Best of the Maldives: Herons – LUX North Ari Atoll

LUX North Male Atoll - heron

Every resort island seems to have a few resident herons who have staked out their territory in the shallows patiently waiting for the wayward bait fish to nab and otherwise strolling with an uncommon deliberation. But, if you wonder where they come from, LUX North Male Atoll actually has a heron nesting site. The construction of the property preserved the site where at least 10 resident herons come to birth their chicks on a secluded part of the island that is cordoned off from guests (a little privacy in the marine maternity ward).

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Veg – Amilla

Amilla - Maldives veg 1

While the Maldives destination is known for its distinctive blues, at Amilla’s “Mystique Garden” also features a cornucopia of Maldivian greens. And initiative of Sustainability Manager Victoria Kruse (see above) who has collected an extensive range of local produce to grow and feature in all the resort’s cuisine including:

  • Moringa Drumstick – A ‘super food’ with leaves like spinash, roots like horseradish and use to make curry.
  • Kullhafilafai – Like Maldivian dandelion (see photo directly below)
  • Maldivian tea tree
  • Loofa – While best known for its scrubbing, it is also produces a healthy veg.

Amilla - Maldives veg 2

Amilla - pineapple

Amilla - Maldives veg 3

Amilla - Maldives veg 4

Best of the Maldives: Underwater TV – Conrad Rangali

Conrad Rangali - underwater television

Under water no one can hear you scream. Or sing “Sweet Caroline” at the top of your lungs. And so you can at Conrad Maldives Rangali for today’s big match:

  • “Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, a luxury five-star resort, is allowing two people the opportunity to watch the match from its Muraka villa, which is more than 16 feet beneath the Indian Ocean, and the world’s first underwater hotel residence. The package includes a two-night stay, during which the UEFA European Football Championship final will be beamed onto a screen that sits in front of a glass wall looking out onto the ocean’s abundant marine life.”

Also, perhaps most versatile underwater room in the Maldives as Ithaa serves as a restaurant and has served as a bedroom (mind you, with kick off at 1:00 am and if England play their characteristic “control” game, the subaquatic spectators mind find themselves nodding off).

   

Best of the Maldives: Terraforming – SAii Lagoon / Hard Rock

The Maldives may not be moving the heavens, but they are moving the earth to provide more opportunities to welcome visitors. For some environmental activists, “terraforming” is as dirty a word as the mounds of dirt it involves. But I am more supportive of the Maldives’ use of terraforming. For a country that is nearly 1000 kilometres long, to reclaim a few kilometres for living or economic purposes seems quite a reasonable trade-off. Especially, if the aquatic regions chosen are more barren sandy lagoon than vibrant reef (and even then, work done with as eco-friendly protocols as possible). The entire Crossroad complex which currently includes Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon were constructed in this manner and eventually 7 more resort “islands” will be developed in the general area. The environmental study that was performed to prepare for this dramatic transformation of the ocean was extensive but nonetheless controversial among sceptics. For those who are accepting of this strategy to building their economy, the engineering scale and sophistication is quite impressive. The YouTube video above provides a taste of what is involved, but actually the History Channel (Asia) did a fully documentary programme on the project (see trailer below) to look out for if you get a chance to watch it.

Best of the Maldives: Solar Tracker – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - solar tracker 1

Solar power is moving from innovation to the new normal especially at higher end resorts. Thanks to their Swimsol power generation, LUX South Ari Atoll can get identify how much clean energy they are consuming:

  • “Guests can follow a live ‘solar tracker’ on their in-villas IPTV that will indicate the energy produced, diesel saved as well as the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions savings to offset the number of long-haul flights.“

LUX South Ari Atoll - solar tracker 1

Best of the Maldives Online: Fish Identification – Name That Fish

Not purely a “Maldives” site, but ever so perfect for it. “Name That Fish” couldn’t be better named itself. Here’s the concept – load your snorkeling or diving videos up their website, they run it through their AI algorithm, and al the prominent fish in the video get prominently tagged with a box identifying their species. Lori and I love our piscatorial treasure hunts in the Maldives and can’t wait to get back to the room to go through our collection of fish identification cards and books to figure out the new things we’ve seen. Now we can just let the computer do the work while we go and sip our pina coladas.

The project is the work of Jake Easterling, co-founder of Scubotics, and features over 11,000 fish in its algorithm.  The technology is especially interesting to me because it is the core of my day job.  I run a company which uses machine learning algorithms to detect variations in brain health on MRI images of multiple sclerosis patients.

Before reviewing it here on Maldives Complete I thought that I should test it myself so I uploaded one of our fish soup heave vids from a recent trip. There is no formal charge for the service, but the site requests a donation and suggest $5 which seemed reasonable to me. I uploaded it and a few days later I received an email with a link to the new video in a Dropbox location (see above as I’ve loaded on my YouTube channel). It came out superbly capturing most of the main fish visible and no errors of identification that I could spot.


Best of the Maldives: Aesthetician – Vakkaru

Vakkaru - spa aesthetician

Many top Maldivian resort spas host visiting yoga instructors and others who run special classes, but visiting practitioners are less common and I’ve not yet come across a resident aesthetician like Vakkaru’s Merana Spa is featuring:

  • “Vakkaru Maldives welcomed UK-based aesthetic practitioner Daisy Whitear to the resort for a short-term beauty residency. With over 30 years of experience within the medical aesthetic and beauty industry, the founder of Wilbury Clinic has a lifelong professional mission to help people feel beautiful both inside and out.”

You’ve come all this way for the perfect selfie backdrop so it makes sense to have yourself just as striking. Why use Instagram filters when you can refresh the real thing?

Best of the Maldives: House Reef Platform – Kandima

Kandima - house reef platform

One of the key criteria to a great house reef is accessibility. The intra-atoll drop-of-sand islands typically have house reefs a few metres from shore. You don’t have to juggle the logistics of signing up to a resort excursion to take you to some snorkel spot. Instead, you can just dive in and the aquatic wonderland reveals itself to you instantly. It is not just the convenience of proximity, but also a bit of reassurance. Despite the fact that you might be standing metre (on the sand not the coral, please!) in merely a metre of mill pond calm water, there is still something unsettling about swimming hundreds of yards off shore. And snorkeling can take a bit of energy so if you have had a particularly extensive outing, then the last thing you relish is an extended swim back to shore.

The islands that on the outer reef tend to be on broad tables which may make for expansive lagoons, but make for either weak or distant house reefs. Some of the resorts on these islands will typically offer regularly excursions taking people to the edge in a dhoni for an easy splash onto the reef.

Kandima does sit on an outer reef plateau and it has gone a step further to support house reef snorkeling constructing a platform in the lagoon relatively close to the edge. You can use it as a base camp for your house reef expedition. Or just for some middle of the ocean swimming or sun bathing.

Best of the Maldives: Daytime Nurse Sharks – Rihiveli Beach

One of the popular Instagram shots are people mingling with docile nurse sharks. They are quite a big species and so their size and numbers make them look all the more intimidating for those who think are all sharks are scary creatures. Actually, they are about the most docile Selachimorpha you will ever come across.

Nurse sharks are nocturnal and during the day they are often found just lying on the bottom of the seabed or under some overhang. Hence, their French moniker (which is one of my favourite fish names of all time) – “Sleepy Shark”. If anyone claims that a shark always needs to keep moving or it dies, just send them a picture of these dozy dog fish lounging on the seabed. And as a result, unlike the puppy reef sharks so visible cruising the lagoon shallows all day long, nurse sharks are rarely seen during the day from the land.

Rihiveli Dream not only has one of the biggest gathering of resident nurse sharks, but they are very easily seen as they nap in a protected lagoon area just behind the staff quarters. Such proximity and numbers are the result of routine feeding that has lured them in past years; however, the resort no longer engages in such practices. The gang must have decided they like the tranquil and sheltered waters as they continue to hang out there through the day. And guests can go get their Instagram shots from shore during their day-long siesta.