While the Maldives destination is known for its distinctive blues, at Amilla’s “Mystique Garden” also features a cornucopia of Maldivian greens. And initiative of Sustainability Manager Victoria Kruse (see above) who has collected an extensive range of local produce to grow and feature in all the resort’s cuisine including:
Moringa Drumstick – A ‘super food’ with leaves like spinash, roots like horseradish and use to make curry.
Kullhafilafai – Like Maldivian dandelion (see photo directly below)
Maldivian tea tree
Loofa – While best known for its scrubbing, it is also produces a healthy veg.
You know those iconic cartoons of a deserted island with a plot sand and palm tree in the middle of the ocean…that’s the Maldives. A thousand of those.
The Maldives sits at that a magic elevation of pretty much exactly sea level. The Great Barrier Reef is just below sea level (hence very few islands and hardly any resorts). Tropical islands like Mauritius and the Seychelles *tower* above rising to hundreds of feet in the air. The Maldives rest right in the sweet spot. Virtually right at sea level like linen white sand rafts floating in the ocean. The interleaving of water and land in cozy embrace liken the destination to a tropical Venice.
And the elevation distinction goes in both directions – not just the height of the land, but also the shallow depth of the water surrounding the land. As a result, the lagoons have a mill pond stillness which makes for crystal clear water. You can enjoy the dazzling aquatic sights from above the water seeing all manner of colourful fish like a giant aquarium.
The ubiquitous reefs lurking near the water’s surface produce a mesmerizing seascape tapestry of blues that is otherworldly. It is one of those special places on Earth (like Iceland, Grand Caynon, Zhangye Danxia) that make you feel like you are not just on a remarkable part of the planet, but on another planet altogether.
The tininess of the islands and their proximity to not just the ocean but the aquatic wonderland within it, makes for a uniquely intimate connection with the sea that is rarely experienced. I have world traveling friends who go to all sorts of tropical resorts and they always report back to me, “This place is wonderful…but it’s not the Maldives!”
I did get to see the Euro 2020 Final though sadly not underwater…nor even in the Maldives. Which is where we usually are this time of year there on our annual research tour. Obviously, halted by the “Red” status of the destination by the UK authorities, we have re-scheduled for November when we hope things will be even more settled. Our trips allow us to ferret out things we’ve not yet seen despite 20+ years of visiting the Maldives, and so we often preface them with my bi-annual instalment of “Things I Haven’t Yet Seen in the Maldives”. Over the years, I’ve posted 323 of these (of which 34 I have now “Finally Seen” many of which the resorts who introduced them told me that they did so after reading my piece). Here is another score to add to the list I’ve rounded up over the past six months:
Ocean Suncatcher / Ornament – Christmas ornaments are great gifts and I’m a bit surprised I don’t see more of them sold in the resort gift shops. Rather than shelf-cluttering chochkies, ornaments are seasonal aesthetic treats that remind us of our sunny times in the depths of winter.
Scuba Nutcracker – Nothing is more Christmasy than a nutcracker. And no nutcracker is more Maldivian than this special edition version by Really Cool Nutcrackers. Thanks Lori for not just discovering this gem (I collect nutcrackers and own over 100), but also for the custom “Maldives Complete” rendition for my birthday (see photo at top)! It includes a “Maldives Complete” logo on the shirt (which she also gave me for my birthday) and “Paul Shark” shorts (which she gave me for last year’s birthday (and featured in the last edition).
Puzzle Station – Amilla had first puzzle we’d come across that was actually not just a Maldives scene, but also one of the island itself. It was a relatively trivial 100 piece affair. The classic format is the 1000 piece. These typically take several days to do (eg. 8 hours to do with a few people). They a great over holidays sitting on a table where people can come and try to find a few pieces. I would like to see a brilliant photo made into a puzzle in the gift shop, but also a puzzle set out on a public area table where people could pop by and work on it for a little while. Maybe if a short rain shower is coming down, guests could pop in an contribute to the puzzle for a little while. The resort could announce over social media when the puzzle was completed (and then start all over again or start a new one). Online photo production places make these custom photo puzzles very easily.
Blind Date with a Book – If you prefer to lounge with the traditional beach read, here is another Turkish delight taken from a Dalaman resort that Lori goes to regularly. Not only does it have fun element of serendipity, but also the books are sterilised for COVID safety.
Under the Sea Scratch and Draw – For more creative and less intellectuallty demanding fun, the “Scratch and Draw” books are great and this one especially thematically apropos for chilling at the villa for the little ones.
“Mermaids Drink Free” – A relatively well-known vintage sign and yet I haven’t come across it in the land of mermaids.
“Papa Don’t Preach” Resort Collection – Resort wear for all visiting mermaids, “The Mumbai-based label started by Shubhika Sharma has launched a collection of swimsuits, cover-ups and beach accessories inspired and shot in Maldives.”
Coral Crocs – Sunies “Sea and Ocean” sandal – Even Crocs can be stylish when infused with the spirit and aesthetic of the Maldives.
Treasure Island PJs – Even the littlest ones can become fastionistinas with this treasure island themed outfit by Little Outfitter from neighbouring Sri Lanka.
Toddler Water Ski – With families surging as a segment in the Maldives, there’s no reason they can’t enjoy the watersports too.
Electric Surfboard – Electric bikes all are the rage with the MAML crowd these days, so a bit of eco-friendly motorised watersport should be appealing.
Loo Sink – Common in Japan, the hand wash sink is placed on top of the toilet cistern so the waste water from washing your hands is re-used for the next flush.
House Reef Guided Tour – Audio tours are standard fare for the top flight museums and tourist sites. Why not a guided tour of a house reef? Plant small, discreet markers around the house reef and provide audio commentary that the snorkelers can listen to for each spot. Maybe a frequent resident creature lives there or some particularly interesting type of coral that might get overlooked, etc.
Coconut Cup – This is coconut iced coffee, but a wide range of drinks could be served this way. Reminds me of the carved ice tumblers at the Ice Hotel. Sipping the cocktail *in* the ice (rather than the ice in the cocktail) provided a distinctive sensation to enjoying it. I have seen the coconut husks used for a variety of purposes in the Maldives, and often welcome drinks are served in whole coconuts (husk with outer green pod casing). But these drinks are delivered through a straw and part of the experience of this approach is to get a taste of the coconut meat on the “glass” rim. A tropical equivalent of salt on the rim of a traditional margarita.
Under water no one can hear you scream. Or sing “Sweet Caroline” at the top of your lungs. And so you can at Conrad Maldives Rangali for today’s big match:
“Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, a luxury five-star resort, is allowing two people the opportunity to watch the match from its Muraka villa, which is more than 16 feet beneath the Indian Ocean, and the world’s first underwater hotel residence. The package includes a two-night stay, during which the UEFA European Football Championship final will be beamed onto a screen that sits in front of a glass wall looking out onto the ocean’s abundant marine life.”
Also, perhaps most versatile underwater room in the Maldives as Ithaa serves as a restaurant and has served as a bedroom (mind you, with kick off at 1:00 am and if England play their characteristic “control” game, the subaquatic spectators mind find themselves nodding off).
The Maldives may not be moving the heavens, but they are moving the earth to provide more opportunities to welcome visitors. For some environmental activists, “terraforming” is as dirty a word as the mounds of dirt it involves. But I am more supportive of the Maldives’ use of terraforming. For a country that is nearly 1000 kilometres long, to reclaim a few kilometres for living or economic purposes seems quite a reasonable trade-off. Especially, if the aquatic regions chosen are more barren sandy lagoon than vibrant reef (and even then, work done with as eco-friendly protocols as possible). The entire Crossroad complex which currently includes Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon were constructed in this manner and eventually 7 more resort “islands” will be developed in the general area. The environmental study that was performed to prepare for this dramatic transformation of the ocean was extensive but nonetheless controversial among sceptics. For those who are accepting of this strategy to building their economy, the engineering scale and sophistication is quite impressive. The YouTube video above provides a taste of what is involved, but actually the History Channel (Asia) did a fully documentary programme on the project (see trailer below) to look out for if you get a chance to watch it.
Solar power is moving from innovation to the new normal especially at higher end resorts. Thanks to their Swimsol power generation, LUX South Ari Atoll can get identify how much clean energy they are consuming:
“Guests can follow a live ‘solar tracker’ on their in-villas IPTV that will indicate the energy produced, diesel saved as well as the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions savings to offset the number of long-haul flights.“
Not purely a “Maldives” site, but ever so perfect for it. “Name That Fish” couldn’t be better named itself. Here’s the concept – load your snorkeling or diving videos up their website, they run it through their AI algorithm, and al the prominent fish in the video get prominently tagged with a box identifying their species. Lori and I love our piscatorial treasure hunts in the Maldives and can’t wait to get back to the room to go through our collection of fish identification cards and books to figure out the new things we’ve seen. Now we can just let the computer do the work while we go and sip our pina coladas.
The project is the work of Jake Easterling, co-founder of Scubotics, and features over 11,000 fish in its algorithm. The technology is especially interesting to me because it is the core of my day job. I run a company which uses machine learning algorithms to detect variations in brain health on MRI images of multiple sclerosis patients.
Before reviewing it here on Maldives Complete I thought that I should test it myself so I uploaded one of our fish soup heave vids from a recent trip. There is no formal charge for the service, but the site requests a donation and suggest $5 which seemed reasonable to me. I uploaded it and a few days later I received an email with a link to the new video in a Dropbox location (see above as I’ve loaded on my YouTube channel). It came out superbly capturing most of the main fish visible and no errors of identification that I could spot.