“Marketing and Differentiation: How do you choose?”

Hotelier Maldives

I try to help.

Most of the material on Maldives Complete is aimed at helping prospective visitors to the Maldives decide on the best resort for them (my response to the question I get asked most frequently…”there is no *best* resort overall, just the ‘best’ one *for you*“). As I’ve discussed many times, I’ve leaned towards more of the underserved groups like families going to there, but over time I’ve covered just about all niches including the mainstays of honeymooners and now, especially after the Dive Site database addition, divers.

One group that I also help where I can are the resorts themselves. A number of resorts follow the “Things I Haven’t Seen Yet” series. I always have delightful, extended chats with the resort management and the Ministry of Tourism when I visit. After nearly 20 years of visiting and over 50 resorts visited, not to mention my countless hours of on-going research and input from the website fans, I have many thoughts and perspectives about the Maldivian experience.

A number of resorts will often pitch me that their resort is a “Best of the Maldives” candidate for some special feature only for me to deflate them by citing several resorts who offer the same thing. On the other hand, I always uncover unsung treats on their island that they didn’t even know was unique in the Maldives. My island tours are like mini treasure hunts for me seeking out these overlooked gems as well as missing (incomplete!) data and photos of the property.

Recently, I was invited to do a guest piece by one the leading publication for the industry, Maldives Hotelier – “Marketing and Differentiation: How do you choose?” It discusses a principle at the heart of good marketing, the destination of the the Maldives itself and any self-respecting resort – “distinction”. A big nod to Seth Godin “Purple Cow” thinking about being “remarkable” as well as other tips I have noted during my travels here and elsewhere. And all about finding both the gems on your property as well as *being* the best resort for maybe not everyone, but certainly for many.

Best of the Maldives: Mobula – Robinson Club

Alexander von Mende Mobula

(picture courtesy of Alexander von Mende)

 

Maldives diving expert Alexander von Mende not only helped with the Huvadhoo dive sites, but he also offered some very insightful tips for my Best of the Maldives research. He ventured that the dive site Dheeva Giri is the best in the Maldives for Mobulas. Well, I certainly hadn’t encountered these creatures in my 20 years of visits and research.

In fact, I didn’t even know what they were. So I turned to Alexander’s book which also includes an extensive marine life guide. It turns out that Mobulas as sort of mini-Mantas, also referred to colloquially as “Pygmy Devil Rays” (great name).

Alexander says that the only place he has seen them has been at Dheeva Giri and Nilamdhoo Kandu which is near Robinson Club. He commented…

We had a place which was regularly frequented by them in larger numbers: Dhevva Giri's southern sand flats – quite a sight these small Manta relatives

Worst Place in the World to Snorkel #3

West Bank snorkeling

With all of the effort into providing a guide to the best snorkelling (and diving) in the world, only fair to provide a further instalment on some sites to avoid. The latest was the photo of West Bank snorkelling in Israel featured in a number of this past week’s news galleries which becomes our third instalment in our photo gallery of the snorkelling spectrum’s other end. Not quite azure expanses and the accompanying creatures a bit less colourful.

Best of the Maldives: Resort Dive Site – Werner Lau (Bathala, Filitheyo, Medhufushi, Kuda-Funafaru)

Werner Lau dive sites

When describing my motivations for adding a Dive Site database to Maldives Complete, I noted the lack of interactive guides. Most diving information is traditional hard-copy book form or magazine websites that provide articles and overviews, but not a structured, interactive resource.

The exception to this standard approach is the Werner Lau dive centre website. They have cleverly integrated a mapping of the dive sites near their centres with Google Maps to provide an interactive layout of all of the dives sites local to their 4 Maldives dive centres. You can scan the area for websites who have ToolTip annotations and then simply click on their names to take you to a full profile of the dive site complete with dive chart.

Best of the Maldives: Atoll Dive Book – “Huvadhoo”, Alexander von Mende

Hudavhoo dive book Alexander von Mende

 

 

Most dive books (Godfrey, Harwood & Bryning, Lonely Planet) try to cover a range of atolls. While this breadth approach is useful when trying to plan your next resort destination, it’s less useful when you’ve actually decided on your base where you are likely to stay mostly within your atoll. And increasingly, if you are a keen diver, that atoll is likely to be “Huvadhoo (Gaafu Alifu and Gaafu Dhallu).

Alexander von Mende’s book, “Diving in the Maldives – Huvadhoo, the forgotten atoll” is the ideal one for diver planning a trip to this unsung gem. He takes a different tack by focusing entirely on this one location in depth.

Huvadhoo is one of the furtherst atolls from the Male hub which may have served as a deterrent. But that unspoiled nature is now becoming one of its top allures. Von Mende also claims that it is one of the best locations for spotting large marine life like Silver Tip and Grey Reef Sharks, Dolphins, but especially Whale Sharks. South Ari has long been renowned as the pre-eminent diving atoll especially with its quite prominent whale shark marine protected area. But the more visitors get to know Huvadhoo, it could rival South Ari for that crown.

I know that when we dove and snorkelled Huvadhoo, it was some of the most impressive we had done in our years of Maldive visits. An open-water close encounter with a juvenile dolphin was one of the lifetime high points of diving for us. And we spotted dolphins every single time we got into a boat at Huvadhoo even for a simple, short transfer.

Von Mende’s book is also sort of an all purpose diving (and even snorkelling) book for anyone visiting the Huvadhoo atoll. It features in depth description 34 dive sites with dive chart illustrations for half. It also has 136 pages of “Identification Guide” provide pictures and other information on the fish, coral and other marine life found in that area.

Dive Sites Complete

Dive Sites Complete

Announcing the Dive Sites database and *Complete* interactive guide.

When I first started Maldives Complete, it seemed like the only information available on the Maldives was for divers and honeymooners. As a result, I veered away from those topics and focused on less catered for subjects like families as well as unusual activities and offerings. I am obsessed with snorkelling and this has brought be closer to the diving domain. Increasingly, however, I am receiving more and more diving enquiries and am finding it hard and harder to find comprehensive diving information in structured, interactive resources.

The primary source for dive site information has been the hard-copy books which are extremely well done. But they add a fair bit of weight to the baggage and aren’t the easiest to navigate. As with the proliferating resorts, one of the biggest problems is being spoiled for choice. There are 100+ active resorts, but there are 10 times that number of dive sites (at least).

The main sources of research have been the following in particular (and the featured dive charts are kindly used with permission and the source is linked to in the profiles)…

And after several months of research and coding (with big help from my ace assistants Emma Barnes and Grace Bolton), I have now scratched surface with a credible v.1 database with over 500 dive sites. Specifically, the new section includes…

  • Number of Atolls covered – 18
  • Number of Dive Sites – 552
  • Number of Dive Charts – 243

Here is the number of dive sites included by Atoll…

  • Baa 31
  • Dhaalu 5
  • Faafu 53
  • Gaafu Alifu – Dhaalu 34
  • Haa Alifu 33
  • Laamu 14
  • Lhaviyani 22
  • Meemu 54
  • Noonu 31
  • North Ari 55
  • North Male 89
  • Raa 3
  • Seenu 16
  • South Ari 44
  • South Male 45
  • Thaa 1
  • Vaavu 22

The exercise has also surfaced some other interested statistical tidbits about the Maldives dive sites (at least the sample set I have at hand)…

  • Resort with Most Dive Sites Nearest: Filitheyo – 53. This stat is primarily down to the (a) great information from Werner Lau who operates out of Filitheyo, and (b) the fact that Filitheyo is the only resort in the entire Faafu atoll so it pretty much has the atoll to itself.
  • Most Common Dive Site Name : “Kuda Giri” – 6. You will see that sometimes I parenthetically appended the atoll name to the dive site name. This was done to make the site name unique since multiple dive sites used the same name.
  • Most Common First name: “Bodu” – 13.
  • Common Type (eg. “Thila”, “Kandu”, “Corner”): “Thila” – 112.
  • Longest Name: “Kanandhou Kaleyge Galha” – 23 letters.

Right now the profiles are quite basic. They include…

  • Dive chart (where available)
  • Atoll
  • Nearest resort
  • Alternative name(s)
  • Features (eg. cave, wreck, creatures)

All of the material is far from perfect.

  • Polish – Not all of the graphics are perfectly aligned/sized/etc. Some people look down their noses at Maldives Complete’s rough hewn design. It stands in stark contrast to the slick (and all too often useless) websites of many resorts. I’ve resisted exhortations to “polish” the site with a glossy look and feel. I have neither the money nor the graphics ability to do so really. Furthermore, I have bit of aesthetic preference for the simpler layout and style. I prefer to think of it as “artisinal”. J
  • Precision – I toiled for a long time at the outset about the degree of granularity to have in the interactive map. Zoom in and you can’t get a sense of everything at an easy glance. Zoom out and you can’t get precision or a sense of the surrounding area. I think I got the balance right in the end, but if anything I ended up sacrificing precise placement of dive flags for ease of at-a-glance navigation. You can drill into very close-up looks at the dive areas and their topology using the British Admiralty map DeepZoom feature of the site.
  • Completeness – Help me! My aspiration is *complete* and I am aware that I have rippled the surface of dive sites and information about them. If you would like me to add a dive site or materials about one already included, please contact me.

I may extend the profiles to more information if (a) there is demand from website visitors, and (b) there is help from local resources to supply the information.

Which brings me to the final points. I have a number of principles that guided the development of Maldives Complete, and those have led me to not just adding dive site information, but *how* I added it…

UNIQUE – First principle of Maldives Complete is to only add data and functionality you can’t get elsewhere. I follow Seth Godin’s marketing precept, ‘Don’t be the best one, be the only one.’ If someone else has the information or material, then best just to point to that rather than add a “me too” capability (and the profiles point directly the top dive resources on the web to help people find more detail about those dive sites at the web sites that focus in on them).

The interface for the material is a uniquely interactive map of every atoll. The other dive maps (eg. MondoMaldive, Maldives.at, Werner Lau) don’t cover ALL the atolls. They cover about a half dozen atolls. Maldives COMPLETE has 18 of the 22 main atolls (and I will be doing research to get dive site locations for the other 4 over the next few months).

Also, the existing dive site maps use a numbering key which means that you have to reference the name at the bottom which is all a bit cumbersome.

I’ve also based the catalogue on the British Admiralty Maps which provide comprehensive topological information and a range of depth measurements. All of the other maps are a simplified atoll layout just showing the islands. The maps also have the added advantage of being consistent with the longstanding Maldives Complete feature of the “Deep Zoom” map which allows people to examine certain areas with great clarity and detail.

UTILITY – For everything I add to the website I ask, “Is it useful?” As a result, I didn’t add a number of pieces to the Dive Site information that I could have. For example, I have passed on…

  • Pictures – Some dive site guides have pictures taken from the sites. But frankly, they are all close-ups of various fish and features that could be anywhere.
  • Depths – Frankly, the vast majority of the Maldives dive sites are all between 5-10 meters going down to around 20 meters. It didn’t seem worth the effort to catalogue the minor variations and few exceptions. Star rating
  • Ratings – These vary but include overall quality of dive, sometimes a special rating for snorkeling, or sometimes a difficulty rating.
  • Visibility
  • Descriptions
  • Accessibility

USER-SUPPORTED – The best part about Maldives Complete is the extensive support I get from fans around the world you appreciate it and help plug gaps in data and information. A good chunk of my “Best of the Maldives” features are nominated by readers and most of the few percent of pictures I am missed are supplied by guest. I am hoping that dive centres, marine biologists and supportive guests will help me build the catalogue especially with the addition of dive charts.

(I guess one could say that it’s all about yoU !)

Best of the Maldives: Tree House – Dusit Thani

Dusit Thani - treehouse 2

Arbor Day today celebrates those those towering stoics of landscape flora. Actually, Arbor Days have proliferated around the world (celebrated in over 40 countries on different days of the year) indicating how pervasive the world’s appreciation for trees is. But the first Arbor Day was today in1872.

You can sit under them, look up and admire them, and climb them. But at the Dusit Thani kids club, you can play in them. The “Baan Sanook” features an extended treehouse complete with walkway and Maldivian palm thatch.

The feature echoes the Dusit’s Swiss Family Robinson chic of its Devarana Spa which is also elevated to the treetops.

Hug a tree today.

Dusit Thani - treehouse 1