Best for Lottery Winners

Maldives lottery winner

 

What would you do if you won the lottery?

A less than rhetorical question for a few very lucky souls this week. The Madison Avenue sponsored script is “Disneyland,” but the more unprompted survey says – “Maldives”. The articleIf I won the lottery the first place I would go is…” that the first thing people do is go on a dream holiday, and the top dream holiday destination was the Maldives…

“If you won the lottery where would you go to on holiday? A leading travel agency asked Britons where they would most want to travel to if they won the jackpot and it revealed that the Maldives is top of the pile…The amount of winnings was any amount over half a million pounds and if money was no object Britons would go to the Maldives as their first holiday pit stop. The website Sunshine wanted to look into the holiday habits of Brits and in the survey of 1,672 adults they were all asked about how they would spend their winnings. 78% of people said that a holiday would be first on their list of expenditures and all were asked if they won over 500,000 where they would go on holiday first. According to the poll, the top 10 most desirable holiday destinations, if money were no object for Britons, were as follows:

  1. The Maldives – 19.0%
  2. Seychelles – 13.2%
  3. St Lucia – 10.6%

You’ve just won the lottery, what are you going to do? I’m going to the Maldives!

Prevailing Winds of Visits Shifting Easterly

Maldives tourism arrivals by country

 

 

 

The international recipe of guests is reformulating from a European continental dish to a distinctly Asian fusion flair of late Switzerland has now dropped out of the Maldives “Arrivals by Country” top 10 leading a trend of Alpine Western countries (Switzerland, Italy, France) being supplanted by low lying Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Australia).

That’s according to the latest stats from the Ministry of Tourism that they presented in a nifty Pinterest (“P-interest” or “Pin-terest”?) post last week.

The Western sun seekers are being supplanted by the Eastern luxury seekers.

 

Maldives arrivals changes

Best of the Maldives: Culinary School – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah culinary school

 

Eid Mub?rak!

Yesterday marks the end of the Ramandan and the start of the three celebration of Eid ul Fitr. After 40 days of fasting, you can imagine that the celebration at the end has quite a number of long-anticipated feasts.

If you want a bit of coaching help on creating the most sumptuous and resplendent feast, the One & Only Reethi Rah’s Culinary School is where you need to enrol…

Classes will be available in a range of culinary styles from around the world such as Maldivian, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Arabian, Japanese ‘Washoku’, Thai cuisine or French desserts and pastries. The experience starts with a guided visit to the chef’s garden where the culinary team will demonstrate how to select the finest and freshest products while guests hand pick organic ingredients for their chosen course. Upon return to the culinary school, One&Only Reeti Rah’s master chef will guide pupils through an epicurean selection of the finest cooking products and condiments from around the world including wines, vinegars, oils and olives. Then guests can prepare exquisite dishes with expert guidance and enjoy their own creations in a sumptuous lunch. They leave the course with a certificate, recipe card and their very own One&Only Reeti Rah apron and chef’s cap. Courses cost run daily for between two to four people and cost $180* USD.”

Lori and I visited it in July and it is a truly lavish set up in its own climate controlled area with access to the finest tools in a lovely surrounding. It has gorgeous bas-relief on the wall depicting an ocean sunset with a Mayan-esque boldness of form (see bottom).

Reethi even have a junior cadet offering as well (see below). With this post, I’ve added a new category tag to the blog for “Instruction” which has all of the posts on the best “Schools” and “Courses” that the various resort offer for those so academically minded.

All it takes is an “E” (Eid) to turn a “fast” into a “feast”.

 

One and Only Reethi Rah culinary school kids

 

One an Only Reethi Rah culinary school wall

How to Write a Great Resort Blog

RSS sunset

 

It is even more surprising it is that no resort has really nailed a sustained, quality blog considering how straightforward the opportunity really is. In addition to the blog fundamentals cited in my yesterdays “Maldives Resort Blog Roll” post, here are a few angles that almost write themselves for most resorts…

  • Staff Profiles – A common feature on corporate blogs is to do profiles of various members of staff. Sometimes they are people doing particularly intriguing or esoteric jobs. Sometimes they are people with particularly unique backgrounds. Sometimes they are staff with special interests. We do them on our Red Bee Piero blog. The benefit to the resort and the guest is that such pieces really personalise the resort. Such individual stories make a bit of a human connection to this plot of sand with some villas and palm trees on it. Another benefit to the resort is that very often the staff are quite proud of the work they do and their story they tell.
  • Snorkel Central – Snorkelling is the main event for the most guests to the Maldives. It is one of the first topics of conversation at the bar in the evening…”What did you see today?” Invite guests to share their house reef adventures and discoveries. Also, the majority of resorts now staff marine biologists. I find too many of these MBs focus on education. They write and speak about the ABCs of marine life. I think they should invest more effort and time in writing about “stuff they saw”.

What about Facebook? Many of the approaches I’ve listed above (eg. sharing snorkel pics) are what resort marketeers do on Facebook. They sometimes respond, “Blogs are passé, Facebook is where it is at.” Yes, blogs have been around for a while. The hype behind them hit a crescendo and has since tapered off (typical of many innovations). And Facebook is very of the moment. Though indications are that Facebook is hitting its own hype apex. Despite Facebook’s popularity and ease of use, it still has a number of major shortcomings especially vis-à-vis blogs…

  • Offline Accessibility – Getting Facebook updates delivered to your offline Inbox (eg. Outlook) is a complicated set of menus and settings, while blogs provide simple (“Really Simple”) RSS Feed that deliver straight to your Inbox for offline reading (eg. on an airplane, in remote areas).
  • Archivability – After certain dates, finding and accessing old posts and updates is a real chore (and I find they often disappear). On a blog, you can readily access them with direct links, Search boxes and dated Archive listings.
  • Searchability – One struggles to find material on Facebook with Google, but Google readily finds most all blog material.
  • Formatability – Facebook has very limited, almost primitive, formatting capability. Your own blog frees up your ability to format your posts in your preferred branding style or in a rich way that makes the post more engaging and/or appealing
  • Linkability – Investing in a blog doesn’t necessarily forgo Facebook. You can have your cake and eat it too. Simple draft a rich format blog post…and then link to it with a brief comment on your Facebook page.

Maldives Resort Blog Roll

RSS clown fish

 

Something I have also really yet to see is a really good resort blog. There are some decent dive org blogs, but not specifically about or by the resort.

Here are a few basic criteria for a strong blog…

  • RSS Feed – It all starts here.
  • Comments – If you turn off comments, it’s no longer a blog (I’m looking at you Seth Godin who should know better). It’s just an article website using a trendy digital label. This is where the “conversation” begins (versus the “bullhorn”).
  • Regularity – The bête noir of blogs. A few great posts in succession…and then silence. I think one entry per week is table stakes for a top flight blog.
  • Personal – A library of corporate press releases and marketing material doesn’t cut it.

Here is the Maldives resort blog roll of what I have come across…

  • Constance Halaveli / Moofushi – Part of large Constance blog (which is well done), but the Halaveli/Moofushi-specific posts are infrequent.
  • Komandoo – New web site with a “Community” section including something called “Blog”, but really just a bunch of info blurbs.
  • Kuramathi – Good style and quality, but last post 15 June
  • Kuredu – Good style and quality, but last post 21 June
  • Madoogali – Really interesting post on coral polyp spawning then nothing

As it happens, Visit Maldives is planning its own blog. Respect to them in that they don’t just want a mouthpiece of promo drivel with an RSS feed. Instead, they are carefully looking for angles and approaches that would make the posts stand out and drive good old ‘conversation’ and engagement. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment (or you can email them to Mohamed Eelaf).

Expensive Hobby

Gapingvoid Expensive Hobby

I still get asked ‘Why do I do it?’ And even with my 9 answers enumerated previously, this trip made me realise even more…

    • Adventure – I realised that my trip was more of an ‘Adventure holiday’ of discovery than an idyllic holiday of chilling out (which is a bit counter intuitive given the Maldives’ fame for ultimate in relaxation). Asking why I do it is similar to asking why a mountain biker spends his holiday toiling over rugged terrain, or why a camper sleeps on cold hard ground or why an athlete goes to a boot camp. To many, the work and effort seems less vacation-like. To me, it’s part of the allure.
    • Digital Vision – I’ve been focused on the Internet and its technology since the 90s when Microsoft “turned on a dime” to embrace it. It is a central part of my professional career, interests and expertise. I have my own interpretations and vision of the trajectories and issues in the still emerging digital world. And Maldives Complete is both my expression and experimentation in that domain. One dimension of a dynamic that intrigues me is the cataloguing of information. The conventional wisdom is that brute-force search engines are the end-all and be-al of information access, but I think the Internet world supports and calls for more models than this as the Google Search has a huge number of shortcomings and gaps. Search is not a Filter. It is a perspective touched on by Internet maven Seth Godin in his post “Sort & Search”…
      • “Search is powerful, essential and lucrative. Google demonstrated just how much value can be created when you let people easily find what they want. Sort, on the other hand, is easily overlooked and something that most of us can can work with. For example, the way a restaurant sorts the wines on the wine list at will have a dramatic impact on what people order. If you list the cheap wines first, people will probably end up spending less. And when your wine list migrates to an iPad and you let the diner sort by price, popularity and other indicators, consumption patterns will instantly change. Hotels.com, Zagats, Kayak and hundreds of other sites let you sort by quality, ranking and price. Not only does this change the way we choose, it also changes the behavior of the those being ranked!”
    • Fun. Earlier this year, my friend and prominent Internet artist Hugh MacLeod published this piece (see above) and it captured another reason. Working on Maldives Complete is fun. It might be an ‘expensive hobby’…but the alternative is even more expensive.

I get a number of typical reactions to the these explanations and friend and artist Hugh MacLeod captured some very apropos replies to these reactions (see cartoons above and below). The first reaction I get to my calling Maldives Complete my “hobby” is that “It’s an awfully expensive hobby.” Well, yes, it is expensive…but most hobbies are. Golf, scuba diving, horse riding, restoring old cars, following Springsteen. As Lori says, I am a “Resort Spotter”. Like a “Trainspotter” obsessed with research, finding and seeing every resort and every unique resort feature (and she is much happier being dragged across the Maldives than to obscure railway depots).

A second reaction is that I must be very “talented” to do the coding and writing I do. Quite frankly, the web page coding is not much more sophisticated that one could do after a basic course on HTML and ASP.net. The design is very simple and many have criticized. And the writing is well…more from the heart than from the trained hand. The key to the success of Maldives Complete has been its “completeness”. Keeping all of the data fresh, up-to-date and accurate. That doesn’t take any special skill or talent, just drive to get it right.

Gapingvoid Creativity Drive

Best of the Maldives: Shark Feeding – Sun Island

Sun Island shark feeding

To feed or not to feed. That is the question.

Perhaps one of the many questions that might get addressed in this week’s infamous Discovery Channel “Shark Week”.

The feeding controversy rages across the online travel forums. The opponents tend to start from the ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’ ethos of minimising interference in nature which is certainly a valid and sensible principle. To compound the protests are the quite serious health damage that can accrue to many fish when fed a number of human foods (most commonly breads). But there are also behavioural and other impacts to fish feeding practices. Even relatively safe foods fed from hands can make fish ‘aggressive’ to humans as they get thinking that any human will have some food to offer them.

Still, fish feeding remains an entertainment staple at many resorts. The most innocuous practice is to scoop out the large quantity of fish scraps that accrue from so many seafood dishes in the resort kitchens. These scraps are exactly the diet that the scavenging fish like sharks and rays eat anyway. Still, the dogmatic environmentalists will protest even these practices.

I have been torn on fish-scrap feeding. For the past year, I have contacted a number of marine biologists and posted on a number of forums to try to identify specific harmful impacts to fish populations of fish-scrap feeding. To date I have been unsuccessful in finding any bona fide harms to fish-scrap feeding.

I’m sure it is not ideal.  It is certainly not all ‘natural’.  So why would I even consider supporting the practice.

It might be that there is a relatively small downside impact to the practice, but a rather substantial upside. That benefit would be the classic ‘zoo argument’. The notion that having zoos or feedings or other contrived (but controlled for animal welfare) practices that bring humans and animals closer together is good for both humans and the animals. In our manufactured, processed and urbanised world, one of the biggest threats to nature is mankind’s distance from it. When people don’t have strong and deep connections to these creatures, as they are just tasty filets on their plate, then they lose the political will to raise funds for their preservation and pass constraining laws for their protection. By offering guests these feeding events, it gives them an opportunity to witness up close these animals and their inspiring qualities.

The more interactions we can foster between humans and nature, the most admiration and connection we can foster to them, I am convinced the more the world will muster up the resources, understanding and interest in investing in their welfare.

I have seen many of these events at resorts and Sun Island was by far the most mesmerizing. You have the regulars like the rays and the jacks, but the star attraction at Sun were the sharks. Every island has an array of reef sharks. While some get to be quite sizable, few are over a metre in length and most are pygmy-like pups not much more than a foot long. Sun had these, some bigger than I have seen in the lagoon waters, but they also were visited by a collection of nurse sharks. These fellows are quite sizeable and have the peculiar behaviour of ‘sitting’ on the ocean floor. Before the feeding started, Lori and I had arrived early and noticed these and we couldn’t tell if they were really sharks or just shark-shaped rocks on the ocean floor.

The Sun Island shark feeding does respect a number of parameters which do minimise any deleterious effects. First, dietarily, they only feed with fish scraps which would be consistent with the shark’s natural diet. Second, they are feeding from a pier and not from hand (as some sting ray feeding is done and as now stopped diving excursions have done in the past).

Whatever ever your perspective on this healthy debate, enjoy the frights and insights of Shark Week so that everyone can respect and support these wonderful creatures.

Best of the Maldives: Wooden Groynes – Baros

Baros wooden groynes

One irritation to the most discerning Maldive aficionados are the “groynes”. Water defences that extend perpendicularly to the shoreline to impede erosion. The purists feel that such structure detract from the natural beauty of the pristine beach and the azure waters. And certainly and beach without them is nicer than a beach with them. But in many cases, a beach without them would be no beach at all. The natural currents would have washed them away.

In addition to their island preserving utility, they can also have certain charms and other benefits. They can be a handy way to enter the water for snorkelling, sometimes right at the house reef “drop off”. They serve as reefs themselves attracting an array of colourful sea creatures (we have often found lots of moray eels hiding in the crevasses of these structures. They can also provide a handy romantic dining spot right over the water.

Baros has taken the extra step of making the structures themselves a bit more aesthetically pleasing by investing in wood cladding. It does give them a bit more style and visual appeal. And for some (see photo above), they too have embraced their silver linings by setting out deck chairs and making them a feature not a bug.

Best of the Maldives: Recycling – Kurumba

Kurumba recycling 2
Lori and Jason Kruse, Kurumba GM, with ground glass

With my emphasis on discovery it took some big stuff to lure back to Kurumba for the third time when there were so many unseen resorts to hit. But I must say that the detour was worth it with quite possibly the most inspiring “Best of the Maldives” discovery of the entire trip.

To date, most resort eco-initiatives have fallen into the following categories…

But as anyone who has ridden by Thilafushi will attest, the sheer volume of waste and rubbish is a massive challenge for the country. Most resorts are looking at packaging and waste reduction initiatives. But Kurumba is leading the way with a strikingly comprehensive recycling programme.

And investments they are. First, Kurumba has shelled out some serious capital to get some advanced machinery to process the waste. But more so than that, Kurumba is experimenting with these gadgets and tuning them and the processes around them to get the most out of them.

  • Bottles – Ground down and used in cement
  • Coconut Husks – Ground down into “choir” which is used to make ropes and a range of building materials. Also, using coconut husks to fuel their BBQs. They found out that the husks burn hotter than the charcoal used previously so they have had to adjust their cooking.
  • Green Waste – Shedder composter which mixes heat+air+bacteria for accelerated decomposition. Material basically broken down in 3 hours and then let sit for 40 days (it was supposed to be 10 days, but experimentation has shown 40 to be ideal for the best soil creation). Going through 1700 kgs of kitchen waste per day.
  • Styrofoam – Shedder to make filler for things like beanbags. Not working properly, but still experimenting to get it right.

Kurumba is sharing its expertise with other resorts now and hopes to pioneer a drive to zero waste in the Maldives. If successful, Thilafushi could itself be relegated to the dustbin of history.

 

Kurumba plastic recycling

Plastic and Styrofoam recycling

 

Kurumba recycling

Green waste mulching

 

Kurumba recycling 5

Green waste accelerated composting

 

Kurumba coconut recycling

Shredded coconut husks

Best of the Maldives: Swiss – Maafushivaru

Maafushivaru windsurfing Swiss flag

 

 

The Swiss have long sought the refuge from the altitude in the low lying Maldives and until recently were the 10th highest country in terms of visitors. And the ultimate Swiss resort seems to be Maafushivaru. For a long time, a resort fully owned, operated and marketed by the Swiss-based Kuoni company primarily for the Swiss market. Despite the fact that Maafushivaru is now available to a range of markets, Swiss are still as much as 50% of the guest population.

The residents and management are not the only Swiss qualities. Maafushivaru is one of the smallest resort islands. It also really struck me for its sparkling cleanliness with carefully groomed beaches and paths. Its sand especially is as plushly soft and blindingly white as an alpine snow drift.

Gueti Reis!