“MAC curates and showcases three exhibitions on a monthly basis under an agreement it has with Le Cute and Hotel Jen… Avahteri has curated six exhibitions since its creation last year and the team wants to introduce Maldivian artists to a wider audience. ‘Even we have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Maldivian artists out there and by the diversity of their work,” says Aishath. The favoured mediums are changing. ‘Oil and acrylic paintings used to dominate the Maldivian art scene,’ she says. ‘Now we see a trend towards digital, mixed media artwork. Watercolour, charcoal and even cement and coffee are becoming popular.’ Social media has transformed the scene, helping local artists overcome the barrier of the country’s geographical dispersion. Around 85 percent of MAC’s discoveries have been through social media. Avahteri says it has revolutionised the way art is promoted and connected them to new local and foreign audiences.”
Malahini Kuda Bandos could be described as the New Jersey of the Maldives – the affordable property Garden (Villa) State in the northeast of the country just across the harbour from the high rises of the local metropolis whose skyline rises out of the horizon with unsung touches of distinction in its own right.
The resort has more Garden Villas – 32 – than any other room category. In fact, more than any other resort except for Kuredu who does have a handful more, but also is an island literally ten times larger as well.
Our stay there was only the third time we had stayed in a garden villa. And the villas were the most modest of all the ones I had ever seen. Two story apartment blocks facing each other in tight proximity on the inside of the island. But the blueprint is a sensible way to get an optimal number of guests on a small island without spoiling too much of the beach and other common areas. As a result, like the residents of “Joisee”, visitors can find some of the lowest priced packages in the Maldives (especially when factoring in the low transfer cost being so close to Male). Maldives snobs might poo-poo anything less than a thatched roof private villa with ocean views, but they forget that such apartments are where many people on their beach holidays all over the world. These rooms just happen to be in the middle of an island paradise.
At Cocoon Maldives, over-sized flamingos and indolent marine life aren’t only things floating around. The resort has infused the buoyancy of the surrounding waters throughout the property with furnishing that themselves seem to float like puppy black-tips skimming the surface.
“The LAGO furniture floats on glass stands to highlight the lightness sensation that the Ocean water villa exudes, on the boundaries between the beach and the forest.”
Examples include bar tables, coffee tables, settees but most prominently the beds which have soft lights underneath them which amplify the illusion at night. A new meaning to the phrase “drift to sleep”.
The best buffets are the ones who turn use the format not for laying out food en mass, but instead for providing a bit of flash and sizzle in the food prep itself with special stations. Sort of a Chef’s Table brought out to the dining area. Grand Park Kodhipparu main restaurant, The Edge, features a number of distinctive stations (stay tuned), but my favourite was their Shaved Ice Dessert. An exotica concoction of nuts, ice cream, shaved ice and tapioca. I am a bit of a tapioca connoisseur (it was my favourite dessert when I lived in Togo, West Africa and still enjoy the American Royal Tapioca Pudding) so I especially appreciated this lively twist on a beloved ingredient. And the taste was sublime.
One of our favourite parts of visiting the Maldives over so many years and working on it so regularly with the website are the many friends we have made from this paradise. One of my motivations for all the work (and money) I put into Maldives Complete, is that I feel more like a participant and more a part of this wonderful place rather than just a here-today-gone-tomorrow spectator with a credit card. This year’s tour in particular was full of reunions with old friends. And we had the chance to meet other fascinating individuals during our travels.
People like Thoyyibaa Ahmed at AaaVee. She is the Maldives’ first female resort snorkel guide. Well, I should say “snorkel guide apprentice”. She is still learning the details under the auspices of the guruVa dive centre. But she inspired us with her enthusiasm for this iconic activity in her home country where many women historically haven’t even learned to swim in the past.
Those gender biases are shifting you are now seeing more and more women entering into the activity both for fun and professionally. Women like Zoona Naseem who became the first female PADI instructor (working out the Male suburb Villimale) and many more like her as demonstrated by the recent Women’s Day Dive which attracted record numbers.
Maldives Complete had the opportunity to sit down with Thoyyibaa to learn about her quest to share this aquatic scenery with all guests…
What is your name? – Thoyyibaa Ahmed
What atoll are you from? – Male
What got you interested in being a snorkel guide? – The ocean is my love. I first tried to dive, but I had health problems that did not allow me to dive. So then I choose to look at snorkeling. My best friend was a snorkel guide, but had to stop when she had a baby. She recommended that I try it.
What languages do you speak? – Dhivehi and English mainly, but I am learning Italian and German. I am studying all the fish names. The names are very important.
What is the favourite thing you see snorkeling? – Turtles.
When did you start learning to swim? – Three months ago. It is my new experience. The dive master is teaching me. The first time I went in the water, I was very scared. If I am tired or weak, I will use a life jacket for safety. I am really grateful to AaaVeee for giving me this opportunity to learn to become a snorkel guide.
What do your friends and family think of your job direction? –My mother is very surprised because this is the first time I’ve ever done something like this. All my family and friends are giving me their full support. I never give up. I keep trying. My mother is always asking questions about how it is going.
Who uses a snorkel guide? – Any guest really, but some guests come here alone and they need a buddy to accompany them.
Any advice for any other women interesting in snorkeling? – Snorkeling is the best thing I have done. There is no reason to be scared. Women and girls who have not learned to swim should not be scared. You can do whatever you want. Don’t give up.
Sights, spaces and now sounds. Kandima’s artistry pervades its island with a fresh approach that engages its guests and fans. Its artist studio is run by an up-and-coming local artist to produce fresh works as well as to collaborate with the guests themselves. And the same spirit of creative engagement is being applied to the resort soundscape with the Maldives first ever music competition:
“The first ever ‘Music Boss Wanted! Competition’ invites aspiring music writers, composers, singers and DJs to submit a video to Kandima Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win an amazing US$7000 cash prize and a full-paid holiday to the new island destination – how Kool is that?! To enter the competition, the applicants must upload a short video of themselves singing, playing a musical instrument or DJing to Instagram or Facebook using the unique hashtags #KandimaMusic and #KMusicBoss…Then the TOP 10 shortlisted applicants will be picked, and their videos will be uploaded to Kandima Maldives blog, followed by the K’Music Boss announcement on 21st August 2018. The winner will get a chance to create the Oh-So-Kool playlist with eight tarcks, which will be officially launched during the resort’s grand launch of its new Pool Party Series on 15th November 2018. The K’Music boss will also be setting the K’Mood with their playlist on the resort’s hop on/hop off buses, in all the studios or villas, and during the super Kool events both locally and globally – as a K’Music Boss should!”
The entries to date that have been selected and can be sampled here. But, *NEWS FLASH*, Kandima has extended the deadline to mid-September! So anyone needing a bit more production time (or just finding out about the competition now) can get their creative juices going and join the jamboree.
“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.” – Pirate diddy
Not just any rum bar (and not a “rumba”), but a Reggae Rum Bar at NIYAMA. Set up and run by rum aficionado Tony from Jamaica (via South Africa). Perched on the beach at the reef edge, it is the ideal spot for landlubber’s to watch seadogs hang ten or watch sunsets with their favourite grog.
Of course, rum is the foundation of my favourite resort drink – the Pina Colada. The Surf Shark didn’t do a pina colada, but instead a slight variation on it called a “Llama Colada”. But its “Zombie” cocktail had one of my all-time favourite descriptions: “The King of the Surf Shak cocktails. Strictly one per person per night” (see photo at bottom). Of course, it was so intriguing, Lori had to have one. Tony’s favourite rum is the exclusive Diplomatico which took the guile of a swashbuckler to get to the Maldives.
Here are some of the rums on offer…
Ron Zacapa Centario
El Ron Prohibido
Ron Flor De Cana
Pyrat Rum XO Reserve
Clement Premier Canne Rhum
Captain Morgan Jamaica Rum
Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
Captain Morgan Cannon Ball
Caribbean Rum with Coconut Flavour
Meyers Rum Original Dark
Flor de Cana
“Drinkin rum before 10.00am makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic” -Earl Dibbles JR
Grill stations at buffets are often pretty standard fare. And Japanese-style Tepanyaki grills, that inject a bit of show into the prep, can be found at a good number of properties. But we were enchanted by what is probably best described as “Maldivian Tepanyaki” at Makunudu’s Maldivian Night. The chef was preparing “Maldivian Flat Bread Strings”, itself a dish I had never sampled in twenty years of coming to the Maldives.
The chef chops flat breads into very thin “strings” and fries them on the grill. Then some veg and spices are tossed on…with more rhythmic chopping. Finally, the whole mixture is topped with a fish or chicken. It was delicious and all prepared with a rhythmic show.
Even with nearly 100 stays in the Maldives, my knowledge of the destination pales in comparison of the travel community whose aggregate experience is many orders of magnitude larger. A while back I did some crude attempts data mining the great store of insight in TripAdvisor reviews and Forum about the resorts most frequently suggested by Destination Experts as well as the resorts most frequently asked about. Those posts are a bit out of date now, but it was still a curious exercise. Now DE’s Stu and Nikki have done their own investigation into the stars of the family properties in the Maldives. They measured the number of reviews that were tagged as “Family” stays as an indicator of popularity for various resorts in the family segment. The results can be found above (with a link to the original document). Not surprisingly, the bottom group is comprised largely of the “Adults Only” (or “Children Restricted”) resorts.