Maldives Tour 2011 – Day 1: BA Flight2043

Arrival Male Maldives

What goes on tour doesn’t stay on tour this time. I’m off for my longest tour of the Maldives ever – 15 resorts in as many days – and I will be posting daily on them. Like last November, I will then follow up the tour with a series of daily ‘Best Ofs’ with a sample of distinctives and uniques that I uncover.

I’ve opted for the BA non-stop primarily for the ease of finding the best price. I have a number of trips coming up over the next few months and I really appreciate BA’s web site approach which clearly indicates the price of your flight segment and what it would be if you shifted it slightly. EasyJet pioneered this online booking approach in the UK and I am surprised more airlines don’t use it.

The whole BA experience is a reliably positive one. They seem to be on an up cycle for cheerfulness. They were renowned in the earliest years for their service, but then they went through a patch in the nineties where they were surly and off-putting. They seemed to have turned that around as the service staff were about the most friendly and upbeat of any of my recent travels. They had some troubles with the entertainment system at the outset of the trip, but the attendant sorting it out was ever so charming as she explained over the tanoy what was going on and how she was addressing it.

I will also say that the food is quite edible. Again, I have been travelling a fair amount lately and I am stunned at how wrong airlines get plane food. I realise that it is a monster challenge serving a dinner party for 300 and steering clear of everyone’s food preferences to get something everyone will like. What astonishes me the most is how bad the desserts are. I think they are trying to do is create the appearance of fancy dish on a relatively modest budget. Just give us a piece of chocolate cake. Who doesn’t like chocolate cake? I will hand it to BA for having a dessert that I could enjoy – profiteroles with chocolate mousse. Though I did wonder why no simply give everyone a pot of mousse. Who really doesn’t love chocolate mousse??

Another bonus to the #2043 is the early arrival. Most trips to the Maldives you don’t get to the resort to late in the afternoon and Day 1 is about gone. We arrive at Male at 9:05 am with the whole day before us.

More on that tomorrow…

Best of the Maldives: Sports Island – Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo sports island

 

Photo courtesy of Francisco Negrin

Some people like having activities of a water sports centre, but others don’t like the noise and activity. A solution…put them all on another island as Chaaya Reef Elaidhoo has done.  The sports centre is located at the neighbouring Maaga Island…

“Activities such as water skiing, jet skiing, and organises once a week Maaga beach party with a BBQ dinner. There is a sports centre with a modern gym, tennis court, squash court, and children’s play area.”

A sports haven among a paradise haven.

Thanks Francisco.

#deadheadcab

deadheadcab

 

Save money and save the planet. Travelling from the airport.

The first thing you learn in logistics is to minimise ‘Dead Heads’. That is an empty journey. A truck, carriage or other vehicle travelling someplace with nothing in it. If you have a delivery to make from Birmingham to London, then ideally you want to pick something up in London to take back with you to Birmingham.

One of the things that always drove me nuts about taxis is the UK is their extortionate racket at Heathrow airport for fares to the suburbs. Only ‘London taxis’ are allowed to stand in the airport ranks. If you have to travel 9 miles from Heathrow to a local suburb like Slough, the price is £39. This is based on the London rate of 20p for 135 metres (to choose the common ‘Tariff 1’ M-F 6 am – 8 pm rate) which is about twice the price of meter fares for suburban taxi companies not to mention an array of surcharges (eg. £5 for Terminal 5) that they apply.

Aside from the financial rip-off of this system, what has recently irked me even more is the ecological impact. Travellers regularly hire local licensed cabs to their airport for their outbound flights. But those cabs can’t join the ranks and pick up a fare. Instead, they are forced to return home empty. Dead Head. What is means is an extra car journey for the return trip that is totally unnecessary. The Slough cap takes a traveller to the airport and returns empty, and the Black Cab in the Heathrow ranks takes another traveller to Slough and returns empty.

But aside from the Heathrow ranks restriction, the primary obstacle avoid ‘dead head’ trips is logistics. Finding the traveller coming home to the same area that your taxi company is coming from.

A while back I thought that a web site could solve this problem. Ride share sites for hitchhikers and commuters are quite well established.  Suburban travellers and taxis could register and then the site could provide a sort of match-making service. Matching incoming arrival with taxi cabs from their area that were going to be dropping off a fare around the same time. Suburban taxis are allowed to come to the airports to pick up ‘pre-booked’ fares. This service would, in essence facilitate that pre-booking capacity. But web sites are complicated and expensive. How would one manage the transactions, the registry database, the security, market it to get critical mass of taxis and travellers, etc.?

Dead Head match-making seems like an ideal use for Twitter. And here’s how – the ‘#deadheadcab’ hashtag.

Here are the key components of the Tweet…

  • Mon – Investing 3 characters for the day of the week is a useful checksum to help guard against date typos and confusions. If someone types a date that doesn’t match the day, then the taxi can Reply with a clarification request.
  • 1 Aug 18:25 – Date and time of arrival. Use of 24-hour military time precludes having to expend 2 characters on ‘am’ or ‘pm’.
  • LGW N BA2042 – One could argue that the ‘LGW’ (‘N’ for ‘North Terminal’) is extraneous because one can look up the BA2042 flight to see that it comes into Heathrow. But including ‘LHR’ in the Tweet is a low (3) character help to the recipient to quickly assess whether that is an airport they will be near at the time as well as another sort of useful check sum (ie. if flight# and airport code don’t match, then likely a typo has occurred).
  • SL7 – The ‘outward code’ (first 2-4 characters of the full UK postcode) which pretty much corresponds to town.
  • £25 – This is the amount you propose paying for your journey. It is sort of a Priceline-like reverse auction. I would propose that it is in the neighbourhood of half the price of what it would cost to simply pre-book a local cab from your hometown. I would normally have to pay about £50 for a taxi to Heathrow from my home. But if a taxi has already travelled to Heathrow with a £50 fare, then picking up a £25 bonus fare for the journey back home would seem like a pretty attractive proposition. Splitting the benefit down the middle between taxi and traveller seems a pretty reasonable starting point, but of course anything can be negotiated.
  • (optionals) – You could always add some special codes for additional considerations like ‘van’ (if you need a bigger vehicle for lots of luggage), or ‘prem’ (if you would prefer to only ride in a nicer vehicle like a late model, higher-end sedan.
  • #deadheadcab – …and of course the DeadHeadCab tag itself

The Tweet snipped above is my field test of this concept. It is an arrival I am actually making in a few weeks. We’ll see if it can percolate through the Twitterverse before then for some SL7 area (Maidenhead/High Wycombe) taxi to pick it up.

Follow Maldives Complete on Twitter at @maldivescomp.

Best of the Maldives: Paddle-boarding – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Stand Up Paddleboarding

Happy 235th Birthday America!

I wanted to feature something distinctively American in honour of July 4th Independence Day. I’ve already covered basketball and I couldn’t find any hot dog stands, so I’ve settled on ‘Paddle Boarding’Invented in Hawaii back in 1930, it has recently surged in popularity. Our north Carolina cousins have been doing it off the coast of Wilmington.

Also known as ‘Stand Up Paddling’ or ‘SUP’, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa’s Tropic Surf introduced the sport to the Maldives and offers 1 hour instruction session in its lagoon…

  • “This course is an enjoyable, subtle workout that improves balance, endurance and core strength. View marine life and golden sunsets in the calm lagoon. Suitable for all; no experience required.”

Paddleboarding

Best of Maldives Online – Future Resorts: To Maldives

To Maldives

 

One thing that makes MaldivesComplete so ‘Complete’ is that I include resorts that aren’t even there yet. Of the 125 resorts in the MaldivesComplete database, 25 are ‘Inactive’. Half of these are resorts undergoing refurbishment and relaunch, but the others are those under development.

So what’s the point of featuring resorts that aren’t available? Well, many people plan their Maldives trips long in advance. Some people up to a year. If it is a honeymoon or other ‘once in a lifetime’ event, people often book very early. By including the resorts that are not yet online, but in the works, people don’t have to regret that they didn’t know a new resort was going to be a possibility.

If you really want to look out further on the horizon of the upcoming developments in the Maldives, then ToMaldives is the place to go. They maintain a comprehensive listing of ‘Assigned Islands’ with some photos and info on the planned development.

Another hat tip to Francisco.

Best of the Maldives: Bungee Trampoline – Beach House at Manafaru

Beach House at Manafaru Bungee Trampoline

Most people don’t need much assistance in jumping for joy in the Maldives. If you do, the Beach House at Manafaru has a ‘bungee trampoline’

  • “One of the unique highlights of Play, children will love bouncing their time away on this popular trampoline.”

You make appointments with the reception to use it between the hours of 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Weight limited 10kg to 85 kg.

Boing!

Best of Maldives: Residence – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi residences

The Maldives has always been a bit of an opposite to Hotel California. You could check-in any time you like, but you could never stay.

Not just the tourists, but the resorts themselves are on long-term leases and don’t actually own their islands. But in a bid to boost the economy, the Maldives is cautiously venturing into residential purchases. You can’t actually own the property ‘freehold’, but they are offering ‘leaseholds’ (most Americans won’t be familiar with ‘leaseholds’ but they are a common structure in the UK and other countries. They are essentially an ‘option’ on a long-term, decades, ‘lease’ of the property that you can buy and sell like the property itself and work almost the same as owning the property itself).

The first place to pioneer this new opportunity is Soneva Fushi reports Phuquet Insider

“The first leasehold residential property that has been transferred on a leasehold basis in the Maldives has sparked interest in the islands property market. A three bedroom hotel managed unit at Soneva Fushi, which transacted to a French national sold for USD7 million dollars has been officially registered. Last year the country enacted legislation in order to allow foreign property ownership to a maximum of 50 years in order to stimulate the local economy.”

A complete property spec on the six five residences for sale are featured on Ilre.

Soneva Fushi residences 2

Best of the Maldives: Surf Shack – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa surf shack 1

Plenty of great surf spots in the Maldives (even more if you do kite surfing), and a number of resorts offer surfing equipment and instruction, but there is only one ‘Surf Shack’ around – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa’s TropicSurf.

The Surf Shack sells a whole range of surf gear. It also provides video analysis as part of its instruction offerings. But it really just has a whole surfing vibe to it.

A great example of its surfing vibe and great offerings is its recently announced its ‘Champion Trophy Package’. Maldives.Net reports…

“The Maldives is set to host the world’s most exclusive surfing event this August. The event organized by Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, will feature six world champions, a leading five-star surfing resort, a luxurious 39-metre three-deck catamaran, and the perfect reef break waves. Conceived in conjunction with luxury surf pioneers Tropicsurf, the Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy will see the sport’s biggest legends such as four-time world champion Mark Richards compete across three disciplines that showcase the evolution of modern surfing.”

So if you are a hang-ten pro or a even bit clueless on the surfing front (like this lot), then head over to the Surf Shack.

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa surf shack 2