Best of the Maldives: Eco-Doors – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah Eco-doors

 

Some resort gizmos don’t just help you control your villa, but they actually control it for your automatically. One of our favourite eco-innovations is featured by One & Only Reethi Rah’s climate control. When either front door or deck door is open, the AC automatically cuts off. That way you can invite the outdoors into your villa where you are relaxing or getting ready without having to remember to turn the air conditioning off.

Best of the Maldives: Remote Control – Cheval Blanc Randheli

Cheval Blanc Randheli - remote control

 

On this day back in 1936, BBC One was launched as the UK’s first “high resolution” (200 lines!) television service. Nearly 80 years later, how far we have come. High-definition digital 3D with 7:1 surround sound. And just as fancy gadgets to control it all. Cheval Blanc Ranheli’s in-room iPad controller, not only provides a digital guide to the resort, but also serves as a master controller for everything electronic

The IPad in the room doubles as the master remote control and operates just about everything including the 2 sets of blinds, lights, TV, all 4 zones of the sound system, 3 air conditioners, and it can even open the front door.”

  

Best of the Maldives: Expert Marketeer – Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach - Kat 1

All Saints Day and it was today 13 years ago (on a 9:30 am Qatar airways flight to be precise) that a saint among the communion of Maldives experts arrived on its azure shores. Kat has all received the digital equivalent of beatification being anointed as a TripAdvisor Forum Destination Expert (which she has since stepped down from).

I had a chance to not only spend time with Katherine Anthony (“Kat” to just about everyone in the Maldives circles), but also to sit down with her and talk her about many years in this paradise during my stop at her resort, Hideaway Beach, this July…

  • Q: When did you get into the hospitality industry and what was your first job?
  • A: I actually came into hotels completely by accident. I was working as a graphic designer in my hometown of Bristol. The company went bust and my godmother said ‘You’re never going to get a decent job in Bristol. You need to go to London. London is where the work is. So I moved up to London and realized there wasn’t a huge number of graphic design jobs there either. And I just ended up temping and the first job I got was working as a secretary in the sales department of the Churchill Intercontinental. And I have never left hotels since. I’ve never even left the sales team since. I’ve been in Sales and Marketing the whole time.
  • Q: Did you go from London to the Maldives?
  • A: Oh no. I did 3 years in London. It was fabulous. I didn’t save a penny. Had a really great time. Then I got offered this job in Qatar in 1999. At that time, nobody had heard of the place. I had to look at the map. And everybody was like ‘Why would you go to Qatar?’ I found a picture of the hotel when they were building it. It was literally desert, turquoise water and nothing else. I thought, ‘what the heck, let’s try it.’ So I flew there. Never seen the country before. Never seen the Middle East before. I had travelled around Europe, but I never been that far. I remember landing in Doha and it was flat, flat, flat. There is nothing there. Nothing, nothing, Nothing. And I thought to myself, ‘oh my god.’ And I ended up staying [in the region] almost 12 years.”
  • Q: How did you get introduced to the Maldives?
  • A: I got targeted by a headhunter basically. I had sent my CV out to a whole bunch of places and this guy from Australia came back to me and said, ‘I have this fabulous opportunity in the Maldives. Would you consider it.’ And I gave it half a second thought and I said, ‘Yeah, okay!’ I mean who the heck says no to a job in the Maldives?!
  • Q: Did you know what the Maldives was at that point?
  • A: I did. Because having lived in Doha, it is close to the Maldives and Qatar Airways had started doing flights. So I had seen some Tourism Board advertising so I had a vague idea – the whole image of the Bounty bar island.
  • Q: What year was this?
  • A: This was in 2003.
  • Q: Which resort?
  • A: What was then Hilton Rangali.
  • Q: First impressions?
  • A: Wow. You get there by seaplane. I think everyone experience this feeling when you come to the Maldives. First of all, you’ve never flown in a seaplane before. It’s a really amazing thing. It was a beautiful sunny day when I flew in. It was just magic, absolutely magic. When I landed, my boss Carten was there on the platform to meet me. And I was all ecstatic and I think we was wondering, ‘oh, what have we hired?’ But I calmed down after a few days. How can you not love this place? How can you not like it?
  • Q: What most exceeded your expectations?
  • A: The thing that really blew me away was the underwater world. Because you read all of the journalists’ stories about how amazing the coral reef is and how colourful the fish are, etc. But nothing really prepares you for what it’s like to come face to face with a manta ray or really any kind of fish, any colourful fish. And there you are in the water in their environment. It’s just magic. It really is amazing. That I did love.
  • Q: And what fell short of your expectations?
  • A: Well, I’m a redhead so I don’t tan particularly well and living in a tropical environment so living in a tropical environment with daily sunshine is probably not the smartest move. You have visions of lying on a hammock under a palm tree. I don’t do an awful lot of that because I burn really quickly. It’s hot and I don’t like sand that much either, so it’s not ideal.
  • Q: Have you been in the Maldives non-stop since you arrival.
  • A: No, I’ve tried to leave the Maldives three times…and I keep coming back.
  • Q: What was it like the first time you left the Maldives?
  • A: I was still working for Rangali and I got a great job offer in Dubai. I’m a city girl at heart so I thought, ‘Okay, fine, time to leave the Maldives.” I’d been there nearly 5 years at that point so I’d done my time in the Maldives. And I cried, and I cried and I cried on the plane…it was awful. I have a great time in Dubai. I made great friends and I loved Dubai. When you move to a new country and you don’t know many people, you always get homesick for the place you’d left before. I’d spend my Friday evenings in Dubai (which is the weekend in Dubai) thinking, ‘Oh, if I were in the Maldives right now, I’d be sitting in the staff bar.’ I actually got quite homesick for the Maldives.
  • Q: The Maldives has evolved enormously over the years. What has struck you about how both the guest experience and the staff experience has changed over the years?
  • A: The guest experience when I came in 2003 was all ‘no news, no shoes’, barefoot. That was the standard that everyone would expect when they’d come to the Maldives. There were no newspapers, no TVs in the guest rooms. We didn’t have Internet. If you wanted to check what was going on the world, I think there was one computer in the business centre somewhere. And there was only dial-up on the Internet. Whereas nowadays if you were to tell guests that you don’t have Internet and 500 satellite channels, I think they would go into complete melt-down. And I’m not convinced whether or not that is a good thing. For me on of the great things is that you are not part of the rest of the world here. It is just something separate and different. I see people complaining about the bandwidth, that they can’t download, they can’t Skype people. We are in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of nowhere, do you really need that technology? We did a test once when I was working at Conrad. They had 20 mbs Internet speed and they had 1,200 devices connected to it. So you have almost 300 guests in the full hotel, almost 400 staff, everyone has 1 or 2 devices on them. It’s a lot of things sucking up bandwidth not to mention that the hotel itself it trying to run on the same connection.
  • Q: You were at one point a Destination Expert for the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum. That’s quite a kudo. There are only a few DEs designated per destination. What advice do you have for resorts and resort staff who want to engage with TripAdvisor?
  • A: Whoever is doing the engagement with TripAdvisor needs to be someone who likes to talk and chat to guests and give information. It’s no good saying, ‘Well, it’s your job to do TripAdvisor’ so someone who is not naturally communicative. You have to want to talk because otherwise it becomes just another task that you have to tick off every day. People can feel whether you are genuine or not. It comes across in your words and what you are writing. And the other thing is that you can’t take it personally. People are going to not like you resort or not like what you say and that’s their opinion and they are entitled to it. There’s no point in arguing with them. Your resort is never going to be perfect for everyone. All you can do it try to correct facts. So if someone says that you have a Chinese restaurant and you don’t have a Chinese restaurant, you can go and say, ‘no, that’s not correct.’ But you can’t argue whether the food was good or the staff were friendly because that was their experience. It’s very, very hard to keep your own emotions out of it. I mean I love this country and I see someone writing things about Maldivians or things about a resort or guests house are particularly coming under attack at the moment, it’s hard not to want to defend it.
  • Q: How has Trip Advisor itself changed over the year as the Digital Revolution evolves?
  • A: It’s grown. I would say now that about 60% of English-speaking guests have been on TripAdvisor. They’ve either checked out hotel reviews or they’ve gone to the Forum and gotten information from there. In that way, it has worked really, really well because people can get the information that they want.
  • Q: Final questions…what are you doing today?
  • A: I’m going to be sitting in an air conditioned office all day. My parents have no idea what I do. They are under the impression that I spend my day wandering around beaches, picking up seashells and working on a great suntan. I’m in the office from around 8:00 in the morning to 7:00 or 8:00 at night. But at least I have a view out my window.

 

Hideaway Beach - Kat 2

Best of the Maldives: Graveyard – Filitheyo

Filitheyo - graveyard

  

“Darkness falls across the land
The midnite hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'awl's neighbourhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom”

– Vincent Price, Thriller

Happy Halloween! Most resorts will be dressing up a bit for Halloween today with special activities for the kiddies and some extra colourful festivities for the adults. But if you want something a bit more than some orange and black crepe paper, then Filitheyo features its very own “spooktacular” mystery graveyard…

“When the island was being cleared for the construction of the resort, a graveyard marked by approximately 30 headstones was discovered about 25m inland from the south-west shore. The origins of those buried and the reason for their burial on the island is unknown.”

  

Best of the Maldives: Vinotherapie – Velassaru

Velassaru - Vinotherapie

  

Alcohol, at its most generic hydroxyl chemical functional group level, has a couple of properties which make it for popular for stirring the senses. First, it is volatile. This enhances aromas as it evaporates quickly. Second, it bonds to both water and fat, making it a great catalyst to bringing out the flavours in food. It seems creative applications have been conjured up to excited nearly every sense – the spectacle of sight, the aroma of smell, the titillation of taste. And Velassaru gives you the opportunity to experience the epidermal emollience of its “Vinotherapie” spa treatment…

“The Spa at Velassaru, Maldives offers couples the chance to experience sensual bliss through a full body scrub, wrap and a massage, with its newly launched wine therapy – Vinotherapie. This indulgent treatment uses red and white wine as its main ingredients and is followed by a specially prepared candlelit bath to enjoy, complimented with a delicious bottle of wine. This three-hour sensual therapy allows couples to enjoy serene and rejuvenating moments together to rekindle intimacy and romance at only USD 640 per couple.”

A cheeky little number for your cheeks.

Best of the Maldives: Vodka Shisha – Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach - vodka shisha

Another Middle Eastern taste treat in the Maldives is the increasingly prevalent shisha pipes. Most hookah essences are herbal or fruit, but Hideaway Beach adds its own distinctive “Vodka Shisha” made with Stoly Vodka ($67)…

“To make it, instead of the usual water in the pipe we put apple juice and two shots of vodka. You can use any flavour tobacco, but we recommend double apple. The juice and vodka just give the smoke an even smoother, more mellow flavour”

Best of the Maldives: Turkish Drinks – Ayada

Ayada - Raki

  

A toast to Turkey…Today is Turkey Republic Day. And the epicentre of all things Turkish in the Maldives, Ayada, no surprise, offers up a delectable array of Ottoman offerings.

You can raise a glass of Turkish Wine which includes such vintages as Villa Doluca Shiraz, Cotes D’Avanos (see below). And for afters it stocks three different varieties of “Raki” (a digestif sort of like French Pastis or Greek Ouzo) that is served in a somewhat elaborate and traditional way…

“The resort stocks the top two brands in Turkey, Yeni Rak? and Tekirda?, with both the Gold and Ala offerings. Our Raki is served traditionally, mixed with a little chilled still water in a glass slipped into a copper well surrounded by crushed ice to keep the beverage perfectly chilled (reference picture attached). We also have available ?algam, purple carrot juice which has been fermented for several weeks in wooden barrels along with cracked bulgur wheat and salt, certainly an acquired taste, that is often times served alongside Raki as a perfect accompaniment alongside a plate of freshly cut fruits.”

?erefe!

  

Ayada - Turkish wine

Best of the Maldives: Sunset Villas – Atmosphere Kanifushi

Atmosphere Kanifushi - water villa sunset

 

 

One resort who appreciates “Sunset Villas” is Atmosphere Kanifushi. There is no choosing between sunrise and sunset at this resort…because ALL the villas have been built westward facing. All four of their room types are designated “Sunset”.

In all fairness, the standard “Beach Villas”, the left most villas numbered “12” on the resort map below, are really “north” facing. In fact, all of the villas are really NNW facing if you want to be precise. North by Northwest should give you a fine view of the sunset on the western horizon in most cases. But one visitor did report to me that at certain times of the year, the sunset was really hard to see (and that would certainly be the case for the westernmost “Beach Villas”. So if you are draw to this sunset orientation of Kanifushi, you might want to veer toward the villas on the eastern most end of the island.

Westward ho!

 

Atmosphere Kanifushi - large map

 

Atmosphere Kanifushi - Google map

Best of the Maldives: Asian Massage – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - asian spa

United Nations Day today. Celebrating the diversity of cultures as well as the ambitions of that global organisation to enhance health and welfare around the world.

When we first starting visiting the Maldives, a spa was actually a rarity. My first massage there was from an Australian masseuse they had contracted in and gave her a remote villa garden and massage table. Now the spas are some of the most elaborate parts of the resorts and many of the properties incorporate ‘Spa’ right into the name. With all these choices have come many variations on the theme. Anantara has tapped its Thai roots for more Thai oriented treatments. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has an aruvedic theme.

But the veritable United Nations of spa treatments are to be found at the Sun Siyam Irufushi. The brochure describes “Personalized Spa Experiences – Guests can create their own spa journey.”

Of the 147 different treatments offered The Spa by Thalgo, it features 9 different massages from traditional Asian cultures including:

  • MALDIVES – Maldivian Massage
  • PHILIPPINES – Filipino Hilot Massage
  • INDIA – Crystal Healing Ritual
  • CHINA – Restoring Yin-Yang Therapy
  • JAPAN – Shiatsu Massage
  • THAILAND – Thai Massage
  • INDONESIA – Balinese Massage
  • SOUTH PACIFIC – Aroma Island Massage
  • ASIA – Oriental Back Massage (fusion of oriental techniques)

When we visited, I was especially impressed by the Thai Massage room (see photo above). A spacious area with not only a proper Thai matt, but also two elegant ropes for the therapist to use for balance while walking on your back. I am a devotee of Thai Massage (aka. “Lazy Yoga”) and this was the finest treatment room (not over the water) for that discipline that I’ve visited.

Best of the Maldives: Triathlon – Kurumba

Kurumba - Triathlon

 

Also flying around the hazardous cobbles of Male, nearly as death defying as the Red Bull skateboarding crew, is the Kurumba triathlon team. The only resort team in this the Maldives’ second ever triathlon, Thinvaru Triathlon.

Team Kurumba broke up the event by discipling with each member completing a different leg/discipline…

  • Swimming: Recreation Manager, Aishath Rizuna
  • Cycling: General Manager, Jason Kruse
  • Running: Fleet Manager, Shameem Mohamed

Each team member prepared extensively, but the big event was full of challenges and not just the obvious multi-disciplinary, cardio-pulmonary ones.

Rizu is always in the water and the swimming leg was held in a protected part of the ocean by Male. Nonetheless, it was Rizu’s very first competitive swim (and she’s not a big fan over wearing goggles).

Jason rides on a home cycle trainer 4-5 times a week, but quickly discover that IRL is a bit different. First of all, this non-native had to just find his way around one of the smallest capital cities in the world (Shameem had to take Jason for a motorbike ride around the course the day before the event so that he would not get lost). And on the day, the roads weren’t actually closed for the event. So Jason and other cyclists had to dodge cars, motorbikes and anything else that wandered onto the streets. All racing full speed along some pretty rough and cobbled surfaces. “Risky to say the least,” Jason noted.

Shameen runs 5-6 times per week for health and fitness. And he had to face perhaps the most bizarre hazard of all as he was confronted by a steady barrage of people on motorbikes coming up to photograph (pap life).

Jason summarised the event saying, “Really interesting with the road surface and that the roads were not closed…Bit of extreme cycling and running. Personally, I loved the well set out transition with the shoes, for the mountain bike with the colourful spokie dokiesWe also really liked that many different people at different fitness levels gave it a try. From Maldives fastest swimmer and runner, to some competitors who were there just to try and finish.

But Team Kurumba didn’t just finish, but came in with an impressive 9th place overall team finish.

The next event is being planned for Hulemale in May 2016. Yay Kurumba.