Best of Maldives – Online: Interactive Map – Dreaming of Maldives

Dreaming of Maldives interactive map

Like the resurgent corals, the vibrant inter-web thingy just gets richer and more colourful every day. When I launched Maldives Complete, there was a really dearth of good, useful information about the resorts. The resorts themselves had weak and limited websites. Nowadays, things are much more sophisticated.

Probably my second favourite Maldives website, after Maldives Complete, is Sakis Papadopolous’ ‘Dreaming of Maldives’. Just as I started with an anchor of a comprehensive database, Sakis’ starts with simply the best collection of images on the Maldives around. But like Maldives Complete, he hasn’t rested there and has branched into a range of other areas. His section on families, “The child-friendly Resorts in Maldives, all the Kids-clubs,’ remains one of the most comprehensive reviews of resorts on the Maldives. He has started to move into videos with dazzling results. And his latest innovative addition is this ’Maldives Photo Map’.

When I first launched Maldives Complete, one of the fun bits I added was the DeepZoom control of the British Admiralty Maps of the country. As I launched it, you can zoom into the charts to exacting detail. I had fantasized about pushing this party trick even further. I had pictures for both aerial shots of the island and prominent features like the swimming pool. I had thought that once one zoomed into an island, you would see an aerial photo (see directly below). And if you zoomed in on the photo, then it would take you to a shot of the pool (see bottom). A bit like a Russian doll photographic drill down reminiscent of the second half of the iconic film, ‘Powers of Ten’.

In the end, I didn’t see a lot of traffic on my interactive map and Microsoft never really developed the Deep Zoom technology much. Its editing tool, Deep Zoom Composer, remained klunky and incomplete. So I decided it would be too much work to add these extra layers of images. Also, soon the Google and Bings maps caught up on the imagery and so the aerial shots were pretty good. And now Sakis has taken the final step of allowing you to zoom even closer into gorgeous shots of island highlights.

Velassaru deep zoom island

Velassaru deep zoom pool

Best of the Maldives Online: Videos – Dreaming of Maldives

Dreamin of the Maldives videos

Facebook, Twitter, Forums, Foursquare…all of this look a social media and I have not yet looked at one of the big ones, YouTube.

As it happens, the best eye to Maldivian spectacle has expanded his lens from photography to videography recently. Sakis Papadolpolous now has a collection of video vignettes for resorts he has produced available not just on his own Dreaming of Maldives site, but also on Vimeo and his own YouTube channel. They are simply the best resort videos going. Sakis does produce some seriously beautiful staged ‘mood’ shots to highlight a languid hammock or a tantalising cocktail. But he also includes plemty of panoramic material which provides a good perspective on the look and feel of the landscape itself and facility itself.

Since the inception, I have included a video of the resort in the main Profile page if there was a decent video available on YouTube. I limited myself to YouTube do to the ease of embedding into the Profile page. I limited myself to’decent’ because I loathe those fake slide-show “videos” (in air quotes) which are just the picture gallery set to music with some tired transitions. Many of my resort clips were guests simply doing a walk through to capture a feel for the resort for their friends or their own memories. Production quality not be much, but their utility and effectiveness to give people an authentic feel for the resort is invaluable.

Video is definitely taking over the web. A decent video of your resort is as much online table-stakes as an FAQ, map of the island and contact details.

I’ve now changed the videos in the Profiles to Sakis’ pieces for the resorts that he has done so far – Six Senses Laamu, Huvafenfushi, Dhonakulhi Island Hideaway and Lily Beach. Hopefully, more resorts will produce such vivid illustrations and hopefully, they will all use Sakis’ artistic talents to do so.

What I Didn’t See

Blog Pix - Shortcut.lnk

My 2011 summer
tour was a huge success in ferreting out all sorts of impressive and quirky distinctions of the resorts I visited and elsewhere. After last week’s follow up round of new posts, I am now up to 180 ‘Best Ofs’ with that number again in the wings. I’ve even had to revamp the Best Of page which has given me the opportunity to integrate another great Sakis piece (everywhere I went, people knew about Sakis and his work).

I have now visited 28 resorts and yet there are a number of things I have yet to see. Given the frenetic arms race of the resorts to outdo one another with creative offerings and twists, these seem to me to be some candidates that range from obvious to obscure. I’ve broken them down into a few categories…

Enjoying the water…

  • Water slide – The ‘water slide’ keeps popping up in Six Senses concept CAD pictures (see above) as a villa attachment. Six Sense Laamu ended up abandoning that design, but why not a simple water slide in a kids pool or even off a jetty into the ocean?
  • Beach Wheelchair – Another obvious innovation overdue for the Maldives.
  • Sculling – First thing in the morning and into twilight, the Maldive waters, especially in the lagoons, is as calm as any lake or Thames River. A larger sized single scull or skiff would be a unique offering and provide a distinctive exercise opportunity. They have introduced rowing with the trans-equatorial crossing project. Would be ideal for a resort with a big lagoon. [NOTE: Any resort that wants to introduce this, I have a world class rower interested in marine biology who would be happy to come down to teach some Maldivian staff how to scull.]
  • In Ocean Dining – A couple of resorts are offering ‘in pool dining’, but how about ‘in ocean dining’. Some shallow lagoon with relative shallow water. Not feet in water or sand, but both!
  • Star Shaped Over Water Restaurant – I was impressed with the W Retreat’s ‘Fish’ restaurant which has an ‘H’ shaped deck for the diners. This shape meant that lots of tables could be arranged ‘right over the water’. It made me wonder why more resorts didn’t adopt such a ‘pronged’ decking design to optimise the ‘best tables’ even more. My Dad mocked up some drawings of what I’m talking about below.

Enjoying the vistas of the unique seascape…

  • Observation tower – For years now the trend in the Maldives has been to ‘go down’ (ie. underwater) for the super-luxury jaw-dropping attractions. A few top resorts are starting to ‘go up’ with some two story and roof top structures. These elevated places are actually quite appealing because they provide a broader vista over the turquoise and sapphire seas surrounding. For a long time, ‘going up’ has been a big approach to attractions (eg. Eiffel Tower, London Eye, Seattle Space Needle, Toronto Tower). For a super-luxe looking for that next ‘wow’ thing, I suspect this sort of feature might spark some possibilities.
  • Hot Air Balloon – Champagne ballooning…ah, duh. Modify the basket so it floats when it lands on water. No shortage of landing places. Nor shortage of aerial scenery. A senior official in the Ministry of Tourism thought that a resort had tried this years ago, but I couldn’t find any reference to it.
  • Skydiving – A group did a one-off skydiving trip in the Maldives out of Hanimaadhoo airport a few years back, but never followed it up with more. Parasailing is already quite popular and tandem jumps seems like the next step up to enjoy the distinctive views.

Neglected delicacies….

  • Banoffee Pie with Coconut Cream – Easy to make. A crowd pleaser. Local ingredients and tastes. Why is this not on the dessert menus?
  • Gourmet sausages – A big visitor population is British and a staple of the English breakfast is the sausage. Lots of people like a good sausage for breakfast and they are easy to prepare and serve. But sausages in the Maldives are always these anaemic little tasteless things. A number of specialty sausages are made from venison and other meats so an enterprising Maldivian could create a small business of gourmet sausages made from something other than pork. The closest I have come upon is Kurumba’s beef sausages.

Special sports…

  • Golf hole from one island to the next – The dearth of golf is one of the great holes (pun totally intended) in the Maldives offerings in the minds of many affluent travellers. And yet the Maldives has such great potential to fashion a ‘Holes to Play Before You Die’. Essentially, a tee on one island with the green on another. The greatest water hazard ever. Club Med Kani or Kandooma could set this up tomorrow.
  • Clay Tennis Court – Bit of a old-school, traditional cachet. Less baking hot, easier on your feet and typically more fun for recreational players than asphalt without the difficult maintenance requirement of grass courts.
  • Motorised Hammock – For those who are training for Olympic calibre indolence, I can’t imagine better training kit than a motorised hammock. In fact, I can’t imagine any place on earth that wouldn’t be made better by but the Maldives seems a natural with its soporific qualities.

Water restaurant layout design

Best of Maldives: Most Remote – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangri-La by Sakis

(photo reprinted with permission)

Today’s superlative comes to us again courtesy of Maldives photographer extraordinaire Sakis Papadopoulos whose Dreaming of Maldives site shares tidbits often as colourful as his snaps. Last week, I caught this superlative on his Twitter feed wishing a ‘Happy Birthday’ to Shangri-La Villingili which happens to be shared with Maldives itself (26th July).

He also noted Shangri-La Villingili’s distinction as the ‘Furthermost Resort of the Maldives’. Actually, if you used the Maldives Compete Resort Finder, you too could have uncovered this as it would stand out with a list topping 550 kilometres from Male.