Happy Halloween. A time for lots of homemade sorcery – carving pumpkins, baking sweets, making costumes. I even crafted my own Halloween montage for a big Halloween party we held last year – “I’m In Love with a Monster”. If you want to make some especially spooky candles, Cora Cora offers a candle making workshop. Perhaps with a pumpkin spice scent.
Instagram is full of models posing in the Maldives, but this has to be my favourite of all (thanks Paola). I love maps especially Victorian birds-eye perspectives. A scale model like this on at OZEN Reserve Bolifushi is a superbly detailed birdseye map rendered in 3D that provides a uniquely effective “at a glance” perspective on the property.
The “one island, one resort” concept has defined the Maldives as a holiday destination for much of its history. But, the destination is evolving to create new experiences for guests, and new economic opportunities for local Maldivians. And in the case of “The Crossroads”, new experiences for local Maldivians.
- “The first integrated lifestyle destination in the Republic of Maldives: CROSSROADS by Singha Estate, is set to open in early 2019 at Emboodhoo Lagoon…presenting a variety of offers including dining, shopping, entertainments and leisure activities. CROSSROADS Maldives will ultimately comprise 9 islands, 8 hotels and resorts, and a retail space of over 11,000 sqm, equipped with hotel guests’ own arrival jetties and inter-island water transportation. The Marina @ CROSSROADS welcomes visitors of all ages – both foreign and local – among its unique offerings will be an upscale boardwalk, featuring a stylish dining experience, and hosting celebrity chefs and world-renowned DJs. The integrated project will feature the Maldives’s first luxury yacht marina, the eponymous establishment of The Marina at CROSSROADS, which will host the guests’ private yachts and plays its role in redefining the Maldives’ tourism experience.”
But it is not just a wide range of international visitors who can enjoy Crossroads, but the development very much welcomes and it quite popular with local Maldivian residents who take the short transfer over from Male to enjoy the array of restaurants, shops and seaside promenades.
Caring for customers isn’t just about having a gracious smile and attentive service, but it involves really understanding each of your customers as individuals, catering to their distinctive needs as best one can. The top Maldives properties have achieved this with specially trained ‘butlers’ (and assorted variations on that theme). But some needs require more work than just a resourceful attendant’s hustle. In fact, some people – those with disabilities – often want an experience where their ‘luxury’ is being able to do everything as independently as possible.
Disabled individuals are used to tackling and overcoming diverse obstacles that the world throws at them. But holiday is when one wants a break from not only job work, but also just the daily work of housekeeping, cooking, cleaning and other chores. So going to an exotic locale renowned for sand and water (neither of which are disabled individuals’ particular friends) is always going to be less appealing.
Amilla Maldives breaking down these obstacles with a property-wide initiative to make their resort as accessible as possible:
- “The sandy island paths, beaches, water jetties, villas and restaurants across the archipelago have for too long remained the exclusive domain of non-disabled visitors, excluding this as a dream-destination for guests with additional mobility, sensory or cognitive requirements, who would come if they only believed they could…Inclucare officials are auditing the entire resort island to identify any physical adjustments or adaptations that can be made to authentically establish Amilla, and the Maldives, as an accessible and inclusive dream-destination for all….Amilla is now on target to soon become the first Inclucare-certified resort in the world.
Amilla outlined a range of accessibility enhancements they implemented (including the following), but talking with resort leadership couple, Jason and Victoria, many more are on the way.
- Amilla already had many easy-access ground floor villas, with wide doorways and accessible showers, as well as a beach wheelchair and a floating wheelchair for swimming and in-villa phones for the hearing impaired that light up when they ring… New innovations on the cards at Amilla include deaf-alert systems, adaptive yoga and snorkelling adventures, and sensory touch, aroma and sound experiences through the jungle for vision-impaired guests. And there will also be another groundbreaking addition: ‘calming spaces’, for regulating sensory input. They will allow guests on the Autism spectrum, with learning difficulties, or dementia, to control their emotions, reducing anxiety and stress.”
Amilla introduced their initiatives hosting British TV personality and disability advocate, Sophie Morgan. Not only does she provide a compelling “proof of the pudding is in the eating” test to Amilla’s initiatives, but she also provides extensive reassurance through live demonstration on her Instagram (see embedded post here).
Accessibility is especially near and dear to our hearts. Lori worked for nearly a decade as Head of Therapy for the UK Epilepsy Society where she was supporting clients with a broad range of often severe disabilities. And I coach disabled athletes in the sport of rowing, and even have a website with comprehensive information about that – www.adaptiverowinguk.com. In fact I have a series of posts called “Can You Row With…” (eg. “Can You Row with Multiple Sclerosis?”, “Can You Row With Cerebral Palsy?”, “Can You Row With a Hearing Impairment?”). So, ‘Can You Go to the Maldives with a Disability?’ To Amilla, you certainly can!
Resorts have long offered presentations to their guests often on marine biology and sometimes on Maldivian culture, and some have extended these to featured guest presenters on topics as diverse as cuisine and wellness. Soneva Fushi features a distinctively rich slate of guest artists and authorities. It’s website presently features 36 upcoming special guests! But it has hit a new high water mark producing the first event TEDx event in the Maldives.
TED is the now famous conference on “Technology, Entertainment, Design” renowned for exceptionally high quality presentations (all strictly limited to 18 minutes) by some of the most renowned and talented experts and speakers in the world. The TEDx events are smaller conferences run around the world “organized by passionate individuals who seek to uncover new ideas and to share the latest research in their local areas that spark conversations in their communities.”
TEDxBaaAtoll could also be TED’s first ever TED event on a beach! Certainly first on loungers. Titled “TEDxBaaAtoll: SLOW LIFE” . “SLOW LIFE” is Soneva’s acronymic mission statement described by them as “our core purpose and stands for Sustainable – Local – Organic – Wellness Learning – Inspiring – Fun – Experiences…It is about reconnecting with oneself and the natural world.” The event synopsis describes the event as…:
- “focusing on ways to find a deeper purpose beyond the superficial: reconnecting with the earth to live in harmony with the natural environment; working hand-in-hand with communities to make the world a better place; and nurturing our physical and mental wellbeing to be the very best we can be
Here was the line-up of special speakers and subjects:
- Aishath Adnan – “I saw none, so I built one: women in the tech community”: An active advocate for women in tech, she also co-founded the non-profit organisation Women in Tech Maldives.
- Aki Allahgholi – “Time for Corals”: founded Coralive.org in 2016 to fully serve an eco-minded holistic approach to restore and protect a healthy ocean. He described the pragmatic approach to reef regeneration of experimenting in many ways and see what works.
- Akib Jahir – “Zero Mosquito, Zero Fogging”: Passionate entomologist, avid mosquito hunter pioneering the way towards an integrated method sustainable mosquito management. Described a mosquito trap to 113k mosquitos in the first month. Only 5% of food supply to predators (birds, bats, dragonflies) who eat them.
- Bruce Bromley – “Why every CFO should also be Chief Sustainability Officer” – Trustee for the Soneva Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation focused on mitigating the impacts of climate charge. Makes coherent argument that a good CFO is focused on “resource allocation” to build value for the future so that a sustainability mindset drive understanding, appreciating, and investing in all resources – financial, natural, human, social. I particularly applauded his exhortation to shift from thinking of “waste” as a “bye-product” [sic] to “waste as an asset” (and Soneva has been pioneering in this area with extensive recycling initiatives.
- Carissa Nimah – “Do Job Titles Matter”: Worked for some of the world’s top luxury brands, and is personally motivated by creativity, purpose and ethical business. “Corporate and conventional job titles have lost their meaning in today’s work places.” Couldn’t agree more. My reports would ask me what their title was and I often responded that they could call themselves the “Grand Poobah of Whatever” as far as I was concerned.
- Hussain ‘Sendi’ Rasheed – “Why Seaweed is not a weed” – Region’s first ever PADI-certified Course Director, he also pioneered many of the country’s diving standards, and is researching the benefits of using the ocean’s resources sustainably through his farming. A local diving veteran who shared his perspectives from over three decades of exploring the Maldives reefs.
- Malsa Maaz – “The human story behind the glass cabinet”: Cultural anthropologist passionate about Maldivian culture exploring the coconut culture of the Maldives. “Coconut is our national tree. The tree of life…What can you do with a coconut tree? Everything.” Also, brilliant trivia question fun fact: Dhivehi is one of the only languages in the world that doesn’t have a word for “city”, “village” or “town” (but there is a word for every single part of the coconut tree and every part of the coconut fruit). A great sales pitch for “Cultural Anthropology” – “It is an amazing feeling to know who you are. It is an amazing feeling to know where you come from.”
- Saazu Saeed – “Nothing else matters but the Ocean”: Advocate for ocean conservation and women in surfing. A colourfully immersive depiction of the feeling of the water.
- Yala Shameem – “The future of school”: Youth activist for environmental conservation and the phasing out of single-use plastics.
Soothing music is a staple of the spa experience, but The Patina has taken audio’s therapeutic powers to new levels with its investment in IRIS “sound immersion technology”:
- As a key component of FLOW and catalyst to the Immersion menu, cutting edge biohacking applications allow guests to explore new ways of ensuring they look and feel their very best. Pioneering IRIS sound immersion technology triggers positive brain activation through audio, using an algorithm to split out and increase sound wave information to the brain. The process stimulates the brain- boosting high frequency Beta waves (13-30 Hz) dominant in our waking state and when we are alert, attentive and focused on a demanding task. This sound evokes an active listening brain state reflecting higher engagement and reward, and associated endorphin release – described by psychologists as a ‘flow state’. Immersive sound brings neurological benefits ranging from improved motivation and performance levels to increased learning and feelings of wellbeing and personal fulfilment. By inducing deep relaxation, it has been shown to improve cardiac health by boosting heart rate variability. The sessions are delivered through patented IRIS Flow headsets in the relaxation area, either before or after immersions, to prepare or relax the body and mind, or as a complement to creative activities. Curated to showcase this unique collaboration, an exclusive IRIS x Patina Hotels playlist is now available via the IRIS – Listen Well mobile app. Simply download the app for free via App Store or Google Play, click on ‘IRIS Library’ and select ‘IRIS x Patina Hotels’ under ‘IRIS-curated playlists.”
The sound track doesn’t just complement the treatment, but the sound is the treatment.
Some people are fans of the underground music scene, but Cora Cora, appropriately enough for the Maldives, has an underwater music scene. Specifically, it has installed underwater speakers in its main pool so while you are swimming laps you can listen to “streaming” tunes. Most of the playlist, is classical, but strangely, I didn’t her Handel’s “Water Music”.
It does beg the question of what would be the ideal underwater playlist? I took a look on Spotify for underwater playlists. Many features ambient songs with either babbling brooks, rainfall or whale song. One playlist, “Piano Underwater” had a collection of songs high on reverb and echo giving the pieces an aqueous feel to them. But I was thinking more literally about “underwater”. One set might be songs with an underwater theme, eg. Under da Sea (Little Mermaid), Yellow Submarine, Octopus’s Garden. Or perhaps TV show themes, eg. The Underwater Adventures of Jacques Cousteau, Flipper.
Even though underwater rooms are becoming more and more prevalent in the aquarium-like lagoons of the Maldives, they can still be budget-bustingly expensive. And if you are part of the growing contingent of guest brings children, then what to do with them during your special meal is an added complication. But not at OZEN Maadhoo’s sub-aquatic eatery Minus Six Metres (aka “M6M”). OZEN offers a complimentary dinner as a part of their comprehensive all-inclusive package with every 4-day stay. And also, don’t worry about the children:
- “So that adults can fully enjoy the romantic dining experience at the underwater restaurant near Malé, children are only allowed on special days. In the meantime, while parents enjoy their M6m visit, an exciting programme with delicious snacks is offered for children at the kids’ club.”
Worry-free under-the-sea gastronomy!
Maldives Complete focuses on innovative offerings and features at various resorts and increasingly those are applying modern technological innovations like solar power, controls, apps, etc. But Ritz Carlton Maldives is investing heavily in creating the innovation itself with its Plastics Drone Project. The Ritz has embraced and sponsored the work of Melissa Schiele, a PhD Student at Loughborough University in Marine Engineering and Ecology who has lived and worked in the Maldives going on ten years. She is the Founder and Principal Investigator (lead scientist) of the Plastics drone project.
When I visited, I met Shaun Laughlin who is the current resident research on the project at the property who introduced me to the project and is the newest Naturalist drone pilot. But being a drone researcher is more than being adept with flying controls as Shaun has a background in science communication, expedition leading and herpetology.
This week I had a chance to catch up with Melissa personally to learn more about the drone ghost net research and other applications of the drone technology. Uses water landing, fixed-wing drones which flies between 10 and 20 metres high. Altitude is one of the variables that the project is experimenting with in order to find the optimal configuration for drone flights to achieve the best results in survey data collection.
Melissa shared the follow overview of the work to date:
- “I think the best and most poignant ghost net image we have, was taken by former Naturalist and drone pilot, Kat Mason, which shows an Olive Riddley turtle, ensnared in a ghost net, which was intercepted completely by chance on a drone flight. The discovery prompted an emergency rescue which involved several resorts, and the turtle was flown to Coco Palm for rehabilitation.
- “During pre-opening, Dr Sol and I located just under 20 ghost nets around the island [see photo at bottom]. There have subsequently been huge efforts to remove these nets from the reefs, some being extremely challenging even for our most experienced divers.”
- “The detection of ghost nets falls within the two routine flights carried out by the resort Naturalist per week, though results from my analysis may require this to be increased. Currently, I am analysing the data from the images, from the Ritz-Carlton site and our site in Faafu Atoll multirotor and fixed-wing output – pertaining to three distinct experiments we are running to detect all types of plastics and nets (59,000 images collected and counting!).”
- “What we can tell you, is ghost nets are extremely difficult to delineate let alone classify, in drone images, due to the complex and dynamic nature of their structure and movement. Dr Sol is feeding vast amounts of training data (from around the world) into his algorithm to see if ML can decipher the specific parameters of the nets. I’m looking at computer vision/signal processing techniques to see if the nets can be delineated by splitting the RGB channel (and in future, multispectral images). Ultimately, we posit that the more you fly, the more chance you have of spotting a ghost net. However, this research will also highlight the optimal temporal and spatial operational parameters (i.e. where you should be flying, and when) to increase interceptions.”
Actually, ghost nets aren’t the only thing the project looks for. It also can identify illegal fishing (but this application is being used mostly in the British Indian Ocean Territories, a smaller archipelago south of the Maldives).
The biggest area of focus at the moment is identifying ocean plastic. Just how to identify plastic in the ocean is a significant image processing challenge. But if it can be refined, then we can learn huge amounts about where it comes from, where it goes, how moves, and how we can address it. The Ritz Maldives resort provides an excellent laboratory for studying ocean waste because the landscaping screw cleans the beaches every morning. As a result, the project team can go through the waste that was collected and have a very accurate and consistent daily sample for a fixed stretch of land. That data can then calibrate the image survey from the drone. For example, if the drone detects 3 plastic items on the beach, but 9 were collected, that finding helps determine a multiplier that can be used in future surveys to estimate actual accumulation based on the identified fidelity of the aerial photography. And by looking at the composition of the waste in the ocean, we can start to determine how plastic and other items change with seasons, weather conditions, etc. The research is foundational in that a lot of what it is trying to do is to experiment with, test, and calibrate the use of drone technology as a technique for ocean surveying.
Finally, I especially applaud the way they turned this innovative research project into a creative guest experience. Guests can go out with Shaun on the ocean with his drone on the looking for the ghost nets along with him.
Underwater restaurants are perhaps the quintessence of the Maldivian dining experience. And now OBLU Lobigili’ s “Only Blu” is the biggest yet so all the more people can enjoy this memorable experience. The Maldives is all about the intimacy with the ocean. The diminutive islands keep guests close to the water’s edge at all time. The intra-atoll peaceful waters keep the aquatic wonderland so accessible whether peering into the crystal waters from a jetty above or swimming among the marine life on a snorkel excursion. But even scuba divers have a one-hour limit to their dives (not to mention all the hassle of donning and managing the scuba gear). But the underwater eateries allow you to sit under the sea for hours on end in the comfort of your resort wear while enjoying fine wining and dining.