New Bio Page

Maldives Complete Bio page thumbnail

A lot of folks are connecting up with me by email and on our Facebook page. I appreciate all the kind words of support and endorsement. In the About page, I did a bit of a credits page about the various helpers who assisted in getting Maldives Complete on the web, but I neglected to mention anything about the webmaster himself (ie. me).

Furthermore, my visits to the Maldives now numbers 17 different resorts and so I thought it would be helpful to share precisely which ones (and ‘when’ as things change quite a bit over time) for people particularly interested in deeper details on those for which I do have first hand information. I’ve assembled the list and a snapshot from each trip as well as a potted history of my background in a Bio page here.

Finally, the background to this new page is a photograph from my all time favourite photographer of the Maldives, Sakis Papadopoulos. Sakis has kindly shared a collection of his photographs for my use on the site and over time I plan to migrate most of the site graphics to those from Sakis.

Best of the Maldives: Manta Research – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru Manta 2

Mantas are the most magical creatures I have seen in the wild. They have an a otherworldly aura to them that seems almost like a beneficent alien spaceship. And they too appreciate spa treatments that they get from wrasse fish at ‘cleaning stations.’

Similarly smitten Martin Clunes recently produced a television show ‘Man to Manta’ on ITV which is on ITV Player.

The resort most smitten with Mantas has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. One of the major focus areas of their Marine Centre are mantas where they run their Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP). The programme was founded by Senior Marine Biologist Guy Stevens and is supported by Save Our Seas. It has the largest number of identified manta rays on record in the world. Landaa honours this work with a distinctive Manta sculpture in its Marine Discovery Centre. And, the Maldives section of Clune’s show is filmed at Landaa including an interview with Stevens.

The picture above was taken during one of our Landaa dives in November.

 

Martin Clunes Man to Manta

Best of the Maldives: Indigenous Massage – Shangri-La

Shangri-La Villingili Cowry Shell Experience

All that working out got you achy and depleted? Well then, sounds like you need a spa appointment.

Something different? Something that evokes the very paradise you are savouring each day? How about Shangri-La Villingili’sCowrie Shell Experience’ treatment?

When I lived in Africa, you used to see cowry shells used extensively. Used in religious rituals. Used in jewellery. They are seen as symbols of womanhood, fertility, birth and wealth.

Historically, cowries were used as currency and, in fact, the very first cowries used as such came from the Maldives. Furthermore, the Shangri-La Villingili’s ‘Chi’ spa uses locally produced coconut oil. Lots of resorts offer Ayurvedic style treatments which are indigenous to the sub-continent region (as does Shangri-La), but the cowry shells are a nice touch with their own mystical properties and heritage.

Shangri-La describes in its ‘Sense of Place’ line of treatments…

“Indigenous treatments inspired by the history of the treasures found in the Maldives Ocean, the name Kandu Boli, meaning “sea shell”, draws its energy from the ocean. Experience the touch of the unique Cowrie Shell Massage of the body, face and scalp combined with our Maldivian Coconut Oil made by a local community. Nurturing to the soul, relaxing to the body and calming to the mind… Surrender to Villingili’s Cowrie Shell Experiences…”

Best of the Maldives: Gym Vista – Adaaran Vadoo

Vadoo Gym vista

 

The worst thing about working out is the dreary, indoor tedium. Some gyms try to add some distractions with a television screen. But how about being uplifted and inspired by one of the most beautiful scenery on the planet?

Many resorts along with upgrading their fitness facilities in general, have also taken them out of the back rooms secluded in the middle of islands and moved them to waterside for some inviting scenery to dull the pain. I’m not sure which is the ‘best view’, but the ‘best vista’ has to be Adaaran Vadoo.

Vadoo combines elevation with view. It’s gymnasium is on the third floor of its main centre. It is rare to find a second story in the Maldives, never mind a third floor. And the view is set out over the villa lagoon and ocean beyond. For this reason, I chose Vadoo over Traders which has a top floor gym 13 stories up. But the windows look out over the which is mostly over the city of Male (the North view from Azur is the great view of the ocean).

Best of the Maldives: Fitness Centre Size – Hulhule Hotel

Hulhule Gym 1

 

So your New Year’s Resolution is to get fit? Lose a few pounds? Perhaps work off a few of those Traders mocktails?

There was a time when the ‘fitness centre’ was an after-thought to a Maldive resort (some would say appropriately so for anything with the word ‘work’ as in ‘workout’ in it). Often a closet somewhere with some random barbells and a tired treadmill. These days, resorts have understood that keeping up fitness (especially with the plenty of rest, time available and buffet temptations) are an important piece of infrastructure. Most of the 4 star resorts and better now have commendable gyms with a range of up-to-date equipment.

But the biggest, best-equipped centre I can find is the Hulhule Hotel. 22 machines in total including a rowing machine and cross-trainer. For the class school weight trainer, they have full Olympic free weights with a wider range of benches than my local sports centre in the UK.

 

Hulhule Gym 2

Best of the Maldives: Mocktails – Traders Hotel

Traders Hotel Male Azure mocktail

 

How was that New Years party last night? A bit too much to drink and ferreting around for the headache tablets. For those who do not prescribe to the ‘hair of the dog’ treatment, then perhaps a more gentle ‘mocktail’ is in order for rehydration. And there are no better Mocktails in the Maldives than the Traders Hotel in Male

While all of the resort islands have special licenses to serve alcohol to guests, Traders being smack in the middle of the major population centre has not been granted this privilege. So instead what Traders have done at their rooftop Azur bistro is crafted an imposing menu of ‘Mocktails’ (alcohol free cocktails) that provide as delectable and stimulating refreshment as anything a resort barman will serve up.

I had the ‘Innocent Mojito’ which is “muddled lime, brown sugar, green tea, mint, soda water”. According to Ria (see photo below). The server (see picture above) who has been there since opening and actually served us on our first visit, told me the most popular seller is the ‘Maldivian Sun’. Others on offer include Lil Rita, Kumiko Sparkle, Byzantine, Lychee and Lime, Chili Pineapple Frappe, Melontini, Cosmo.

Speaking of cocktails, Azur also serves the best shrimp cocktail I have ever had with monster prawns (oxymoron I guess).

 

Traders Hotel Male Innocent Mojito

Best of the Maldives: Parties – Rihiveli Beach

Rihiveli Beach Party

 

If there is one night to party, it is New Year’s Eve. And if there is one resort to party at, it is Rihiveli Beach.

There is always a party on there. The next one is their ‘White Beach Party’ on 22nd May (see below). They are advertised on their resort Facebook page and they also send out a newsletter to keep posted. These events are not just some slap on affair to fill out the social calendar for the punters. But rather anticipated events that are part of their ebullient ‘Vive la paradis’ ethos. In fact, they mostly draw local ex-pats and others, but all are welcome. And given their French proclivities, a bottle of champagne shouldn’t be hard to come by.

Bonne Année 2011!

 

Rihiveli Beach White Party

Best of the Maldives: Apprenticeships – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Sir Alan Sugar The Apprentice

 

“You’re hired!”

Sir Alan is not the only one appointing new apprentices.  Four Seasons, both Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa properties, sponsor an ambitious programme of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) certified apprenticeships

39 Maldivians are enrolled in the Class of 2011 aged 16-20 years with O-Level certifications. The programme was founded in in 2009 by Armando Kraenzlin, GM Landa Giraavaru who commented…

“Apprentices are paid a stipend and given room and board while in the programme. Instructors come from the management team, as well as from out side the resort. For instance, the Boat Mechanics module is taught by someone from Maritime College in Colombo, and is intense hand-on course. Other topics outside of operations include English and Math. Regular resort employees are mixed in with the apprentices so that the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration so critical to Four Seasons has an opportunity to flourish and grow. The programme works: one 2003 graduate is now an assistant department head, a position that would have seemed unattainable at one time.”

When I visited in November, a number of staff at both resorts proudly commented about the programme unsolicited.  My wife and I remember that when we first came over a decade ago, many staff at resorts were from far away countries and only got to see their families a few times a year.  But, the folks we spoke to in November recounted going home nearly every week on their days off and spending time with family having picnics, and playing beach football with friends.   But to top it off, Landaa Giraavaru also sponsors a couple of work experience student/researchers in marine biology and its top class research and visitor centre.

Four Seasons Apprenticeship programme

Best of the Maldives: Service – Huvafen Fushi

Huvafenfushi Service

‘Boxing Day’ is not the traditional day for an annual pugilistic derby in the UK and elsewhere that celebrates it today.  It is the day when gifts were traditionally given to servants and tradesmen.  Often ‘Christmas boxes’ of gifts or money.

So it seemed like an appropriate day to celebrate the outstanding service legend across the Maldives.  Especially, the super premium Maldives resorts have set higher and higher bars for outstanding service with many now providing personalised butler services.  We were introduced to these services during our stays at Adaaran Vadoo and Adaaran Hudhuranfushi.  But the resort to best, from my research, is Huvafenfushi.  A common highlight of the various reviews is the impeccable service there.  But perhaps what tilts it for me is their impressive recognition for ‘Best Service’ on Conde Nast’s elite ‘Gold List’ a few years back in 2007 which when it was last awarded.

Best of the Maldives: Biggest Shop – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru shop

 

Last chance for Christmas shopping today!

We traditionally spend our family Christmas Eve going into the big metropolis of London for a bit of last minute shopping. Picking up stocking stuffers, treats for Christmas day and meal, and just soaking up the Yuletide atmosphere. Actually, it is a great day for shopping because the crowds are tapering off. Many folks are now travelling to far flung families or getting their homes ready. We found this out when one year, in a particularly frenetic advent, we had not made it by for the kids to see Santa. So we went into Harrods (between Selfridges the two best grottoes in London) and were delighted and astonished to find that the often 2-3 hour queue was only 30 minutes on Christmas Eve.

If you have left your Maldivian Christmas shopping to the last minute, the Harrods of the Maldives has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s gift shop. While many boutiques are little more than closets stuffed with conventional stuff you find at the airport, Landaa’s is 35 metres long packed with high quality and extensive variety product.

Best of all, Landaa’s gift shop sold some of the best t-shirts we have found in the Maldives. Poor (or worse yet, no) t-shirts is a real pet peeve of mine when I travel (as I note in my recent tour wrap up). The Fours Seasons shirts were high quality cotton, enticing colours (white is boring) and subtle but classy embroidered graphic.

Merry Christmas everyone! May Santa bring you lots of Maldive holiday vouchers!