Cora Cora’s “Freedom” theme extends even to its tasty delicacies where its frozen treats offer the option dairy free, sugar Free, and meat product free. All in an appetising range of flavours such as Pumpkin, Banana, Cocoa, Honey Ginger.
Best of the Maldives: Dedicated Diet Menus – Amilla
The dining life of a special diet scanning the menus for codes like “V” for “Vegetarian” (or it is “Vegan”?). I was at a restaurant and they had a leaf icon for “vegan” and a carrot icon for “vegetarian” (go figure). Then there is all of the interrogating the server for the options. Amilla Maldives has eliminated this confusion by providing special menus printed with all the options for “Your Way” of eating, including:
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- Low Carb / Keto / Paleo
- Vegan / Vegetarian
Best of the Maldives: Ms. GM – Amilla Maldives
Looking at the “better half” issues at the halfway point of International Women’s Month. Some women find their satisfaction in the workplace and some find it in the household. Some women find it from both. And for some, the home is the workplace. Such is the case with resort spouses. Juggling the two spaces can be a real challenge. Not to mention juggling the roles of worker and wife. Mind you, increasing numbers of men also face these dilemmas, but historically, it has been the women who were more torn between both. Amilla Maldives Victoria Kruse’s own juggling of so many roles, managing the blurred lines of home and work on a resort, and pioneering initiatives in the Maldives make her a role model for women looking at resort careers or co-careers with their husbands.
My father was a clergyman and so I observed the role that my mother played as “Minister’s Wife” which was also a “job” in its own right even though she did have her own career. The congregation had certain expectations about the presence and contribution of the minister’s spouse. So I grew up with a first-hand view of this informal business-marriage partnership.
The resort couple I have known the longest in the Maldives is Jason and Victoria Kruse. They are (along with atoll neighbours Sonu and Eva Shivdasani) one of the most prominent resort leadership couples in the Maldives. I’ve already profiled Jason’s extensive and distinguished career in the Maldives, but I have long wanted to do a similar profile on Victoria. Her contributions at Kurumba and then Amilla have been noteworthy and growing in prominence with every year of her service. When we last visited Amilla, we noticed that Victoria’s activity and role was beyond full-time and pervasively wearing so many hats. So she was happy to share an exclusive Maldives Complete interview about this experience:
- How did you and Jason meet?
Jason and I were introduced through mutual friends at a BBQ in Bali. Jason was a managing a hotel there and I had a fashion label back then. We each tell a different version of the story of course!
- How did you decide to take an active resort role at the resort?
It depends how you define active role really. At Casa del Mar in Langkawi I interacted with the guests but that was all. At Kurumba, Jason asked me to “help out” with the resort boutique as it was in bad shape. From that I started a retail consultancy business for resorts and was involved in the Kurumba boutique plus I also helped out with design things. At Six Senses Fiji, I was a consultant to the owners for the wellness area and store and as happens during opening I was called on to help with other things. In fact, Amilla is the first property I have had an official role working for the resort itself!
- What is your current role at Amilla?
Director of Sustainability and Wellness (also responsible for Events) – however over the past three years I have acted as the F&B manager, Executive Chef and Director of Sales not to mention purchasing and more. It is hard to define exactly as I also welcome and farewell guests and spend time speaking to guests at each meal period.
- What is a biggest challenge to couples working together on a resort?
Honestly it is the attitude of owners and management companies that do not accept that management couples can work. Most big companies and many traditional owners are very against it or ban it completely. For me it makes sense in a remote destination.
- What would be one tip you would give to couples working together at a resort?
Define responsibilities with yourselves and then everyone else.
- How do you keep a boundary between resort life and home life?
Umm we don’t!
- What resort initiative that you led are you most pleased with?
Wellness Your Way. This was a hard one to get everyone onside with, especially the previous culinary team. Winning Wellness Cuisines of the Year in 2021 with Destination Deluxe was a vindication enough but now seeing so many guests booking Amilla because of the WYW menus is amazing.
- If you have one piece of advice for a woman who wants to succeed in resort leadership, what would it be?
Don’t lose your femininity to fit in with the “boys” but use it to connect with people.
- If you have one piece of advice for a woman who wants to join their husband on a resort posting, what would it be?
Have clearly defined roles and try to set up your house as a non-work environment (just to be clear I have totally failed on this one).
- What if anything do you wish you had done differently ten years ago or more?
Stood up for myself and secured a clear job.
- Ten years from now, what do you think you will regret doing too much of or too little of?
Allowing too much working stress and too little do things outside of work.
Best of the Maldives: Women in Science Event – Kuramathi
The career opportunities for young women extend way beyond cuisine and coral reef, and Kuramathi resort is shining a light on the range of opportunities in science:
- “Kuramathi will host an exhibit at the Eco Centre highlighting the contributions of women leaders from various marine science institutes and the transportation sector in the Maldives, including the Maldives Marine Research Institute, Maldives Manta Ray Project, Olive Ridley Project, Salted Ventures Swimmers, Men of Water diving centre, Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL). A career talk will headline the main event on 11th February to promote the potential for women and girls to pursue a path in the science field. Invited school children from the neighbouring islands will hear from female role models from the participating Maldivian organisations sharing their insights about their work and achievements. Persuasive and inspiring, this session aims to open a window for the young attendees to learn about the many career opportunities available to them in the science field.”
Historically, women have lagged in their interests and pursuit of “STEM” field (ie. Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) though they are catching to the boys in recent years (and in some countries have surpassed them even) thanks to initiatives like this one to raise awareness and interest. For more details on what the Maldives is doing to promote women in STEM fields, check out this UN Development Programme report, “Seeing is believing, even through a screen: How can we inspire girls in the Maldives into STEM subjects?”
Best of the Maldives: Female Staff Restaurant – Cora Cora
Cora Cora has turned the dining tables on the testosterone balance in the kitchen with Maldives’ only all-female staffed restaurant:
- “Ginger Moon at Cora Cora Maldives provided a platform for Chef May to showcase her culinary abilities and following this, she sought to create an all-female team, the result is delicious Asian food, made with love and passion that soothes the soul…Chef May is empathetic and compassionate and…[is]changing the way the Maldivian hospitality industry operates. Male-dominated kitchens can be intimidating and aggressive, however, Ginger Moon operates in a calm and measured manner, and this creates a wonderfully positive environment to work in. ‘Cora Cora Maldives is leading the way for female chefs and women in the Maldivian hospitality overall, they are creating equality in what is traditionally considered a male-dominated sector. It is so exciting and rewarding to oversee an all-female restaurant team and I do hope other resorts follow in the footsteps of Cora Cora Maldives to create opportunities for women.’ Enthuses Chef May.”
We can speak from experience, the delightful experience of dining at Ginger Moon ourselves, that the result in terms of the service, ambience and cuisine is exquisite.
Best of the Maldives: Scuba Girls Ambassador – Nova
International Women’s Day today is an occasion to celebrate women doing great things and the great things that women do. Nova resort is marking the occasion by hosting “Girls That Scuba” Ambassador Hamna Ali:
- The bright new star resort Nova in the Maldives is celebrating International Women’s Day and marking 8th March 2023 in style. The soulful island has crafted an array of special activities for women to recognise and honour their incredible achievements and immense contribution to the world. A special event awaits all guests as they will be able to join a snorkelling journey with Hamna Ali. Maldivian lady, a free scuba diver and ambassador of Girls that Scuba, the world’s largest female dive community, will lead all Nova guests to explore the wonders of the Indian Ocean and to snorkel into a world of breathtaking marine life.”
I caught up with Hamna in an exclusive Maldives Complete interview. She was especially positive about the website’s profiles on Maldivians doing intriguing work in their paradise of a country. She remarked, “In my experience, a lot of people don’t know the local side of the Maldives…such article It bring life into the other side of Maldives.” I checked out her website and I recognized her tiger shark photo (see directly below) which has gone a bit viral on Instagram.
Here is her contribution to a fascinating peek of that other side…
- What atoll are you from?
Fuvahmulah. It is unique in the Maldives for being the “One Island Atoll.”
- What are your earliest memories of being in the water?
I’m someone who got in the water fairly late in life. We don’t have lagoons in Fuvahmulah where it is easy to go and learn to swim safety. We have open water and so parents ask us to not go in the water. However, near our house, during low tide, there is this huge patch of sea grass. It would be covered with shells. I remember being so fascinating.
- When did you get introduced to scuba diving?
I wanted to learn how to swim and snorkel, but when I was about 12, one of my friends passed away swimming. After that I stayed away from the water into my teens. I was about to finish school and I started seeing friends going surfing. I noticed that there were no other girls going surfing. I would ask people to take people but no one would take me. I chose as my job being a gym instructor but my interesting ocean activities continued on. When Covid came, I went back to my island Fuvahmulah. I had nothing to do so I decided to just go for it. I starting swimming then surfing then snorkeling. Even then, I didn’t know what diving was at that time. One of my cousins owned a dive center and he reached out to me. He told me that at the island there are lots of opportunities but there are no girls doing it. He thought that I would be able to do it because I was going surfing with the guys and with waves crashing over me. I told him that I would think about it. I stayed at Fuvahmulah for 9 months. I was going in the water every day to surf and to snorkel and I was falling in love with the water. When COVID ended, I went back to my job and I realized that I wasn’t getting the joy that I had in the water. So, I left my job and moved back to Fuvahmulah and decided to take up diving. One day, one of my friends told me to get ready to go out in the water. They took me to the ocean and when I got there, I saw a bunch of guys with diving equipment. We all boarded a little fishing boat. People came up to me saying “Your life is about to change. You are about to do your first dive.” My cousin told me that we would jump in, but I saw everyone doing the roll-back into the water and I thought that was great so I did it to on my first entry. Out of the harbour, we saw the tiger sharks come out. Until that point in my life, I had never seen a shark. Not even a reef shark. It was an amazing experience.
- What are some of the challenges that women face in the scuba diving world?
I think representation is the place to start. In my experience, I was the only women in this field so I didn’t even know about it being a possibility for me. Also, I initially expected a lot of support from people in the industry, but it was quite the opposite. People were not used to seeing women do things that men were used to doing like docking the boats. Many men made little comments to me doubting my ability. Sometimes they don’t like to believe the same things you can do. There is lot of ego involved with shark diving. Kind of power thing facing these powerful creatures.
- How did you overcome some of those obstacles?
I just continued what I’m doing because actions speak louder than words. I stayed precisely because there were so few women. And some people are very supportive. And those that are sceptical at first, turned positive when they really saw what I was doing every day and how I was fitting in. If they see what I am doing, they have no choice but to accept that I can do these things.
- What sort of questions do you get from women about scuba diving?
A number of people got confused about how you can dive with sharks during your “time of month”. It sounds funny, but people need to talk about these things to know how to these things as they are very easily addressed.
- What is the most memorable creature you saw diving?
So many things! My first thresher shark. My first big school of hammerheads (100-200 passing by). But the most amazing was the oceanic white tip shark. Known to be one of the most aggressive sharks. They roam the high seas and go months and months without eating. We had just finished a dive and saw a group of melon headed whales and were snorkeling with them. Oceanic white tips often follow these pods of whales, but we were not expecting to see one because they are so rare. They were the top of my bucket list because they are the most elusive. It was one of my dreams to see them. If you don’t know how to read them, they can be a little bit dangerous. And in fact, i had one charge at me and I got to redirect the shark. That is amazing. [see Instagram photo below]
- What is your favourite creature to see?
Sharks aside, I would definitely say the Ghost Pipefish. Also, nudibranchs.
- What does your role as “Girls That Scuba Ambassador” entail?
“Girls That Scuba” is the biggest female diving community in the world. Every year they choose 10 girls in the world to represent this community. These ambassadors reach out to people so people can see all different kinds of women from all over the world in the diving scene.
- Where is your bucket list destination outside the Maldives?
Raja Ampat, Indonesia known as a “Lost Paradise”. The coral life and marine life is something out of your imagination. One of best places for coral in the world. Also Baha, California for whales especially blue whales.
- What is your latest project?
We have started an NGO called “Miyaru” whose purpose is to research the sharks of the Maldives, and our first project is researching the tiger sharks in Fuvamulah. No local NGO doing research on these sharks and Fuvahmulah has the biggest tiger shark population in the world. It is our effort to give back to the sharks. Also, I am working with a UK NGO with the objective to empower women in ocean science, and women in Fuvamulah. We will be bringing more opportunities to women in the field by training local women in different types of research like data analysis, data collection, diving, etc.
You can follow Hamna’s underwater adventures on her Instagram account and her webpage.
Best of the Maldives: Water Slides Accessibility – Siyam World
A water villa slide is one of the most extravagant water villa luxuries found in the top super-premium resorts, but the mid-market priced Siyam World has also introduced them to all of its water villas as well. And extraordinary thrill for the ordinary budget.
Best of the Maldives: Slides – Soneva Jani
If you want to frolic in the octopus’ garden, then Soneva Jani has taken water villa slides to the next level. Not only are they higher and longer than previous water villas slides, they are installed most water villas as well as a public area on at “The Gathering” hub. About time I added a “Slide” tag. Below is Lori enjoying a thrilling ride during our stay at Soneva Jani.
Best of the Maldives: Octopus Pancakes – Ayada
Octopus pancakes anyone? Well, no octopi were harmed in the making of your breakfast at Ayada.
Best of the Maldives: Vegan Seafood – Amilla
We marvel at our daughter’s vegan discipline as that culinary lifestyle seems so limited. It seems all pulse and veggie stews. But Amilla Maldives features gourmet vegan “seafood” that would tempt us omnivores. The ingredients are based on a soy and meal recipe which with creates both the flavours and feel of range of seafood specialties.