Not all enchanting water creatures in the Maldives are under the water. Soneva Jani has a dazzling display of creatures on the water.
The air above the Maldives is regularly filled with both the colourful plumage of various tropical birds as well as their distinctive songs composing the melody line of uniquely Laccadive soundscape. The songsters are often hidden in the lush foliage, but Soneva Jani has the best place in the Maldives to see not only the water fowl varieties, but also a range of other birds drawn to its expansive mangrove lakes.
Such an avian attraction would be distinctive on its own, but Soneva has gone ahead and made this nature preserve a special feature with an inspired bird blind. First of all, the blind allows guests to get a good view of the flocks of ducks, terns, koels, herons, etc. without disturbing them. Then, for an even better look, the resort has set out a pair of binoculars at the blind for guests to use. And if you do spot a feathered friend that you want to know more about, they have posted an array of laminated bird identification posters (with 80 different birds) for reference. On top of all that, the blind is constructed with characteristic flair with the “wood scrap” aesthetic used at the Crab Shack and elsewhere.
Our butler Aysha told us that she has seen birds there that she has never seen growing up in the Maldives. And while we were there, we spotted a dramatic Glossy Ibis (see photo at bottom).
Maybe this distinction should be “Cutest Bird Resident”. Amilla Maldives not only features a micro-flock of the rare Long Tailed Tropicbirds (more colourfully named “Dhandi’fulhu” in Dhivehi), but the resort island is also a nesting spot for them. We enjoyed watching them darting around the skies with their flowing tail feathers like some sort of mini-Banshee from “Avatar”. Special thanks Khateeb Shaba and Marine Biologist Chiara who captured these pictures of the latest arrival along with proud mom strutting her own tail feathers.
Every resort island seems to have a few resident herons who have staked out their territory in the shallows patiently waiting for the wayward bait fish to nab and otherwise strolling with an uncommon deliberation. But, if you wonder where they come from, LUX North Male Atoll actually has a heron nesting site. The construction of the property preserved the site where at least 10 resident herons come to birth their chicks on a secluded part of the island that is cordoned off from guests (a little privacy in the marine maternity ward).
Of all the resort resident birds, perhaps none are more apropos that the flock of white doves on Malahini Kuda Bandos. Releasing white doves is can be found at some of the more extravagant wedding celebrations. And they are an iconic symbol of peace. Like the tranquillity you find sitting among them at the beach bar watching the sunset.
Resorts feature all sorts of resident creatures including turtles, cats, octopi and rabbits. Many islands host a bevy of birds. But no resident has charmed us as much as “Julietta” at Rihiveli Beach.
Julietta is Rihiveli’s resident Crab Plover. The local story goes that she was found on the neighbouring bird island when the resort was first developed in 1983 and brought over to Rihiveli because she couldn’t fly. Obviously, 34 years is a long life for a bird so there is speculation that this “Julietta” arrived in 2006 after the tsunami hit.
Whatever her back story, her present day exploits are downright captivating. She came right up to us and greeted us sitting on our lounge chairs soon after our arrival. She follows the staff around like a puppy and at one point strolled along with us when a staff member was taking us some place. At first we thought that she was looking for food handouts or droppings, but it turns out she’s not interested human food in the least. All she eats are the little crabs that run across the beach. Actually, the staff can (and do) help her with her meals by shining a torch on the beach when the crabs are most active which helps Jullietta spot them. During a beach dinner one night, Julietta was being particularly sociable and so one of the chefs decided that she deserved some of her own treats. He stepped away from the buffet, turned the flashlight on his iPhone and shined it on the sand while Julietta eagerly snapped up a meal of unsuspecting micro-crustaceans.
But the most fun part of the night was her joining the crowd on the disco floor of the infamous Rihiveli White Party (see photos below). During the thumping house music, she was out there in centre of the dance floor seemingly enjoying the vibe as much as any guest.
Julietta has inspired her own virtual fan club with lots of paparazzi shots of her by visitors posted on TripAdvisor and Flickr. She has become such a high profile part of the property that the resort logo features her (in the midst of some of her disco dancing maybe) – see photo at bottom.
Airplanes aren’t the only things gracing the skies above the Maldives. One of the most distinctive birds in paradise is the “Dhandhifulhu Dhooni” or “White-Tailed Tropicbird.” The bird is quite rare and protected. Dhigufaru is blessed with having a resident pair who are often seen around the water sports centre. Logo designed based n tail. Just a few hundred metres away is a sister island which is actually dedicated to birds dubbed appropriately enough “Birds Island”. These long feathered friends are especially honoured by the property with a rendition of their extraordinary tail fashioned to form the logo of the resort (see below).
This bird is not attractive in the way you might think…
Q: The “Makana” bird (heron) is found everywhere in the Maldives (each resort seems to have its own resident). What makes it such a good fisherman?
A: The Heron making his own oil secreted from the toes which attracts fish.
Q: Buuzzzzz! No. The “stinky feet” story about herons turns out to be an old wives tale (or old fishermans tale)
“Fishermen of yore were convinced that a heron’s foot exuded oil that enticed fish within range of the bird’s five-and-ahalf-inch serrated beak. A formula from the year 1740 for a witches’ brew, Unguentum Piscatorum Mirable, to be smeared on fishing lines included heron’s fat as well as cat’s fat and ‘Man’s fat [which] you may get of any surgeons who are concerned in anatomy.’ To debunk this myth for his 1954 book on the grey heron (spelled ‘gray’ in this country), the Old World counterpart of our great blue heron, British naturalist Frank A. Lowe dropped heron’s-foot extract in an aquarium. The fish ignored it.” – National Wildlife Federation
QI Series N should be hitting our screens in a few weeks time. “N” as in “noisome nippers” perhaps.
One of the first things that I do when I arrive at a hotel room is to gather all of the marketing literature sprinkled liberally around the room and move it to some out of the way place. Lots of glossy material with pictures of palm trees and pina coladas that are not that interesting to me.
But Gangehi has created a booklet that was so good I brought it home. It is a guide to the plants and animals found on the resort. Fish guides are quite popular in the gift shops, but this is more land focused. The tropical life on the land has its own intriguing variety, colour and distinction. It’s great to have such a handy guide. You can buy natural guide books, but most cover the entire Indian Ocean and therefore are quite heavy (taking up precious luggage weight). Also, they tend to be so comprehensive it is often hard to find the particular creature you are seeking. Gangehi’s guide is limited to those critters found on the island itself so it is quite concise.
This past tour was a revelation of birds. A number of resorts had quite striking birds on the islands. So much so that I have added a “Bird” tag to the blog.
Their presence added a somewhat unexpected colour and vibrancy to the island life that one grows accustomed to on the reef. Gangehi’s avian feature is a giant bird cage right by reception filled with a rainbow of parakeets and painted song birds. A sweet richly hued addition to an arrival welcome.
From flyboarding to free birding.
This post is also a contendor for “Most Nostalgic for My High School Years”. First, “Freebird” was the Ipswich High School Class of 1979 “Class Song”. Second, me and my buddies were big Monty Python fans (perhaps shades of my eventual UK life) and one of my favourite skits was “Albatross.
While I had parroted the “Albatross” sketch endlessly to pubescent tittering, I had never actually seen one. Until I visted Nika. Lori and was even more mesmerised by him, and his goofy wing-flapping walk, than I was I think. We dubbed him “Albert Ross” (my adolescent sense of humour has matured that much since high school).
Nika has its own bird sanctuary. But not in a cage nor in a segregated section of the island, but right in one of the main thoroughfares are the two main pathways converge in front of the dining area. All of the birds roam freely around the island, but they tend to congregate in this area where they are fed and they have some shelters.
A truly diverse bunch too. Bandito the peacock (see above), exotic dove, hens, parrots (see bottom) and ducks.