Best of Maldives Online – Visitor Contribution: Francisco Negrin

Francisco Negrin

It just gets easier and easier to work on Maldives Complete because more and more visitors are kindly writing to me with help, suggestions, missing information, corrections. But one individual stands above all his ability to ferret out the most esoteric and obscure details – Francis Negrin.

He has identified new islands, quirky features, and buried website troves of tidbits. Sometimes I actually have come across some of these things and I think he finds it fun sport to see if he can uncover something missing in the Maldives Complete collection. We also have good chats about all sorts of Maldives topics.

And if his current trip is any indication, he stands out in his adoration of the Maldives. Many people feel blessed with one week in the Maldives though if budget and holiday time permits so many people prefer two. Francisco and his friends are going for an entire month during which include Rihiveli (“truly stunning and very very cheap. A gem . The rare find . Way way better than any resort at that price range except there is no house reef”), Cocoa Island (“Cocoa is stunning. I even cried a bit when i got here.”), Dhoni Island, (excursion to Athuruga from there) , Alila Villas Hadahaa, Kanuhura, and Anantara Kihavah.

To add to his long collection of contributions, the Cocoa Island profile is now 100% complete thanks to his snapping me a picture of the fitness centre that I have just loaded up. You too can follow along (if you can tolerate the envy) at his photo-blog http://gallery.me.com/fnegrin#100179.

Best of the Maldives: Caves – Helengeli

Trixies Caves

The Maldives are renowned for simple, easy, shallow dives. But for the advanced diving plenty of more technical dives abound. For example, there are over a dozen caves structures you can dive

And if you are interested in cave dives, I recommend Tim Godfrey’s book ‘Dive Maldives’ reviews 12 of the top cave dive sites in the Maldives. You might have put an alert for on Amazon since the book appears to be out of print and is increasingly hard to locate. All of his dive sites are graded on a 3-star scale and 4 of those 12 earn top marks – Lankan Caves, Maagiri Caves, Fulidhoo Cave and Velassaru Caves.

But the Mecca for cave diving in the Maldives has to be Helengeli as it has two of the top caves nearby- Trixies Caves and Fairytale Reef Blue Caves. Both receive 5-stars in Harwood & Bryning’s ‘Complete Guide to Diving and Snorkeling The Maldives’.

Best of the Maldives: Chinese Therapy – Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Club Rannalhi chinese therapy

 

Looking for am apropos hangover cure from your Chinese New Year celebrations? Well, you might want to stop by the ‘Traditional Chinese Therapy Centre’ at Club Rannalhi.

Liu Yaping offers a range of treatments which are mostly variations of acupressure massage such as “Tui Na” and “Chinese cupping”. Most treatments run about $60 for an hour session

Disclaimer – I am not a fan the many disastrous environmental effects of many traditional Chinese therapies that call for ingredients of rare species like tigers, rhinos and most relevant in the Maldives is manta gills. Most holistic therapies are harmless placebos which provide comfort. But when a billion people with increasing amounts of money start wanting these obscure ingredients, the side effects for the planet can be tragic. Fortunately, Club Rannalhi’s therapy centre does not offer any of these ingredients based on endangered species in its treatment offerings.

While other resorts have spas offering Chinese treatments (eg. Shangri-La Villingili, Olhuveli, Soneva Fushi, Meedhupparu), the Rannali centre is the only one who specialises in just this area.

New Year of Chinese

Chinese maldives

 

Happy New Year!

‘Chinese New Year’ that is. The Year of the Rabbit. Perhaps an excuse to go to one of the islands where wild rabbits can be found like Soneva Fushi, Hudhuranfusi and Komandoo.

While this might be the Year of the Rabbit, 2010 was definitely the ‘Year of the Chinese’ in the Maldives.

The 114,158 Chinese visitors was an increase of 96.1% which was the biggest contributor to the Maldives’ big 20.7% increase overall for what was still an economically challenged year.

“Tourist arrivals in October 2010 increased by 21.8 percent compared to that of last year. A ministry statement said 74,707 tourists visited the Maldives in October 2010 while 62,432 visited in October 2009. Europe still dominates the Maldives tourism market with 407,519 visiting the country from January-October, which accounts for 63.3 percent of the total arrival – a 9.2 percent increase to the European tourist arrivals within the period of last year. Asia-Pacific follows Europe on the second with 207,736 tourists visiting the Maldives within the 10 months – a 57.5 percent increase to 2009’s amount. China contributes the highest to the tourist arrivals by October 2010 with 104,148 tourists, which is a 109.7 percent increase to the period of last year. From January-October 2010, 95,586 British tourists visited the Maldives.”

And there are no signs of the trend letting up. These numbers put China #3 in the list of most visitors behind the UK and the USA. But, in January the Maldives had their first day ever where the number of Chinese surpassed UK visitors. Furthermore, Minivan recently announced that Mega Global Maldives is launching its first direct service from Hong Kong.

But the biggest driver to this influx is the growing pile of Chinese money. Long gone are the days when my parents told me to think of all the ‘starving children in China’ to get me to finish all my food. Now China is an economic powerhouse with a blossoming financial elite. For a striking perspective on the dizzying momentum of economic China’s growth, check out ‘Shanghi 1990 versus 2010’.

The Sunday Times wrote a piece, “Great Mall of China” on the explosion of luxury consumption among Chinese. Also, the Daily Mail ran a piece titled ‘Duck and Caviar’ in their print edition. They make the interesting observation that years of Communist ideology meant that “the idea of having lots of money and splurging it around is considered distasteful.” They refer to the ‘Peking Pound’ as ‘stealth wealth’ where Chinese prefer more understated activities like bird watching and calligraphy, to splashing around in yachts and sports cars. One can see how the simple charms of Maldivian paradise could fit their bill very nicely.

The trend has significant implications for the tourism business on the islands. Obviously, the language issue will need translations of materials as well as the hiring of Chinese speaking staff. A number of resorts already cater strongly to groups of non-English speaking guests: Germans at Reethi Beach, French at Rihiveli, Italians at many such as Alimatha and Dhiggiri. I’d be curious to see if an entrepreneur opens a resort focusing on the Chinese in a similar way.

Another less obvious implication is impact on water management. Corresponding to the rise of Chinese visitors has been the rise of Chinese fatalities. Specifically, deaths by drowning while swimming or snorkelling. This is not a statistical aberration because no other groups have suffered hardly any fatalities. As a result, it does appear to be a cultural issue…the Chinese are not good swimmers. A number of dive instructors supported this observation to me on my last visit. If more and more Chinese are going to visit with less and less swimming skills, then the Maldives will need to re-evaluate how to monitor and protect swimming guests (eg. restrictions, competency tests, lifeguards).

Best of the Maldives: Aquatic Topiary – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru coral garden Yin-Yang

While the ‘house reef’ is the ‘main event’ in snorkelling, lagoon snorkelling can be its own treat. During our first, uninitiated trip to the Maldives, we spent nearly the whole week there delightedly snorkelling among the modest coral and rock croppings in the shallow, sandy lagoon. We didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a ‘drop off’. We still enjoy the charms of lagoon snorkelling with some real highlights in our history – a playful octopus, a digging sting ray, a passing manta, and a whole host of turtles and fish.

If you can’t get the snorkelers to the reef, bring the reef to the snorkelers. Often the main problem with house reefs are their accessibility. Eventually, you can get to a drop off point, but you have swim over long expanses of relatively boring white sand. So as a part of its award winning reef regeneration efforts, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has taken a creative twist on reefs with what can best be described as ‘reef topiary’.

Its showcase piece is the Yin-Yang Coral Garden pictured above. From an aerial view, the coral forms a yin-and-yang symbol. The resort is now planning an encore with a ‘Crescent Moon’ in the works.

House Reefs

Profiler House Reef selection

“How is the house reef?”

That is one of the most common and critical questions prospective visitors ask when considering a Maldives resort. One of the marquee Maldivian activities, perhaps the best in the world, is snorkelling. And the main event to snorkelling is the ‘house reef’.

When I was first introduced to the Maldives by friend and colleague Andy Lees, his main words of advice were to make sure the resort had a great house reef. Of course, the sun, the sand and the overall paradise can be more than enough for a spectacular holiday for many. Also, those resorts poorly endowed in this all things reefy almost always offer many excursions to take guests to excellent nearby reefs for snorkelling.

I’ve covered the subject of house reefs on several occasions…’Closest House Reef’, ‘Best House Reef’, ‘House Reef Drop Off’.

But the subject has come up so frequently that I have decided to add a ‘House Reef Quality’ parameter to the Maldives Complete database of resorts. The breakdown is fairly basic, but it will provide some general help to people who do want to filter on this variable…

  • Distinctive. One of the best house reefs in Maldives in one way or another. Only a handful of these.
  • Good / Very Good. Where the lion’s share of house reefs sit. These resorts will deliver great snorkelling experiences characteristic of the Maldives
  • Problems. Some sort of significant problem or weakness to the resort’s house reef. Usually, the problem is accessibility, but it could be strong currents, no drop off or something else.
  • No information. I haven’t been able to find any details yet on the resort’s house reef.

You can filter on this item (see snapshot of ‘Resort Finder’ page above) and the information is included in the Resort Profiles.

Best of the Maldives: Eco Education – Kuramathi

Tui International Environmental Award Kuramathi Tui

Reef protection is big and getting bigger in the Maldives. The latest tip of the hat goes to Kuramathi for its accolade from international tour operator Tui for its annual International Environmental Award.

The award specifically cited the work of Reinhard Kikinger who has been working for 10 years on coral reef preservation in the Maldives and heads the Eco Centre there. In particular, it called out the video it had developed and uses in its education programme to both guests and local Maldivians…

“Water pollution and over exploitation through tourism can lead to irreparable damage. The compelling concept of the Kuramathi Eco Centre for bringing nature conservation and tourism into harmony is based on research, the sustainable use of resources and the raising of public awareness, which are performed in cooperation with TUI and the local population. From the very beginning TUI was involved in the commitment of the research centre as an important partner playing a catalytic role. A project currently being undertaken is the production of a computer animated short film for tourists highlighting sustainable behaviour in coral reefs. Several times a week video presentations are shown revealing the coral reefs habitat. On top of that are microscopic demonstrations which provide tourists with an insight into concealed worlds. And guided snorkelling safaris reveal the beauty of and also the threats facing the underwater world. Moreover, the Eco Centre cooperates with the school on the neighbouring island of Rasdhoo.”

Best of the Maldives: Pillows – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi / Vadoo

Adaaran Pillows

Need a rest after all that clubbing?…that pillow just the right hardness from your throbbing head?

Goldilocks wouldn’t have any problems finding a pillow ‘just right’ at Adaaran’s Prestige resorts – Vadoo and Hudhuranfushi. Both offer a Pillow Service delivered to your villa by a butler with a choice of 7 different types…

  1. Cotton Fiber
  2. Hollow Fiber
  3. Latex
  4. Feather
  5. Goose Down
  6. Comfort Gel
  7. Microsoft Gel

I was particularly taken by the last one. After 15 years working at Microsoft, here was a product that I had never encountered.

Best of the Maldives: Nightclub – W Retreat

W Retreat 15 Degrees 1

W Hotels often have the trendiest club in town and the Maldives is no exception. A far cry from a keyboard and disk-deck in the corner, the W Retreat’s ’15 Under’ nightclub features international DJs in a swish nightclub below the sands.  While second-stories are pretty rare in the Maldives, underground venues are even more so.  15 Under is located 15 steps beneath the Fire restaurant.

W Retreat 15 Degrees 2

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.