Best of the Maldives: Tree Planting – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - tree planting 1

The first day of spring today as we passed the Vernal Equinox. A natural cause for celebration (especially up north) as the days now get longer than the nights. This celestial event is celebrated in a number of ways from throwing coloured powder (for the Hindu Festival of Holi) to balancing an egg (ancient Chinese belief says that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring since due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, gravitational forces are balanced out).

But spring is especially a time of sprouting and rebirth. The baby lambs have started emerging on the farms in our area. The Mirror describes, “Spring equinox is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in ancient Italy, it was traditional for women to plant seeds in the gardens of Adonis on this day. The custom persists in Sicily, where women plant seeds of grains – lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers – in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on graves on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.”

A number of resorts have offered tree planting on their property, but a few have stopped (running out of space) and others don’t support plaques. I appreciate that such commemoratives need to be done with taste and aesthetic sensitivity, but I do love the notion of being able to leave a positive part of yourself after your departure. Giving a people commemorative opportunities builds the sense of connection to this paradise and a reinforces an enduring empathy and support for its environmental challenges.

Sun Siyam Irufushi does support tree planting accompanied by simple wooden plaques noting the special occasion of the visit (cost is $300).

May your spring blossom with the vibrant colour of the Maldives wherever you are.

Sun Siyam Irufushi - tree planting 2

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Beauty – Coco Bodu Hithi

Coco Bodu Hithi - Raudha Aathif - advert

Athif Raudha is literally the face of the Maldives. She displays the classic sun-kissed, delicate features of the Maldivians, except for one extremely striking exception. While most Maldivians have dark brown eyes, hers are an iridescent blue more like the cerulean sea that surrounds the country. Even her Facebook handle is “Wild Blue Lustre

Her captivating look has drawn her into modelling for a number of years now including Coco Bodu Hithi’s recent campaign (see above). She is also a favourite subject of artistic fashion photographer Alexey Vladimir (in fact, her red hooded portrait featured in yesterdays Christmas Red post is Alexey’s Facebook Profile picture).

Raudha agreed to do a first-ever, exclusive interview with Maldives Complete to share some insights into this intriguing poster child for Maldivian beauty (thanks Paola)…

  • How were you “discovered”, ie. how did you get started?

It was always a hobby, because I grew up posing for pictures. But it wasn’t until I did a few shoots with Sotti (a professional photographer) that things really kicked off. I started getting offers for ads, and I always had people advise me not to take any of them until something good came up. And that worked out quite well.

  • What was your first modelling gig?

If I remember correctly, it was something like a PSA, for national TV, encouraging people to stop using plastic bags, and choose eco-friendly stuff. I was 14 years old, and quite the environmentalist, so, naturally very happy to be a part of it.

  • Do you have an agent?

I don’t. Anyone’s free to contact me directly, regarding any business.

  • Where did you get your distinctive eyes from (do other members of your parents families have similar eyes)?

My paternal grandfather, his eyes were a sort of dark hazel. And my beautiful great grandmother had a greyish blue.

  • What types of work would you like to do in the future?

Contrary to popular belief, modelling isn’t all I want to do with my life. I’d like to work as a doctor, in many places all over the world. I’m leaving to Bangladesh to study for a Bachelor s of Medicine next month. And that, becoming a doctor, has been my dream, and primary interest, since I was 5, maybe.

  • Is there a model whose look/work you most admire?

I can’t possibly name just one. Adriana Lima, Cara Delevingne, Angelina Jolie. And I can never leave out Deepika Padukone. These women are beautiful, inspiring, and I love them for the things they stand for.

  • What’s been your most lucrative modelling gig?

That would definitely be working for Sotti in his “Maldives” series.

  • What’s been your most enjoyable modelling gig?

A collaboration shoot with Alexey Vladimir, where I got the chance to entertain my inner daredevil. I had to make my way to the middle of the reef. Beyond an area called Usfasgandu in Male’ where there’s a destroyed, unused platform-like bit covered with seaweedy things. Between land and the platform, we had steep, slippery tetrahedral rocks to climb down, then the reef, with more rocks and sharp corals. Strong waves too, because it was a rainy day. Had I slipped or fallen over, or lost my balance with an incoming or outgoing wave, my face would be in coral hell. And then I didn’t fall. And it was all done with me in a full length dress. I LOVED it. The result was a beautiful picture titled “The Night”. Everyone lived happily ever after.

  • Are any particular pressures you face doing modelling?

Well, before a shoot, there’s almost always pressure. A weird, unspecific kind. Ha ha. I suppose it’s natural, wanting to do well, feeling nervous for how it’s going to turn out. But once it starts, it’s always fun and an amazing experience. I’ve been lucky to work with great people.

  • Any pet peeves when you are working modelling?

I think the only thing would be, when people fail to communicate very well. Maybe my friends think otherwise, and I don’t express this very often. But, I actually have very little tolerance for rude or bossy people.

  • What are your favourite pastimes?

Modelling IS a pastime for me! Ha ha. Okay seriously though? I have phases. All in all, I love learning new things. And a lot of that happened while I worked at the military hospital and then IGMH, for a year and a half.

Besides that, I’ve also had my time with yoga, painting, dancing. At school in India, I played the congas – that was fun. And also failed quite terribly at singing. When I want to laze around, there’s always a good book to get lost in. Most recently, I’ve taken up open water diving and trying to play the piano. New things are excitingly endless, you know.

Coco Bodu Hithi - Raudha Aathif portrait

Best of the Maldives: People’s Choice All-Inclusive – Kurumba

Kurumba - TA Best All-Inclusive

I told you so. 3 years ago, I awarded Kurumba the “Best of the Maldives for 5 Star Value”. This week, the rest of the world agrees awarding the resort the Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Award for Best All-Inclusive. Not just in the Maldives. IN THE WORLD.

The “All-Inclusive” category is all about value-conscious travelling. Many travellers push their budget to the absolute limit in order to afford a bucket-list trip-of-a-lifetime to the Maldives. They don’t want to check-out and get hit with a bunch of unanticipated extra-charges. They want to relax and relaxation means peace of mind that they can do whatever the heck they want and not worry about it.

With the rise of the Maldives’ worldwide profile in recent years, room rates have gone up and up. Many people are opting for a few of the budget options that are out there that still provide the enchanting Maldives experience, but do offer quite simple accommodation, food, décor and amenities. The charm of Kurumba is that it maintains true 5-star exquisite luxury standards in all parts of its operation…and still remains reasonably priced. No wonder so many people have returned from their stays there and raved out it in their TripAdvisor reviews.
  

Kurumba - Trip Advisor lagoon
[Kurumba staff celebrating their recognition]

Best of the Maldives: Budget Water Villas – J Resort Alidhoo

J Resort Alidhoo - water villa back

One of the most popular Bucket List items in the world is “Staying in a Maldives over water villa”. And the nearly as popular obstacle is “But I never will be able to afford it…”

For some, just seeing the iconic plot-of-sand-and-a-palm-tree destination is a financial stretch. But there are still modest resorts on lovely islands (eg. Bathala) that we definitely within many people’s reach (as long as they are willing to be happy with modest accommodation and simple, if not tired, décor). And with the advent of Guest Houses, even more budget options become feasible.

However, for some, the fantasy is more than the Bounty Bar island (one of my favourite terms picked up this trip from Hideaway Beach’s Kat Anthony). For some, the dream includes immersion in the over-worldly turquoise lagoons in a nearly as iconic water villa.

For this reasons, water villas always command a premium (over their more pedestrian Beach Villa counterparts). A quick calculation through the Room Type database shows that on average Water Villas are 25% more expensive per square metre than Beach Villas. Furthermore, the lower end islands tend not to have them so they tend to reside in the high rent corner of the market putting them that little further beyond reach.

But J Resort Alidhoo is offering their water villas at exceptionally affordable prices. The resort has been waiting for some investment in their infrastructure and cosmetics and so it knows it doesn’t have the flashiest product and most comprehensive services. But it is making up for it by being extra competitive on rates. In some deals, you can get a night in a water villa for $300…full board! You struggle to get modest, tiny hotel room in London, McDonalds Breakfast, Subway lunch and Harvester dinner for that price in the UK.

And the rooms are quite impressive. Yes, they could do with a fresher paint job for 5-star aesthetics, but they don’t look bad. The thatch roofs are in dire need of a refurb, but that looks worse that it is (the thatch is only decoration and just because some palm fronds have been blown off, doesn’t mean the roof is any less weather-proof). Still, if you do secure a J Resort Alidhoo, I would make sure you have travel insurance and be prepared for things go a bit awry (as anything could happen if they do secure investment and they might shut down for renovations). But if all goes well, it could very well be the bargain of a lifetime for the dream vacation of a lifetime.