Speaking of spotting things in the Maldives, one of the obligatory resources for any avid snorkeler or diver is a good fish guide. They come in books, but one of the popular variants is the “Fish Identification Card.” A handy piece of piece of laminate packed with fish (and sometimes other things like corals and animals or even birds). Veteran marine life maven Tim Godfrey has collaborated with Rudie H. Kuiter to come out with one which is in a league of its own.
Publisher Atoll Editions describes…
“Small and perfectly formed, this Fish Field Guide will let you locate species you have just seen underwater. The fish are depicted through both photography and silhouette icons to help you identify these diverse and beautiful creatures. The approximate length, common names, latin names, and distribution information are all easily located. There is even a tick box so you remember exactly what you have seen on each dive trip.”
For starters, it is a tri-fold 8-pages instead of the usually 2-sided card. Secondly, the fish are neatly arranged in a grid for maximum density. Most of these cards are quite a hodgepodge of pictures just scattered and packed in. So there are more creatures featured than any other ID card (240 in all).
But its not just the quantity, but also the quality that excels so much…
- Photos – Most cards use drawings which always seems to be just a little bit off in their representation and we often are not quite sure if what we saw was the fish on the card. Tim’s guide uses actually photographs for more realistic illustrations.
- Silhouette – If the photos weren’t enough, Tim adds a silhouette of each species shown. While markings can be very similar from fish to fish, often the distinctive differences are evidence in their outlines (eg. fin size and position ,etc.).
- Book Reference – If that information is not enough for you, then Tim’s a page number reference to his companion book “Fishes of the Maldives Indian Ocean” so you an easily find the suspect critter and read more about him.
- Marker – My favourite bit of all is a just a very little bit. A small square for you to mark off a sighting. So now you can track your Snorkel Spottings on your own personal log as well as on Maldives Complete. I feared that with the slick plastic a pen wouldn’t easily mark it, but I tried a simple ball point and it worked just fine.
Happy hunting holidayers!
Despite all of the things that the Maldives does have, the list keeps growing of the things that the Maldives inexplicably just doesn’t have (yet). Yes, it’s time for instalment #7 (see links on bullet titles for more details)…
- “Waterbird” – Aka “Aqua Skipper”. I can’t tell which name is better.
- Social Media Concierge – Someone to take care of posting those envy-worthy sunset photos of adoring looks by the waterside.
- Bean-Bag Hammock – The best of two relaxation all-stars combined into one relaxation super-group.
- Snookball – Or another ace amalgam more on the active side – Football and Pool.
- “Pool” Table – If there is any place deserving of this billiard brilliance it is the Maldives.
- Lobster Pad Thai – No “Haven’t Seen Yet” piece is complete without some crustacean-based concoction glaringly omitted from the Maldivian menus. Lobster is the ultimate luxury seafood ingredient and abundant in the area so I am always surprised when resort restaurants don’t use it to upscale ordinary dishes. The latest suggestion is Lobster Pad Thai which I sampled at the London pioneer of design, cocktail and culinary innovation – Crazy Bear. Thai food is frequently found in the Maldives and Pad Thai is probably the most popular signature dish. Typically made with prawns, the swapping in of lobster instead as your crustacean of choice gives it a gourmet vibe. Thai themed Anantara and Dusit, I’m looking at you.
- Sea life Adopting – Take a page out of amateur astronomy and star spotting, as well as zoology/botany. That is, if you submit a turtle that is not in the database yet, then you get to name it. For example, Four Seasons is sponsoring a turtle identification project to crowd source turtle spotting. It would also be a nice touch if one of the Marine Biologists sent the spotter some sort of certificate of “naming”. Naming (sometimes referred to as “adoption”) is a big money spinner for conversation groups. People could “adopt” other residents like mantas and whale sharks that have similar identification research projects in the Maldives.
- Remote Control Snack Float – I’m lounging in the sun, floating in the resort pool and even though it is blessed with an in-pool bar, it takes soooo much effort to drift in that direction…
- Silent Areas – Vilamendhoo has a “kids free”, adult only part of the island. One of the qualities that is most regularly cited and vigorously guarded (from airplane, motor boat and ebullient guests) is the peaceful “silent” tranquillity. This article (thanks Paola) “Silence is the latest trend in luxury resorts” makes me wonder whether resorts couldn’t amplify (well, the opposite of amplify really) that quality by designating certain “quiet areas” of an island. Sort of like the library section or the increasingly prevalent “quiet cars” on trains.
- Sound Art – Our son, Chase (himself a veteran of many Maldives trips) is a Sound Artist (a piece he did was featured at an exhibition in London and mentioned in Wired magazine). Sound Art is the use of sound to construct a number of sound sensations, experiences and environments. The iconic gentle waves and whale calls found in many spas are a popular form many people are familiar with. Many resorts invest huge amounts in design, style, décor and artwork. A more ambitious installation of sound art created to capture the zeitgeist of Maldivian tranquillity would be an innovative ambient complement.
- Protected Soundscape – Some of the most beautiful sounds are found in nature. But just like the ocean, those sounds can be endangered by airplanes, engines, boats, recreational craft, etc. Many countries actually have “protected soundscapes” – areas where manmade noise levels are tightly regulated to minimise noise pollution. Chase is actually going to Japan in a month to do field recordings of a number of their soundscapes (Japan has more protected soundscapes than any other country). Maldives has been a leader in protecting marine areas so much so that an initiative is underway to make the entire country a UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserve. Being such a leader in environmental sustainability, I think it would be great for the Maldives to identify its own protected soundscape. One could ensure that sea planes and ferries deviated around it sufficiently and access could be limited to a wind powered dhoni. Our son, Chase, noted that the Maldives could create the world’s first underwater protected soundscape. Possibly with the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. His many visits of snorkelling there struck him that a particularly unique soundscape there was the underwater sounds of trigger fish crunching coral and other assorted echoes of marine life.
- “Stingray” Sun Umbrella – Stylish and ever so apropos (thanks Paola).
- Beloved Wives Day – Especially for the increasing number of Chinese visitors, but I bet a few other nationalities could enjoy joining in the declarations.
- Ice Balls – Advanced version of the “Flower Cubes” (#35) with its own special maker.
- Heart Shaped Island – With 1900 to choose from, you would think at least one would have randomly formed into something vaguely resembling this symbol of love. People are enchanted by such islands. Jumeirah Dhevanafushi claims to be heart shaped, but it is more of an anatomical heart than an icon of romance. With all of the terraforming on resort islands, you would think that one could make a few tweaks.
An update to “Maldives, the Best Of” for Maldives National Day adds several new items. For a country so small, it sure commands a big number of superlatives. Not surprisingly, most concern its uncanny natural beauty and the throngs of visitors drawn to it from around the world (detail links in the title word of each bullet).
- Skinniest – Length to width that surpasses Chile.
- Lowest Lying – Another topological distinction making the Maldives the poster child for the vulnerability of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) to the rising seas of global warming.
- Snorkeling – Simply. The best. In the world. A side effect of being just the right elevation (islands in the South Pacific “tower” much higher at hundreds of feet, and a place like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is most submerged leaving fewer islands and shallow lagoons).
- Traffic Safety – As chaotic as Male traffic might seem, you are safer than you think (but I would still cross carefully).
- Divorce – It takes more than enchanting paradise to secure lifelong romance. The country renowned as the top honeymoon destination just happens to also have the highest divorce rate in the world.
- Resort Density – Many popular destinations offer hundreds of resorts and tourism is the leading contributor to their GDP, but none more so than the Maldives.
- Airport Density – And along similar lines to #6, despite being the 8th smallest country in the world, the Maldives has 10 airports. An airport every 30 kilometres.
- Plastic Water Bottle Refuse Density – And a more dubious density distinction of the most plastic water bottles discarded into the ocean.
- Water Villas – Water Villas originated in the South Pacific resorts of Bali (where local maritime culture had had villas on stilts for centuries, but the Maldives has taken them to a whole new dimension.
- Hotels –USA Today reports this week, “The island chain in the north Indian Ocean is *the* place to be. That’s according to TripAdvisor. The site ranked the Top 25 Hotels in the World and 3 are in the Maldives. The only country with more than 2 hotels on the list. Including #1, Gili Lankanfushi.” Also includes Cocoa Island #6 and Constance Moofushi #15 (thanks Mom).
- Beaches –The Destination Satisfaction Index (DSI) developed by Norstat and dp2research found “Maldives comes out, less surprisingly, on top worldwide with a segment score of 9.5 in the ‘beaches’ category.”
- Safety – The same Norstat/dp2reseach found Maldives ‘safely’ on top of the worldwide list in the category of…safety: “Safety wise, no other destination of the world came close to Maldives which held an index value of 9.4 while the closest European destination was Austria with a score of 8.9 and similarly Maldives landed top spot in accommodation with an index score of 9.4 once again.”
- Warm Water Skate Park Surfing – The Maldives has become one of the top surf destinations in the world. Especially with the change in the style of surfing from conquering monster waves to performing tricks. The latter requires long gradual breaks, not sharp dramatic ones. Like Hudhuranfushis distinction as the longest left-handed surf break in the world. Surfline attests “Perhaps the best warm-water skatepark in the world is the Maldives — all fun, very little fear. And what the atolls lack in death-defying barrels they more than make up for in sheer, easy-to-rip walls. The kind of waves that make you feel like a better surfer.”
- Oldest Seawater – The Maldives doesn’t just have the most seawater proportionately of any country, it also has the oldest. That’s according to a study by University of Chicago’s Dr. Clara Blättler who studies limestone deposits that form in the Maldives as part of the Expedition 259 of the International Ocean Discovery Program. She remarked, “from all indications, it looks pretty clear we now have an actual piece of this 20,000 year-old ocean”
Image credit: Jean Lechat
- Tourism Dependency – Perhaps not surprising for a country that also includes “Beaches”, “Hotels”, “Resort Density” and “Airport Density” in its world leading boasts, the Maldives gets 41.5% of its GDP from the tourism industry (I know that the reference puts Macau just above it, but I am dismissing that as a bit of a geo-political anomaly which is barely a country, but just a sovereignty anointed city that is well and truly part of China).
- Googled Destination – Looking for a trip to the Maldives? Well, you and the rest of the digiverse as “Maldives” was the most Googled destination in 2019.
- Pandemic Hardship – Of all the many industries hit worldwide by the COVI19 pandemic, tourism has been one of the hardest with people barely leaving their houses much less their countries. The Maldives responded relatively quickly to cases that arrived on their shores and their incidence of the disease has been relatively low. In fact, they aspire to be the first COVID19 free country in Asia (Maldives Tourism Minister Ali Waheed announced “With in the next three months, the Maldives will become the first COVID-19 free country in the Asia region hopefully. We are conducting surveys to begin safe tourism when we reach that road.”). But with tourism such large part of their economy, a World Bank study showed that the country has been economically than any other country in the world.
- Microplastic Pollution – Australia’s Flinders University named Maldives to be one of the countries most polluted by microplastics, on the planet. “Microplastics refer to plastic particles measuring less than five millimetres and are now globally recognized as a pollutant of increasing concern. The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Science of the Total Environment’, stated that microplastics were found across all 22 sampling sites off the coast and on Naifaru, Lhaviyani Atoll.” In fairness, without getting into too much apologia, when you are country that is 99% ocean, then the ocean is going to get a disproportionate share of your environmental problems.
- Frequent Visitor Programme – Frequent Traveller programmes are bread and butter for the travel industry – airlines, hotels, car hire, etc. But the country of the Maldives has pioneered the first ever “destination” loyalty programme, “Maldives Border Miles”, with benefits and tiers and most of the other components of industry versions.
Maldives National Day today celebrates this triumph of the Maldivians over the Portugese in 1573 in a revolt led by Mohamed Thakurufaaru. His birthplace, “Utheem”, is one of the most notable historical sites in the Maldives and adjacent to the Barefoot resort…
“Utheem (or Utheemu) is consireded the most famous site of Maldives. It is the birthplace of Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu, who fought a war against the Portuguese invasion. The war lasted 8 years (1558-1573) before Mohamed and his brothers rejected the invaders. In Utheem it is possible to visit the wooden palace, Utheemu Ganduvaru, where the Sultan lived, along with some other interesting sites of the island. The excursion is guided by the guides of the EcoHotel along with local guides from Utheem, specialized in the history of the Sultan and his family.”
Q: What gender was Nemo?
** BUZZZZZ **
Q: Actually, neither (or both) in all likelihood. Juvenile clown fish are born as hermaphrodites who can become either males or females later in life.
Q: What gender is Nemo’s Dad?
A: Ok, definitely got this one. First, the “Dad” is grown up and no longer a juvenile. Secondly, “Dad” means he is definitely “male”.
**BUZZZZZ ** Actually, Nemo’s “Dad” might have been a “male” at one point, but the key word here is “is”. What is he today? In all likelihood he is now a “Mom”. It turns out that when a “harem” of clown fish loses its dominant female, the largest male changes its sex to become the new female.
Tonight concludes Series “L” of “QI” which means that the team are now in the process of researching Series “M”…for “Maldives”. Maldives Complete has a whole series of potential Maldives-oriented questions the QI staff could consider especially concerning the ubiquitous “Nemo” fame. The latest twist is this latest discovery of this perplexing creature…
“Some species exhibit sequential hermaphroditism. In these species, such as many species of coral reef fishes, sex change is a normal anatomical process. Clownfish, wrasses, moray eels, gobies and other fish species are known to change sex, including reproductive functions. A school of clownfish is always built into a hierarchy with a female fish at the top. When she dies, the most dominant male changes sex and takes her place. In the wrasses (the family Labridae), sex change is from female to male, with the largest female of the harem changing into a male and taking over the harem upon the disappearance of the previous dominant male. Natural sex change, in both directions, has also been reported in mushroom corals. This is posited to take place in response to environmental or energetic constraints, and to improve the organism’s evolutionary fitness; similar phenomena are observed in some dioecious plants.”
Another very important place to add to the “view” category is Soneva Fushi’s tree house toilet. But its elevated vista is not even its most impressive feature. The ‘facilities’ at Soneva’s “Fresh in the Garden” restaurant is a self-composting green latrine.
A self-composting toilet processes the material before dumping it into a sewage outlet. First of all, 90% of toilet output is water and that is evaporated off. The small amount of remaining solid matter is then processed so it is safe for adding to a garden without risk of bacteria or other pathogens.
Loo with a view!
From the sea to the skies, Anantara Kihavah Villas’ perspective on the Maldives panorama extends more vertically. Starting from its celebrated underwater dining, the Sea, Fire, Salt, Sky dining concept is capped by the most elegant roof deck in the Maldives. I’m a big fan of lofty vistas in the Maldives – flying over the atolls, Trader’s Azur, Kandooma’s own deck. But Kihavah elevates this experience to new heights.
This post has prompted me to add a new category tag – “view”.
Maybe the best place for the Coco York’s next gig is the musically themed, blues enveloped “The Piano” deck. But curiously, this aquatic oasis’ name comes form its shape, not its function…
“For those who dream of being alone with their partner in a uniquely romantic setting, Baros Maldives has introduced two fantastic experiences. The choice is dinner or a massage as the sun sets, the stars twinkle and the moon glows, on a deck isolated in the middle of a sparkling lagoon. This exotic lagoon fantasy is possible at the newest addition to the delights of Baros Maldives, The Piano. The Piano is a small wooden deck, poised above the translucent waters of the lagoon. This deck is shaped like a grand piano and is available for couples who want to be alone. The only sound is the natural music of splashing waves and the whisper of the caressing breeze.”
The land of an expansive turquoises and azures adds a different dimension to blues this month.
The rhythms of the swaying palms and the water lapping the shores immersed in the biggest expanse of vibrant blues. Maldives might just be the geographical incarnation of R&B.
Resorts attract a wide range of musical acts to entertain their guests over the post-prandial pina coladas. Traditionally dominated by bodu-beru acts, discotheques and local cover bands, the resorts have branched out into hip DJs, original acts and even DIY karaoke. This month Anantara features one of the most appropriate styles at its Dhigu, Veli and Naladhu resort cluster. American jazz blues singer Coco York is in residence performing regularly through January…
“Throughout her career Coco’s name has become synonymous with jazz, having shared the stage with artists such as Clark Terry, Lionel Ritchie, B.B. King and has performed for Bill Clinton, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, The North Sea Jazz Festival and the Jazz and Heritage Festival of New Orleans among others.”
Also, especially apropos for guests’ last night singing the blues of having the say goodbye to their time in paradise. But, let’s hope she’s not having to sing one of her stand-by pieces…”Stormy Monday Blues”.
As I have noted, my very first vision for Maldives Complete was a site to provide information to families interested in visiting the Maldives. At the time, there were tons of sites for (a) honeymooners, and (b) divers, and yet I always felt that the destination was just as ideal for families as well.
A while back, the Mega Maldives Airlines invited me to write a piece which graced the cover of their in-flight magazine, “Ideal Family Vacation,” on just this subject which many people interested in the topic might find of interest…
“Nearly 10% of visitors to the Maldives were children last year…One of the biggest concerns of a parent travelling with children is safety. And a reassuring sense of security is one of the treasured qualities for a parent in the Maldives. Because the resorts are such small islands one classic fear that dissipates is that of them getting lost. You never would get the feeling that they were lost in the wilderness or snatched in a bustling area. In the Maldives, they might run off, but they can only go so far. And all of the resorts are contained to guests only with access on and off the island tightly monitored…Their unique archipelago topology means than most islands are surrounded by shallow calm lagoons, often protected several metres offshore by a coral reef. This means that there is often very little current and swimming in the ocean is like swimming in a paddling pool (or your own personal aquarium when you consider all of the colourful fish around – always a delight for the children).”