While Brits tuck into Christmas turkey leftovers and start jigsaw puzzles brought by Santa, today marks one of the biggest natural disasters in modern history and the biggest in Maldives history – the 2004 Tsunami. The tragedy touched every corner of the country and devastated a number of inhabited islands and resorts.
One silver lining was the opening up of country’s economy and politics in the aftermath. Maldives desperately need outside assistance to rebuild and the international funds stepped up but only on the condition that the country reformed some of its institutions. For example, the first democratic elections were held for decades.
One resort hit hard was Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa who lost its General Manager. In the aftermath, the resort set up “Tsunami Assembly Point”, akin to “Fire Assembly Points” for which they double as, which help the staff more quickly identify who is safe and who is missing and maybe in need of assistance.
I remember people asking me if it was safe to visit the Maldives for fear of tsunamis. For starters, such an occurance is a once in a lifetime event. And while, lighting does strike twice, the odds are so small that you are much likely to be hurt by a commonplace incident (like a car accident on the way to the airport) than any tsunamis. Furthermore, the world has learned an enormous amount and also invested considerably in anticipating (early warning systems) and responding to (things like this assembly point) ocean tsunamis even if their remote chance of happening does occur. So the danger is even more miniscule than it was before.
When I came across the assembly point, I thought it was not just an extra-careful precaution, but also a very subtle and tasteful monument to the people who sadly suffered from this bizarre calamity.
Instead of being immersed in sand, Kuramathi will slather you with mud as just one of their special baby-moon prenatal offerings…
“Kuramathi Spa is pleased to announce an upgrade to its menu this month to fine-tune the balance of mind, body and soul. A meticulous pick of choices for him and her is featured, along with the usual favourites for honeymooners, namely the ‘Kuramathi Moment’ and ‘Couples Rebirth’. Asian body rituals from India, Indonesia and Thailand let you delve into the preserved techniques instilling peace and calm. Amongst the new treatments available are the indulgent prenatal options. Mothers to be can now pick between ‘Organic Precious Moments’ and ‘Organic Prenatal Voyager’ each using fresh seaweed based ingredients in a carefully curated therapy. Engage in meditation guided by our yogi who helps ease you into the ancient discipline of yoga and the plethora of benefits it imbues.”
I love the mud treatment in particular, to get prospective parents used to having gooey substances smeared all over them and mud as a central part of their lives once they have kids…
For a treatment “in” the beach rather than just “on” it, Makunudu’s Avuun spa features a double table massage area sunken into the beach sand. The space is surrounded by a natural pavilion structure including a drawable curtain if you want privacy from view but still the proximity to the soothing sounds of the water nearby.
Not the Martha and the Muffins classic, but a new perspective on beach beauty by Six Senses Laamu who are preserving vibrant marine life even if it means much bigger landscaping budget (thanks Paola):
“It takes a lot of effort to maintain the picture perfect white beaches and powder blue turquoise lagoons at tourist resorts. Many of the resorts in the Maldives actively destroy their seagrass beds to maintain this facade. Six Senses Laamu has changed this attitude and are now actively promoting the protection of their seagrass beds as they are a haven for megafauna including green sea turtles, sting rays and baby sharks in addition to being a nursery for juvenile fish, providing oxygen, storing carbon, improving the health of adjacent coral reefs and preventing erosion of the island.”
The resort clarifies that “We have a team of gardeners at Six Senses Laamu that rakes the beach and place the dead seagrass in the jungle so that it can still contribute its nutrients to the coastal system, while also ensuring guests can use the beaches.”
For an helpful introduction to the importance of sea grass in the Maldives, check out the video below.
If you try sitting on the sands of the bay in the Maldives for too long, you might just find yourself in the bay itself. This very item was going to be a “Haven’t Seen” until I found it on Facebook just a few days before my post.
“Only from a time-lapse like this you will see clearly how the Maldivian Islands change shape so fast. Lhaviyani Atoll Veyvah and Vavvaru (26-08-2015 to 28-11-2018)”
Still an opportunity for a resort to provide one. Resorts AaaVee and Mafushivaru’s Lonobu have dramatically shifting sands, for example.
Even after a decade of exploring the Maldives in person and online, with my 14th edition of the “Haven’t Seen Yet in the Maldives” series there is still no shortage of candidates keep on popping up. If you think you have seen it all in the Maldives…no you haven’t.
Baby Shark Abs Workout – Ok, some resort NEEDS to offer this in their kids club AND their adult fitness classes! [ABOVE]
Sunshine Guarantee – Offer for free rooms (or some system) for ay vacation more than 50% rain (or could do, if you have more than one day of rain, then each additional day is complimentary for a future visit).
Plot of Sand and a Palm Tree – When people ask me to describe the Maldives, I respond, “You know that iconic image of a deserted island with a plot of sand and a single palm teee? That’s the Maldives. A thousand of those.” And while the image captures the diminutive, tropical, aquatic topology of the Maldives, curiously, I have never actually come across a sand bank with a single palm tree on it. If a resort would transplant a palm tree, they would have instance Instagram bait.
Faux-fluencer Photoshoot – Some resort needs to host Celeste Barber to do all the classic Maldives Instagram poses (eg. lying on the edge of the infinity pool, walking up the water villa ladder, pink flamingo float, coconut drink, sitting on a palm tree, backfloat, wallowing in the shallow water, etc).
Underwater Photo Spot Frame– Photo frames have popped up all over the Maldives resorts, but none where all the action is – underwater.
Vilebrequin Outlet – One of the finest makes of swimwear in the world with styles just perfect for the Maldives.
Bird Baths – The enchanting tropical birds from the ubiquitous Makana to Rihiveli’s famous Crab Plover bring a colourful creature dimension to enjoying the natural charm and beauty of the Maldives destination. On a number of occasions we have found the Makanas visiting our pool for a fresh water drink. Which made us think that the tiny desert islands must be a classic case of “water, water everywhere, but not drop to drink.” So why hasn’t a resort set out a stylish birdbath to both help the feathered friends out and provide an attraction where guest can observe them regularly. Many resorts still do (controversial) fish feeding to show the marine creatures up close, so why not the ornithological ones? (thanks Lori)
Naturist Holday – A friend of mine works at UK travel agency, Eton Travel, which among other things is a UK leader in naturist holidays (yep, hanging out with it all hanging out). She said that the UK has 5 million naturists and it is one of the rapidly growing segments. There is an obvious reason why naturism hasn’t hit the Maldives and that is because nudity is prohibited (mind you, that hasn’t stopped a slew of exhibitionist Instagrammers). But the resorts have always been given some discretion about how non-Muslim visitors want to behave (like drinking alcohol and eating pork) and so perhaps there is something that could be done in this area. One concern would be to shield the Maldivian staff from exposure to such, well exposure. But maybe the resort could give their local staff a holiday for a week where they devoted the property to a special naturist week, or the resort could limit the naturism to a nearby picnic island.
Spa Sommelier – “After guests perceive the aromas of a selection of oils and taste several wines from our Abadía Retuerta winery, the Spa Sommelier analyses their tastes and aromatic preferences and recommends the best spa experience for their individual wellness needs.”
Seaweed Flavoured Butter – Flavoured butter is becoming a bit of a thing with variations such as Moose Maple Butter, Abernethy Smoked Butter, Ampersand Cultured Butter, and the appropriately luxurious Black Truffle Butter. But I think the mist apropos flavor would be Le Beurre Bordier’s Seaweed Butter.
Maldivian Harvested Sea Salt – Use on tables, in spas and sell in boutiques.
Underwater Restaurant Mermaid – Resorts like Finolhu have hosted professional mermaids for photoshoots, but this underwater performance is especially enchanting.
Deserted Island Laser Tag – Whenever you have a variation of the capture the flag game (eg. paintballing, laser tag, or simple old capture the flag) the boundaries are critical (and often a source of dispute as to whether an opponent has crossed of them). But setting up a laser tag game on an uninhabited picnic island would provide a natural boundary. Your very own Hunger Games re-enactment.
“And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (Quran 2:272)
Most every anniversary of the website, I do another instalment of the “Why Do I Do It” (the second most frequently asked question I get) series. Once again, Seth Godin has captured another dimension to this expensive hobby which contributes to my daily drive to uncover the latest information and draft up hopefully helpful perspectives…
“Is there something you do every day that builds an asset for you? Every single day? Something that creates another bit of intellectual property that belongs to you? Something that makes an asset you own more valuable? Something that you learn? Every single day is a lot of days. It’s easy to look at the long run and lull yourself into skipping a day now and then. But the long run is made up of short runs.” – Seth Godin “The Daily”
Maldives Complete is my daily dose of sunshine, my periodic prescription of paradise.
The first decade of Maldives fandom completed. The 10th anniversary of the Maldives Complete website today.
And, in keeping with its original mission, it has continued to get more and more complete now achieving the high water mark of 99.56% completeness. That’s 16 pieces of information missing out of a potential 3,600 from the profiles of 143 active resorts (not counting all the added information about 61 inactive properties – ie. not yet opened or closed). 6 of those missing pieces are dive charts from the relatively newly developed atolls (ie. Raa, Thaa, Shaviyani). 5 of those are from 2 relatively recent openings – Miriandhoo and Sangeli – for whom photography is not yet complete.
This past year was the first one that I have not added a major feature or component to the site and this year I didn’t really add any new significant data fields or design changes for the first time ever (last year I added “Name Meaning” and the new logo and palette). So maybe the site functionality itself if becoming more “Complete”.
With all of the glitzy bling scattered around the Maldives like toddlers throwing tinsel on a Christmas tree, some of the old school décor with retro charm stand out even more distinctively. One example is Rihiveli extensive oil on wood paintings. The reception features one of the most handsome island maps I have seen, and I love the little vexillological (word of the day for you) retrospective.
When I first started the “Best of the Maldives” series on Maldives Complete nearly a decade ago (very nearly!), I wanted to find and call out some of the truly distinctive touches that resorts had. I didn’t want to (re)write the same glossy article about palm trees and pina coladas that every celebrity comp article writes. When I spoke with folks about this angle, I often used the “clothes hanger” example citing Gili Lankanfushi’s unique bamboo ones which provided a subtle touch of natural materials used in a stylish way. Now Joali has introduced its own creative hangers with “feel good” messages inscribed on each of them (thanks Paola). Who knew when I started focusing on such attentive details that not only would I end up writing about “clothes hangers”, but would write about multiple variations on just that item?
I wonder if one says “My bum does not look big in this.”