I did get to see the Euro 2020 Final though sadly not underwater…nor even in the Maldives. Which is where we usually are this time of year there on our annual research tour. Obviously, halted by the “Red” status of the destination by the UK authorities, we have re-scheduled for November when we hope things will be even more settled. Our trips allow us to ferret out things we’ve not yet seen despite 20+ years of visiting the Maldives, and so we often preface them with my bi-annual instalment of “Things I Haven’t Yet Seen in the Maldives”. Over the years, I’ve posted 323 of these (of which 34 I have now “Finally Seen” many of which the resorts who introduced them told me that they did so after reading my piece). Here is another score to add to the list I’ve rounded up over the past six months:
Ocean Suncatcher / Ornament – Christmas ornaments are great gifts and I’m a bit surprised I don’t see more of them sold in the resort gift shops. Rather than shelf-cluttering chochkies, ornaments are seasonal aesthetic treats that remind us of our sunny times in the depths of winter.
Scuba Nutcracker – Nothing is more Christmasy than a nutcracker. And no nutcracker is more Maldivian than this special edition version by Really Cool Nutcrackers. Thanks Lori for not just discovering this gem (I collect nutcrackers and own over 100), but also for the custom “Maldives Complete” rendition for my birthday (see photo at top)! It includes a “Maldives Complete” logo on the shirt (which she also gave me for my birthday) and “Paul Shark” shorts (which she gave me for last year’s birthday (and featured in the last edition).
Puzzle Station – Amilla had first puzzle we’d come across that was actually not just a Maldives scene, but also one of the island itself. It was a relatively trivial 100 piece affair. The classic format is the 1000 piece. These typically take several days to do (eg. 8 hours to do with a few people). They a great over holidays sitting on a table where people can come and try to find a few pieces. I would like to see a brilliant photo made into a puzzle in the gift shop, but also a puzzle set out on a public area table where people could pop by and work on it for a little while. Maybe if a short rain shower is coming down, guests could pop in an contribute to the puzzle for a little while. The resort could announce over social media when the puzzle was completed (and then start all over again or start a new one). Online photo production places make these custom photo puzzles very easily.
Blind Date with a Book – If you prefer to lounge with the traditional beach read, here is another Turkish delight taken from a Dalaman resort that Lori goes to regularly. Not only does it have fun element of serendipity, but also the books are sterilised for COVID safety.
Under the Sea Scratch and Draw – For more creative and less intellectuallty demanding fun, the “Scratch and Draw” books are great and this one especially thematically apropos for chilling at the villa for the little ones.
“Mermaids Drink Free” – A relatively well-known vintage sign and yet I haven’t come across it in the land of mermaids.
“Papa Don’t Preach” Resort Collection – Resort wear for all visiting mermaids, “The Mumbai-based label started by Shubhika Sharma has launched a collection of swimsuits, cover-ups and beach accessories inspired and shot in Maldives.”
Coral Crocs – Sunies “Sea and Ocean” sandal – Even Crocs can be stylish when infused with the spirit and aesthetic of the Maldives.
Treasure Island PJs – Even the littlest ones can become fastionistinas with this treasure island themed outfit by Little Outfitter from neighbouring Sri Lanka.
Toddler Water Ski – With families surging as a segment in the Maldives, there’s no reason they can’t enjoy the watersports too.
Electric Surfboard – Electric bikes all are the rage with the MAML crowd these days, so a bit of eco-friendly motorised watersport should be appealing.
Loo Sink – Common in Japan, the hand wash sink is placed on top of the toilet cistern so the waste water from washing your hands is re-used for the next flush.
House Reef Guided Tour – Audio tours are standard fare for the top flight museums and tourist sites. Why not a guided tour of a house reef? Plant small, discreet markers around the house reef and provide audio commentary that the snorkelers can listen to for each spot. Maybe a frequent resident creature lives there or some particularly interesting type of coral that might get overlooked, etc.
Coconut Cup – This is coconut iced coffee, but a wide range of drinks could be served this way. Reminds me of the carved ice tumblers at the Ice Hotel. Sipping the cocktail *in* the ice (rather than the ice in the cocktail) provided a distinctive sensation to enjoying it. I have seen the coconut husks used for a variety of purposes in the Maldives, and often welcome drinks are served in whole coconuts (husk with outer green pod casing). But these drinks are delivered through a straw and part of the experience of this approach is to get a taste of the coconut meat on the “glass” rim. A tropical equivalent of salt on the rim of a traditional margarita.
Most people want to know what a resort has, but sometimes guests want to know what it doesn’t have. The most prominent example of this is adult-only properties (ie. no children or at least no one younger than a certain age). One of the rationales for going adult-only is to try to ensure extra peace and quiet which is a major motivation for many guests visiting this idyllic paradise in the middle of nowhere. Another avoidance is Male-area properties for the similar noise-fearing reason of disruptive airplane sound. And from time to time, I get asked about a third potential source of noise pollution – motorized water sports. Petrol-powered speed boats zipping around off the beach with guest squealing with delight.
The resorts that I have come up with that don’t have motorised sports on the island (some do offer sports from a nearby island that they will take you to if you do want to enjoy them) are the following:
Looking for that special something to buy your favourite resort for Christmas. Well, here is the 17th (!) edition of “Things I Haven’t Seen Yet in the Maldives” (after 20+ years of visiting and researching them). We are hoping to discover some “haven’t seens” (as well as a Santa sack of other previously unsung treats with a December bolt to the paradise in 2sleeps!…stay tuned).
A bit delayed and with a “new normal” skewed experience, both Maldives Tourism and Premiere League football have recommenced with this weekend being the starting whistle for most leagues like the Premier League. So to celebrate the return of football (albeit with a few safety tweaks), here is the Maldives Complete starting XI…
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…