Best of the Maldives: Tok Sen – Amilla Fushi / Anantara

Anantara - Tok Sen therapy

สวัสดีปีใหม่

Happy Thai New Year! And what a year it has been for Thai visitors to the Maldives. Thailand is the fastest growing country of origin for Maldives visitors with a 233% growth (!) making it the 5th highest Asian source (while being only the 10th largest Asian nation). Amari, Anantara, Centara and Dusit Thani are all Thai based properties with multiple properties in the Maldives.

For a truly Thai treat, Anantara and Amilla Fushi both offer the distinctively Thai Tok Sen Thai therapy…

  • Tok Sen Ancient Thai Therapy, which originates from Buddhist Monks, creates healing vibrations through rhythmic pressure on Thai acu-points applied with a special wooden tapper to relax stiff bodies, providing pain relief and deep release for the body and mind.

Lori had some of this work on her feet years ago when we were visiting Prague. It about sent her to the ceiling. If there was a Mohs hardness scale for massage treatments, it would look something like this (going from softest to hardest)…

  1. Reiki
  2. Aromatherapy
  3. Relaxation
  4. Swedish
  5. Shiatsu
  6. Sports Massage
  7. Deep Tissue
  8. Hot Stone
  9. Tok Sen

So for those really tough knots from a particularly enthusiastic new years celebration, ask for some Tok Sen.

Best of the Maldives: Eco Straws – Anantara

Anantara - eco straws

Happy New Year 2018! Time to set resolutions for the year ahead. Usually New Year’s Resolutions are about making ourselves better, but Anantara is leading the way with its resolution to make its properties better at making the world better…

  • “From January 1, every [Anantara] hotel, restaurant and bar at the resorts throughout Asia will use alternatives to plastic for people to sip their drinks through. Biodegradable and recyclable alternatives will replace the 2.5 million plastic straws that had been used every year.”

What’s your eco-resolution to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle?

Best of the Maldives: PADI Free Diving – Anantara

Anantara - PADI free diving

Free diving is becoming quite a popular pursuit both around the world and in the Maldives. The reef-protected atolls provide exceptionally calm waters to practice plunging the depths. Anantara steps up with its own dedicated centre and the first to provide the popular PADI certification.

While competitive free diving can be quite mind-bendingly difficult and hazardous, basic free-diving does open up a new way to experience this aquatic wonderland. The Anantara announcement provides an alluring description of free diving’s enchantment

  • Aquafanatics is the first PADI-certified free diving centre in the island nation…A truly liberating activity, it relies on the diver to hold their breath, leaving them free to move unhindered through the translucent Maldivian waters. With no oxygen tank bubbles to distort vision, the vivid colouration of coral life glows brighter than ever. Devoid of heavy equipment, guests move at will alongside inquisitive fish, developing a sense of belonging. With every dive guests acquire the ability to stay below a little longer, discovering more on each descent. Free diving is entwined with the cultural heritage of the islands in the Indian Ocean. Since ancient times locals have harvested sponges and clasped gleaming pearls from beneath the waves. Anantara’s professional free diving instructor, Mari Kagaya, reveals a peaceful, intrinsic underwater encounter. ‘The Maldives provide the pinnacle in free diving adventure,’ she explained. ‘Escaping the trappings of scuba gear, our encounters with sea life are graceful, natural and deeply personal. Guests discover their own hidden depths, not only of their body, but also the mind’.”

Anantara makes an astute point that free diving is not a new fad, but actually an ancient necessity as generations have used it to explore and exploit the seas which surround it for centuries. I always remember the tradition I read about when I first visited the Maldives for coming-of-age young men. Boys, often no more than 13 years old, would jump off a boat with a rope in hand, free dive into the water where a whale shark was swimming, SWIM INTO THE WHALE SHARKS MOUTH, and then OUT ITS GILLS, hence lassoing the fish. Young boys were the just small enough to pull off this crazy feat. I would certainly consider someone to have proven their “manhood” if they did such a thing. Not surprisingly, the government prohibited this practice years ago because too many young lads were drowning in the effort.

Proving one’s mettle with a PADI certification seems much more sensible to me.

Best of the Maldives: COTS Removal – Anantara Dhigu/Veli

Anantara - COTS

Be a star to the reefs! Just don’t be a star-fish. Specifically, a Crown of Thorns Starfish. This is one reef species that has had a bit too much reproductive success of late. This scourge was highlighted to us during our recent tour when the marine biologist at Zitahli Kudafunafaru noted a number of Noonu reefs that had been decimated by these coral-carnivores.

The main cause of the outbreak appears to be a decline in their natural predators, especially the trumpet triton and helmet snail, which have attractive shells that are collected and sold.

So a number of resorts a moving into action to reduce their numbers. Lily Beach’s ProDivers held a COTS collection which gathered 92! Their spiny “thorns” a venomous so people can’t and should not touch these creatures if they happen on them. But Anantara Dhigu and Veli are giving guests a chance to get involved with this eco-battle….

“Anantara Dhigu and Anantara Veli Resorts…will be hosting a team of marine biologists from The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) 26 October to 1 November 2015. Led by Chief Scientist Dr Andrew Bruckner, the team of four researchers will be conducting a Starfish Control and Removal program, known as SCAR. The program consists of three main components, the removal of coral reef predator Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS), quantitative reef surveys, and data analysis…Offering a chance for a diving holiday with a difference, guest divers will gain an understanding of some of the different species on the reef, the relationships between corals, fish and other organisms, how these maintain healthy reef systems and what happens when something goes out of balance. Removal of COTS directly saves and protects the reefs and with each dive, guests can learn about one of the very few predators of coral, and one of the most interesting reef inhabitants. Through engagement with the researchers, divers will witness firsthand one of the most severe threats affecting our reefs today.”

The vicious and life-threatening battle with armies of armoured creatures comes to the Maldives in their very own epic “Game of Thorns”.

 

Anantara - COTS removal

Best of the Maldives: Windsurfing – Anantara

Anantara - windsurfing 1

Olympic Day today. Celebrated since 1947 to promote the ideals of the Olympic movement of sport bringing people together from across the world. The day also focuses on getting people to try new athletic endeavours. If you are looking to exploit the calm Maldive waters to just try your hand at the Olympic sport of Windsurfing (aka Sailboarding) or want to ride the waters to an Olympics standard, the the Anantara resorts provide the best windsurfing kit around.

I conferred with Maldive veteran and expert Catherine Watkinson who is both an active contributor to the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum and whose son is an accomplished windsurfer. The genesis of this post here was a posting she made to TA commenting on the troubles her son had finding top grade kit. Most of the gear you find in the Maldives is designed for beginners. That post prompted an investigation by us to find the best kit out there. The tops came out as Anantarta who described their inventory…

“We do offer a big range of top brand equipment, sails from North Sails and Neil Pryde and boards JP Australia and Mistral. Having sails from size 1.9 to 7.3 and board sizes from 094 to 205. Different harness sizes also available, gloves and booties. New equipment has been ordered from the brand Starboard.”

Catherine and her son comments, “These are good quality brands and would suit all levels of windsurfer from beginner (including children) up to the experienced wave sailor or free sailor. If we had been visiting these islands with our son we would not have needed to have flown windsurfing equipment out with us – he would have been very happy with what these [Anantara] islands have to offer.”

 

Anantara - windsurfing 2

Best of the Maldives: Blues – Anantara

Anantara - Coco blue singing

The land of an expansive turquoises and azures adds a different dimension to blues this month.

The rhythms of the swaying palms and the water lapping the shores immersed in the biggest expanse of vibrant blues. Maldives might just be the geographical incarnation of R&B.

Resorts attract a wide range of musical acts to entertain their guests over the post-prandial pina coladas. Traditionally dominated by bodu-beru acts, discotheques and local cover bands, the resorts have branched out into hip DJs, original acts and even DIY karaoke. This month Anantara features one of the most appropriate styles at its Dhigu, Veli and Naladhu resort cluster. American jazz blues singer Coco York is in residence performing regularly through January…

“Throughout her career Coco’s name has become synonymous with jazz, having shared the stage with artists such as Clark Terry, Lionel Ritchie, B.B. King and has performed for Bill Clinton, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, The North Sea Jazz Festival and the Jazz and Heritage Festival of New Orleans among others.”

Also, especially apropos for guests’ last night singing the blues of having the say goodbye to their time in paradise. But, let’s hope she’s not having to sing one of her stand-by pieces…”Stormy Monday Blues”.

Best of the Maldives: Hospitality Accreditation – Anantara

Anantara - accreditation program

Labour Day in the USA this week heralds the end of the summer breaks and back to work or to school. Or with Anantara’s new Explorer Programme…both.

They say 90% of learning takes place outside the classroom. But who’s to know just how much of what you have learned? How does it map to the key competencies of the role? Well, Anantara has combined a apprentice-like vocational programme with a certification process. This provides the candidate with the most versatility in moving to different career-progressing roles both across Maldives resorts and even overseas. Anantara announced at its June inauguration…

“The launch of Explorer, a new vocational hotel training programme, which the group has chosen to roll out in the Maldives. The modern and technically progressive progamme is the first to be accredited with international certification. It highlights MHG as a pioneering employer in the ASEAN region within vocational education that addresses the needs of the Millennial generation…Young people need opportunities to learn, but often this needs to be combined with the ability to earn a living at the same time and such opportunities are often limited or unavailable. Explorer is accredited with international certification from Australia, a leader in the field of vocational education. Successful completion is awarded with a hospitality Certificate III qualification that provides the foundation for continued learning to progress towards a Certificate IV, and ultimately a Diploma in Hospitality. The opportunity has been extended to both young internal hotel candidates and external school leaver participants who combine training with real-time remunerated work experience. MHG has also made a significant investment in high quality coaches, who have been developed internally to international accredited standards so that they can share their knowledge and leadership skills with the programme participants. Each Explorer Trainee will be provided with a tablet allowing them access to the online learning platform that complements classroom training, ensuring a fully integrated learning experience. Upon completion they will have learnt new skills and gained experience and confidence in themselves and in an industry that contributes significantly to the well-being of the Maldivian economy.”

Accreditation, coaching, technology – a tropical cocktail of success for many talented and ambitious Maldivians.

Best of the Maldives: Helipad – Anantara

Anantara helipad

A whole entourage of superlatives are emerging out of the headline royal visit of Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz to the Anantara this week. Most amount spent on a holiday. Most rooms booked at once. Tightest security (reportedly staff are not allowed to have their phones on them). But my favourite from all of the reports is the building of at least one helipad for the prince’s helicopter on his mega-yacht (see above). “Helipad” has long been on the “not seen yet” list ever since the surrender of the Maafushivaru Lonubo’s to the inexorable tides. I’ve seen them pencilled in on some of the extravagant resort plans like the one with the underwater golf course, but nothing “on the ground” so to speak until now.

Best of the Maldives: Cover Story – Anantara / Naladhu

SI cover

The iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, nearly as renowned for its spectacular locations background as it is for its bathing beauty subjects in the fore, has set its shoot in the Maldives. In particular, the resorts of Anantara and Naladhu had the please of hosting the crew from SI Swimsuit 2010. The venue ties into a bit of an eco-theme. I’m not sure the models can speak very authoritatively on climate change, but they are certainly role models for consuming less…clothing.

SI shoot