Possibly one of the most placidly dramatic aquatic encounters in the Maldives is the graceful and commanding creature Manta Ray. Quite prevalent across most of the Maldives, we have seen them a number of times from shore. In fact, Conrad Hilton Rangali had a regular manta visitor who came every evening like clockwork to feed on the small sea life attracted by the lights of the dock. The resort guests would go down to watch the balletic display of this spaceship-like fish doing loop-the-loops underwater scooping up big mouthfuls (see picture below we snapped).
The YouTube clip above is from a National Geographic piece on Mantas in the Maldives which has great pictures and commentary. It provides good tips on ‘when’ to see Mantas (and other large pelagics like Whale Sharks). Unfortunately, the ‘best’ time for pelagics is the ‘worst’ time for weather, ie. the monsoon season. The seasonal rains spur the growth of the microscopic food on which these filter feeds feast.
The top spot for Mantas is the eponymous ‘Manta Point’ (see dive chart below) near The Haven resort. Tim Godfrey’s ‘Dive Maldives’ book describes,
“Manta Point has a world-wide reputation as being one of the most consistent sites for attracting large numbers of manta ray…In eight metres of water on the south east corner of Lanaknfinolhu reef are several large coral rocks which mark the point where mantas converge during the south-west monsoon season. Mantas have been photographed here as early as April and as late as December. These rocks are one giant cleaner station for the mantas. Blue-streak cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, often working in pairs, can be observed swimming out to the hovering mantas to remove old skin and parasites. The mantas circle the rocks awaiting their turn to be cleaned and when finished they swim gracefully up and down the reef feeding on zooplankton in the shallow water.”
If you can’t make it to Manta Point, but still want to regale in a spectacular show of these majestic creatures in the Maldives, MaldivesComplete has the scoop that BBC2 will broadcast ‘Andrea: Queen of Mantas’ on Wednesday 11 November 8 pm (if you do not live in the UK, check out the BBC iPlayer website to see if and when the programme will be broadcast over the Internet which many of their shows are now).
“Andrea: Queen of the Mantas tracks student Andrea Marshall over the course of a year as she dives the Indian Ocean unlocking secrets about the manta ray – a balletic cousin to the shark, with ‘wings’ which can span 7 metres (20 ft) wide…[R]evelations in the film include…the first tv footage of around 150 mantas massing near the Maldives…[in conjunction with the show] an online campaign seeking better safeguards for sharks and mantas is being run by The Save Our Seas Foundation, a main sponsor of manta ray research in Mozambique and around the Maldives.”
Somehow a pina colada never tastes quite so good as on the deck overlooking the tropical waters. But if you fancy a bit more variety, the Sheraton Full Moon has the bartending expertise to deliver the finest concoctions to complement the perfect sunset or evening repose.
“Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is proud to announce that two of their associates have received the top honours at the SIMDI – Bacardi/ Marie Brizzard Classical and Flair Bartender of the Year Cocktail Competition on Tuesday, 6 October 2009. Both Rajandra Joshi and Argus Setiawan, won first place in the Classical & Flair categories respectively. Ruwan Dinesh also received an Honorable Mention in the Classical Category.”
- Rajandra Joshi – Cinnamon Sunrise, winning cocktail of classical category (Cinnamon stick, Bacardi Gold, Apricod Brandy, Martini Rosso)
- Argus Setiawan – Lady Pick, winning cocktail of flair category (Bacardi, Gallino, Blue Curacao, Fresh Orange Juice) Juggled, tossed, twirled and even danced his way to the top.
- Ruwan Dinesh – Blue Horizon (Bacardi, Blue Curacao, Southern Comfort, Fresh Orange & Honey Melon Juice)
“Rajendra and Argus will receive sponsorship to participate in the John White Elite Bar Management course in Singapore, which is conducted by the International Bartender Association. They will also be given an opportunity to take part in the annual Classical & Flair Bartender of the Year (Asia Pacific Region) competition in Singapore.”
With such dazzling scenery from the turquoise crystal waters to the lush tropical foliage, one would imagine the Maldives to be an ideal venue for artistic inspiration. To enhance the inspiration, the resort Robinson Club is offering a special program of a art inspired events including ‘Art in Full Bloom’ and ‘Cook n Art’.
“Heidi Gerstner, the recognized Queen of Roses, has made her name in the art scene with her precious flower and blossom paintings. With stimulating and professional guidance, she will introduce you to her refined spatula technique and lead you into the sophisticated art of acrylic painting…Nowhere else is the flora and fauna so diverse, inspirational and incomparable, as in ROBINSON Club Maldives-best conditions for good motifs, exciting days, and enjoyment. Experience in a gorgeous setting a workshop, which you will long remember.”
“At this unique event you will experience a symbiosis of cooking art and exciting passion. We look forward to welcoming, Werner Fink, renowned expert for our exclusive event. Werner, who is famous in Germany and an award-winning chef, who was cooking at the Olympics over two decades and winning many gold and silver medals for recipes, will guide you through a wonderful and creative week. Originally self-taught, but later known as a student, he studied with well-known art professors at the Frankfurter Staedel and also made himself a name with his beautiful, meaningful and large-scale artworks. He is regarded as an exceptional talent and combines the two skills like no other…In addition, you will be introduced in Werner`s workshop to the art of painting. Painting your own chef`s jacket with tropical or culinary motifs, every other hobby chef will envy you, and you can take home an unforgettable souvenir and the memories of a beautiful and fabulous week in paradise.”
Both events are full week long programmes with daily activity.
One of the most memorable and distinctive excursion that one can do on a Maldives visit is the deserted island experience. Various resorts offer day trips, picnic visits, BBQs, snorkelling outings and a range of other day excursions to local even tinier, even more remote uninhabited islands. Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu has one of the best arrays of excursions that I have seen from ‘Magical Mornings’ to ‘Island Afternoons’. But they don’t stop at sunset, and the most distinctive trip is their ‘Overnight on a Desert Island’ excursion…
“A once in a lifetime experience…Spend one night together on a deserted Maldivian Island, Robinson Crusoe style. Your experience begins with Romantic Red Sunset journey by Dhoni as you sip a cool glass of Sparkling Wine…Your own private Chef attentively prepared Fresh Seafood and the choicest cuts of meat tenderly barbecued to the savoured under the stars as the moonlight reflects from the silver sea. The exotic choice of Maldivian Lobster, Tiger Prawns, Sirloin Steak, Lamb Chops, and fresh Reef Fish from the Lagoon will leave you spoilt for choice. After Dinner stroll around the beach to your Rustic Beach Hut which has been carefully prepared for you. This accommodation follows a traditional beach hut style yet still provides some of the comforts of home. In the morning your private butler will deliver your breakfast to enjoy on the beach of your Island before returning to Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. This is a Uniquely Coco Experience that will live on long after your vacation is over.”
My wife and I visited this desert island for an afternoon picnic and private snorkelling excursion when we visited Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu and had a truly memorable afternoon in idyllic and romantic remoteness. An absolutely top activity.
If you want to escape everything with your trip to the Maldives except beloved ‘footie’, then the most sympathetically fanatical resort is Mirihi who not only, like many, have their own football team, but also have their own astro-turf foot ball pitch. Guests are welcome to join in the games as reported by ‘librahi’ on this Trip Advisor report.
Many are attracted to the Maldives for the distinctively tiny croppings of land that make up the islands. No island is big enough for an international airport near the capital of Male (so they had to create a long, rectangular strip of land out of landfill) and most can have their perimeters traversed before finishing a pre-dinner pina colada. But the grand-biddy of them all is Coca Palm Kudahithi at a mere 5,600 square metres (140 metres long and 40 metres wide – not much larger than a foot ball pitch). With a proportionately small number of rooms – 7 villas – it is the closest thing to your own secluded deserted island with a palm tree on it.
Maldives is a great destination for families with children, but one common question is what about the very youngest. The consensus at TripAdvisor’s Maldives Forum is that Bandos is the top resort for babies.
“Quite a number of people have said, truthfully and helpfully, that Bandos is about the only 'baby friendly' hotel in the Maldives.”
Some debate the advisability of bringing extremely young children to a place as remote as the Maldives with less extensive care on hand. One of the benefits to Bandos is its proximity (8 km) to the main island of Male where the most extensive medical care, full hospital and airport are all located in case of an emergency.
“At Bandos we think of making your holiday as hassle free as possible, and for those families travelling with young children the Child Care Centre and Kids Club will prove to be a blessing. Now you can enjoy your holiday comfortable in the knowledge that your children are in the capable care of our professional child minders and baby sitters. The facilities are free of charge and the staff of Kids Club provides baby-sitting services free of charge, for children between 8 months to 12 years, between 0900hrs to 1700hrs, although a small charge is levied after 1700hrs. The Kids Club is equipped with a nursery full of toys and a large playground outside so that even your children would be guaranteed an enjoyable holiday experience.”
Most Maldivian islands have even tinier islands nearby for day excursions and all have shallow waters to wade or snorkel through, but Rihiveli Beach has a nearly deserted island that is a water stroll away.
“Just 400 metres from your holiday home are Sunrise Island and Birds Island, which you can easily reach on foot. Unmarred by development, they are cloaked in verdant foliage and complemented by lovely beaches”
“We have access to Sunrise Island that you can easily reach on foot where we can have BBQ at lunch (known as ‘Picnic Island’), the inclusive package we offer and the stunning and peaceful Lagoon we have at our disposal”
If you want a change from vanilla fare for your savory snacks, then you need to be gingerly cumin on down to the the Fuddan Restaurant at Anantara, the epice-ntre of allspices. Fuddan features a seasoning expert – Nasrulla (pictured above) to assist with just the right final touch to your cuisine.
The Times Online has a fun review of the seasoned expert…
“Rubbing salt into the wound…Water sommeliers are so last Thursday week. The latest thing is, drum roll, the salt sommelier. Oooh, yes. With no hint of irony, Anantara, in the Maldives, presents Nasrulla, who will guide you around 11 types, including Cyprus black lava flake, Bali coconut and lime-smoked sea salt. “We’re quite serious,” the hotel says. “Don’t take it with a pinch of salt.” Oh, please. Mindful of the dignity of Nasrulla’s calling, we don’t stoop to puns ourselves. Except in headlines.”
The Eye of Dubai has a detailed report including details of some of the salt varieties on offer (“Smoked Salish salt from Washington State (Nasrulla’s favourite) goes well with grilled food, especially red meats, while smoked salt from Bali is recommended to enhance the taste of tuna prepared with coconut and kaffir lime”)
Just when you think the Maldives couldn’t get any more relaxing, Angsana Velavaru comes up with the innovation pictured above – a hammock-like suspended lounger (for two!) over the calming waters of the lagoon. Day-dreamy!