Best of the Maldives: Tomato Festival – Kandima

Kandima - tomato festival 1

Kandima has hosted a festival of another sort this summer. A first blush (yes, intended), it might seem like one of those foodie festivals that are spreading across middle-class England, but really is far more traditional (and raucous) than that…

  • “Kandima Maldives hosts the first ever Tomato Festival ‘La Tomatina’ in the island nation. The event took place last week on Friday, 31st August 2018 on the resort grounds. In total over 300 people attended the event, which lasted for almost four hours. ‘La Tomatina’ was home to the famous tomato fight, tug of war, mini football, water bucket relay, climb the coconut tree and many other fun-packed beach games. During the event the house DJ entertained the crowd with his party mixes while the barmen were offering free Latino-themed snacks and drinks to everybody. The resort chefs had to lay the tomatoes in the sun for three days prior to the event, which made them ripe and safe to fight with. Fire brigade was also on site and willing to offer their hoses with running water to remove the squashed tomatoes from the participants’ bodies…The festival of tomatoes was held for the first time in 1945 in the Valencian town of Buñol, in the East of Spain 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Mediterranean, in which participants would throw tomatoes and get involved in a tomato fight purely for entertainment purposes.”

You say “tomato…I say ‘incoming!’.”

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Best of the Maldives: Artistic CSR – Kandima

Kandima - artistic CSR

Kandima supports the arts beyond their resort and in the community itself with their KUL Initiative:

  • “The KULA art initiative was launched on the 5th of October 2017, with a vision to promote and nurture local artistic talent and creativity and essentially open up new horizons for the local art community in the Maldives…The KULA Initiative will also support local schools and artists with equipment, grants and master/classes… With its key component, The KULA Art Festival is the first of its kind annual event to be ever hosted in any resort in the island nation at such a large scale, turning the entire resort into the trendiest, most happening art centre in the Indian Ocean. Every year Kandima Maldives invites over 20 local artists specializing in various mediums including digital, coffee, acrylic, henna, spray paint and local crafts, to unleash their inner Picasso! KULA means ‘colours’ in Dhivehi, the Maldivian language.”

And Kandima is setting out to break the Bohemian “starving artist” caricature by putting money where its mouth is to support these artists with tangible benefits:

  • “Kandima will give $1 per occupied room night to the KULA Fund and guests can also make their own donations. The KULA fund will also prosper and increase from the artists themselves. When a piece of art is sold, the artist will contribute a small percentage of the sale to the KULA fund to help it grow. The remainder goes personally to the artist, with no profit to Kandima. “

The artistic community in the Maldives has blossomed in recent years. Far beyond the Bob Ross-style painted coconut husks and tarted up imports from China, Maldives art has become gallery quality with a generation on the vanguard of the Maldivian art scene creating stunning depictions and interpretations of the paradise in which they live and in which the rest of the world is enthralled.

And the showcase for these works is the “Unveiling Visions” exhibits sponsored by Kandima which is taking place right now in the capital Male:

  • Kandima Maldives is hosting host regular exhibitions and exciting art performances by local artists in the in-house Aroma Art Studio, which is set on the edge of a natural lake inside the island. The venue gives both guests and artists the inspiration and calm space they need to create their masterpieces. The exhibition will feature works by 50 Maldivian artists of ages 18-35; under 6 main categories – painting, drawing, calligraphy art, 3d installation, digital installation and sculpture. Launched in 2017, ‘Unveiling Visions’ will offer live art sessions, workshops, artist talks and fun-filled events for children. Unveiling Visions’ will offer live art sessions, workshops, artist talks and fun-filled events for children. Kandima Maldives will invite the top 15 artists to participate in its annual KULA Art Festival to be held on 28th December 2018. The festival is a perfect marketing platform for showcasing the Maldivian talent to the international audience and will be held for the second time since the resort opening in 2017. All of the inspiring art pieces created during the event will be available for purchase at the in-house KULA Art Studio at Kandima Maldives.”

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Best of the Maldives: Urban Gallery – Hotel Jen

Hotel Jen - art exhibition 1

While the Maldives are known for their low-rise terrain and thatched villas, some gems are indeed to be found in the high-rise buildings. Hotel Jen may be sequestered in the hubbub of Male, but it too is featuring some aquatic artistry at “An art exhibition renaissance for the Maldives”:

  • “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.”

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Best of the Maldives: Garden Villas – Malahini Kuda Bandos

Malahini Kuda Bandos - garden rooms

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.

Best of the Maldives: Floating Furniture – Cocoon Maldives

Cocoon - floating furniture

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”.

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Best of the Maldives: Shaved Ice Dessert – Grand Park Kodhipparu

 

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.

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Female Apprentice Snorkel Guide – AaaVeee

AaaVeee - snorkel guide

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.

Best of the Maldives: Music Competition – Kandima

Kandima - music competition

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.

Best of the Maldives: Rum – NIYAMA

NIYAMA Surf Shack 1

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
  • Havana Club
  • Pampero Aniversario
  • El Ron Prohibido
  • Ron Flor De Cana
  • Pyrat Rum XO Reserve
  • Clement Premier Canne Rhum
  • Clement Martinique
  • Diplomatico
  • Bacardi
  • Captain Morgan Jamaica Rum
  • Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • Captain Morgan Cannon Ball
  • Malibu
  • Caribbean Rum with Coconut Flavour
  • Plantation Rum
  • Meyers Rum Original Dark
  • Flor de Cana
  • Cachaça Agacana

Drinkin rum before 10.00am makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic” -Earl Dibbles JR

NIYAMA - Surf Shack 2

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NIYAMA - Surf Shack 3

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