Best of the Maldives: Scholarship – Kurumba

Kurumba - scholarship

Labor Day in the USA today celebrates the working men and women and in the USA is always celebrated in the middle of “back to school” season as throngs of young embark on investing in themselves and their own work life ahead of them. Kurumba has introduced a scholarship programme to support the up and coming generation of young Maldivians who will be leading the tourism industry in the future…

  • “Kurumba Maldives has established a scholarship programme to assist Maldivians who plan to continue their education in college. Under this programme, Kurumba provides scholarship grants to two graduated high school students, to enable the recipients to complete a 3 year graduate programme in Hospitality & Hotel Administration at an accredited institution of the resort’s choice in India.”

May your career futures be as bright as the tropical sunshine under which you grew up.

Best of the Maldives: Walking / Running Path – Kurumba

Kurumba - running pathway

Olympic Day today. And a particularly timely one with Rio 2016 just around the corner. Elite athletes around world (well, the clean ones at least) will be in the final stages of preparing for their lifetime’s pursuit. A few of my friends in the rowing world will be making the trip to Brazil with Team GB.

If you fancy a bit of chill before the thrill (or you are consoling yourself for missing out on selection), then you can still carry on your roadwork training in the Maldives…at Kurumba. The resort features a handy little running track effectives. A paved pathway circumnavigating the island.

Running on the beach can provide a more exhausting workout, but the unsteady surface can result in a losing your footing and maybe even twisting your ankle (not something you want to either right before your Olympic event or even just on holiday). Many paths in the Maldives crisscross the islands, but Kurumba’s is a handy loop which allows for a convenient circuit just over a kilometre (see above). Some parts pass under nicely shading palms trees and other parts run fairly close to the ocean’s edge for an inspiring seaside vista.

Every time we have visited the resort, we have seen a guest jogging on it. In fact, GM Jason Kruse shared his own run (see above).

Gold medal to Kurumba.

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Snorkeling

Today is International Water Safety Day. So time for a quick edition of Maldives QI…

Q: What is the greatest danger of water fatality in the Maldives?
A: Eaten by sharks?
Q: Buzzz…Nope (in fact, the Maldives has not had a single report of a shark attack on a human)
A: An adrenalin sport like scuba diving?
Q: Buzzz…Nope. Nearly all scuba diving is run by very high quality PADI dive centres or liveaboards with very high safety standards and one of the strongest safety records in for diving in the world (contributed by the fact that many dive sites are not overly deep and are often relatively sheltered in atolls).

The most dangerous activity is the one that seems so alluringly easy – snorkelling. It’s not that snorkeling in the Maldives is particularly dangerous per se.  In fact, one could argue it is some the safest snorkelling in the world.  But it is those he mill pond calm waters in often shallow depths which lull guests into a exaggerated sense of security.  When water is involved, you have a serious risk to respect no matter what the situation. As the saying goes, you can drown in an inch of water in your bathtub (and some people do). So today is the ideal good occasion for a refresher on making this inviting activity as safe as it appears (and often is) easy and thrilling.

The typical contents of a snorkel bag are snorkel, fins, mask, towel, and room key. But the “safe” snorkeler might want to bring along some extra items – eg. whistle, floatation aid. And my favourite snorkelling accompaniment – a snorkel guide. Not a book or map, but a trained, proficient, resort staffer to help and support your outing. They not only will be there to assist if anything goes awry, but they know all the best places to see resident critters on the house reef and can provide lots of great information about what you are seeing.

“TravelJody”, also a top contributor to the Maldives Forum on TripAdvisor, has written a superb piece on snorkel safety “Staying Safe whilst Snorkelling!” She goes through a catalogue of possible safety concerns including…

  • Currents/Tides
  • CoralRock Cuts
  • Boats/Motorised Water Sports
  • Snorkeling Transportation
  • Sun
  • Marine Life
  • YOU!

Her tips include…

  • Use well fitting equipment
  • Be careful judging distance in water
  • Wear a whistle
  • Snorkel with buddy
  • Get instruction

A few tips that I would add include…

  • Consult the experts. Every resort has a dive centre and the majority of resorts have staff marine biologists both of whom know the resort waters intimately. They can not only tell you how the water behaves and where various hazards are, but also provide insider tips on where to see the best stuff and how (eg. maybe free dive to look under a ledge).
  • Don’t let the weather fool you. It’s all about the water and currents in the ocean not the air. We have snorkelled in a monsoon with an expert who knew the currents and knew the conditions in the actual ocean were fine. Conversely, a warm, bright day might seem innocuous, but some current shift or other under the surface situation could create a surprise problem.

For a superb overview, I highly recommend another gem from Kurumba’s studios – “Snorkeling Tips for Beginner for Maldives Resorts.”

The final point really concerns over-confidence. Just because it is all calm and sunny on the exterior (which is it most of the time in the Maldives) doesn’t mean that some hazards don’t exist below the surface. Some people get skittish about sharks and even fish, but the real monster of the deep is the deep itself. Deep water where people go beyond their capabilities, and get into trouble. In any water activity, the risk of drowning is an ever-present danger whether it is in a community pool or even the tranquil waters of the Maldives.

This syndrome of false confidence is the key reason why some experts on the TripAdvisors protest against the use of flotation aids in snorkelling. They feel that such aids instil confidence in the weak swimmer to go beyond their limits and going beyond you limits imposes more risk (to yourself and to the reef) than the flotation aid mitigates. I agree that over-confidence is a risk, but a floatation aid will in nearly all cases provide critical protection against the greatest risk which is drowning so do consider bringing or wearing one (but just don’t let it drop your caution).

Other references…

Happy and safe snorkeling everyone!

Snorkeling sign

Best of the Maldives: Departure Lounge – Kurumba

Kurumba - departure lounge 1

The two most important impressions you can make are the first one and the last one. Maldives resorts put so much into their first impression – elaborate greetings, welcome cocktails, scented cold towels. And for those who have a seaplane transfer before stepping foot on the island, a small village of “arrival lounges” has sprouted at the seaplane terminal to give waiting guests a comfortable if not luxurious space to start their Maldivian chill out.

But when it is (depressingly) time to say goodbye, all too many just take a swipe of your credit card and have you sit by your luggage in reception.

A few resorts also have “arrival/departure” facilities on their island. For people who arrive before the room is ready or who have to check out of their room before their transfer is ready. These rooms have air conditioning, comfortable seating, some refreshments, changing areas, etc. You still are in a public place and often jockeying a bit with other waiting guests.

Kurumba puts the “lounge” in “departure lounge”. The room is almost entirely bed-like loungers. And they are all discreetly separated my gossamer linen dividers to provide a modest sense of seclusion. So you can extend your relaxation even more with a lie down or nap awaiting your transfer.

And just like arriving guest, the staff bring you cold towel. Making the sorrow of parting just a bit sweeter.

Kurumba - departure lounge 2

Best of the Maldives: Longest Serving Ex-Pat GM – Kurumba

Kurumba - Jason and Victoria Kruse

The paradise of the Maldives and their luxurious properties attracts the finest hospitality management from around the world. Maldives resort general managers hail from as many places around the globe as their illustrious clientele. But very often, they do their tour and then move onto some other corner of the planet. But one GM has settled into the Maldive life with an endurance as notable as the resort he manages.  Though staying power is nothing new for Jason given his background in road racing (which he is just one of the skills he has found a way to bring with him to the Maldives).

Jason Kruse, General Manager of Kurumba, is a veteran among the ex-pat managers arriving 6 years ago this month (his tenure is just ahead of another prominent senior stay-man, Patrick Staerke, by a few months). Over that time, Jason and his team have revitalised Kurumba from a run-of-the-mill vintage property into a vibrant and innovative top choice. Kurumba ranks third on the Maldives Complete league table ahead of the super-premium properties twice (and more) its value price. It has 50 ‘Best of the Maldives’ recognitions (bested only by Soneva Fushi’s 73 and One & Only Reethi Rah’s 60) like yesterday’s post.

Jason is not just the leader of Kurumba, but also a real leader in the Maldives tourism industry. As I travel around the atolls, he is the one person more people have met or know than anyone else I have come across. He is a role model participant on TripAdvisor providing personal responses to both the resort reviews as well as the colourful and sometimes contentious Maldives Forum. Any GM or Marketing Manager wanting to better engage with TripAdvisor and its highly influential contributors would be advised to peruse Jason’s contributions and even buy him a drink to pick his brain his experience.

The key person on his Kurumba team is his scintillating wife Victoria. She has spearheaded her own initiatives on the island and in the Maldives including leading a venture to help resorts staff top talent. And her customer focus combined with her impeccable eye for fashion has produced one of the top resort boutiques in the Maldives.

Here is a chat with my friend (one of the very earliest supporters of Maldives Complete) and a real friend to all guests and host in the Maldives, Jason Kruse…

  • What was your first ever job?
  • My first ever job was mowing lawns and doing gardens when I was around 10. By the time I was 12, I had bought my own mower and has a weekly schedule on average of 5 lawns a week. Great pocket money and I guess this is why I still love getting out in the garden and helping the boys when we are doing large landscaping jobs.
  • What was your first job in hospitality?
  • At the time I was cycling very seriously and my sponsor of the team I was racing with owned some hotels. He invited time to start working on the bottle shop and bar and night time so I could train throughout the day. It was a great experience and a great introduction into hospitality. I really enjoyed making other people happy and this is where it all started.
  • What has been your favourite sighting on the Kurumba house reef?
  • Whilst I have been lucky to see many great marine animals. My most favourite is when Victoria and I watch a very large Moray Eel and Blue Trevally which were obviously working together hunting. This we watched for around 5 minutes. The trevally was obviously in charge of anything that came up from the Moray and the moray got whatever went down when scared of the trevally. It was truly quite extraordinary to watch. When we spoke to our Marine Biologist at the time, she had not heard of such behaviour.
  • What has been an idea (eg new dish, a new activity, a new offer) that completely failed?
  • Sometimes if you are not making mistakes, you are not pushing the boundaries enough. Lets just hope that they are not expensive or negatively affect the guest or team experience. One well intended mistakes we have made were trying to work out a way to recycle Styrofoam and purchased a new machine to break it down.. Lets just say that we created Maldives first snow making machine. If anyone would like to purchase the machine at a great price, do let me know.
  • What tropical or Maldivian treat are you most addicted to?
  • Fresh coconut water. I simply cannot get enough. Light. Refreshing and healthy depending on which websites you read.
  • What treat from home do you most miss having easy access to?
  • A treat for me is going to the local markets. Getting to know the local growers and really having local tasty produce. For me, you can really taste the difference of local and in season fruit and vegetables.
  • What is your favourite dish served at Kurumba restaurants?
  • This is a hard one. If I am being healthy ( which is mostly), I would say the chicken tagine in our Arabic Restaurant. If I not being so healthy, It would be the Casata from the Italian restaurant.
  • If you had $1 million to add one single feature to Kurumba, what would it be?
  • We are pretty lucky as our owners have been rather generous with our upgrade budget to continually improve Kurumba over the past 6 years. However, for the next round, I would certainly booking looking to totally renew the concept and area of our Majaa Recreation and make it a real fun zone for adults and children. If you would give me another Million, Solar power and lots of additional building insulation to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • What’s one question I didn’t ask that you either wish I asked or were surprised that I didn’t ask (and what the answer)
  • Kurumba has changed so much, what is left to do? We always of plans afoot to continually innovate and evolve. This is exciting for our guests and team members and we do this whilst not forgetting about where we came from and who we are.

Best of the Maldives: DIY Creations – Kurumba

Kurumba - welcome cocktail mixer

If you are inspired to be your own concoct your own cocktail creations, then arrival at Kurumba will start your holiday on the right foot. They provide all the fresh ingredients to make your own mojito precisely to your liking when you walk into your room. We loved the concept because it spurred us to indulge in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise done. When you arrive, it doesn’t feel appropriate to raid the mini-bar right off the bat. And if you did, all you can really do is have a simple drink like a beer, glass of wine or neat liquor. But the layout inspired us to create an especially refreshing and interesting drink to accompany our unpacking and settling in.

Cheers!

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Garden Plots – Kurumba

Kurumba - bottle garden 1

What better use for a bottle than an S.O.S. message? How about an S.O.S. for the entire planet? Starting with creating a sustainable gardening plot? Kurumba used old beer bottles to build an array of gardening plots on the island giving new eco-friendly meaning to the word “bottling plant”. I guess the “S.O.S.” message in their bottles stands for “Sustainable Old Steins”. Not to mention that they have literally created the infamous song…

A hundred bottles of beer in the wall, a hundred bottles of beer…

Kurumba - bottle garden 2

Best of the Maldives: Green Eggs and Ham – Kurumba

Kurumba - green eggs and ham 2

I am an aficionado of all forms of egg benedict. I have had just every variation imaginable, but I have never had “Green Eggs and Ham”.  Today is the birthday of the legendary writer Dr. Suess who own trailblazing creativity and whimsy would be right at home at Kurumba.  Their regular menu item is a gourmet delicacy that Sam-I-am (no relation to Will) would be just as enthusiastic about.

I also find it a bit prophetic that the recalcitrant narrator has his epiphany sitting in some shallow water (see below). I too would like them in a boat.  Maybe he was at Kurumba too.

I *DO* like green eggs and ham, Sam I am. Pesto with ham.

Kurumba - green and ham I like them

Kurumba - green eggs and ham 1

Best of the Maldives: Lagoon Wine Tasting – Kurumba

Kurumba - in lagoon wine tasting

Why sip your red wine by the water, when you can savour it in the water? Immerse yourself in the aquatic paradise that is the Maldives.

I’ve long pined for more extensive use of the lagoons. With one of the “best” lagoons around, Kurumba has found a way to make more use of it than just sheltered snorkelling and leisurely ocean dips. It offers a weekly lagoon wine tasting hosted by one of the resort sommeliers (above left). They offered a selection of both red and white of some thoroughly enjoyable bottles made more than mouth-watering with its exquisite venue.

I’ve long mused about what criteria to use to “rate” the resort lagoons (any suggestions?), but I have added yet another new tag for “Lagoon” so people can wade through all of the Maldives Complete pieces on the, well, not so deep subject.

Kurumba - in lagoon wine tasting sunset

Best of the Maldives: Pina Colada Variety – Kurumba

Kurumba - Pina Colada samples

One of the highlights of our summer tour this year was a pageant of a different sort. Less appealing to the sense of vision and more enticing the other senses of smell, taste and texture feel. The first ever “Pina Colada Off”.

When I tour the Maldives, there are a few non-negotiables in the itinerary. I must get a shot of us in front of the resort sign. I must snorkel every house reef (I’ve even jumped in during a few quite rough seas at times just to get a look at the seascape below). And I must sample the resort’s pina colada.

The pina colada is the iconic tropical drink. And like port with cigars and cards, or schnaps on the ski slopes, there is something that makes it irresistible in this setting. I rarely have pina coladas outside the Maldives (and when I do, it never tastes as good).

For me, the pina colada is a very useful acid test for a resort. It is complex enough that there are quite a range of possibilities in both style and quantity (more on the pina colada drink itself in a future post). I started including my “Pina Colada Test” assessments as a part of the Tour highlights reports posted on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum. And frequent Forum Contributor, GM Jason Kruse, felt that the gauntlet had been laid down and he was not going to take this colada challenging lying down (even if it was on a lying down on a deck chair under the tropical sun with the water lapping inches away).

This virtual drinks derby was a point of pride for Kurumba. The resort whose very name embodies the coconut essence of the colada. So Jason’s Beverage Manager Courtney Hendrick (far right picture above) organised the first ever “Pina Colada Off” for out visit and served as our effervescent mistress of ceremonies.

And a lavish affair it was. In all my years as a pina colada aficionado, I have never experienced such imaginative and well-crafted coconut cocktails. The judging was intense with Craig Revel Horwood levels of scrutiny and discernment.

Bandara won “Best All Arounder” (he prides himself on his pina colada). Rohan’s was the “Coldest” (a criteria as important to me as heel leads are to Len Goodman), and Oliver was the “Most Inventive” (always an exceptional kudo here on Maldives Complete).

I think they are all definitely contenders for some of the top pina coladas in the Maldives. Not sure I have enough data points to crown any of theirs the absolutely #1 (also, an amazing one I had at Constance Halaveli haunts me). But their inventiveness and variations on the theme is unmatched completely.

It turns out that Courtney and Jason held their own not-so-dry run the day before and this is what Courteney reported…

“I was brand new to Kurumba and upon receiving an email of [Maldives Complete’s] expected arrival I decided to challenge all those willing to participate (those I had met and some I had not yet met) to come up with their very best version of the all-time island classic the Pina Colada. I cannot begin to describe how blown away I was by all team members who participated, their creativity and determination to not only produce their best Pina Colada but also to win the challenge was simply astonishing. However, Jason, Morgan, Ross and I had to make the very tough decision (I know hard life right!) which Pina Colada’s do we present? We decided on 3: Bandara’s, Oliver’s and Rohan’s. I chose Oliver’s Pina Colada as the tops because I was so impressed with his thinking behind the making of his Pina Colada. When Oliver got behind the bar the first thing he said was ‘A Pina Colada should be consistent from beginning to end it should not separate…’ and thus the most creative and inspiring Pina Colada was born!”

Kurumba has been gracious enough to share their recipes for anyone dying to sample these delightful variations (add your own palm trees, sunsets and turquoise seascape):

  • Bandara’s: Athiri Bar Supervisor and Pina Colada Extraordinaire!!!
    • Ingredients: 30mls Coconut cream, 30mls Monin Coconut Puree, 30mls Malibu, 30mls Appleton’s White Rum, 90mls Pineapple juice (half fresh half concentrate).
    • Method: Blend all ingredients without ice in a blender, FILL Pocco Grande glass with large cubes of ice and pour over.
    • Garnish: Slice of pineapple and a cherry.
  • Oliver’s: Brand New Bartender to Kurumba
    • Ingredients: 5x Cubes fresh pineapple, 30mls Coconut cream, 3x Ice cream scoops of house-made Coconut Sorbet, 30mls Malibu, 30mls Appleton’s White Rum, 30mls Monin Coconut Puree.
    • Method: Blend pineapple chunks in a blender to create a finer texture. Add all other ingredients without ice to the blender and blend for 1 minute. FILL Pilsner glass and garnish.
    • Garnish: Slice of pineapple and a cherry.
  • Rohan’s: Long standing Bartender and Shaker Extraordinaire.
    • Ingredients: 10 grams Fresh pineapple, 30mls Coconut cream, 30mls Malibu, 30mls Appleton’s White Rum, 60mls Pineapple juice
    • Method: Muddle 10grms of pineapple in a Boston glass. Add all remaining ingredients to the shaker, shake and strain over ice in a Highball glass.
    • Garnish: Slice of pineapple and a cherry.

Have a Kurumba Krimbo!