods of year and in some particular reefs that are shallow enough to be affected. Corals are an important of the island ecosystem. Some scientists believe coral could help the islands tackle sea level rise while some don’t event believe in sinking theory.

The islands that suffer soil erosion are erecting barriers to protect sand. The capital Male’ itself has a protection wall all around. The protection mechanism is largely based on the effects. Government has limited funds and it is giving priority to worst-hit islands. Most of the inhabited islands currently have some form of protection against soil erosion, sea swells etc. But, it is usually not enough to protect the entire island.

From my current observation and government’s stance, there is a remarkable chance of Maldives getting submerged in coming 200 years. In the last stage the Maldives would probably pump sand from island to another to form higher land for people to live. This way Maldives could last for more centuries and ultimately may end up in a water village with floating houses and speedboats for transport. It is highly unlikely that the residents would abandon the beautiful paradise, even after many centuries.

About the Author: I was born and raised in the Maldives. Joined a resort as front desk assistance in 2001 and been moving to different resorts and cruises. Prior to starting my first job, I was cruising and visiting different islands for fun. I got weekends to enjoy like that during my studies. After working for many years currently I am doing freelance works for resorts and travel companies.

The very definition of ‘Atoll’

Maldives Quiz night – What is one word in English that comes directly from the Maldivian language of Dhivehi? Answer: Atoll.

Today is Dhivehi Language Day. I’ve always been a bit of word buff. I used to look up the meaning of every word that I didn’t know write down their definition on a small slate (probably was a big contributor getting into such a good school for me).

The other official word that is in the Oxford English Dictionary that also comes from Dhivehi is ‘Dhoni’. But to me, it’s not quite the same since ‘dhoni’ seems almost like a proper name of a specific thing in from this specific place. Furthermore, I never heard of a ‘dhoni’ until I travelled to the Maldives. But ‘atoll’ is a much more generic term in widespread use in common parlance.

But my favourite Dhivehi word is one I came across on our visit to Sun Island – “Araamu”. It is the name of the Villa resort spas and is dhivehi for “Total Relaxation”. Just like in the artic, Eskimos purportedly have 100 words for ‘snow’, in the Maldives, they seem to have multiple variations on the word ‘relaxation’. As a part of that relaxation totality, the spa offers you a ‘noni and tamarind’ welcome drink which is one of the most therapeutic welcome drinks I have come across.

Sun Island Araamu Spa

Best of Maldives: Underwater Dance – Maayafushi

Maayafushi Harlem Shake

Con los terroristas. Ey Shake. Ey Shake. Ey, Ey, Ey, Ey.

I’ve enjoyed a number of the Harlem Shake renditions sweeping the net recently, but had to give a special nod to the Maayafushi dive centre at TGI Maldives for their underwater performance.

This month’s video has prompted me to add a ‘video’ tag to the Maldives Complete as the Blog now boasts 14 different video posts.

Shake, Ta. Ta. And do the Harlem Shake. Ey Shake, Ey.