Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Marine Biologists Women – Cocoa / Siyam World

Women Marine Biologists Maldives

There are so many Maldivian women to celebrate during International Women’s Week, that we had to feature to in one post. Kaia Mohamed Ali at Cocoa Island and Mariyam Thuhufa at Siyam World are two friends breaking glassfloors into the depths of marine biology in the Maldives. I had the chance to meet Kaia during my recent visit to Soneva Jani where she had previously been working and we shared all lively and insightful conversation about Laccadive life. She introduced me to her friend and colleague in the field, Mariyam, who at the time was working just a (long) stone’s throw away at Siyam World. They both gave Maldives Complete exclusive interviews about their personal and professional journeys to the undersea world…

Kaia Mohamed Ali:

  • What atoll are you from?
    I am from Kaafu atoll, from the capital city of Male’.
  • What age did you learn to swim?
    I learnt to swim at the age of 4, but my parents would take me to dip in the sea when I was much younger. My parents felt it was important to teach me to be comfortable in the water since our country is surrounded by water.
  • What was your first snorkelling experience?
    The first time I went snorkelling, I was 15 years old. I spent ages 7 through 14 living in Sri Lanka. After I returned to the Maldives, I went for my first snorkel with a friend on the house reef of Villimale’. It was a surreal experience as it was my first time seeing the reef with my own eyes – something I had previously only seen during the many hours I spent watching NatGeo and Animal Planet. Before my first snorkel, I always had a slight fear of the animals that lived in the ocean. I had only ever seen them from the surface or in the shallows. I was afraid of sharks, stingrays and moray eels and always felt I would get attacked. I guess the false portrayal of these movies played a role in my fear. After I started snorkelling and spending much time on the reef, I understood the behaviour of marine life. Nothing would hurt me as long as I knew how to behave in the water – No touching wildlife, no chasing wildlife, and no feeding wildlife. As long as you respected the animals’, everything was fine. 
  • What was your first diving experience?
    My first diving experience was after I started doing my degree foundation in Marine Science. I was 16 years old. I signed up for my open water course and went on a dive to Male’s reef. It was fun and less scary than I thought it would be. I enjoyed my experience. I noticed the difference between the coral life at the surface versus a few meters below. I knew at that moment that I would never stop diving. I did not notice the sewage pipes sticking out the reef on that same dive until it blasted the diver in front of me with sewage. Very disgusting. I never went diving on Male’ reef again.
  • Where did you study marine biology?
    I studied Marine Biology at the Maldives National University. I am currently working in COMO Cocoa island as a resident marine biologist. I built up my resume through volunteer work and eventually worked for a non-profit in sea turtle conservation. Many years of work experience prepared me for the role of Marine Biologist. 
  • What did you do your final research paper on?
    Please refer to the previous answer. Although I did not do my final research paper, I have contributed to and conducted my independent studies during my time working, such as an internal scientific paper on the Sediment Dynamics on Olhuveli Island.
  • What is your favourite sighting diving?
    It’s hard to pick a favourite when you’re fascinated by everything underwater! But one that stands out/that I can think of at the top of my head is when I dove at a Manta point in Laamu Atoll. We saw a handful of mantas along with massive green turtles – two animals I love. There was so much going on I wasn’t sure where to look. I equally enjoy the dives where I find the small stuff – the cute tiny shrimp and nudibranchs – they’re harder to find, therefore more rewarding.
  • What is your favourite sighting snorkelling?
    I think it would have to be the first time I ever saw a Whale shark. I took a trip to South Ari atoll to spend time with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme for my birthday. After two weeks of no whale shark sightings in Ari Atoll, we saw three on my birthday. It was the first time I’d seen any marine life that massive. I can’t even describe the overwhelming feelings I felt. I definitely cried into my mask. A second favourite sighting was on a casual snorkel in Noonu atoll; I came across a  lone eagle ray cruising by. As I dove down to take a closer look, he came up towards me, made direct eye contact and circled me. We spent a few seconds just swimming around each other before he finally swam off. It’s just incredible to me that we can have such intimate interactions with wildlife.
  • How did you and Mariyam meet?
    Thuhufa and I initially met while she worked for a sea turtle conservation NGO called Naifaru Juveniles in Lhaviyani Atoll. I was working for a different sea turtle conservation non-profit called the Olive Ridley Project. I participated in a Turtle festival by the Naifaru Juvenile when we first met. I noticed Thuhufa as there weren’t many young locals working in conservation. It was nice to meet someone else with the same passions as me. We reconnected a few years later when we were enrolled for the same course in University. It was an instant connection – we became really close friends and we worked pretty closely during our time there.
  • What is the most prevalent misconception about the ocean and marine life that you find?
    That sharks are dangerous and want to eat you. Despite their reputation – sharks are not dangerous and they don’t want to eat you. They would much rather feed on fish and other mammals. Humans are not part of their natural diet and they rarely attack humans. You are more likely to die because of a cow than by sharks.

Mariyam Thuhufa (here is another fine profile on Mariyam)

  • What atoll are you from?
    I am from R. Atoll Rasmaadhoo. A beautiful local island just north of Male’. The island is known for its Surf Spot and for the local boat buildings. It’s a small island with a big sense of community still intact.
  • What age did you learn to swim?
    I can’t recall when exactly I learned how to swim. When I was living in my island I would have been around 6 or 7, I used to follow my cousins out to the water and we used to spend the day in the sea. I remember this one memory vividly. One day I followed my cousin brother to our islands famous surf spot. He went out on his board and I stayed near the beach. But at one point I wanted to get in to the water so I swam out. Next thing I know I was caught in the surf. I remember being under three consecutive waves and not being able to breath. I remember being terrified but I went back to the ocean the very next day. I guess, after that incident I unconsciously taught myself to swim, or at least how to not get caught in huge surfs.
  • What was your first snorkelling experience?
    My first snorkeling experience was in the house reef of Villimale’. Villimale’ is the closest island to Male’ and was considered a picnic island back when I was a kid. I used to go there with my family on the weekends and started learning to snorkel during these trips. At first, I would stay in the shallow lagoon area and get excited whenever I see a lone fish passing by. One day I wandered off to the reef edge and it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. I saw lots of colorful corals and huge parrot fishes. This was way before the 2016 el Nino, so the reef was vibrant with healthy corals and lots of species of fish. It was an amazing experience.
  • What was your first diving experience?
    My first diving experience was way back in 2014, when I was working at the Maldives Whale Submarine. How the submarine operated was that when the sub goes down with the passengers, scuba divers would go down with it and fool around with the fishes and eels and entertain the guests. I had always wanted to go dive with the scuba team. One day after much talking, one of the instructors from the team decided to take me for a discover scuba session. It was the most amazing day. I loved everything about my first dive. How the sun’s rays looked under the surface to how the eels came and wrapped themselves around me so gently. I loved discovering the smallest invertebrates that day and playing around with an octopus while it changed colour frequently. It was a day I will never forget.
  • Where did you study marine biology?
    I did my bachelors in Environmental Management at Maldives National University. Most of my knowledge about the marine environment I have gained from working and volunteering at different NGOs. I am currently working at the newly opened 5-star resort SIYAM WORLD as their Resident Marine Biologist. But before I landed this job, I’ve worked with Maldives Whale shark Research Program, Turtle Rehabilitation center in Naifaru Juvenile, IUCN and I’ve done coral and fisheries research at Maldives Marine Research Institute.
  • What did you do your final research paper on?
    My Final Research Paper was on the ‘Perception of Maldivian Grouper Fishers on the sustainability of the Current Practices and the Management Plan’. In my paper I did an in-depth analysis of the current practices of the grouper fishery industry of the Maldives and how effect the current management plan is on combating the unsustainable practices that has been going on in the industry. I also conducted a survey questionnaire to understand how well the fishers know about the management plan and tried to understand how their livelihood was being affected by the sustainability practices enforced in the management plan.
  • What is your favourite sighting diving?
    It is so hard to pick one sight. But on the top of my head I think the best sight was when I was doing a fun dive at Vaavu Atoll a few years back and we came across a ball of trevallies. It was the most amazing thing. We went right inside the ball of fish so we were surrounded on all sides by them. This was something I’ve always wanted to experience and it was just so surreal. This was a dive I will never forget.
  • What is your favorite sighting snorkelling?
    I think my favorite sight snorkeling would be anytime we get to interact with Mantas or Whlaesharks. Whalesharks specially are such gentle giants that we get to spend atleast 30 minutes with one and it just becomes such a meaningful experience because you get to learn so much about them during this interaction.
  • What is the most prevalent misconception about the ocean and marine life that you find?
    There is a lot of them ranging from ‘corals are plants’ to ‘all sharks are dangerous’. Amongst fishers that I have talked to there is also the general idea floating about that since the ocean is so big, we will never run out of fish. I think this is the biggest misconception that I find, especially in the Maldives where our livelihood and food resource is so directly connected to the fisheries industry of the country. Fisherman thinking sustainability during fishing practices is unnecessary because they don’t believe in the declining fish stock populations while research clearly shows otherwise. This is why, currently there is a lot of effort put into conducting awareness sessions for the local fishers regarding issues like this.

Best of the Maldives: Room Decorating Instagram – Kuramathi

Kuramathi - Waheed Saamid room decorator 2

Kuramathi’s Waheed Saamid pentathlete of a room decorator. He not only pioneered a medium I’ve not seen in my decades of visits, he’s mastered all of its fundamental disciplines:

  1. Petals
  2. Wording (both cut and formed)
  3. Towel sculpture
  4. Bubble Bath
  5. Path/Floor messages (pioneer)

I caught up with him and he shared a bit about his background:

  • “I have started room decorations as I began my career as a villa Attendant. Since then I have learned and improving my skills. I’m a self taught decorative. During this journey of a villa Attendant, I have met many creative colleagues in room decorating. I get ideas from my friends and through the internet. Mostly I love doing different types of leaf decorations. Room decoration is an important element of Housekeeping service, to demonstrate my skills and give our guests a little gesture of that we care them.”

His Instagram feed is the most diverse collection of works and I highly recommend following him for your own daily dose of decorating.

Kuramathi - Waheed Saamid room decorator 1

Kuramathi - Waheed Saamid room decorator 3

Best of the Maldives: Buggy Tracker – Dhigali

Dhigali - buggy tracker 2

There are “Best of the Maldives” features…and then there are like “soul mate” features. Features that I just adore. Not everyone will have the same effusive reaction I had to Dhigali’s “Buggy Tracker” application, but for me it was one of the highlights of the 2019 Tour.

The Buggy Tracker is an app that is both part of the resort’s own “Digalhi Maldives” app which you can download onto your smartphone (for iPhone’s, see the AppStore or you cann scan the QR code which is on every room key) – see photo below. It is also supported with an array of monitors dotted around the island at each buggy stop. The app/screen shows a map of the island as well as an icon for the constantly circling buggy so you can see how far away it is from you (see video clip at bottom).

Why a Buggy Tracker? Because Dhigali is sort of a middle sized island. We can and did walk around it, but a complete circumparaumbulation (yes, I love that word) takes nearly half an hour. If you are on the opposite end of the island to where you want to go, you might prefer to forego the stroll and just take the buggy ride. Maybe you are particularly relaxed, maybe you refreshed or it is especially toasty and you don’t want to sweat, maybe you need to be somewhere and are running behind (eg. excursion departing). On tiny island, you just walk everywhere because you are always a couple minutes away from anywhere. On big islands, you have to call for (or wait for) a buggy. When you call, you still have to wait which can be a while if they have other pickups scheduled. On a middle sized island like Dhigali, you can find yourself constantly debating “Should we walk or should we wait for the buggy?” And if you want to take the buggy and it is an on-call service, you sometimes feel a bit lazy and guilty ringing it up for a relatively short journey.

The Buggy Tracker takes all the questioning away. You look at your app or look at the screen and you can see exactly how close the buggy is. If you see if is coming round the bend, you might pop out that minute faster to grab it rather than miss it and wait for it to come around again. If it is on the other side of the island, you might choose to just hoof it. Or if you do decide to wait, it is reassuring to know exactly how far away your ride is and not have to wonder if you are going to be there forever.

Why do I love it so much?

  • Innovation – The whole spirit of “Best of the Maldives” is really about innovation. Sure, a property might be able to be the biggest or the blingest by just spending the most on some feature, but more of my pieces are about creative touches and distinctive aspects that no one has done in quite the same way in the Maldives.
  • Technology – As a software guy for my day job, I have a special appreciation for cool applications in this area. I have a particular software soft-spot for geo-location apps. Snorkel Spotter, Dive Site Database and the Admiralty Map DeepZoom all essentially mapping apps.
  • Utility – The system is so simple and so useful. I love innovations that truly enhance the customer experience.
  • Maldivian – I always enjoy meeting the fascinating people behind the scenes of the Maldives resort operations especially the local Maldivians to bring this paradise to life. Many have such distinctive talents and contributions. The entire project was the initiative of Mohamed Furuqan, the resort’s IT manager (see photo top). We got to meet up during my stay and geek out a bit about tech. It’s also especially inspiring to see the innovation stem from a homegrown initiative supported wholeheartedly by the management.

Dhigali - buggy tracker

Best of the Maldives: Artist-in-Residence – Kandima

Kandima - artist in residence 1

Aima Musko and I got way back. When I had just started Maldives Complete and she had just started her career in art. She’s helped me with the website (doing the new logo this past year) and I guess you could say that I helped her as her first customer. I knew that she had been a part of the featured artist series at Kandima, but I hadn’t realised that she had stayed on as an artist-in-residence at the resort until we visited there in July. She caught me up on all the latest and greatest in her artistic exploits as well as her exciting plans for the future. And here in a Maldives Complete exclusive, she is sharing a bit of her creative life on the island of Kandima…

  • Which atoll are you from?
    G.Dh. Fiyoari (Huvadhoo Atoll) but have always lived in Malè
      
  • What art training have you had?
  • Visual Arts in High School at Mahindra United World College of India and Foundation in Visual Communications at The One Academy in Malaysia.
      
  • What is your big frustration as an artist?
  • Other than getting easily frustrated as a perfectionist, being limited and restricted as to what can be exhibited here.
      
  • What was the first painting you ever sold (tell us your side of the story)?
  • While working at Transparency Maldives in 2011, I was asked to be the artist on a video that was celebrating women and had to make a painting for it. The video “Salhi Anhenun” (Cool Women) was uploaded to YouTube and after a few days I was contacted by the production team saying that they had someone interested in purchasing my painting. I met Bruce at a Cafe in Malè and since that day, I’m so happy to know that my painting has been hanging in his house all the way in UK for the past 7 years!
      
  • What artists have influenced you?
  • With Social Media like Instagram, I’m following various artists from all over the world with different mediums and techniques and have been continuously influenced by their styles. However I would say visiting the Art Exhibitions in Malè when I was younger and seeing the works of Artists from Maldives (Afu, Ika and Eagan to name a few) really left a lasting impression on me. Having creative friends and drawing together in school, working in different creative fields.. I’m constantly inspired and influenced.
      
  • What is the biggest misconception about art that you face?
    That good art is how realistic you can draw. Also that if you are an artist, you will be good in every aspect of art and the mediums.
      
  • If you could buy one piece of art in the world (money is no object, it could be millions), which one would it be?
    A painting by Ika of a Blue lady holding a cigarette that I saw in a house I visited with a friend about a decade ago. It just always stuck with me and I would love to own it for the impact it had on me. The second would be “The Kiss” by Gustavo Klimt. Smile
      

You can check out her personal online gallery here.

Kandima - artist in residence 3

Kandima - Artist in residence 4

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: Bed Decorating Diversity – Kuramathi

Kuramathi - bed art 1

I wasn’t quite sure what to call this recognition, but I knew I need to call out Kuramathi’s exceptional touches to old fashioned relaxation. Kuramathi was the first resort that I ever posted for its distinctive bed-art marking. They have clearly made it a resort trademark, in fact taking it up a notch with the latest generation of bedroom artistes.

All of the creations shown here are the work of 24 year old room attendant Adam Naseer.  Kuramathi shared these details about his work…

  • “Adam has been working in another resort for about two years after he found out about Kuramathi on the internet and from some friends (who also work here) and decided to work for Kuramathi, this is now one year ago. He works at the Thundi area of the island and takes care of about 4 to 5 villas per day. His favourite part is decorating the bed or even the bath with towel art including flowers. It is his passion to make the guests happy and to see their smile on their face as he always receives a grateful feedback and the guests always want to have a picture with Adam and his designs. Mostly he likes to make heart shaped or honeymoon designs.”

My favourite is his birthday greeting complete with towel birthday cake (see photo at top).

For a gallery of Maldives bed decorating masterpieces, check out the Maldives Complete “Bed Art” Pinterest board.

Kuramathi - bed art 2

Kuramathi - bed art 3

Kuramathi - bed art 4

Kuramathi - bed art 5

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Kuramathi - bed art 7

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Designer – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - designer

Maldivians are not just working in the resorts, they are building and designing them. One of the pioneers leading the way in envisioning spaces with the same aesthetic beauty that the destination has become renowned for is Mohammed Shafeeq. Part of the local Maldivian GX Associates architecture firm which have designed many top properties in the Maldives, he was introduced to us by the Kandolhu resort who were particularly proud of the award-winning work that he did in the redesign of their resort a number of years ago. I caught up with Shafeeq to learn a bit more about his background and perspectives…

  • Where are you from in the Maldives
    I am from Male’ and also brought up in Male.
  • Where did you study?
  • I studied in Maldives (in Male’) completed my A Levels and then went onto university in the UK at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to study architecture.
  • What was the first thing you designed?
    The first thing I designed was a small island in the North of Male’ Atoll which was basically a concept sketch on art paper which was developed to be a small resort by the owners.
  • Which other resorts did you design?
    Some of the resorts we designed include Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Kihavah Villas, Anantara Veli, Baros, Coco Palm Boduhithi, Coco Palm Dhunikolhu, Constance Halaveli Resort, Four Seasons Resort, Fridays Resort, Hilton Irufushi, Huvafenfushi, Kurumba, LUX Maldives, Maafushivaru, Mudhdhoo and some of the more recent ones are the Thundi in Kuramathi and Milaidhoo.
  • How has your approach changed as you do different properties?
    The approach always follow the trends in fashion, lifestyle and technology and the tastes of the travelers and I always try to stay ahead by reviewing other competing developments in the region.
  • Have you designed any non-resort properties in the Maldives?
    Yes, I did much residential and civic work before specialising in hospitality design and they include private residences, apartment blocks, law courts, hospitals, schools and prisons even.
  • What is something they didn’t you in design school that you had to learn the hard way through experience?
    What I learned through experience is the delicacy and expertise required when you model the built environment to appease the senses of the users to make them feel totally comfortable and create an ambience that is akin to a home with a magical touch.
  • Which designer has had the greatest influence on you?
  • Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • If you were given a blank cheque and a completely free reign to design the resort of your dreams, what sorts of design element would it feature?
  • It would feature a back to basics, barefoot and eco friendly nature resort with an extremely luxurious ambiance where natural and built environment will have no boundaries.
  • What are some of the constraints or considerations to designing for a remote location in a tropical environment?
    The constraints are mostly to do with the size of the island and the requirement of the client to have a set number of villas and spaces on that island but to afford the best views and settings for each and every public building and guest villa.
  • Are there any projects you are working on that you can share with us?
    Right now we are working on two projects in Baa Atoll, One in Raa Atoll, One in Noonu Atoll and Two in Male’ Atoll.

Best of the Maldives: Soneva Jani– Youngest Training Manager

Soneva Fushi - Ashraf Adnan training manager

May 1st today is known round the world as International Workers Day. A chance to celebrate and support the workforce that drives our lives and welfares. One of the best way to lift up a work force is with education and training.

A new generation of Maldivians are on the vanguard of building the country into one of the world’s finest travel destinations. An exemplary example is Ashraf Adnan at Soneva Jani who at 26 is the Maldives’ youngest training manager.

Soneva’s acclaimed ethos of sustainability is not just about the environment but start with the very people working hard to create the finest guest experiences. Sara Ballinger, of the The Daisy Gray Partnership, was his Ashraf’s first manager at Soneva and she spoke to him about his career (with Maldives Complete adding a few of its own questions). I was particularly intrigued since Leadership and Management is my other pet interest (so leadership and management in the Maldives is double delight for me)…

Q: Where do you come from in the Maldives?
A: I come from Guraidhoo in the Kaafu Atoll.

Q: What was your first job?
A: After completing my education I got my first job at age 19 when my brother told me about a job opening at Olhuveli Beach and Spa resort as HR Administrator and Coordinator. In truth I wasn’t learning much, it wasn’t a five star resort and I was ambitious, so I took a distance learning course which I funded myself and after two years I achieved a further qualification in HR Management. That gave me the confidence to apply for a position at the 5 star ‘LUX Maldives’ resort in the South Ari Atoll as HR & Training coordinator.

Q: Who or what influenced you early in your career and how?
A: I spent the next 18 months in my role under the management of Mr Hussain Afeef who is the most successful learning & development professional in the Maldives in my opinion and is also Maldivian. At this point the thought of standing up in front of people terrified me. I had no interest in doing that at all, but Mr Afeef inspired me with the way he delivered. I watched him at work in the training room and in time I got up the courage to try standing up and talking to people. I wasn’t perfect from the start but with continued encouragement and coaching I built up my confidence and my skills and after a time I started to deliver some of the training myself.

Q: What brought you to Soneva Fushi?
A: One day I saw a job advertised as Assistant Training Manager at Soneva Fushi in the Baa Atoll. Soneva had a reputation as being one of the very best resorts in the Maldives and also for having a culture of responsibility for the environment and for protecting this beautiful country of ours. I heard that they also looked after local communities and were more ethical and sustainable than most luxury hospitality brands. I really wanted to work for them! I was so happy to be offered the position and really worked hard at building my skills by practice, practice, practice and watching video’s online, reading about how to deliver great training and more practice! At this time, I did not have a manager to learn from and so I did my own self development. Delivering became easier, but without a manager of my own to teach me I didn’t know whether I was doing a good job or not.

Q: How did you prepare yourself for training leadership and management?
A: Sara Ballinger joined as my manager and I really started to learn about how to deliver leadership training and how to think about training in a different way. I learned how to plan and write and read training plans, how to present the information in the sessions, how to read the audience and handle them and deal with problems when they arose. Sara gave me the opportunity to go to Thailand to work in our sister property Soneva Kiri for a month. This was great exposure and really helped me to understand how to work with different cultures and in different ways. We did so much great stuff! Learning Olympics, a brand new Induction, lots of presentations skills, train the trainer and leadership training. The reason I am now a training manager is because I learnt from my leaders

Q: What has been the key to your achievements so far?
A: Coming out of my comfort zone and taking a risk. Without trying you will never know! You ask ‘but what if I fail’ – I ask ‘what if I don’t?’ Try anyway. Also you must believe in yourself if you want others to believe in you. And self development, don’t expect others to do all the work for you – you have to take responsibility for your own learning.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles that you have faced?
A: People want experience, so breaking into the egg-shell can be hard if you have no contacts. Start somewhere, even if it’s not the job of your dreams and is a lower position, just to get a start. Then chase your dream!

Q: Soneva recently opened its new Jani property. What is different training for a new opening property compared to an established property?
A: The difference between training for a new property and established property is that in a new opening property, training programmes are designed in a way with great potential to be a part of the team and to progress rapidly within the company. From the very basics to Heath and Safety, resort policies and procedures, brand trainings etc. In any pre-opening employees will take part in all the training programme that company has to offer.

Q: What is your favorite book about leadership and management?
A: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s gives great lesson about personal change and growth.

Q: What is one of the biggest myths about training?
A: People get confused between a teacher and a trainer. 🙂

Q: If you had $1 million to invest on an a training initiative in the Maldives, what would you spend it on?
A: I would open a training institution in the Maldives specially for those youngsters who are seeking for job opportunities in the Maldives resorts. One of the main challenge youth of the Maldives faces is when they start hunting for jobs in the tourism industry, due to lack of experiences it makes very hard for them to find a job. An institution where we can train and certify them in every role there is to offer in a resort.

Q: What do you see in your future?
A: I am inspired by the people I have been working with here at Soneva. I look at my bosses’ jobs and I wonder what I can learn, how I can follow and then I will try to be them one day! I will be Director of Learning & Development one day and then Group Director of Learning & Development. I have a new manager now and I am looking forward to continuing my development with him. I have a clear view of my future and I am excited about the journey.

Q: What do you like to do when not at work?
A: I love to surf, play guitar and read, non-fiction – books which are inspirational and teach me something.

Best of the Maldives – Celebrity Selfies – Bunyamin Ahmed

Bunyamein instagram 1

Yesterday’s National Day celebrates Maldives independence from foreigner control, but one countryman – Bunyamin Ahmed (known to many as “Benjo”) – has become a one-man photographic greeter of famous foreign guests to the Maldives. His Instagram feed is a must-follow for celebrity spotters. Especially if you can’t even recognise them. He has an uncanny eye for the glitterati who flood into this paradise destination as apparently an unmatchable charm to get selfies with them. He’s snapped singers and models, but his true forte is the footie.

Men post to blogs and Instagram about 10 times less frequently than women. But Ahmed is one feed which redresses that gender balance catching some of the only pictures of the superstars blokes who visit.

Male’s Velana International Airport (MLE) is arguably the best celebrity spotting place on the planet. The fabulous and famous are drawn to the country’s postcard perfect islands and all pass through its small single room arrival hall.  Every visit we spot some well known personality loitering by the baggage claim next to us.

Maldives Complete caught up with Ahmed for another exclusive interview about his luminary lens…

1. Where are you from in the Maldives? – I’m from Male’ City, the capital of Maldives.

2. What is your job? – My celebrity hunting began back in 2006, when I joined Island Aviation as a Customer Services Assistant. Left the job in 2012 and in early 2016 joined Srilankan Airlines as a station assistant. That’s my current job.

3. Who was your first photo? – Gianluca Zambrotta, Ex- Italian National team defender. 10 days in to my job, back in 2006. I got so excited. Since I’ve been seeing these people in video games and on TV. I wanted to make a huge collection of all the famous people I get to meet. Still gets star struck every single time I meet someone famous. Still gets the shaky feeling when I click pics for others too.

4. Do you have a standard way to approach celebrities passing through and ask for their picture? – Yeah of course, I just don’t ask them out of manners or respect. Always look to give the respect they deserve. Normally I approach them right away or while they are at the baggage belt waiting for bags (that’s how I approach if I’m to meet them on arrival to Maldives). If I meet them on departure, I try to give them the space they need to finish check-in first, or other times depending on the personality or the particular celebrity’s mood I ask for autographs while they are at the check-in counter (subject to the check-in queue of that particular flight he or she is travelling on) and then if nice, start a conversation and ask for pics. Rejection doesn’t faze me. Not trying or not having the guts to ask does. Because if they agree it’s a massive success and if they don’t there’s nothing to lose. Whatever you get is a bonus.

5. Which celebrity were you most pleased to meet? – One of the best days was when I got to meet my fav club Manchester United’s boss Jose Mourinho. Also getting to meet one of my fav model Devon Windsor and today I met my fav all time singer Frankie Bridge (1/5 of British girl band The Saturdays). Those are few great days.

6. Who would you most like to meet? – I’ve got so many names for that question. Two big names I’ve met but no pics, since they are big big football stars. Guess who they are – David Beckham (my all time fav footballer) and Cristiano Ronaldo 😉 . Would love to meet Sir Alex Ferguson one day and pics with both Cristiano and Beckham too. To be honest, my ‘dream list’ is very long. Every Man United squad player is a dream (lucky enough have met some of them). Also big pop stars such as Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Ariana are few names. Some big names among Victoria’s Secret models are also in my list, like Candice, Behatii, Adriana. So many I don’t know where to stop.

7. They don’t appear to be selfies, so who takes the pictures? – Good question. That’s right. Not selfies but I got selfies some of them too, but that’s after taking a proper pic. Since I worked as a Customer Services Assistant at Airport Company before, I still got friends working there. So those friends, namely Nadheem, Evan and Mazin knows how my pics has to be, coz I don’t settle for just anything. Quality has to be super good. Cheeky part is sometimes the celeb partner take pics for me too. Remember Italian soccer star Francesco Totti’s wife taking the pic for me. And most recently today Wayne Bridge (ex-England defender ) took the pic of his wife Frankie Bridge for me. Frankie and Wayne who I met this morning are by far the most amazing, down to earth people of all [see photo above].

8. Do you have any tips for other celebrity spotters on how to ask for a picture? – Indeed. I’m pleased with my very own success rate. I believe my technique is the key (just kidding) . I don’t want a pic with a celebrity at any cost (except for very big names :p ) Since I’m not a paparazzi, I want them to willingly pose for a pic with me, which doubles my happiness. Actually you need to ask with respect. I always use the first name when addressing to celebrities. I’ve got likes from many celebs on Instagram for their pics with me. So I advise not to feel them disturbed or annoyed. Just make them feel comfortable.

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Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Artist Exhibition – Loama Maldives at Maamigili

Loama Maldives at Maamigili - art exhibition

From the extremes of primitive to avant garde, Maldivian artists also excel at classic art forms like oils and etchings. Not surprisingly, that home of the arts, Loama Maldives at Maamigili is an opportune place to sample these masterpieces…

“Loama Art Gallery is affiliated with the National Art Gallery, Maldives, and shows contemporary art from the Maldives. It offers a valuable platform for artists to exhibit and sell their work to a local and international audience. Contemporary art in Maldives has seen significant changes in themes and style over the last few decades. On the Path of a Dream brings together the work of contemporary artists whose diverse and surprising themes examine their innate senses borne while living in the Maldives. These artists have works that span decades and explores their subjects in-depth, visiting and revisiting ideas that form the identity of people inhabiting these islands. Loama Art Gallery aims to hold four exhibitions annually and the current exhibition at the overwater art gallery features five Maldivian artists who we are proud to present”

  • Afzal Shafiu Hassan (directly below) – “although he works mostly with oil water colors. In 1994, at the age of 18, Afu began his professional career as a postages stamp designer at Maldives Post.”
  • Eagan Badheeu (above) – “Impressionist landscapes and seascapes depicting the culture and lifestyle of the Maldives are his signature subjects…He earned initial recognition in the year 2000 when his works were exhibited in ‘Funoas’ (the beginning of southwest monsoon) Art exhibition held at Esjehi Gallery in Malé.”
  • Aminath Hilmy (bottom) – “As a young girl her playground was sea hibiscus groves by the beach on Thinadhoo, Gaaf Dhaal Atoll. Her mother, Fathimath Hussain, was a Kasabu (embroidery) maker and a tailor. These skills were induced to young Aminath Hilmly and is reminiscent in her style of work…Aminath Hilmy has shown her work in Esjehi Gallery and National Art Gallery in Male.”

An this esteemed group is not alone so I have added the new category Tag “Maldivian Artist” to the blog today so you can peruse a virtual exhibition of local mastery.

A summary of the exhibit can be found here.

Loama Maldives at Maamigili - art exhibition 2

Loama Maldives at Maamigili - art exhibition 3