Mother Ocean’s Colourful Embrace

Clow fish 6

Mother Ocean Day today which “spotlights the magnificent bodies of water that make life on Earth possible”. Few countries appreciate the ocean more than the Maldives where is makes up more of their country than any other. To mark the occasion, I’ve assembled one of the most popular ocean shots on Instagram – the Anemonefish nestled in the protectively mothering tentacles of its host.  If only we landlubbers could live in harmony with the ocean as well as these Amphiprioninae live in harmony in the ocean…

 

Clown fish 1

Clown fish 2

Clown fish 3

Clown fish 4

Clown fish 5

Clown fish 6

Clown fish 7

Clown fish 8

Clown fish 9

Clown fish 10

Clown fish 11

Clown fish 12

Clown fish 13

Clown fish 14

Clown fish 15

Clown fish 16

Clown Fish 17

CLown fish 18

Clown fish 19

Clown fish 20

Clown fish 21

Clown fish 22

Clown fish 23

Clown fish 24

Clown fish 25

Clown fish 26

Clown fish 27

Paradise Pitch

Séan Garnier (France) – Cocoon – Freestyle World Champion

With the football season winding down, the stars of the pitch will be planning a bit of premier league grade relaxation. The luxury of Maldives will be one of the top destinations for the golden boots (and wallets). Here’s a starting 11 (with an added hat tip to talent scout Bunyamin Ahmed) of footie fashionista in paradise…

  1. Séan Garnier (France) – Cocoon – Freestyle World Champion [ABOVE]
  2. Federico Fazio (Italy) – NIYAMA – AS Roma
    Federico Fazio (Italy) – NIYAMA – AS Roma
      
  3. Ciro Immobile (Italy) – Halaveli – Lazio
    Ciro Immobile (Italy) – Halaveli - Lazio
      
  4. Mykola Matviyenko (Ukraine) – Paradise Island – Shakhtar Donetsk
    Mykola Matviyenko (Ukraine) – Paradise Island - Shakhtar Donetsk
     
  5. Fyodor Smolov (Russia) – Velaa – Krasnodar
    Fyodor Smolov (Russia) – Velaa – Krasnodar
      
  6. Tomás Rincón (Venezuela) – Constance Halaveli – Torino
    Tomás Rincón (Venezuela) – Constance Halaveli - Torino
        
  7. Diego Tardelli (Brazil) – Velaa – Shandong Luneng
    Diego Tardelli (Brazil) – Velaa - Shandong Luneng
      
  8. Kevin Bonifazi (Italy) – Havaveli – Torino
    Kevin Bonifazi (Italy) – Havaveli – Torino 
       
  9. Ricardo Goulart (Brazil) – Cheval Blanc Randheli – Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao
    Ricardo Goulart (Brazil) – Cheval Blanc Randheli - Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao
        
  10. Lanzafame Davide (Italy) – Safari Island – Honvéd
    Lanzafame Davide (Italy) – Safari Island - Honvéd
       
  11. Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) – St. Regis Vommuli
    Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) – St. Regis Vommuli

 

Guide to Hammocks in the Maldives

Chill out in a hammock on the beach and enjoy the pleasure of sharing this special moment together

Hammocks come in a variety of styles and settings with the tropical paradise of the Maldives showcasing them all. Here is a Maldives Complete catalogue so you can find the hammock that’s right for your midday snooze swaying in the ocean breezes (partly inspired by Sakis post “The Art of Doing Nothing” which features a more artistic collection including #5 below)

  1. Classic HammockConrad Rangali Maldives [ABOVE]
       
  2. Padded / Free StandingCoco Bodu Hithi
    Hammocks - padded
     
  3. Traditional Maldivian Hammock SeatBandos
    Hammock - traditional Maldivian
     
  4. Woven – Baros
    Hammock - woven
      
  5. Cloth W Retreat
    Hammock - colourful
       
  6. SingleCocoa Island (thanks Paola)
    Hammock - single

      
  7. Canopy Beach Hammock
    Hammock - canopy beach hammock
     
  8. Beach Stand – Six Senses Laamu
    Hammock - beach stand
      
  9. Over Water HammockAnantara Dhigu
    Hammock - over water
      
  10. Shaded Over Water HammockTaj Exotica
    Hammock - shaded over water (2)
      
  11. Floating HammockConstance Halaveli
    Hammock - floating
     
  12. Water Villa Deck HammockVelassaru
    Hammock - water villa deck
     
  13. Pool-Side HammockThe Residence
    Hammock - pool side
     
  14. Trampoline Style HammockAngsana Velavaru
    Hammock - water villa trampoline
     
  15. Fish Net HammockOne & Only Reethi Rah
    Hammock - water villa fish net
      
  16. Pool Canopy HammockNIYAMA
    Hammock - pool canopy
       

Like the Maldives Only Taller

Huma Island - Philippines

As I discussed in my post “Maldives Methadone”, one of the most frequently discussed topic amongst Maldives addicts (known as victims of “Maldivitis”) is the question “Is there anywhere else on Earth like the Maldives?” (hopefully a little cheaper).

If you truly take the unique blend of characteristics that make the Maldives the very definition of Bounty-bar iconic paradise, then the selection is rather limited. So to extend the boundaries a little more generously, I’ve assembled a second tier collection of tropical islands that are like the Maldives in every way except elevation.

Unfortunately, adding a bit of topological height doesn’t really seem to lower the price that much. Most of the rates are comparable to top high-end 4-stars or value priced 5-star properties in the Maldives. But if you are okay with a largish pile of rocks instead a smallish plot of sand for your tropical island, then here are some Maldives cousins…

  1. Huma Island, Philippines (£484 per night) [ABOVE]
  2. Club Paradise Palawan, Philippines (£308 per night)
    Club Paradise Palawan - Philippines
      
  3. Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar (£427 per night)
    Constance Tsarabanjina - Madagascar
      
  4. Petit St. Vincent, Grenadines (£665 per night)
    Petit St. Vincent - Grenadines
       
  5. Komodo Resort, Sebayur Indonesia (£380 per night)
    Komodo Resort - Sebayur (Indonesia)
       
  6. Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji (£560 per night)
    Royal Davui Island Resort - Fiji
       

Merry-Time Christmas!

Christma

Merry Christmas Maldives lovers. Today kicks of the traditional twelve days of Christmas, but instead of Pipers Piping and Drummers Drumming, Maldives Complete is giving you fashionistas swimming and swanning with ladies prancing…

  1. Lisa Jakobsson (Sweden) – Anantara Dhigu
    Lisa Jakobsson (Sweden) - Anantara Dhigu
  2. MV Honors Legacy boat
    MV Honors Legacy
  3. MV Honors Legacy island
    MV Honors Legacy island
  4. Anna Andress and friends (Ukraine) – One & Only Reethi Rah
    Anna Andress and friends (Ukraine) – One & Only Reethi Rah
  5. McKenna Ray (USA) – Conrad Rangali
    McKenna Ray (USA) - Conrad Rangali 2
  6. Elena (Russia) – Anantara Dhigu
    Elena (Russia) - Anantara Dhigu

  7. Jane Konsol (Lebanon) – Sun Island
    Jane Konsol (Lebanon) - Sun Island
  8. Anastasia Ka (Russia) – Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu
    Anastasia Ka (Russia) - Coco Palm Bodu Hithi
  9. McKenna Ray (USA) – Conrad Rangali
    McKenna Ray (USA) - Conrad Rangali
  10. Alexandra Hills (France) – Sun Island
    Alexandra Hills (France) - Sun Island
  11. Cornelia Stadler (Italy) – Palm Beach
    Cornelia Stadler (Italy) - Palm Beach
  12. Antonio Pozo (Spain) – Sun Aqua Vilu Reef
    Antonio Pozo (Spain) – Sun Aqua Vilu Reef

    

 

Solstice Sol Sets

Maldives sunset 6

The bad news is that today’s Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. The good news is that you don’t have to wait as long for the gorgeous tropical sunsets. Not that it makes that much difference near the Equator where day lengths don’t vary as much. Nonetheless, this solar milestone seemed a fitting time to share my favourite set of sunset snaps I’ve found throughout the year…

Maldives sunset 1

Maldives sunset 2

Maldives sunset 3

Maldives sunset 4

Maldives sunset 5

Maldives sunset 7

Maldives sunset 8

Maldives sunset 9

Maldives sunset 10

Maldives sunset 11

Maldives sunset 12

Maldives sunset 13

Maldives sunset 15

Maldives sunset 17

Maldives sunset 18

Maldives sunset 19

Maldives sunset 20

I’m Dreaming of a White Villa

White villa - Athuruga

The “traditional” Maldives villa is an earth tone thatch and most of the villas we’ve visited years ago were typically a darker wood. But in recent years, white exteriors have become more popular. First, the exterior walls were painted white. An eco-friendly form of air conditioning to help keep the lodging cooler. Today, doing a quick survey of water villas, the majority have white exteriors. With the timely “White Christmas” theme, I’ve decided to present just the whitest of white villas, those whose coral sand coloured exterior extends all the way up to the tippy top of the rooftop.

May all your Christmases be white…especially over the water of a Maldives lagoon.

  1. Athuruga [ABOVE]
      
  2. Thudufushi
    Thudufushi - white villa
      
  3. Amilla Fushi
    Amilla Fushi - white villa
      
  4. Dhigali
    Dhigali - white villa
     
  5. Kandooma
    Kandooma - white villa
     
  6. Cinnamon Hakura Huraa
    Cinnamon Hakura Huraa - white villa
       

Aquatic Silver and Gold

A post shared by Mike Diver (@diver_mike67) on

Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Means so much more when I see
Silver and gold decorations
On every Christmas tree
” – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special

Silver and Gold” is one of the musical gems of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special. The Maldives features its own rich vein of these precious colours in the teeming schools of Yellow Striped Snappers. One of the biggest schools you find and one of the most popular aquatic tapestries to post. Here is a yuletidal collection of some of my favorites…

Yellow Striped Snapper 5

Yellow Striped Snapper 6

Yellow Striped Snapper 8

Yellow Striped Snapper 10

Yellow Striped Snapper 3

Yellow Striped Snapper 7

Yellow Striped Snapper 2

Yellow Striped Snapper 4

Yellow Striped Snapper 11

Yellow Striped Snapper 9

A post shared by ScubiBlue (@scubiblue) on

Haven’t Seen Yet #12

Drone spotting

I also do Maldives Complete to ferret out new discoveries. Some people seek out and collect quirky and distinctive commemorative plates or garden gnomes. I collect distinctive features in the Maldives. Every time I find or someone forwards me something I haven’t seen, I get a buzz similar to a train spotter seeing a 66779 Evening Star.

It’s now become a semi-annual tradition (after my anniversary date in December and before our Maldives departure in July) to share the latest compilation. This group of 24 brings the total to 285. I’ve actually had to start a spreadsheet to keep track of all the “Haven’t Seens” so far (to help me make sure I’m not repeating myself). Of those, 24 have since appeared (with actually a number of resorts telling me that my piece inspired them to acquire or add the feature). They fall in to the following main and secondary groupings…

  • Activity: Water Activity, Entertainment, Romance, Mermaid, Kids
  • Infrastructure: Villa, Shopping, Digital, Seat, Décor, Glow, Spa, Artistry, Gadget, Eco, Service
  • Food: Dining, Frozen, Drink, Lobster, Coconut
  • Water: In Water, Underwater, Soak, Pool, Boat

Here’s the latest selection which happen to add up to an Advent Calendar’s worth with 24 treats…

  1. Drone Spotting – For Mantas and Whale Sharks. The dive boats waste so much time going back and forth between known haunts. Boat captains shared sightings information, but a drone would easily spot these creatures and give the search a broader perspective. Much like the African safaris which use helicopters (and increasingly drones) to spot wildlife movements. [ABOVE]
      
  2. Underwater Topology Table – Great for diving briefings (for a house reef dive) or for just bringing the underwater landscape to view.
    Topology Table

        
  3. Lego Model – Maps are one thing for a birdseye perspective of the property, but a Lego model of a resort would be particularly cool especially for a child-friendly property. A Lego model that included a model of the house reef would be pretty amazing.
    Havent Seen - Lego model
       
  4. Lego Set – The Maldives are sort of the caricature of deserted tiny islands of pirate folklore. When our kids were little, we used to set up treasure hunts for them around the island, and a number of resorts now offer the same. For the young crowd, this Lego set seems the perfect memento for a gift shop.
    Havent Seen - Pirate Lego Set
        
  5. Pirate Brio Train Set – For an even more upscale block model set, BRIO is the classic. While the notion of trains in the Maldives might be a bit far-fetched, not much more imagination required than pirate treasure I suspect…
    Havent Seen - Pirate Brio
        
  6. Stick-On Soles – For protecting against the occasionally sharp shards of coral in the sands without the annoying flip-flop tan lines.
    Havent Seen - Stick-on Soles
     
        
  7. Underwater Light Show – Empty lagoon a bit boring without the dramatic drop-off and marine life of a house reef drop-off?  Why not bring it to life with an underwater light show?  Laser shows are a staple at big events like galas and concerts.  A chance for a light artist to explore creations projecting lasers into or under the water.
    Laser show
       
  8. Pool Disco Light – Or for a more modest light show especially for a poolside disco (eg.  W Maldives, Finolhu), these look like a bit of aquatic fun.

        
  9. Ocean Wave Projector – Instead of lighting in the water, you could bring the water in with light. Might be good for resorts that have spa that aren’t overwater.
    Havent Seen - Water Projector
       
  10. Reef Engineering for Surfing – The east reef of Meemu is an extraordinarily long stretch. But the waves break unevenly because the underlying reef which causes them is uneven. I was wondering if you could “even” it out a bit with some Reefscaping to create the longest surf break in the world.
    Surf reef
         
  11. Surf Dock Another bit of surf engineering this time on top of the water is surf dock which makes access to the breaks that much easier.  Maldives surfing is known for its long, gentle breaks which are great for beginners and I suspect a surf dock would cater to them that much more.

        
  12. Floating Beach – Or your overwater engineering could simply help you to chill out swaying and bobbing with the ocean, while being dry and stable on firm platform (Hillside Beach Club, Fethiye Turkey).
    Havent Seen - Floating Beach
          
  13. Water Go-Kart –  For a bit more speedy bobbing around the water, how about an electric water go-kart?
         
  14. Jet Pad – A bit faster bobbing about the ocean…

        
  15. Water Car – Even faster?
          
  16. Jet Capsule Yacht – How about this transfer shuttle?
     
       
  17. Fishing Camera – A luxury techno-yacht calls for some luxury gadgetry for some deep sea fishing.

         
  18. Mask with GoPro Mount See for yourself where the fish are and bag snaps.
    Snorkel mask with gopro mount
         
  19. Wallpaper LED TV – Watch your underwater videos still still in the water.  Coincidentally and curiously advertised on this photoshopped Instagram pic in the Maldives (their marketeers must have had the same idea I did).
    Havent Seen - Wallpaper TV
        
  20. Shared Cocktails – For a location renowned for honeymooners, a bit surprised this hasn’t cropped up.
    Havent Seen - Shared Cocktails
        
  21. Lobster Tempura – Lots of Asian fusion in the Maldives and lots of the ultimate luxury seafood – lobster – but not yet the classic tempura preparation. I had this dish at Circus in London and it was quite tasty.
    Havent Seen - Lobster Tempura
       
  22. Coconut Sugar – A less processed for of sugar, many people consider it to be a healthy alternative to cane sugar with more nutrients. Made from the sap of the coconut palm flower, it seems like an opportune venture for some Maldivian entrepreneur.
    Havent Seen - Coconut Sugar
       
  23. Salad Station – Salad Bars, yes. But a station where a chef freshly cuts and prepares your salad to order, no. Inspiration from Hillside Beach Club in Fethiye, Turkey.
    Havent Seen - Salad Station
        
  24. Disabled Staff – Pararowing. Have any resorts recruited disabled individuals and supported their adaptive needs?
    Disable staff

      

Maldives’ Best Dive Sites in Each Atoll

If you can only dive one dive. This is the question we often find ourselves asking during our tours as we will typically spend only one or two nights at a resort and so only have the opportunity for one dive. So when we are planning our dive, we will ask, “well, what’s the best dive around here?” Even for people with the luxury of an extended stay, this is a fairly typical question. When we were having longer stays with the family years ago, we would still ask this question. Many times, we loved the dive so much we just opted to keep repeating it through the week (we went to Manta Point during our Kurumba stay three times).

One common feature that I noticed about many of the selections is that they are situated in channels at the edge of the ocean where the open water merges with the protected inner atoll waters. Such dives will often have a degree of current to them which limits them to AOW divers, but it is the current which contributes to the marine life and activity there.

For the research, I relied on the input from a range of dive schools and dive masters I have met over the years as well as Sam Harwood’ and Rob Bryning’s superlative book “Dive the Maldives” with occasional reference to Tim Godfrey’s “Dive Maldives”.

The list below is admittedly extremely subjective, but the choices are as good a place to start as any. I welcome suggestions and alternative proposals in the Comments section.

  • Addu: Maa Kandu East (Mudakan) – 3 of the 7 top dive sites reviewed by Harwood here have the top 5-star rating, but Mudakan is the most accessible and the only one with also a 5-star snorkelling rating.  “With magnificent table and brain corals, schools of fusilier, turtles, eagle rays, and sometimes manta make this beautiful dive an absolute joy.”
  • Baa: Hanifaru Bay – This Marine Protected Area has become so legendary that the government has actually put up restrictions on diving there. Still, divers can dive around the limits with the best chances to see its bountiful mantas and even the occasional whale shark.
  • Dhaalu: Fushi Faru – Recommended by St. Regis Vommuli dive centre Manish Mahadik saying, “An abundance of marine life including big schools of reef fish, colorful coral, lobsters, occasional Eagle Rays, Moray Eels and sharks…suited for all experience levels from beginner to advanced.”
  • Faafu: Jumping Jack – Recommended by Werner Lau as “This is one of our top dive sites [in the Maldives]. With milder currents, it offers less experienced divers a really truly pleasurable diving experience. Seven beautifully overgrown tilas on the outer reef edge connect the farus to the north and the south of the channel.”
  • Gaafu Dhaalu: Mafzoo Giri – One of two dive sites in the entire “Huvadhoo” (Gaafu Alifu and Gaafu Dhaalu together) atoll with 8 stars (out of possible 10 – 5 for Fish and 5 for Coral) by Alexander von Mende who wrote an entire guide book just on diving the atoll. And one of just 2 (with Kondey Kandu) with 5 stars for Fish.  “Offers a lot for its size…hosts no less than six residing leaf fishes behind a dizzying wall of glass fish.”
  • Gaafu Alifu: Mas Thila – One of two 7 star sites (out of possible 10 in von Mende’s book) and described as “a real jewel…one of the best dive sites in Huvadhoo”.
  • Haa Alifu: Becky’s Caves – Recommended by a number of dive masters to us. The nearest, JA Manafaru’s Sun Diving School describes is as “At the depth of 20 meters, one huge recess of the reef shows on one side a wall completely covered of soft corals of different colors; from yellow, pink, white to orange, a real universe of colors! Bring with you your torch and your camera: one fantastic dive for everybody but one rare show to see!”
  • Haa Dhaalu: Heaven & Hell Thila – The choice of Miranda Pontiglione, Base Leader at the Barefoot diving center – “For sure this is one of the best diving spots in our area. All the thila is covered by big colourful soft corals. Along the thila wall there are many overhangs where you can find cleaning shrimps, lobster, groupers and moray eels. A couple of canyons located in the deepest part of the thila will make your dive unforgettable.”
  • Laamu: Fushi Kandu – Commended by Ocean Dimensions’ Petra Hellaman at Six Senses Laaumu who says it is especially great for seeing sharks. “The most spectacular dive is when divers cross the channel…Then, divers can swim inside the atoll to try to encounter dolphins” (Daily Dive).
  • Lhaviyani: Kuredu Caves – I was told about this site by a number of Maldives aficionados before I finally got there and having dived there it remains one of my top ten most memorable dives ever. The highlight is the turtles. Not just lots of them, but the biggest turtles you will ever see. Honorable mentions to the striking “Shipyard” double (!) wreck site with the distinctive vertical wreck (whose bow protrudes out of the water).
  • Meemu: Mantas and More – The consensus recommendation from both dive centres in the atoll.   “Nearly untouched dive sites are easy to dive and feature a great diversity of corals and fishes. Several spectacular channels, e.g. Mantas & More, count amongst the top ten in the Maldives” -Werner Lau
  • Noonu: Dhiffushi Kandu – One of two sites called out by Harwood in Noonu “The highlight of this dive are the sightings of the large Green Turtles that inhabit the reef feeding off the sponges and corals. The reef has excellent fish and this is a great dive.”
  • North Ari: Miyaruga Thila – Tim Godfrey uses a 4-star rating system where only 4 dive sites out of the nearly 300 he reviewed in all the Maldives got the top mark – and 3 were in the North Ari Atoll. Of those, got the strongest coral rating. Godfrey describes Miyaruga, “The landscape is stunning and divers can easily circle the reef in one dive if the current permits…Much of the thila is undercut with caves and the surface is coated in soft coral and colourful sponges.”
  • North Male: Manta Point – Some of the most reliable mantas in the Maldives at a prominent and conveniently close feeding station.  “An astonishing number of manta rays can be seen here with they come to be cleaned” – Harwood.
  • Raa: Labyrinth – The most frequently sites and raved about Raa site on the web and the Dive Point dive center describes it as, “Medium-sized Thila which has crumbled over the centuries and has thereby formed wonderful canyons and tunnels in the reef. The Thila distinguishes itself with its huge schools of fishes and coral growth (soft- and hard corals). A big number of bat fishes accompanies you on every dive on this reef.”
  • South Ari: Kudarah Thila – Both Godfrey and Harwood list 2 top rated dive sites in the South Ari, but Kudarah Thila is the only one they both rate tops. “One of the most exciting dives in the South Ari” says Godfrey. I omitted the any of the diving areas on the southern tip famous for whale sharks (also an MPA) because there is no single one that predominates, diving is restricted because of the whale sharks, and snorkelling is often a better way to find and see them.
  • South Male: Kandooma Thila (aka Ran Thila) – Pretty much uniformly recommended to us by dive centres as Cocoa, Olhuveli, and Rihiveli and the only 4 star dive site in South Male in Godfrey’s “Dive Maldives” (“one of the most exciting dive sites in South Male Atoll and boasts great scenery as well as prolific fish life”)
  • Thaa: Guraidhoo Corner – The only Thaa dive site noted by Harwood with a 4-star dive rating, “A large crevice in the drop-off with over hangs and caves and swimthoughs. Here as the current eddies, huge balls of snapper, rainbow runner, jack fish, tuna and shark are common.”
  • Vaavu: Fotteyo Kandu – One of Harwood’s rare 5-star sites, “This is a stunning, remote place and it is well worth diving here at least twice and at least 4 or 5 times to fully appreciate its beauty.”