Best of the Maldives: Zebra Shark – Gangehi

Gangehi - Zebra shark

Shark Week!

The Discovery Channel’s annual Selachii celebration of these always intriguing ocean characters. In the Maldives, every week is Shark Week especially for the ubiquitous reef sharks (black-tipped and white-tipped). But the waters also are home to some more exotic varieties. One of these is the Zebra Shark. Native to the Indian Ocean, but nonetheless quite uncommon on the Maldives reefs. The best place to spot on is Gangehi resort where several have been spotted (pun intended) with considerable frequency. They are quite similar to the Nurse Sharks with their long caudal fin at back and their lazy daytime habits on the seafloor, but they are distinguished by their many spots along their back.

In honour of Shark Week, I have added the new “Shark” category tag to Maldives Complete so you have your own Maldivian virtual shark extravaganza any time you like.

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Chocolate – Gangehi

Gangehi coconut chocs

It turns out that an alternative to “iron” for a sixth anniversary gift is sugar. One of the sweetest treats I have found in the Maldives is Gangehi’s hand-made Coconut Chocolates. They are like prestige versions of Bounty bars. When I was young, we always had Whitman Sampler “box of chocs” at special celebrations. And you always want to avoid the coconut one. But coconut can be an acquired exotic taste and now it is one of my favourites.

Sweet!

Best of the Maldives: Channel House Reef – Gangehi

Gangehi channel

For many Maldive aficionados, the holy grail of the ideal idyll is a spectacular house reef. Typically, the best house reefs are on the dot-shaped islands in the center of an atoll as the topology on the edges of the atoll lend themselves to long, broad shallow tables which make for great lagoons, but often hard to reach “drops off” (the defining feature of a great house reef).

The Gangehi resort has a very distinctive house reef because its drop off is in a “channel”. Channels exist all over the Maldives and are narrow water passages between the inside and the outside of the atoll. Gangehi’s is named “Gangehi Kandu” which is the Dhivehi word for these waterways.

Bigger fish tend to like the deeper channels, but being intra-atoll, they should be a bit calmer. Certain species tend to favour outside the atoll and other the inside. But this area would seem to have the best of both worlds (Gangehi also has a sheltered side (East) to its house reef to provide more conventional house reef snorkelling). The resort brochure describes…

“Gangehi Island lies on the north-western edge of Ari Atoll, on a oceanic pass, a natural channel crossing the atoll ring that keep in communication the atoll lagoon with the open ocean. The pass, named ‘Kandu’ in Divehi, has a very high ecological function for the Atoll marine life, as it makes possible the renewing lagoon waters. Kandu usually subject to strong currents, incoming or outgoing depending on the tide conditions, and creating a unique environment great for many pelagic species, and a few benthic species cling to the substrates. Gangehi Kandu is one of the longest channels in the Ari Atoll, with a drift of more than 2.5 km from the channel’s entrance to the end of the dive at the inside of the Atoll. The wall here is quite unremarkable really. There are interesting things to spot such as lionfish, moray eels and porcupine fish but the real action is out in the blue. With an incoming current the visibility can be excellent and the parade of pelagic and local residents, impressive. You might see vast schools of fish like fusiliers and blu trigger fish feed in colliding waters, a number of reef sharks as well as barracuda, jackfish and tuna. Large squadrons of eagle rays are frequently seen here seemingly flying in formation in an unforgettable display. The bottom of the entire channel at Gangehi Kandu is sandy, making it a perfect resting ground for Stingrays, White Tip Reef Sharks and the Leopard or Zebra Shark which is commonly spotted here when the conditions are right. At this impressive sites divers can find caves covered with excellent soft coral, a wide range of colourful invertebrates, gorgonians and sponges. The water inside the atoll is breeding ground for plankton and when the outgoing currents bring the plankton-rich water through the channel into the big blue large and beautiful species like manta come to feed.”

Lori and I had the immense pleasure of snorkelling the kandu during our stay there and Lori then went on a drift dive at the edge of the atoll where she saw black sting ray, octopus, eagle rays, a monstrous Napoleon fish (bigger than herself) and many, many sharks especially grey sharks.

That’s the Kandu Spirit!

 

Gangehi Kandu

Best of the Maldives: Indian Spa – Gangehi

Gangehi Indian spa

Neighbouring India has its national Republic Day this weekend as well (today in fact). And if you want to celebrate with a distinctively Indian spa, then Gangehi’s “Ginger Spa” is the place. The striking facility is made up of cottage taken apart from Kochin in south of Indian and re-assembled (also, the Library on the island is a similar re-assembled building from Kochin). Aruvedic ingredients like oils and incense imported from India and offered in treatments provide by Ratheesh (see photos), the resort masseur also from India.

Gangehi Indian spa 2

Best of the Maldives: Tailoring – Gangehi

Gangehi tailoring

 

 

One of the traditional gifts for an 8th anniversary is linen. And another Maldives modelling gig for Lori (see below).

Lori had been looking for some more warm weather dresses, but has struggled to find styles she likes that fit her the way she wants. When we arrived at Gangehi we met Kumareshan at the gift shop who offers a complete dress making service. This seemed like a fine solution, but with our short stay, we only had a few hours until departure. Not a problem, Kumareshan took the measurements and had the dress ready for us while we ate lunch. And at a relative snip for 95 euros.

 

Gangehi tailor 2

 

Gangehi dress

Best of the Maldives: Raised Walkways – Gangehi

Gangehi walkways

 

 

Sometimes the “no shoes” ethos isn’t all a walk in the park. It is meant to embody the relaxed and casual atmosphere of the Maldives combined with its pervading sensual nature right down to the powdery soft sand across the island. This element is so prominent that during this last tour, I started collecting data for a “Walkway Rating” by resort (stay tuned). But, when I got to Gangehi, their walkways defied Maldivian categorisation. They are unlike anything else you will tread on in the Maldives. Instead of sandy, hardened or paved walkways, Gangehi features wooden walkways snaking through the island interior.

When I first saw these, I was quite intrigued. I wondered if they would be a real detraction, but over the stay I grew to appreciate them more and more. For starters, they are a ‘natural’ solution to folks who need hard walkways. The sandy by-ways seem romantic, but for people who have difficulty getting around – wheelchair users, otherwise unsteady individuals, and ladies who want to enjoy their high heeled fashion on their holiday – they are actually quite an inconvenience. Also, some people have sensitive feet and the aboriginal avenues can be a bit uncomfortable at times if there are stray stones and coral pieces that you can step on.

Some islands have paved paths, but somehow that often seems to take away from the natural feel. Gangehi’s wooden paths preserve a very natural aesthetic. They even impart a bit of stylistic distinction to the place. Because they are slightly elevated, it almost seemed as if I was traversing something out of Swiss Family Robinson’s lush tropical settlement.

Of course, if you hanker for the sand between your toes, you can always circumambulate the island beaches (quite easily as Gangehi is so tiny).

Best of the Maldives: Peanut Dessert – Gangehi

Gangehi peanut ice cream

Warning – Definitely contains nuts!

Happy Peanut day! A great taste served two delicious ways. First peanut ice cream. Growing up in New England I have experienced just about every flavour of ice cream including pumpkin, clam chowder and grape nut. But I have never seen nor had peanut. A natural really. And if that wasn’t distinctive enough, Gangehi serves it with homemade peanut brittle.

Nuttin’ but the best!

 

Best of the Maldives: Nature Guide Book – Gangehi

Gangehi guide 2

 

One of the first things that I do when I arrive at a hotel room is to gather all of the marketing literature sprinkled liberally around the room and move it to some out of the way place. Lots of glossy material with pictures of palm trees and pina coladas that are not that interesting to me.

But Gangehi has created a booklet that was so good I brought it home. It is a guide to the plants and animals found on the resort. Fish guides are quite popular in the gift shops, but this is more land focused. The tropical life on the land has its own intriguing variety, colour and distinction. It’s great to have such a handy guide. You can buy natural guide books, but most cover the entire Indian Ocean and therefore are quite heavy (taking up precious luggage weight). Also, they tend to be so comprehensive it is often hard to find the particular creature you are seeking. Gangehi’s guide is limited to those critters found on the island itself so it is quite concise.

Beach reading!

 

Gangehi guide

Best of the Maldives: Bird Cage – Gangehi

Gangehi bird cage

 

 

This past tour was a revelation of birds. A number of resorts had quite striking birds on the islands. So much so that I have added a “Bird” tag to the blog.

Their presence added a somewhat unexpected colour and vibrancy to the island life that one grows accustomed to on the reef. Gangehi’s avian feature is a giant bird cage right by reception filled with a rainbow of parakeets and painted song birds. A sweet richly hued addition to an arrival welcome.