Missing our annual trip to the Maldives is not fun though. SO I guess we will just have to continue to wallow in digital vicariousness.
Usually, this time of year we are in the Maldives on our annual research tour. I don’t think I’ve ever missed them more (especially sitting here looking out the window at the dreary rain in my woolly jumper). Right now I would be scouring the resort islands for new and distinctive features I still haven’t seen in my two decades of visits. And at the end, I would traditionally issue by bi-annual “Haven’t Seen Yet” update. Well, I may not be able to see more things yet, but I certainly have found a number of things that should be there:
Aquatic Geode – These blue agate slices are simply so reminiscent of the Maldives tapestry of blues. Our daughter bought me a set of them to use as drink coasters, but they are simply lovely décor in their own right.
Geode Towel – Love the colours and design. The tapestry of blue depicted on a pool-side tapestry.
Blue Tang Cloth – I came across this fabric looking for some material to have a custom COVID19 face mask sewn for me. Resorts could produce all manner of items for the resort or the gift boutique like face masks, sarongs, shirts, etc.
Colour Changing Swim Shorts – To impersonate a colour-camo-changing octopus, you can get your own pair of swim trucks which change colour when they get wet.
Claudio Lugli Tropical Fish Shirt – I love these shirts, but unfortunately their tropical fish line is out of stock now. Maybe some resort can convince them to do another run.
Silver Shark Bracelet – From the same makers as the Sharkasm shirt (Ocean Dose) is a charming rope bracelet with a shark charm (and available in 6 different colours).
Shark Slippers – Wing-Tipped reef shark for the fishy cushy fashion statement.
Whale Shark Plush Toy – I love the whale size of this cuddly toy. Unfortunate about the “blow hole” painted on the top of the head (“whale sharks” are “sharks” not “whales” and so they don’t have blow holes).
Ocean Sole – An exceptionally charming and innovative up-cycling company at its Indian Ocean neighbor Kenya. They gather up hundreds of discarded plastic flip-flops on the beaches and transform them into stunning, playful figures.
Exo-Lung – Could be ideal for house reef exploration.
Coral Crochet– Or resorts can commission a gorgeous crocheted version of their reef for the reception. Check out the brilliant TED (2009) talk by Margaret Wertheim on “The beautiful math of coral” – “The frilly crenulated forms that you see in corals, and kelps, and sponges and nudibranchs, is a form of geometry known as hyperbolic geometry. And the only way that mathematicians know how to model this structure is with crochet.”
Stephanie Kilgast Art – French artist Stephanie Kilgast is inspired by a range of natural delights especially corals and some other undersea creatures.
Sea Urchin Hats – After noticing his urchins carrying rocks, shells and even hermit crabs around aquarium, a Colorado aquarium enthusiast Wilson Souza started making them custom hats. Subsequent studies by marine biologist hypothesize that sea urchins don these hats (or shells other things they come across) for much the same reason humans do – UV protection from sunlight.
Golsa Golchini Art – Italian artist Golsa Golchini has a few pieces just right for the Maldives.
Pool Roof– Not a “Roof Pool”, but a roof made out of a pool.
Natural Pools– Like this one from Soneva, but Soneva Kiri (thanks Paola)
Bora Bora takes “in water” dining a step beyond a few tables temporarily immersed in the shallows.
Tipping Breakdowns – Guests are always frustrated to know whether (a) they are tipping enough (they don’t want to offend or hurt any staff), or (b) they are tipping too much (this trip has already cost us a lot). It is complicated by the addition of mandatory service charges to all bills. In principle, this should relieve the headache as some “service” has already been provided for the staff, and I suspect that ad hoc tipping dropped considerably when that change was implemented. But still, there is an enduring sense that this service charge is just a basic amount and that additional bonus gifts are both welcome and done by a number of guests. I think was would be very helpful is if a resort shared the profile of tipping with the TripAdvisor Forum. Something along the lines of:
As you know, all Maldives resort bill include an amount billed for service charge which is shared among the staff. Because this amount is provided by law, we reassure guests that they are not in any way obliged to leave further gratuities. And yet, many guests want to leave further gratuities. And their generosity is frustrated to an additional degree because there is no guidance as to what is “minimum”, “average” and “exceptional”. In other countries, there are more accepted conventions. For example, in the UK, a 12% tip is considered a minimum, 15% is average and more than 15% is generous. Also, since there is no convention, people don’t have an idea of just how prevalent certain gratuity practices are. As a result, I am told that it would be helpful to share “what other people are doing”. This in not in any way intended as a prescription of what “you should be doing”. It is just information that get asked for regularly. · XX% leave no extra gratuities at all. · XX% leave very modest gestures of appreciation (for example, $10 or less to an individual staff member covering the whole stay). · XX% leave generous extra gifts (for example, $10 to $50 per staff member covering the whole stay). · XX% leave crazy generous gifts (for example, more than $50 per staff member covering the whole stay).I think this information will both help guests’ peace of mind and maybe even boost gratuity given at the resort. Those who are really tight will have solace in reading “Ah, ok, I’m not alone as XX% people also don’t give tips so it’s not just me.” But others will self-select and think “Ah, I want to be one of those “generous extra gift” people so I am going to leave that amount.
Another way to virtually enjoy the Maldives reefs are with the fabulous photos shared on Instagram. So I’ve curated another collection of coral close-ups which highlight the mesmerising patterns of these carbonate creatures.
Despite nearly 100 new “Best of the Maldives” items uncovered during my 2019 Tour I still have not seen everything. So for those resorts looking to truly stand out with feature and offerings that no one else has, not even 150 other Maldives resorts, here are even more opportunities…
Creative Instagram Photopoints – With Maldives so prominent with the on fleek Instagrammers, properties really ought to up their game beyond the now ubiquitous (a) beach photo frame, and (b) lagoon swing/hammock. Something like Jimmy Swift’s inspired piece above.
Snorkeling Trash Bags – The environmental organisation “Un Ocean de Vie” has developed little blue mesh bags that can easily be brought with people when snorkelling and provide a handy way to pick up trash found in the water and bring it back to the resort for proper disposal.
Grass Straws – We didn’t see a single plastic straw during our tour last month, but these straws provide a quintessentially natural options for the resort cocktail bars. Made in Vietname by a company named Ống Hút Cỏ out of grass reeds.
Octopus Kites – I’ve called out sea creature themed kites before, but these octopus versions are just extra special (thanks Ilyas).
Shark Hook Remover – I’m not a big fan of the ubiquitous fishing trips on offer as excursions. Yes, I know that I nosh on the reef fish extensively during my stay, but pulling these creatures out of the water is not something I particularly relish. Still, I have been coaxed on several fishing trips during my stays and the last one was particularly disconcerting as I end up hooking a baby reef shark. These juvenile white tips are one of my favourite creatures in the lagoon aquarium of the Maldives and it just gutted me to see this one squirming on the line. Even worse was the reaction by the guides on the boat. Instead of taking the shark onto the boat and removing the hook like the other fish caught, they simply cut the line as the shark dangled off the side of the boat (for fear of getting bitten). So the shark swam away now with a hook still in its mouth. But there are a number of devices on the market that fishing excursions can use to remove this risk and remove the fishing hook from the mouth at the same time. I was prompted to add this by a friend who was fishing off Alaska or salmon and the boat used a sort of funnel device to pry the mouth open safely so they could access and extract the hook when they snared the occasional shark. I couldn’t find that device on the web, but I did find this device below which achieves much the same objective.
Crystal Bath Tub – Costing up to $1 million (yes, stet) and described as “The super-exclusive tubs come in three variations: green quartz; rock crystal; and rose quartz”.
Boat Tub – Gorgeous tubs are nothing new, but this one is appropriately built by a boat builder using techniques and style from the maritime craftsmanship (thanks Lori).
F&B Trickery – In fairness, I have posted a whole range of food prep marvels, but this compilation provides a buffet of ideas for a staffer looking to stand out or a resort looking to expand its repertoire.
Custom Whisky Blend – I previously noted the idea of custom blended perfume and a friend recently recounted a similar olfactory concocting at their wedding. One of the wedding party was a whiskey connoisseur and he polled the guests for words which they felt described the betrothed couple. Then he blended a whiskey from his extensive collection with notes and characteristics that corresponded to the most frequently cited qualities of the couple and presented the crafted bottle (complete with commemorative label) to the couple as a gift.
Pool High Diving Board – A staple of most public swimming pools I knew growing up in America, the “high dive” is the centrepiece for swan dives, flips and the ubiquitous cannonball. With pools pretty much standard fare at the Maldives resorts, a high dive at one would provide some distinctive entertainment to keep the kids even happier for even longer while Mom and Dad doze in the lounge chairs.
The underwater seascape in the Maldives is just as spectacularly colourful as the famous ocean vistas above albeit with a bit of a broader palette. Here is the latest collection of fish soup of the day pictures of these aquatic tapestries…
World Water Day today. Water is a beautiful thing and few places put it more front and centre than the Maldives which is 99% water. The Instagram crowd have captured some stunning shots of the dappled patterns of this sapphire landscape which Maldives Complete has collected here to celebrate the day (links to originals on the photos)…
Happy Valentines Day! Sweetheart around the world will be inscribing their love in hearts made from cards, chocolate, emojis, hands, and any number of creative materials. In the Maldives, the power soft, brilliant white coral sands that make up and define this paradise also make a handy canvas for romance…
Even after a decade of exploring the Maldives in person and online, with my 14th edition of the “Haven’t Seen Yet in the Maldives” series there is still no shortage of candidates keep on popping up. If you think you have seen it all in the Maldives…no you haven’t.
Baby Shark Abs Workout – Ok, some resort NEEDS to offer this in their kids club AND their adult fitness classes! [ABOVE]
Sunshine Guarantee – Offer for free rooms (or some system) for ay vacation more than 50% rain (or could do, if you have more than one day of rain, then each additional day is complimentary for a future visit).
Plot of Sand and a Palm Tree – When people ask me to describe the Maldives, I respond, “You know that iconic image of a deserted island with a plot of sand and a single palm teee? That’s the Maldives. A thousand of those.” And while the image captures the diminutive, tropical, aquatic topology of the Maldives, curiously, I have never actually come across a sand bank with a single palm tree on it. If a resort would transplant a palm tree, they would have instance Instagram bait.
Faux-fluencer Photoshoot – Some resort needs to host Celeste Barber to do all the classic Maldives Instagram poses (eg. lying on the edge of the infinity pool, walking up the water villa ladder, pink flamingo float, coconut drink, sitting on a palm tree, backfloat, wallowing in the shallow water, etc).
Underwater Photo Spot Frame– Photo frames have popped up all over the Maldives resorts, but none where all the action is – underwater.
Vilebrequin Outlet – One of the finest makes of swimwear in the world with styles just perfect for the Maldives.
Bird Baths – The enchanting tropical birds from the ubiquitous Makana to Rihiveli’s famous Crab Plover bring a colourful creature dimension to enjoying the natural charm and beauty of the Maldives destination. On a number of occasions we have found the Makanas visiting our pool for a fresh water drink. Which made us think that the tiny desert islands must be a classic case of “water, water everywhere, but not drop to drink.” So why hasn’t a resort set out a stylish birdbath to both help the feathered friends out and provide an attraction where guest can observe them regularly. Many resorts still do (controversial) fish feeding to show the marine creatures up close, so why not the ornithological ones? (thanks Lori)
Naturist Holday – A friend of mine works at UK travel agency, Eton Travel, which among other things is a UK leader in naturist holidays (yep, hanging out with it all hanging out). She said that the UK has 5 million naturists and it is one of the rapidly growing segments. There is an obvious reason why naturism hasn’t hit the Maldives and that is because nudity is prohibited (mind you, that hasn’t stopped a slew of exhibitionist Instagrammers). But the resorts have always been given some discretion about how non-Muslim visitors want to behave (like drinking alcohol and eating pork) and so perhaps there is something that could be done in this area. One concern would be to shield the Maldivian staff from exposure to such, well exposure. But maybe the resort could give their local staff a holiday for a week where they devoted the property to a special naturist week, or the resort could limit the naturism to a nearby picnic island.
Spa Sommelier – “After guests perceive the aromas of a selection of oils and taste several wines from our Abadía Retuerta winery, the Spa Sommelier analyses their tastes and aromatic preferences and recommends the best spa experience for their individual wellness needs.”
Seaweed Flavoured Butter – Flavoured butter is becoming a bit of a thing with variations such as Moose Maple Butter, Abernethy Smoked Butter, Ampersand Cultured Butter, and the appropriately luxurious Black Truffle Butter. But I think the mist apropos flavor would be Le Beurre Bordier’s Seaweed Butter.
Maldivian Harvested Sea Salt – Use on tables, in spas and sell in boutiques.
Underwater Restaurant Mermaid – Resorts like Finolhu have hosted professional mermaids for photoshoots, but this underwater performance is especially enchanting.
Deserted Island Laser Tag – Whenever you have a variation of the capture the flag game (eg. paintballing, laser tag, or simple old capture the flag) the boundaries are critical (and often a source of dispute as to whether an opponent has crossed of them). But setting up a laser tag game on an uninhabited picnic island would provide a natural boundary. Your very own Hunger Games re-enactment.
World Toilet Day today. With a very serious message about the importance of proper sanitation. Despite the advances in the modern world, 4.5 people live without a toilet. More than half the planet. One of the aspirations of the day is to make sure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030.
To mark the occasion, Maldives Complete has assembled a list of top toilets in the Maldives when it comes to a view of nature when nature calls…
Of all the fish soup creatures, some of the most prevalent are the Moorish Idols. Their sweeping top fin and distinctive stripes provide the sensation that you are in some giant open water tropical aquarium when you see them in their massive schools. So distinctively ubiquitous and quintessentially Maldivian, I choose a similar shot for the Profile section background. Here are ten more shots to immerse yourself in…
Off to the Maldives again today! Despite being our 9thtour of islands (after this trip we will have stayed at over 90 resort which as far as we can tell is still the most of any one in the world) and our 15th visit there overall, we still are looking forward to seeing so many things that we have not yet seen there in our two decades of visiting. In anticipation, here is my bi-annual list of “Things I Haven’t Seen In the Maldives…Yet (But Probably Should)…
Underwater Concert – Especially for one of the resorts with an underwater restaurant [ABOVE].
Underwater Easter Egg Hunt – Shangri-La Villingilli advertised it in their newsletter, but I’m not sure they ended up doing it as I can find nothing about it on the web and they are not responding to my enquiries. An inspired concept where guest would get different prizes based on the colour of the eggs they discovered like a bottle of champagne or a free spa treatment.
Watermelon Cocktails – One of our favorite items at any Maldives meal is it ripe and juicy watermelon. Now watermelon cocktails are becoming popular so I’d be surprised not to see them at resorts soon.
Floating Mansion Boat – Slick modernistic design, luxury yachts, and spacious mansion-sized villas all a becoming de rigeur in the super premium properties. So only a matter of time when someone puts them all together.
Rooftop Pools – Always a big fan of a bit of an elevated vista especially in this country of such low lying landscape (thanks Paola).
Float Pools – I’ve seen lots of floats in pools, but this is the first time I’ve seen a pool in floats.
Whale Shark Floats – Of all the dozens of floats that launch onto the Maldives lagoons every day for an Instagram snap, how have one (or both) of these whale shark float not migrated there??
Clear Bottom Inflatable Boat – Any clear-bottom boat is a winner in the Maldives to provide a means to observe the subaquatic sensations. This one is particularly stable and safe for the less comfortable swimmers (though only supervised as winds and currents could easily push such an inflatable into the open ocean).
Flexible Wooden Loungers – One of the give-aways to the true quality (regardless of how they have graded themselves) of a property is the quality of the loungers. At the bottom of the scale are the cheap, white, plastic jobs. The more sophisticated resorts have fancier adjustable, wheeled, cushioned wooden loungers. But the crème-de-la-crème looks to me to be this flexible design.
Gyrotonic – We got introduced to this yoga, dance, pilates fusion by our friend Dean in Boston.
Waterfall Table – I love innovative water features and I love creative dining tables. So you can imagine how much I love this creation…