Tour 5 At-a-Glance…
- 10 islands
- 3 atolls
- 5 new Resort Profile pix
- 74 new Room Type Profile pix
- 143 ‘Best of the Maldives” pieces
- 2 ideas for Maldives Complete website enhancements
- 19 Snorkel Spottings
- 34 pages of notes
- 5 dives
- 4 spa treatments
- 11 pina coladas
A few over-arching observations from my latest tour. The “super premiums” (5+ stars) just keep coming with new distinctions and new options for style and luxury. But you can still find fine value resorts that won’t break the bank (eg. Royal, Chaaya Island Dhonveli). The development of new atolls opens up new exciting new discoveries both on land and underwater. Some other observations include…
- Gaafu Alifu – Is Gaafu Alifu a rival to the South Ari Atoll’s crown for best diving and snorkeling? South Ari has the whale shark allure, but the dolphins of Gaafu Alifu are also thrilling and a lot more prevalent and predictable. We saw dolphins every day of our trip to Gaafu Alifu including a pod of dozens and a family of three who visited us during a dive (wow!).
- Chinese – The rise of the Chinese visitors to the Maldives is well documented, and some of stereotypes about them have made some prospective guests apprehensive about resorts popular with the Chinese.
- Everywhere – First of all, the prevalence of this group is not isolated to certain resorts, but is pretty extensive across the Maldives. The Chinese love this place. There are lots of affluent Chinese these days and the Maldives is a lot closer to China (6 hour plane trip) than to Europe. There was not a resort we visited where Chinese visitors were not prominent.
- Fine Behaviour – Given the stereotypes, I paid particular attention to their behaviour. And instead of confirmation bias, I found quite the opposite. The Chinese behaved identically to every other nationality. I’m sure people can point to instances of bad behaviour by Chinese, but I have witnessed bad behaviour in the Maldives by absolutely every nationality. There are acknowledged cultural weaknesses with their swimming (many Chinese don’t learn to swim), but resorts have adapted to that with better communication, education and safety approaches for these guests.
- Departure Tax – Maldives recently re-introduced a departure tax. Maldives veterans will remember a period back when you had to keep a certain amount of dollars cash on hand to pay this fee at the airport when you left. While there were rumours circulating they were re-introducing this system, they appear to have mostly incorporated it into flight charges in your plane ticket. When we left, there was no sign of any departure tax collection.
These trips are also a focusing lens which inspires ideas on how I can improve the website. I spend a lot of my time during the tours talking to fans of the site and hearing their feedback and questions. This year, I have come home with the following plans…
- House Reef Profiles – Maldives Complete has long been the only site with house reef information, but that was limited to a very crude grading. I have long been torn on how to provide a richer perspective. House reefs are quite diverse with a number of characteristics which affect their enjoyment. Also, a number of resorts have weak “house reefs”, but have some impressive coral in their “lagoons”. Mulling over the issue while snorkelling off Soneva Fushi I came upon the solution – a House Reef Profile. I am going to do a whole house reef profile page with information such as the following…
- Regeneration efforts (y/n)
- Drop Off Coral rating
- Lagoon Coral rating
- YouTube Link (lots of YouTube vids now thanks to GoPro)
- Snorkel Spottings (total number, most recent, and most prominent)
- Residents (critters renowned for regular appearances in predictable places)
- Distance to Drop Off (metres)
- Dive Center email address
- Marine Biologist email address
- Design Refresh – My niece Katrina, a design student at Cornell, had been urging me to update the look and feel of the site with a fresher and more modern layout. Enough people have felt that a bit of spiffing up would be a boost to its appeal and popularity. I had considered changes in this area but have always been hesitant for a couple of reasons…
- Skill – I’m not a professional web site designer and working up the expertise to make some of the changes would be a fair amount of effort.
- Difficulty – Most of the site is focused on utilitarian functionality which has some pretty sophisticated code behind it and moving that around it not super easy.
- Platform – I built the site back in my days at Microsoft and like a good corporate citizen, I used the portfolio of Microsoft tools. As has become pretty apparent, Microsoft ended up not faring so well in the online space and so many of those tools have obsolesced (eg. Community Server, DeepZoom, Silverlight) and been surpassed by superior tools (eg. WordPress, HTML5). Moving the complex functionality not to mention the extensive database of archived material is not a trivial task.
- Artisinal – Finally, I kind of like the simplistic look of the site. It has a sort of artisanal charm that sets it apart from the ubiquitous and uniform glossy travel sites.
Until next time (can’t wait)!