When I visited Morocco, I enjoyed a night in a Bedouin tent under the desert stars, but I must say that the highlight was the bustling, buzzing Marrakesh market square at night. An acre-sized tapestry of tiny market stalls all cooking up some specific delicacy concocted from the colour full piles of spices we saw touring the souks earlier that day. Club Med Finolhu Villas has the posh version of Jemaa el Fna with a collection of gourmet stations to cook you a variety of dishes for your meal.
You get to see the food like a buffet (instead of depending on menu descriptions), but freshly prepared to order like a la carte. We’ve all had our freshly prepared eggs and noodles dishes, but these were filet beef and sautéed fish dishes with delicate sauces. The approach was particularly helpful for people with weak English. But one of the biggest benefits was reduction of food waste. The on-demand cuisine meant that only food people were going to eat was prepared instead of large mounds of buffet offerings which (by definition) never get fully consumed (see the explanatory sign at the resort restaurant below).
Set on the sands of a tropical island rather than some Arabian dune makes this far-flung Bedouin encampment all the more enchanting. After all, middle eastern traders were among the first non-natives to visit the Maldives (bringing with them the Islamic culture for example). The Maldives is sort of fusion of middle-eastern and Subcontinent heritage and traditions situated between the Red Sea and the Bay of Bengal. A number of resorts feature middle-eastern fare, but none so aesthetically authentic as Centara Ras Fushi’s Al Khaimah restaurant…
- “Savour the tastes of the Middle East when dining at Al Khaimah. Reminiscent of an authentic Bedouin tent adorned with rich fabrics and tapestry carpets and set amidst our tropical garden, this intimate restaurant offers an Arabian culinary adventure using hand-crushed spices, homemade marinades and the freshest market ingredients to flavour our char-grilled meat selections and rotisseries. Low slung seating and the heady scent of oud compliment this unique dining experience.”
I do love al fresco dining…sitting out in the open breathing in the sea-kissed night air. The soft fabrics of the surrounding canopy and the cushions adds an even more softness to the atmosphere surrounding you, the palm fronds swaying above you and the power fine sand underneath you..
If only the corals could push some button for a bit of cooling shade when they get too warm. At least guests at Velaa have that luxury with deck cabanas with tops that can be rolled out for a bit of shade or rolled back for sunshine (or starshine if you want to lie back on the deck lounger and gaze at the stars at night).
Hopefully, reefscaping initiatives can help restore what humans (global warming) and nature (El Nino) have disrupted on the spectacular underwater world of the Maldives. To understand and track the severity of the current challenges, the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration features a powerful online tool with literal gauges for the impact of water temperatures on the sea life called “Coral Reef Watch” (thanks Paola):
- “The purpose of these Regional Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Gauges is to provide coral reef ecosystem managers with a comprehensive summary of current satellite-monitored and model-projected bleaching thermal stress conditions to help facilitate timely and effective management actions pertaining to mass coral bleaching.”
Everyone likes it toasty and sunny in the Maldives, but we would also like to keep the ocean cool place not just for refreshing dips, but also to keep vibrant the marine ecosystem whose foundation is the bountiful coral reefs.
Mothering Sunday today will see lots of blossoming plants given to cherished mums across the British Isles, but Shangri-La Villingili has a gift you can give Mother Earth at a very reasonable price. An eco-planter for the “earth” that makes up the vast majority of the Maldives isles.
Instead of larger wire mesh frames, Villingili’s reef regeneration uses smaller blocks of concrete. They don’t cut the coral grafts, but collect broken coral. They then affix these to small blocks with epoxy and set them in the lagoon for about 18 months after which they are moved to the outer reef.
The resort hosts coral planting 10:30 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday for a mere $25 (compared to what is often hundreds of dollars for sponsoring coral frames).
The small price doesn’t mean small scale. Activity leader Yawlng Wong took me through the presentation they give to the guests about the program which illustrated how popular and expansive the results have been. I’ve shared a few of both the photos and the informative diagrams below…
- Overall objective: To develop a hard coral nursery to provide a continuous supply of cultivated corals derived from broodstock
- Coral culture in nursery from initial fragmentation of wild colonies / ‘corals of opportunity’ collected
- Ongrowing of broodstock to become the source for all fragments to be planted in rehabilitation operations
- Encourage guest participation in coral program
Earth Hour today – “The world’s largest demonstration of support for action on climate change. Last year, millions around the world across 178 countries came together to show support for action to protect our amazing planet.”
A popular celebration of Earth Hour is planting trees and other greenery to rejuvenate the Earth, sequester carbon from our atmosphere. Others will be pushing for sustainability initiatives like recycling. Six Senses Laamu offers a sustainable flower pot that combines both…
- “Make your own sustainable flower pot! Our guests joined Megan, our sustainability officer and discovered how to make art and not waste, by making their own flower pots from our recycled crushed glass! Every month, Six Senses Laamu recycles hundreds of glass bottles that are reused throughout the resort in different forms. One of our favorite ways to use this recycled glass is in different art projects. We invited our guests to join us in the Earth Lab where they learnt how to make beautiful and unique flower pots out of reused glass. What better way to start off the spring than to plant something new in your own handmade flower pot!”
After all, glass is just sand and that’s pretty much most of the “earth” in the Maldives. In honor of the day, I have added the tag “Recycling” to the blog.
From the high ways of water usage to the water used as highways. Maldives Complete does focus on resorts (as opposed to guest houses or general destination information like inhabited islands), but I am also trying to assemble a collection of top online links for guests to this paradise. One of my original motivations for setting up Maldives Complete was my disenchantment with the quality of websites about the Maldives. Too many sites provides a thin veneer of weak, pedestrian and dated information as a lure to get you to buy expensive holidays through them. But on Maldives Complete, the “Online” tag provides a compilation of the most useful sites.
I came upon this Wild Maldives site with ferry schedules in the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum. They describe themselves as…
- “Development and promotion of budget travel to the Maldives. From $50/night. Beach holidays, scuba diving, exotic fishing, adventure trips, transfers. Wild Maldives aims to develop and promote budget travel in the Republic of Maldives. We link travellers directly with the local service providers – guest houses, restaurants, speedboat operators, diving schools, guides, and many more. Ideal for the self-sufficient travellers, who don’t want to overpay for services they can easily attain by themselves through the internet, yet would appreciate a helping hand during their trip to an unknown faraway land.”
What I really appreciated was their interactive ferry schedule. The route calculation form provides a parameter driven filter engine that then displays the route options graphically on a Google Map. Two of my favourite web components – database interrogation and GIS (geographical information system).
I have taken a ferry a few times for some of my more obscure tour detours. For DIY and budget travellers, they would be a necessity for getting around. I’m not sure if there is some way to forge a cheaper price tag to your resort holiday with them. Everyone gets apprehensive about spending $200-300 for a seaplane transfer, but I had a boat transfer to Cocoa Island that cost me $500 (!) and the private transfer from Kurumba to Male (8 minutes) costs $80 (although they do offer cheaper alternatives). So maybe a leisurely and notably less luxurious ferry ride might just be a useful cost saver for some itineraries (though, in reality, nearly all resorts provide speedboat transfers free of charge, and if you are paying thousands for your week stay a few hundred will likely not be a big concern).
International Water Day today. And LUX South Ari Atoll’s “water closet” is really putting the party into gear with its disco décor. So often a property’s bathrooms are at worst an after-thought or at best a staid affair. LUX reminds me of the best public restroom I’ve ever seen at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield.
One of the most respectful and appreciated salutations is to greet someone by their name. That’s why brain farts when you can’t recall someone’s name are so excruciating. It’s also why the resorts, especially the higher-end ones, put a great deal of effort into learning your name.
We were touched by the gift the W Retreat presented us with on arriving at our room which was a photo they took of us by their lounge at the seaplane terminal. As the week went on we noticed that *all* the staff was greeting us by name. We then realised that the photo served an extra purpose of getting notice out of who we were so the staff could recognize us and greet us personally.
Unfortunately, getting the names right of the resorts themselves is getting increasingly challenging. I’ve regularly encountered people mistaking two resorts they have *heard* of. First of all, the resorts change their names regularly with rebranding, relaunching and refurb. That is why I added the “Alias” page to the website which has the “Previously Known As” as well as the “Island Name” (which is itself the ultimate “Previously Known As”, as in before the resort was on it). Another development leading to confusion is the growing tendency of corporate Marcom tools to lead strongly with the corporate brand. So the hotelier group name is featured most prominently. As a result, people ask about going to “Anantara” or “Cinnamon” and I have to clarify “which one?”
Here’s the Maldives Complete list of diphthongic doppelgangers to help you keep them straight…
- Kandooma, Kandima
- Amari and Amaya
- Baros and Bandos
- Hulhule and Hulhumale (UI Inn)
- Kooddoo and Kudadoo
- Maafushi and Maayafushi
- Raalhuveli and Ranvel
- SECOND NAMES
- Finolhu, Finolhu Villas
- Coco’s (eg. Coco Bodu Hithi) and Cocoa Island
- Reethi Beach and Reethi Rah (with Reethi Faru coming soon, don’t just say “Reethi”)
- Vakkaru and Vaakarufalhi
- Maafushi and Maafushivaru
- Velaa and Velavaru
- ISLAND NAMES
- Amilla Fushi on Finolhas island vs. Finolhu resort
- Six Senses Laamu on Olhuveli island vs. Olhuveli resort