The Original Octomom

Octopus mom

Happy Mothering Sunday! Especially to those octopus moms out there. Deep-sea octopuses are some of the best mothers in the animal kingdom. Once her eggs are laid, the octopus spends the next 5 years carefully nurturing and watching over the eggs until they are ready to hatch. Once her babies have emerged, the mother dies, her reproductive duties now complete.

Maldives Packing List

Maldives packing list men

WTM was a great way to whet our appetite for our overdue return to the real Maldives this week. Tour #18 will take us to Biyadhoo, Amilla, Soneva Fushi, Ritz Carlton Maldives and Pullman Maamuta.

One new item is a face mask. Required for the duration of our BA flight. Having done a few long flights over the past year, you really want one that is comfortable (and for me, one that doesn’t cause my glasses to steam up).

I take a computer (and charger and case) for my work taking notes, researching, logging photos, etc. as well as for keeping in touch with the office back home (which makes it easier to stay longer and means I have less urgent work piled up when I return). We can also use the computer to watch Netflix, and it is an easier tool to use for managing and editing our photos and videos.

As a get our bags ready, and sort out all of our COVID19 requirements, we pulled out our Packing List to make sure we weren’t forgetting anything. I thought I’d share it here as a reference for people going to maybe for the first time or even for veterans to prompt them for items they might not have thought of:

Category

Item

Min

Recom

notes

CLOTHES

Swimsuit

1

2

2 allows one to dry for frequent use

Shorts

2

3

3 provides more choice and they’re small

Shirts

5

5+

Can go thru two a day with the hot weather, but also nice to change into fresh one for dinner

Flip Flops

1

1

Underwear

5

5

Easy to wash with hand soap in the sink

Belt

1

2

A couple gives me a choice

Socks

1

2

For wearing on the plane though I guess you could wear flip flips…many do

OTHER

Phone+Charger

Lightweight backback or satchel for carrying items on excursions or to the beach, etc.

Sunglasses – Goes without saying, but for completeness

US Dollars Cash – A good rule of thumb is $50/day. Probably much more than you need, but provides safety for contingencies and you can always bring it home.

Beach Wallet – A simple, water-proof, pocket sized wallet for room key and a few dollars that might be needed for serendipity tipping

Passport – included for completeness

DIVING

Rash guard – to protect against sun snorkeling, can use tshirt

Fins/MaskSnorkel – most resorts lend these for free and they do take up lots of space packing, but it is handy having your own that you are comfortable with.

Diving Items (eg. log book, certification cards)

Underwater Camera – you can rent these, but we have a GoPro which works great with underwater housing (also, great to have a red filter for diving)

OPTIONAL

Camera – many people are happy with the hig-res camera phones, but I bring an SLR as well

Sun Lotion – available at the resort boutiques but the price is high and selection limited

Reading – resorts typically have a library, but always great to bring what you want to read if that’s how you pass the time

Fish ID Card/Book – You can find most fish information online now, but we find our fish ID cards and a fish book (our favourite is Rudie H. Kuiter’s “Fishes of the Maldives”) to be much easier to use.

Headphones – Noise reduction for better listening on the long flight and so I can listen to stuff without disturbing Lori if she is napping

My Maldives Complete partner in all adventure, Lori (an accomplished blogger in her own right and regular contributor and editor) has agreed to go through her suitcase and share her tips as well (photo at bottom):

Category

Item

Min

Recom

notes

CLOTHES

Swimsuit

2

4

2 full-coverage 1-piece swimsuits and 2 rash guards for sport (diving/snorkelling). We snorkel and/or dive every day. Two pretty ones/ bikinis for lounging. (I actually pack several more swimsuits.) You will need cover-ups for breakfast and lunch dining.

Shorts

2

2

It’s personal preference here, but I prefer floaty dresses or floaty trousers with natural fibre tops, because it’s hot. (I highly recommend natural fibres, if possible). Shorts can be useful for transferring on sea planes, though, because you have to climb in and out and go up and down small stairs, sometimes to small floating docks. The breeze could trip you up if you have a long floaty dress on. I prefer longer shorts so my legs don’t stick to the seat (no air conditioning) and I take basic ones (jean/white) with multiple tops. Here, I’ve packed 1 pair white shorts.

Shirts

3

3+

These go with your shorts, plus extra in case you need a fresh one. Here, I have packed 3 tops to go with my one pair of white shorts.

Flip Flops

1

1

I take one pair of nice ones to go with shorts and swimwear.

Underwear

?

?

If you are happy to wash your smalls, or don’t mind sending them to be laundered, then you can just pack a few. But, they are so small and I don’t like to be bothered whilst on the holiday of a lifetime, so I pack one for every day, plus extra. Here, I have 4 bras with matching knickers, plus extra knickers (not pictured).

Belt

0

0

It’s hot, so I avoid garments that are tight at the waist.

Socks

1

2

I wear sports shoes on the plane with socks, if I plan to work out in the gym. Sometimes I do; this time I won’t. Which brings me to shoes:

Shoes

2(3)

2(3)

Gym shoes (if you are a gym bunny and just can’t go a week or two without exerting yourself on the treadmill); flip flops; 1 pair nice shoes, in case you need them for fine dining indoors. Many (probably most) resorts offer all dining on sandy floors, so check your resort to see if you need any shoes at all. Some resorts are “No shoes; no news” and take your shoes from you when you arrive.

OTHER

Hair Care – Salt water is a natural cleanser and will remove old layers of conditioner/product from your hair. This is ok if you are not an avid swimmer, but if you are in the ocean every day, you will want to bring along some good conditioner/barrier products if you are concerned about maintaining the colour or texture of your hair. I have found that even the best resorts often don’t have conditioner that is adequate for my long, thick hair. You may wish to bring a hat to protect your hair and face from the sun. Don’t forget any styling brushes and clips/bands you may need.

Sun cream – goes without saying, but for completeness…

Jewellery – as you wish. I used to just wear all my jewellery on the plane (simple and goes with all my clothes) but this time, I’ve packed extra pieces to go with some of my nice dresses, because we are going to some really special resorts. All resorts have safes in the rooms.

Reading – resorts typically have a library, but always great to bring what you want to read if that’s how you pass the time

Evening wear – I like to dress a bit nicer for dinner, so I wear floaty dresses (one pictured)

Maldives packing list - women

(For future planning reference, I’ve now added a tag “Trip Planning” with all my posts concerning getting ready for the big trip.)

QI: Octopi in the Blue Yonder

     

QI: How does an octopus smell?
A: Depends if he’s had cabbage chilli for dinner (ba-dum-dum). *BUZZ*.
A: With its nose?
QI: *BUZZ* As this Harvard researcher determined, and like so many other activities in the octopus’ fascinating life, with its suckers (“
Touch and taste? It’s all in the suckers”)

Happy Octopus Day! If an octopus seems otherworldly with all of these bizarre qualities, then maybe it more so than you realized according to Big Think – “Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist” With the Maldives otherworldly’ aquatic vistas, snorkeling with an octopus might be the closest thing you can get to experiencing an alien encounter in the zero gravity of space.

   

QI: Shark Sex

Sex…AND Sharks! Now that I have you attention!…

Q: How many penises does a male shark have?
A: One?
Q: BUZZZ. Nope. Two penises. “He uses only one at a time, depending on which side of the female shark he finds himself.”
One is used for depositing and the other is used for “holding on”. Ducks famously have multiple vaginas (so they can choose which of the many male ducks who take her forcibly to actually sire her children). Sharks have multiple penises.

That’s not all they use to literally embrace their beloved. Male sharks also use their teeth used to hold onto female shark (so much so that “female sharks tend to have thicker skins than males and bigger bodies in order to withstand the results of a male shark trying to hang onto her with his teeth” (up to 3x thicker). Now THAT’s a love bite!

Q: Since sharks are fish and not mammals, how many ways can sharks give birth?
A: One (laying eggs)?
Q: BUZZZ. A number of shark are indeed oviparous (lays eggs), but a number of species are viviparous (give birth live).
A: So two??
Q: BUZZZ. Some shark species are actually ovoviparous meaning that the eggs hatch in the oviduct within the mother’s body and that the egg’s yolk and fluids secreted by glands in the walls of the oviduct nourishes the embryos.

Best of the Maldives: Snorkel Weddings – Oprefooshi

snorkel weddings

Maldives resort Oprefooshi has combined the top two reasons to visit this bucket list destination – honeymoons and snorkeling – into a single, once-in-a-lifetime experience: Snorkel Wedding.

Couples are provided with a Snorkel-Guide/Wedding-Officiant. Unlike underwater weddings (which have been conducted at various resort), snorkeling allows the bride and groom to share their vows by actually speaking to each other (while treading water). Why have a seaside wedding when you could be *in* the sea?? And you don’t require special training and certification to opt for this nautical nuptials (in fact, if you are a weak swimmer, the property has a special wedding dress with buoyancy aids sewn into the garment (which also add a special buxom look for your wedding photos).

We can fully appreciate the romance of the house reef venue as Lori and I celebrated our anniversary snorkeling (see photo below).

romantic snorkeling

Most Heart Shaped

Heart shape 1

Hearts will be everywhere today celebrating the annual Valentines festival of lovers. But where are the biggest hearts in the epicentre of romance, the Maldives?

The fantasy of a truly heart-shaped plot of sand in the middle of the ocean is pervasive on Instagram and stock photo sites. .

Heart - shape 2

Mostly these are the fabrications of digital editing (like the one above and two below) and not natural erosion or premeditated terraforming

Heart shape 4

These flights of imagination certainly seemed like they were pulled from drone shots of the Maldives renowned for being diminutive plots of sand and a few palm trees in the middle of the ocean (and some times just a lone sand bank itself in the middle of the ocean which has also been depicted – see below)

Heart shape 3

I first mused about finding a heart-shaped island in the 1900+ in the nation archipelago six years ago in my 7th instalment of “Haven’t Seen Yet”. I noted that Jumeirah Dhevanafushi had made the bold claim to me that they were the most “romantic” island in the Maldives substantiated by the facts that (a) they had the biggest beds, and (b) they had the most heart shaped island. Well, I took a look at an aerial shot of the island, Merdahoo (which it is the new name of the property since Raffles took it over from Jumeirah) before it was developed. The island does look like an impressionistic rendition of a heart at best. Or possibly, an anatomical version (see below)…but the clinical grisliness of that version takes a little bit of the aesthetic romance out of it.

Meradhoo    Maldives heart sketch

For that matter, I think Kandolhu (see below) probably has an equal claim to Meradhoo for cardiac caricature. In fact, if they thinned out a bit more foliage on the west side to make a sharper indention, the island could be quite heart-like in shape.

Kandolhu heart shaped

A bit closer to the classic heart shape is not an island, but the inverse – a reef lagoon – featured by Dreaming of Maldives.

Heart reef

So maybe the most heart-shape place to be today is snorkeling with your beloved…

Valentines snorkel

    

  

The World is On Our Doorstep

Save Something kitten

Earth Day today is traditionally a time to reflect on how humanity can save the planet, though it takes on a whole new perspective during this era of COVID19. Internet memes abound joking that the coronavirus is the planet’s way of scolding humanity and sending it to its bedroom as punishment with the admonition, “Now go away and think about what you have done.”

The pandemic underscores poignantly and painfully how interconnected we are in the modern world. How my respiratory survival is dependent on others changing their behaviours. How my toilet paper supply is dependent on global supply chains.

I had saved the post below from our daughter Isley especially for Earth Day given its theme of saving things including the planet. It was penned after we got together this past year and she was reflecting on her secondment at Soneva Fushi and Rihiveli working on a number of Maldivian writing projects.

The piece reminded me of the starfish parable…

  • “One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, ‘I’m saving these starfish, Sir’. The old man chuckled aloud, ‘Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?’ The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, ‘I made a difference to that one!’”

We can all matter to individual starfish, one-legged birds and kittens. And if we do, the whole planet can matter to all of humanity.

HOW TO SAVE SOMETHING

I wrote the poem “Today I Was a Starfish” during a short writing residency at Soneva Fushi. It’s two true stories in one: Soneva had a Precious Plastics initiative where inventors worked to recycle plastics in artful and purposeful new ways. Soneva also engages seriously with sustainability, saving and reusing wherever possible so it seemed right that I write a poem responding to this part of who they are. I also watched that little kid cry her eyes out over an ice cream, and laughed before realising that she was right: the ready appearance of another ice cream doesn’t erase the loss of the one she held in her hands.

This was back in 2018. I went from Soneva Fushi to Rihiveli, which had its own collection of stories about the importance of saving. Their icon is a beautiful white bird called Juliette, who ended up on the island after the 2004 tsunami, and was cared for by the humans there. She now doesn’t fly, but hangs around on one leg (incidentally at Soneva Fushi there was also a one legged bird who would visit at mealtimes, called affectionately Onelego). Another example of this spirit of care was its reopening as Rihiveli The Dream, when to stop the island from closing it was bought by a collection of guests and run in a way which preserved the staff and style of the island they knew well.

It was while I was at Rihiveli that I was asked by the London Theatre Consortium to attend a residential climate lab when I returned to the UK. I had no idea how many overlaps I would find during my time on that lab to what I had seen in the Maldives: most obviously, the science and history behind the climate catastrophe we face, and that the Maldives is at the knife edge of in so many ways.

But also, the Maldives became emblematic for the key revelation I had during my time at the lab, which has to do with structural and systemic barriers to addressing climate change, and found metaphorical manifestation in a little stray kitten…

On our penultimate day in the Maldives, in Hulhumalé, a tiny kitten greeted us as we had breakfast. We had plans to explore the island and snorkel, but they were abandoned to take care of this flea-ridden little beast with the wonky jaw and seriously cuddly cuteness. We gave her some egg and cleaned her when she toileted and held her in our laps while we picked fleas off her one by one, trapping them in selotape that we borrowed from the hotel reception. There are many stray cats in parts of the Maldives, cared for ad hoc by the working community. But this one was in my lap. She couldn’t chew properly. She didn’t seem to be able to poop. She fell asleep on my hand. We named her Dhaya. I needed to save her.

After realising that it would be impossible to process the paperwork in time to take her to the UK with me, I looked into getting her to a vet while we were still in the country. But the thing is there are ZERO vets in the Maldives. None. Not one. There is one man in Indonesia who makes a trip every six months to look over the pets of the residents, and everyone essentially crowdfunds his trip and tries to get their pet seen during his brief visit. We made a friend in Sujon, who worked in the hotel we were staying at – a fellow animal lover, he said he would keep Dhaya in his apartment and take care of her for us, until we could get the vet to see to her, which I could organise from the UK. I felt good knowing she had a home, and that it might not mean sending her all the way to the UK to keep her happy and safe. But that evening Dhaya took a turn for the worse. We could sort of diagnose the problem using the internet, and the treatment was straightforward, for a vet. But we didn’t have a vet. Or medicine. Or expertise. And she died.

The kitten was saveable. We all wanted to save it. But without a vet, we couldn’t.

The planet is saveable. We all do want to save it, even if we disagree about how. But without systems in place and upheld by governments, organisations, businesses etc, we’ll fail. We cannot crowdfund the climate revolution.

Yes we have to work as individuals – the child needs to not drop the ice cream. And yes we need to be grassroots in our approach to change – so much has been achieved by the Rihiveli community, contributing and sharing and organising in whatever way they can personally to achieve a collective aim. But those energies need to be focused upwards, at those with more power and resources to affect serious change. But as always, those with least resources and the least power are expected to do the most. Yes, me offsetting my air travel is good, but not as good as that being a responsibility of the airlines themselves.

This is what I learned at the climate lab, and at Rihiveli, and from Precious Plastics, and from the kitten.

I’m writing this over a year later now, after Greta Thunberg has proved that an individual (herself someone with significant clout, and inspired by activists before her) can at least influence others, and begin the change systemically. Extinction Rebellion sees many individuals coming together to encourage change and enact it within their reach, putting pressure on larger bodies to recognise their voice. Veganuary proves to be a huge commercial incentive for corporations and companies to be part of the change. And there’s a stray cat with mange that sleeps in my neighbour’s shed that I’m trying to trap and treat. They remind me of Dhaya. Which makes me realise a final thing:

It’s not wrong to want to help the kitten on your doorstep. But the world has been getting smaller for a long time now, and this story of international travel and relationships and communities is proof of that. And the fact is, the world is – and always was – on our doorstep. What we strive to make better in our own worlds impacts the worlds outside of our own, culturally but also ecologically. My choices have ripples that widen and deepen a very long way away. But I also need to think not just about this kitten that I can see the shed, but about all the kittens. But again – at risk of sounding like that Debbie… I can’t help every cat. No one can.

I’m tying myself in knots here a bit now, because there’s no clear right way to fix this. The macro is the micro and vice versa / people power is real power but the real power is systemic / the cat I see suffering is not more or less special than any other suffering animal, or suffering person, and yet I can and should care for them specially.

As I sit in my car on my road, watching the trap I’ve laid for this latest rescue mission, hoping the mangy street cat won’t see me watching, will take the bait, and surrender himself to my care, I think: there are lots of ways to save things. None of them are perfect, convenient, comfortable, or ideal for everyone. But at least there are lots of them. This is one of the ways I can try and save things. And another is demanding that those who can do more do do more. If the infrastructure had been in place, Dhaya would be alive. So I’m going to keep saving the little kittens, but now I know to do that by challenging the fat cats.

Save something bird

Planet time out

Best of the Maldives: Local Beef – Mookowfushi

Cow snorkel

With interest in sustainable local sourcing of foods (and now some of the supply chain constraints with the coronavirus pandemic), the Mookowfushi resort is expanding its chef’s garden (where it has grown a range of herbs and vegetables) into a chef’s pasture that will support a small herd of Angus steers for the property’s dinner plates.

Their initial trial of the husbandry hit issues with the island not providing enough grazing land. But they quickly determined that the bovine palettes were as happy with sea grass as they were grass on land. The problem was that sea grass washed up on the beach was dead and sandy. They needed the bovine buffet to be fresher to the animals. So they experimented with the classic Maldivian accessory – the mask and snorkel. The animals took to the devices very readily (see photo) and were happy to use them to see and find fresh sea grass in the lagoon shallows that they can graze on.

Mookowfushi doesn’t just serve “Surf and Turf”…it puts the turf in the surf!

Putting Ocean Warming into Perspective

Ocean temp 1

Few places provide the perspective the Earth’s vastness as effectively as standing on the seashore and gazing out on the vast expanse of the ocean. The level horizon provides an uninterrupted vista of the planet allowing the view to extend miles and miles (well, 3 miles about). A dip into this immensity adds the dimension of depth as you realise that this body of water plummets to fathoms below. In fact, the lowest point down in the ocean (Challenger Deep 36,200 feet) is deeper than the highest point up on land (Mount Everest 29,029 feet).

This immensity cloaks the blue planet in not just an aquatic wonderland, the birthplace of life and countless resources, but it regulates the world’s climate significantly. It absorbs and releases heat and water constantly. And with the inexorable release of Anthropocene carbon into the atmosphere and the consequential inching up of average temperatures, the oceans are doing their bit to absorb both.

The problem is that when the oceans absorbs carbon it makes the seawater more acidic which makes it less hospitable for a lot of its creatures. Also, when it absorbs the heat, it raises the water temperature which makes it less hospitable for the one of the pillars of the marine food chain – the coral reefs. The result is the widely reported bleaching and dying of the reefs. Over the two decades we have been visiting the Maldives, we have applauded the destination growing in many exciting ways, but each year (especially recently) we despair at the painful shrinking of the living coral primarily due to the warming sea temperatures.

In the Maldives, the reefs are not just foundation to the ecosystem, but the entirety of the county’s very being. As such, the country has been on the vanguard of campaigning for eco-sustainability and cutting carbon emissions. With the global prominence of Time’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg and the impassioned television series by famed naturalist David Attenborough “Life on Our Planet”, the scale of carbon impact is getting a higher profile than ever.

But just how big is the impact right now? Forget all of the controversial models and forecasts. Forget the graphs showing tonnes of carbon emitted (as few of us are chemistry experts to know what all that carbon really means). Let’s just look at the actual, observed real world impact today of that carbon and climate change with a easily obtained and verified measurement – the temperature of the ocean.

I’ve happened upon a couple of illustrations of ocean temperature increase recently which prompted this post. The first from the Futurism website noted that

  • After analyzing data from the 1950s through 2019, an international team of scientists determined that the average temperature of the world’s oceans in 2019 was 0.075 degrees Celsius (.135 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 1981–2010 average…The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions. That averages out to four Hiroshima bombs’ worth of energy entering the oceans every second for the past 25 years. But even more troubling, the rate isn’t holding steady at that alarming figure — it’s increasing.”

But a possibly even more dramatic number and comparison is the simple quantification of the energy that the ocean has absorbed – an accelerating at average of 10 zetta-joules per year(and last year was over 200 zetta-joules added). ZETTA joules. You don’t know what that is? Not surprising since it is such a big number there really aren’t many things in the universe to apply it to. A “zetta” is “10^21” (1 with 21 zeros after it).