Pretty (Successful at Beating Cancer) In Pink

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Natallia Yakimchyk demonstrating the decked in pink run

 

The starting pistol for one of the biggest races one can find, The Race for Life, is today’s Pretty Muddy Stafford – Weston Park 5k.  Hundreds of women will be donning their pink (the traditional Race for Life attire colour) jog togs and coursing through the countryside raising money to beat cancer.  Being close friends to a recent cancer survivor, I am witness to the impact and success that Cancer Research is having on the lives of not just women, but every one around the world.  For those looking for sartorial inspiration for their own race (especially lighter weight gear as the days get warmer), Maldives Complete has assembled another score of fashionistas sporting the colour of beating cancer…

  1. Coco Airi (Japan) – Gili Lankanfushi
    Coco Airi (Japan) - Gili Lankanfushi
      
  2. Fernanda Liz (Brazil) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
    Fernanda Liz (Brazil) - Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
      
  3. Pauline (France) – Malahini Kuda Bandos
    Pauline (France) - Malahini Kuda Bandos
      
  4. Julia Dybowska (Poland) – JA Manafaru
    Julia Dybowska (Poland) – JA Manafaru
      
  5. Marie Escaño (Bulgaria) – Kuredu
    Marie Escaño (Bulgaria) - Kuredu
      
  6. Regina Ponfilova (Russia) – NIYAMA
    Regina Ponfilova (Russia) - NIYAMA
      
  7. Paris Diamond Girl (France) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
    Paris Diamond Girl (France) - Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
      
  8. Pla Komaratat (Thailand) – Coco Palm Bodu Hithi
    Pla Komaratat (Thailand)
      
  9. Nika Shatova (Russia) – Shangri-La Vilingili
    Nika Shatova (Russia) - Shangri-La Vilingili
      
  10. Aysel Manafova (Azerbaijani) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Aysel Manafova (Azerbaijani) - One & Only Reethi Rah
  11. Beth Sykess (United Kingdom) – Finolhu
    Beth Sykess (United Kingdom) – Finolhu
  12. Maja Lech (Poland) – Anantara Dhigu
    Maja Lech (Poland) - Naladhu
      
  13. Mrs. Mohd Fadhli Zil Ikram Karim (Malaysia) – Baros
    Mrs Mohd Fadhli Zil Ikram Karim (Malaysia) - Baros
      
  14. Natalia Siwiec (Poland) – Kurumba
    Natalia Siwiec (Poland) – Kurumba
      
  15. Papic Sanja (Panama) – Velassaru
    Papic Sanja (Panama) - Velassaru
      
  16. Seven Holidays (South Korea) – Velassaru
    Seven Holidays (South Korea) - Velassaru
      
  17. Dinel Dinel (Russia) – JA Manafaru
    Dinel Dinel (Russia) JA Manafaru
      
  18. Catherine (Taiwan) – Adaaran Hudhuran Fushi
    Catherine (Taiwan) - Adaaran Hudhuran fushi
      
  19. Juju Norremose (Brazil) – NIYAMA
    Juju Norremose (Brazil) - NIYAMA
      
  20. Victoria Lee (Australia) – Six Senses Laamu
    Victoria Lee (Australia) – Six Senses Laamu - 2

Best of the Maldives: Danish – Canareef

Canareef - Danish tour operator

Danish Liberation Day today. And for those Danes who want to be liberated from the chills of the North Sea, then Canareef has just the sort of sunshine escape to the Laccadive Sea. They have partnered with Primotours to provide a special Danish treat (not the breakfast kind):

  • Direct flight from Billund (Denmark) to Maldives
  • Accommodation for 7 or 14 nights in Bungalows with half board
  • All-inclusive upgrade option
  • Exclusively focused on the Maldives for Primotours wintertime holidays
  • Danish representatives in country arranging excursions and servicing our guests (photo above features two, both named Emma)

Note: If you are interested in more details, see their website, but they only have Danish guests travelling to Maldives so their webpage is in Danish.

Den solrige side af livet!

World’s Worst Snorkeling

Maldives may be the best snorkelling in the world (if Calsberg did snorkelling destinations…), and alternatives like Indonesia might rival it, but here are a few places that definitely do not.  Here is the definitely Maldives Complete list of ‘unconventional’ snorkeling  (shall we say generously) in the world (not surprising at all that 2 on the list are in the United Kingdom)…

  1. Bog Snorkeling – Wales, United Kingdom: In Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales crowds watch competitors swim up and down a 133 meter bog filled with sulphurous, weedy water. Some wear silly costumes but all entrants must not use conventional swimming strokes, relying on flipper power only. [ABOVE]
  2. Jelly Fish Snorkeling – Eil Malik Island in Palau: Well, not as hazardous at it appears as the Golden Jellyfish which populate this lake don’t sting actually.
    Snorkeling - jellyfish
       
  3. Snow Snorkeling – Somewhere in Michigan: Not a lot of detail provided, but we think alcohol is involved.
    Snorkeling - snow
       
  4. Sheep Field SnorkelingWest Bank, Jordan: Not quite the spectacle of the Red Sea, but still a spectacle of sort.
    Snorkeling - West Bank
       
  5. Reed SnorkelingCineplex near you:  “I don’t care if you did see that in a movie, Gilligan is not breathing through that reed!” — The Professor, Gilligan’s Island.   Turns out that escaping the bad guy by breathing through a reed would cause problems that “the width of the reed (or snorkel) needs to get wider the longer the tube. Otherwise you are just rebreathing the same air over and over, which will kill you after long enough. Unless you breathe out into the water, which defeats the purpose by highlighting your position with bubbles”.
    Snorkeling - reed
       
  6. Elephant SnorkelingPacific Islands: “Jumbo shrank after snorkel trip across Med” looks at the diffusion of pre-historic elephant species across a wide range of inaccessible islands and have come to the conclusion that elephants did their own form of snorkeling to cross large bodies of water though they speculate that these excursions were not exactly voluntary as they suspect that events such as a tsunami might have swept them out to sea. “[Gert van den Bergh of Wollongong University in Australia] has found fossils of pygmy elephants on islands across the Pacific. ‘The important thing is that elephants were excellent swimmers with high buoyancy and a snorkel for easy breathing’.”
    Snorkeling - elephant

        
  7. Polar Snorkeling – If the hypothermia doesn’t get you, the leopard seals might.
    Snorkeling - polar
        
  8. Australia Snorkeling – And in Australia, who knows what might get you…

       
  9. Fountain Snorkeling – Notts Market Square, Nottingham, United Kingdom: “There’s a kid snorkelling in the fountains at Notts Square. I’m done – Beth”
    Snorkeling - fountain
        
  10. Paddling Pool Snorkeling – And if you can’t get to a body of water, you can always make do with a backyard outing.

Maldives vs. Indonesia Snorkeling (Komodo)

Komodo Resort house reef

With the rising costs and declining reefs of the Maldives, one of the increasingly frequent FAQs is “Is there anywhere else like the Maldives”.  In particular, given the Maldives’ distinctive snorkeling, “Are there any places which rival the Maldives’ world-leading snorkeling experience.”

One of the more commonly cited possibilities for tropical resorts with tranquil isolation as well great snorkeling and diving is Indonesia.  We recently took a trip to Bali for a friend’s wedding and thought I would add on a week to visit Komodo, Indonesia and check out the snorkeling scene.

We stayed at a lovely 4 star (equivalent) resort in Komodo national park – Komodo Resort and Dive Centre.  The pictures and reports indicated that I might have stumbled upon something to rival the Maldives’ snorkeling supremacy. The resort was in the highly rated Komodo Natonal Park which is a protected marine area as well as a national park on land. Roving police come to your dive and snorkelling boats to check that you have a requisite permit for being there (you purchase these on arrival).

The two destinations had some arbitrary subjective differences…

  • Maldives flat, Indonesia elevated
  • Maldives small, Indonesia larger
  • Maldives blue, Indonesia green

But below are some of my observed comparisons. Admittedly, my impressions are a bit superficial given that I only spent a week there. Still, I did do extensive research to prepare for the trip, the location is reputed to be one of the best in the country (so should show the destination in some of the best light), I spoke extensively to staff, residents and other guests there to compare notes and ferret out more perspectives, and I have the experience of snorkelling all over the world (eg. Caribbean, Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean).

Not as good as the Maldives…

  • Fewer big fish:   The big 5 (shark, turtle, ray, moray, octopus) of the Snorkel Safari are much rarer in Indonesia.  They can be seen, but everyone talks about going on special excursions to special sites to see them.  During our entire stay and several outings, we didn’t see a single one.  And we were in one of the reputed top dive/snorkel areas of the region.  Curiously, the “smaller” fish (eg.  sweet lips, bat fish, parrot fish) mostly seemed significantly larger than their Maldivian cousins .
  • More current – There is no sheltered atoll topology.  Instead, the islands rise out of relative deep water much like the Greek Isles.  Furthermore, Indonesia lies smack between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  As a result, there are lots of currents as the water shifts back and forth squeezing through the archipelagos of the islands.  Our house reef snorkel had the strongest current I have ever snorkeled in.  Fortunately, resort took us in a dingy to one end of the house reef and we drifted back to the exit jetty. Our snorkel excursion was also a “drift snorkel” where a dinghy took us to a drop off and then picked us up again for another go around.
  • Colder water – Good for corals, but less comfortable for leisurely t-shirt/rash-guard snorkeling.
  • Infrastructure – In general, the Indonesian tourism infrastructure felt about 20 years behind the Maldives.  That might sound appealing to those old-timers who yearn for the simplicity of the good old days, but it did mean little inconveniences like weak Internet (slow in general, down most of the time we were there on public network and wifi), limited food choices and limited activities (though all those things might be plusses to some).  Payment infrastructure was particularly inconvenient and awkward (eg. difficulties getting online payment system to work, no Amex accepted, 50 Euro surcharge for using Paypal).

Better than the Maldives…

  • Corals – The key plus to the house reef was the coral.  Especially compared to the currently stressed (eg.  climate change, El Nino, COTS) reefs of the Maldives.  Great diversity, colour and health of hard and soft corals.  Especially, soft corals.  Greater quantity and diversity of soft corals than I have seen anywhere in the Maldives.
  • Cost – The big win in Indonesia is the cost. I would roughly estimate that like-for-like, Indonesia is at least half the price of a comparable property and activity in the Maldives.

Maldives v Indonesia

Komodo Resort house reef 2

School of Life

Powder Blue Surgeonfish

You need cooling
Baby I’m not fooling
I’m gonna send ya
Back to schooling – Led Zeppelin

While the Maldives corals have taken a hit from the warm oceans of climate change and El Nino, the schooling bathing beauties remain as colourful and concentrated as ever. A-fish-ionadoes of the Maldives often refer to the waters as “fish soup” (perhaps an unfortunate term with the excessive water temperatures hitting 30 degrees!). And Instagram has become the digital runway for these fishionista pageants to be shared with the world. My favourite snaps are the one so jam packed with fish that they sort of form kaleidoscopic tapestries of underwater colour (thanks to Verena for help with identifying the more obscure marine models)…

 

  1. Powder Blue Surgeonfish [ABOVE]
  2. Glass Fish
    Glass Fish
  3. Blue Striped Snapper
    Blue Striped Snapper
  4. Fusilier
    Fusilier
  5. Convict Surgeonfish
    Convict Surgeonfish
  6. Yellow Sweeper
    Yellow Sweeper
  7. Trevally
    Trevally
  8. Orange Anthia
    Orange Anthia
  9. Blue Fusilier
    Blue Fusilier
  10. Oriental Sweet Lips
    Oriental Sweetlips
  11. Cardinal Fish
    Cardinal Fish
  12. Schooling Bannerfish
    Schooling Bannerfish
  13. Bigeye
    Bigeye
  14. Double Saddle Butterflyfish
    Double Saddle Butterflyfish
  15. Humpback Snapper
    Humpback Snapper

Best of the Maldives: Soneva Jani– Youngest Training Manager

Soneva Fushi - Ashraf Adnan training manager

May 1st today is known round the world as International Workers Day. A chance to celebrate and support the workforce that drives our lives and welfares. One of the best way to lift up a work force is with education and training.

A new generation of Maldivians are on the vanguard of building the country into one of the world’s finest travel destinations. An exemplary example is Ashraf Adnan at Soneva Jani who at 26 is the Maldives’ youngest training manager.

Soneva’s acclaimed ethos of sustainability is not just about the environment but start with the very people working hard to create the finest guest experiences. Sara Ballinger, of the The Daisy Gray Partnership, was his Ashraf’s first manager at Soneva and she spoke to him about his career (with Maldives Complete adding a few of its own questions). I was particularly intrigued since Leadership and Management is my other pet interest (so leadership and management in the Maldives is double delight for me)…

Q: Where do you come from in the Maldives?
A: I come from Guraidhoo in the Kaafu Atoll.

Q: What was your first job?
A: After completing my education I got my first job at age 19 when my brother told me about a job opening at Olhuveli Beach and Spa resort as HR Administrator and Coordinator. In truth I wasn’t learning much, it wasn’t a five star resort and I was ambitious, so I took a distance learning course which I funded myself and after two years I achieved a further qualification in HR Management. That gave me the confidence to apply for a position at the 5 star ‘LUX Maldives’ resort in the South Ari Atoll as HR & Training coordinator.

Q: Who or what influenced you early in your career and how?
A: I spent the next 18 months in my role under the management of Mr Hussain Afeef who is the most successful learning & development professional in the Maldives in my opinion and is also Maldivian. At this point the thought of standing up in front of people terrified me. I had no interest in doing that at all, but Mr Afeef inspired me with the way he delivered. I watched him at work in the training room and in time I got up the courage to try standing up and talking to people. I wasn’t perfect from the start but with continued encouragement and coaching I built up my confidence and my skills and after a time I started to deliver some of the training myself.

Q: What brought you to Soneva Fushi?
A: One day I saw a job advertised as Assistant Training Manager at Soneva Fushi in the Baa Atoll. Soneva had a reputation as being one of the very best resorts in the Maldives and also for having a culture of responsibility for the environment and for protecting this beautiful country of ours. I heard that they also looked after local communities and were more ethical and sustainable than most luxury hospitality brands. I really wanted to work for them! I was so happy to be offered the position and really worked hard at building my skills by practice, practice, practice and watching video’s online, reading about how to deliver great training and more practice! At this time, I did not have a manager to learn from and so I did my own self development. Delivering became easier, but without a manager of my own to teach me I didn’t know whether I was doing a good job or not.

Q: How did you prepare yourself for training leadership and management?
A: Sara Ballinger joined as my manager and I really started to learn about how to deliver leadership training and how to think about training in a different way. I learned how to plan and write and read training plans, how to present the information in the sessions, how to read the audience and handle them and deal with problems when they arose. Sara gave me the opportunity to go to Thailand to work in our sister property Soneva Kiri for a month. This was great exposure and really helped me to understand how to work with different cultures and in different ways. We did so much great stuff! Learning Olympics, a brand new Induction, lots of presentations skills, train the trainer and leadership training. The reason I am now a training manager is because I learnt from my leaders

Q: What has been the key to your achievements so far?
A: Coming out of my comfort zone and taking a risk. Without trying you will never know! You ask ‘but what if I fail’ – I ask ‘what if I don’t?’ Try anyway. Also you must believe in yourself if you want others to believe in you. And self development, don’t expect others to do all the work for you – you have to take responsibility for your own learning.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles that you have faced?
A: People want experience, so breaking into the egg-shell can be hard if you have no contacts. Start somewhere, even if it’s not the job of your dreams and is a lower position, just to get a start. Then chase your dream!

Q: Soneva recently opened its new Jani property. What is different training for a new opening property compared to an established property?
A: The difference between training for a new property and established property is that in a new opening property, training programmes are designed in a way with great potential to be a part of the team and to progress rapidly within the company. From the very basics to Heath and Safety, resort policies and procedures, brand trainings etc. In any pre-opening employees will take part in all the training programme that company has to offer.

Q: What is your favorite book about leadership and management?
A: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s gives great lesson about personal change and growth.

Q: What is one of the biggest myths about training?
A: People get confused between a teacher and a trainer. 🙂

Q: If you had $1 million to invest on an a training initiative in the Maldives, what would you spend it on?
A: I would open a training institution in the Maldives specially for those youngsters who are seeking for job opportunities in the Maldives resorts. One of the main challenge youth of the Maldives faces is when they start hunting for jobs in the tourism industry, due to lack of experiences it makes very hard for them to find a job. An institution where we can train and certify them in every role there is to offer in a resort.

Q: What do you see in your future?
A: I am inspired by the people I have been working with here at Soneva. I look at my bosses’ jobs and I wonder what I can learn, how I can follow and then I will try to be them one day! I will be Director of Learning & Development one day and then Group Director of Learning & Development. I have a new manager now and I am looking forward to continuing my development with him. I have a clear view of my future and I am excited about the journey.

Q: What do you like to do when not at work?
A: I love to surf, play guitar and read, non-fiction – books which are inspirational and teach me something.