Even the seats in the kids club washroom are sculptures at Joali…Frog Bog!
Q: What are those things swimming around the reef?
Q: Buzzzz…there’s actually no such thing as a fish.
That’s the conclusion of eminent natural historian Steve J. Gould (small world coincidence – Lori sang in the same choir as him years ago). There are all sorts of creatures dubbed “fish” and yet they all exist on all different branches of the species taxonomy – jellyfish, cuttlefish, crayfish, shellfish starfish. There is no one Order or Genus that contains all or even the vast majority of species that people popularly refer to a “fish”. As a Telegraph piece describes: “Unlike mammals and birds, not all the creatures we call fish today descend from the same common ancestor. Or put another way, if we go back to most recent common ancestor of everything we now call fish (including the incredibly primitive lungfish and hagfish), we find that they also were the ancestor of all four-legged land vertebrates, which obviously aren’t fish at all.” (at least in the Maldives you can be pretty sure that the “fish” you are dining on is actually the fish they say you are eating which is not always the case elsewhere).
On a similar note, Bird and Moon flippantly points out another aquatic “Animal With a Misleading Name” – the Peacock Mantis Shrimp. They look like a walking lobster tail where the claws and long legs have been removed (but they’re not even Lobsters either). Mantis Shrimp are their own distinct order of “Stomatopods” (which falls under the Subphylum of Crustaceans). But their mendacious moniker isn’t the only curiosity of this colourful creature. In fact, the Oatmeal, illustrated a complete portrait of the bizarre life of the mantis shrimp (“my new favourite animal”) with such factoids as and they can move their limbs so quickly they can supercavitate the water (like boiling it), they can accelerate as fast as a bullet, their limbs are so resilient that the cell structure has been studied for the development of combat body armour, they can’t be kept in aquariums because they tend to break the aquarium’s glass.
Summer break is over and it is back to school time. So an apropos for us to go back to the schools of the Maldivian for some splashes of vibrant colour…
Blue-Striped Yellow Snappers [ABOVE]
One of our favourite Maldives rituals is our pre-crepuscular circum-perambulation of the island (yes, I did enjoy writing this sentence). That’s a pre-sundowner island-rounder in layman’s terms. Typically, takes about 15-20 minutes for a small resort. Dhigali has brought the charm and adventure of an island walk to the interior with their “Jungle Walk”.
Dhigali has carved out an intimate footpath weaving through an extensive portion of their thick, tropical palm-canopied undergrowth. In addition, they have enhanced it with some signs feature fun factoids about this inner landscape you are exploring as well as with a few seats to just sit down and take in a part of the island that is all too rarely savoured. It is also lit so you can take a romantic midnight walk along it as well
While the Maldivians have traditionally scurried from island to island by dhoni and more recently motor boat, funds from tourism have provided the resources for more permanent connections with bridges. One of the sights of our recent tour was to see the completed Male to Hulhumale bridge, one of the Maldives’ largest infrastructure projects in its history. On a more modest scale is the The Residence’s new connection to its adjacent sister property The Residence Dhigurah (and to reduce confusion, the original “The Residence” now is going by the name “The Residence Falhumaafushi”). I’ve already posted about the jetty’s charming little deserted island that flanks it at about the halfway point, but the jetty itself is also distinguished as the longest resort-to-resort jetty in the Maldives at half a kilometre (nearly twice as long as Conrad Rangali’s jetty between its two island).
With this post, I’ve added a tag for “Bridge” for all the various bridges that occasionally link the scattered islands.
Despite its fame as a diver’s paradise, we didn’t dive in the Maldives until about our fifth year of going there. Lori’s sister did diving and Lori decided to get certified to join her when the sister came along with us one trip. Even then, I stayed up on top snorkelling with the kids. I remember one day, the kids and I were just finishing with the morning house reef snorkel when Lori was just setting out on her dive. She had to get the gear ready while we just threw on our fins and masks and jumped in. When she got back, we asked what she had seen on the dive. Sharks, morays, colourful fish, sting rays. It was all the stuff we had seen snorkelling. I continued to question why bother with all the equipment and faff of scuba diving when so much can be seen so close to the surface.
Since those days, I have succumbed and gotten my PADI Advanced Open Water and done over 60 dives there. And they have all been delightful. I still make a point to snorkel every house reef and there is still something alluring about the simplicity of snorkelling – no encumbrance, the ability to pop your head up and talk to your buddy, the sun on your back.
But I will admit that you do have to deal with the nuisance of seawater sloshing into your snorkel and being limited in how long you go underwater before you have to return to the surface for a breathe. Faarufushi’s “Peter” breathing system provides the unencumbered simplicity of the snorkelling experience with the underwater breathing freedom of a scuba system. Instead of the air supply being strapped to you, it floats on the surface and follows you through an extra long regulator tube.
Another benefit of the Peter is for giving people a stepping-stone taste of the scuba experience. Many dive centres offer complimentary “Try Dive” sessions. You put on all the scuba gear and have a little underwater swim in the safe confines of the shallow lagoon. But the Peter sessions are even less effort and might serve to ease more people into the underwater experience.
The “Peter system is also featured at Sun Siyam Irufushi and Kandooma resorts, but at Faarufushi it is included in their AI package.
While still many “not seen yet” possibilities, my research is uncovering “finally seen” features I’ve proposed ages ago. Like Carpe Diem’s (also at the Raa atoll but didn’t get a chance to stop by this tour), house reef VR (which I proposed in Haven’t Seen #11 post, #4 a couple of years ago). The resort is doing more than just providing a sexy view of its underwater seascape, but is actually using the footage to assist with its reef conservation efforts:
- “Carpe Diem Maldives is excited to expand on the Dive with a Purpose marine conservation programme this September in collaboration with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the United States of America…Using innovative imaging and data technologies to archive reefs digitally and watch how populations change through time. Recreational divers joining the cruise will learn how to take their own reef images to recreate a virtual reality of the dive using special software. During the Dive with a Purpose week on Carpe Vita from September 9th – 16th Dr Brian Zgliczynski, Project Director of the 100 Island Challenge will present to Carpe Diem’s guest divers the research work involved in the project and go diving with the Carpe Diem Maldives team and guests to lesser-known dive sites in Raa Atoll as they accomplish conservation tasks.”
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).
- Dhoni Fountain – Ahem.
- 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.
- Snorkel Talkie – IWOFT.
- Micro-Cocktails – Could be a solution to keeping the pina coladas very cold.
- Smart Mirror – We had one of these at our glitzy ski resort in the Dolomites and it seemed like just the sort of high tech gadgetry for some of the contemporary super deluxe properties.
- Personal Seaplane – Okay, this might be pushing things (and safety) a bit far, but still, how can I not include this?
World Photography Day today. Of course, fashionistas from all over the world (and their shutterbug companions) fill the azure-framed, brilliant white beaches every day in the Maldives (don’t forget to take off your sunglasses…though we will forgive Olga since it matches her ensemble)…
- Valery Sanelnikova (Russia) – Kandima
- Lilya Braun (Russia) – You & Me
- Sonya Neks (Russia) – Paradise Island
- Twinkle Khanna (India) – Kihaa
- Prisilia Kashty (Israel) – Kandima
- Lika (Bellarus) – One & Only Reethi Rah
- Valeria Orsini (Columbia) – Reethi Faru
- Paula Manzanal (Peru) – Reethi Faru
- Olga ST (Russia) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
- Tawny Jordan (USA)
- Solomiia (Ukraine)
- Rodica Miron (UAE) – Nautilus
- Cristina Buccino (Italy) – Ayada
- Olesya Levchik (Ukraine) – The Residence
- Bárbara Pedroso (Brazil) – Conrad Rangali
- Ivoncheto (Bulgaria) – Maafushi
- Delia Duran (Italy) – Kandima
- Jenny Phm (Vietnam) – Conrad Rangali
- Karina Zhosan (Ukraine) – Four Season Landaa Giraavaru
- Kristyna Sixtova (Czech) – Kuramathi
- Linda Bougheraba (Germany) – Velaa
- Arinka Nazarova (Russia) – Anantara Veli
- Sogol Nik (USA) – Bandos
- Nata Lee (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah
- Lisa Tellbe (Sweden) – Angsana Velavaru
- Julia M. (Russia) – One & Only Reethi Rah
- Céline (France) – Drift Thelu Veliga
- Evginiya Rudaya (Ukraine) – W Retreat
- Melinda Bam (South Africa) – Club Med Finolhu Villas
- Casie Dunstan (Australia) – Soneva Jani
- Miss Juliante (Italy) – Anantara Kihavah Villas
- Katya Nizhegorodtseva (Russia) – Fushifaru
- Alexandra Sid (Belarus) – Sun Siyam Irufushi
- Nathalya Cabral (Brazil) – Ayada
- Diva (Ukraine) – Anantara Kihavah Villas
- Alena Sorokoumova (Kazakstan) – Kandima
- Chenelle Wen (Malaysia) – Vakkaru
- Belle Lucia (Australia) – LUX South Ari Atoll
- Eva Czarnocka (Poland)
- Kate Onyshchenko (Russia) – Sun Island
- Natalia Siwiec (Poland) – Kurumba
- Olesya Malinskaya (Russia) – Velaa