Best of the Maldives: Chicken Residence – Amilla

Amilla - cluckingham palace 2

While all the other resorts are competing on the best amenities (like specialised dietary preferences) and comfortable lodging for their guests, Amilla is putting the same attention to care and comfort to their…chickens. The marketing team has even gotten in on the project with alluring branding for the compound dubbed “Cluckingham Palace” (the top rooster dons the royal moniker of “Sir Clucks-A-Lot”)

The project is more than just a galliphile consideration, but also means that vegans can enjoy eggs on the island. Most vegans shun eggs because of the conditions under which they are produced. Some vegan friends keep chickens as pets so they can give them a comfortable life and enjoy their eggs in return. Ostensibly, “free range” eggs should have this same acceptability, but often the regulatory standard of “free” is lower than the vegans’. But if you have any questions or concerns or just curiosity, guests are welcome to tour the Palace. It’s so ornithologically appealing that quite a number of non-chicken birds frequent it as well.

Amilla even hired a poultry nutritionist who created 8 page guide to what scraps can be given to the chickens by the kitchen, including:

  • Raw green potato peels — Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Green Potato peels, especially when they turn green from exposure to the sunlight, contain the alkaloid solanine, which is toxic. Sweet potatoes and sweet potato skins belong to a different plant family and do not contain solanine. They are safe to feed to your chickens.
  • Avocado skins and pits — These contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, that can be fatal to chickens.
  • Raw meat — Feeding chickens raw meat can lead to cannibalism.
  • Broccoli: Yes. Broccoli is safe to feed to your chickens. It is high in numerous vitamins and low in fat; mine prefer it cooked. You can give it to them in a suet cage to keep them pecking all day.
  • Tomatoes: Yes. Chickens love tomatoes! Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, K & B9, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Chickens cannot eat the plant, leaves or flowers they are poisonous as they contain solanine.
  • Strawberries: Yes. Strawberries are a favorite treat; they are high in trace elements and vitamins A, C & B9. Also contains an anti-inflammatory component called quercetin.
  • Peanuts: No. We are erring on the side of caution here. Peanuts can be bad for some small birds and mammals, there’s no reliable information on chickens. When in doubt: don’t feed it to them!
  • Oats: Yes. They can eat raw or cooked oats. Some research indicates that oats fed to pullets helps to reduce feather picking. Oats contain vitamins and minerals also some protein.
  • Miscellaneous —chickens also enjoy shrimp tails, unsweetened yogurt and spaghetti. One customer told us they serve pumpkin to their chickens because it is a natural dewormer.

Amilla certainly cares for its peeps!

Amilla - cluckingham palace

Amilla - cluckingham palace 3

Best of the Maldives: Herons – LUX North Ari Atoll

LUX North Male Atoll - heron

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).

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Veg – Amilla

Amilla - Maldives veg 1

While the Maldives destination is known for its distinctive blues, at Amilla’s “Mystique Garden” also features a cornucopia of Maldivian greens. And initiative of Sustainability Manager Victoria Kruse (see above) who has collected an extensive range of local produce to grow and feature in all the resort’s cuisine including:

  • Moringa Drumstick – A ‘super food’ with leaves like spinash, roots like horseradish and use to make curry.
  • Kullhafilafai – Like Maldivian dandelion (see photo directly below)
  • Maldivian tea tree
  • Loofa – While best known for its scrubbing, it is also produces a healthy veg.

Amilla - Maldives veg 2

Amilla - pineapple

Amilla - Maldives veg 3

Amilla - Maldives veg 4

Best of the Maldives: Reef Friendly Sunscreens – Gili Lankanfushi

Gili Lankanfushi - sun screen

Environment Day today to celebrate appreciating, respecting and care for the environment around us. Sometimes the smallest of things can have big impacts over enough people and time. On example is sunscreen which we slather on to protect us from the tropical sun. But when we take a dip in the ocean to cool off, the salty water washes a lot of its chemicals off our body and onto the coral reefs we swim amongst.

Gili Lankanfushi is now only selling reef-friendly sunscreen in its boutique for its guests to remove this extra burden on our coral friends:

  • A key ingredient in more than 3,500 sun protection products is oxybenzone…Annually four to six thousand tonnes of these chemicals enter our ocean through wastewater effluent, and by swimmers slathered up with sunscreen. Acting like an oil slick, the chemicals settle on marine life and the reefs become suffocated.”

Also, Grand Park Koddhipparu have made a similar announcement, but I was unable to get additional details.

Gili Lankanfushi - sunscreen 2

The World is On Our Doorstep

Save Something kitten

Earth Day today is traditionally a time to reflect on how humanity can save the planet, though it takes on a whole new perspective during this era of COVID19. Internet memes abound joking that the coronavirus is the planet’s way of scolding humanity and sending it to its bedroom as punishment with the admonition, “Now go away and think about what you have done.”

The pandemic underscores poignantly and painfully how interconnected we are in the modern world. How my respiratory survival is dependent on others changing their behaviours. How my toilet paper supply is dependent on global supply chains.

I had saved the post below from our daughter Isley especially for Earth Day given its theme of saving things including the planet. It was penned after we got together this past year and she was reflecting on her secondment at Soneva Fushi and Rihiveli working on a number of Maldivian writing projects.

The piece reminded me of the starfish parable…

  • “One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, ‘I’m saving these starfish, Sir’. The old man chuckled aloud, ‘Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?’ The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, ‘I made a difference to that one!’”

We can all matter to individual starfish, one-legged birds and kittens. And if we do, the whole planet can matter to all of humanity.

HOW TO SAVE SOMETHING

I wrote the poem “Today I Was a Starfish” during a short writing residency at Soneva Fushi. It’s two true stories in one: Soneva had a Precious Plastics initiative where inventors worked to recycle plastics in artful and purposeful new ways. Soneva also engages seriously with sustainability, saving and reusing wherever possible so it seemed right that I write a poem responding to this part of who they are. I also watched that little kid cry her eyes out over an ice cream, and laughed before realising that she was right: the ready appearance of another ice cream doesn’t erase the loss of the one she held in her hands.

This was back in 2018. I went from Soneva Fushi to Rihiveli, which had its own collection of stories about the importance of saving. Their icon is a beautiful white bird called Juliette, who ended up on the island after the 2004 tsunami, and was cared for by the humans there. She now doesn’t fly, but hangs around on one leg (incidentally at Soneva Fushi there was also a one legged bird who would visit at mealtimes, called affectionately Onelego). Another example of this spirit of care was its reopening as Rihiveli The Dream, when to stop the island from closing it was bought by a collection of guests and run in a way which preserved the staff and style of the island they knew well.

It was while I was at Rihiveli that I was asked by the London Theatre Consortium to attend a residential climate lab when I returned to the UK. I had no idea how many overlaps I would find during my time on that lab to what I had seen in the Maldives: most obviously, the science and history behind the climate catastrophe we face, and that the Maldives is at the knife edge of in so many ways.

But also, the Maldives became emblematic for the key revelation I had during my time at the lab, which has to do with structural and systemic barriers to addressing climate change, and found metaphorical manifestation in a little stray kitten…

On our penultimate day in the Maldives, in Hulhumalé, a tiny kitten greeted us as we had breakfast. We had plans to explore the island and snorkel, but they were abandoned to take care of this flea-ridden little beast with the wonky jaw and seriously cuddly cuteness. We gave her some egg and cleaned her when she toileted and held her in our laps while we picked fleas off her one by one, trapping them in selotape that we borrowed from the hotel reception. There are many stray cats in parts of the Maldives, cared for ad hoc by the working community. But this one was in my lap. She couldn’t chew properly. She didn’t seem to be able to poop. She fell asleep on my hand. We named her Dhaya. I needed to save her.

After realising that it would be impossible to process the paperwork in time to take her to the UK with me, I looked into getting her to a vet while we were still in the country. But the thing is there are ZERO vets in the Maldives. None. Not one. There is one man in Indonesia who makes a trip every six months to look over the pets of the residents, and everyone essentially crowdfunds his trip and tries to get their pet seen during his brief visit. We made a friend in Sujon, who worked in the hotel we were staying at – a fellow animal lover, he said he would keep Dhaya in his apartment and take care of her for us, until we could get the vet to see to her, which I could organise from the UK. I felt good knowing she had a home, and that it might not mean sending her all the way to the UK to keep her happy and safe. But that evening Dhaya took a turn for the worse. We could sort of diagnose the problem using the internet, and the treatment was straightforward, for a vet. But we didn’t have a vet. Or medicine. Or expertise. And she died.

The kitten was saveable. We all wanted to save it. But without a vet, we couldn’t.

The planet is saveable. We all do want to save it, even if we disagree about how. But without systems in place and upheld by governments, organisations, businesses etc, we’ll fail. We cannot crowdfund the climate revolution.

Yes we have to work as individuals – the child needs to not drop the ice cream. And yes we need to be grassroots in our approach to change – so much has been achieved by the Rihiveli community, contributing and sharing and organising in whatever way they can personally to achieve a collective aim. But those energies need to be focused upwards, at those with more power and resources to affect serious change. But as always, those with least resources and the least power are expected to do the most. Yes, me offsetting my air travel is good, but not as good as that being a responsibility of the airlines themselves.

This is what I learned at the climate lab, and at Rihiveli, and from Precious Plastics, and from the kitten.

I’m writing this over a year later now, after Greta Thunberg has proved that an individual (herself someone with significant clout, and inspired by activists before her) can at least influence others, and begin the change systemically. Extinction Rebellion sees many individuals coming together to encourage change and enact it within their reach, putting pressure on larger bodies to recognise their voice. Veganuary proves to be a huge commercial incentive for corporations and companies to be part of the change. And there’s a stray cat with mange that sleeps in my neighbour’s shed that I’m trying to trap and treat. They remind me of Dhaya. Which makes me realise a final thing:

It’s not wrong to want to help the kitten on your doorstep. But the world has been getting smaller for a long time now, and this story of international travel and relationships and communities is proof of that. And the fact is, the world is – and always was – on our doorstep. What we strive to make better in our own worlds impacts the worlds outside of our own, culturally but also ecologically. My choices have ripples that widen and deepen a very long way away. But I also need to think not just about this kitten that I can see the shed, but about all the kittens. But again – at risk of sounding like that Debbie… I can’t help every cat. No one can.

I’m tying myself in knots here a bit now, because there’s no clear right way to fix this. The macro is the micro and vice versa / people power is real power but the real power is systemic / the cat I see suffering is not more or less special than any other suffering animal, or suffering person, and yet I can and should care for them specially.

As I sit in my car on my road, watching the trap I’ve laid for this latest rescue mission, hoping the mangy street cat won’t see me watching, will take the bait, and surrender himself to my care, I think: there are lots of ways to save things. None of them are perfect, convenient, comfortable, or ideal for everyone. But at least there are lots of them. This is one of the ways I can try and save things. And another is demanding that those who can do more do do more. If the infrastructure had been in place, Dhaya would be alive. So I’m going to keep saving the little kittens, but now I know to do that by challenging the fat cats.

Save something bird

Planet time out

Best of the Maldives: Biogradable Coffee Cup – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX south Ari Atoll - biodegradable coffee cup

For short lattes or long, LUX South Ari Atoll offers eco-friendly coffee cups that allow you to have your coffee and take it away too…

  • Coffee lovers can also have their favourite ice blends to-go in a biodegradable bamboo cup at the resort’s signature Café LUX*. Made of bamboo fibre with biodegradable silicone lids that are dishwasher-friendly, these cups are also in their retail shop for guests to bring home a piece of eco-friendly memento of their tropical getaway.”

Putting Ocean Warming into Perspective

Ocean temp 1

Few places provide the perspective the Earth’s vastness as effectively as standing on the seashore and gazing out on the vast expanse of the ocean. The level horizon provides an uninterrupted vista of the planet allowing the view to extend miles and miles (well, 3 miles about). A dip into this immensity adds the dimension of depth as you realise that this body of water plummets to fathoms below. In fact, the lowest point down in the ocean (Challenger Deep 36,200 feet) is deeper than the highest point up on land (Mount Everest 29,029 feet).

This immensity cloaks the blue planet in not just an aquatic wonderland, the birthplace of life and countless resources, but it regulates the world’s climate significantly. It absorbs and releases heat and water constantly. And with the inexorable release of Anthropocene carbon into the atmosphere and the consequential inching up of average temperatures, the oceans are doing their bit to absorb both.

The problem is that when the oceans absorbs carbon it makes the seawater more acidic which makes it less hospitable for a lot of its creatures. Also, when it absorbs the heat, it raises the water temperature which makes it less hospitable for the one of the pillars of the marine food chain – the coral reefs. The result is the widely reported bleaching and dying of the reefs. Over the two decades we have been visiting the Maldives, we have applauded the destination growing in many exciting ways, but each year (especially recently) we despair at the painful shrinking of the living coral primarily due to the warming sea temperatures.

In the Maldives, the reefs are not just foundation to the ecosystem, but the entirety of the county’s very being. As such, the country has been on the vanguard of campaigning for eco-sustainability and cutting carbon emissions. With the global prominence of Time’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg and the impassioned television series by famed naturalist David Attenborough “Life on Our Planet”, the scale of carbon impact is getting a higher profile than ever.

But just how big is the impact right now? Forget all of the controversial models and forecasts. Forget the graphs showing tonnes of carbon emitted (as few of us are chemistry experts to know what all that carbon really means). Let’s just look at the actual, observed real world impact today of that carbon and climate change with a easily obtained and verified measurement – the temperature of the ocean.

I’ve happened upon a couple of illustrations of ocean temperature increase recently which prompted this post. The first from the Futurism website noted that

  • After analyzing data from the 1950s through 2019, an international team of scientists determined that the average temperature of the world’s oceans in 2019 was 0.075 degrees Celsius (.135 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 1981–2010 average…The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions. That averages out to four Hiroshima bombs’ worth of energy entering the oceans every second for the past 25 years. But even more troubling, the rate isn’t holding steady at that alarming figure — it’s increasing.”

But a possibly even more dramatic number and comparison is the simple quantification of the energy that the ocean has absorbed – an accelerating at average of 10 zetta-joules per year(and last year was over 200 zetta-joules added). ZETTA joules. You don’t know what that is? Not surprising since it is such a big number there really aren’t many things in the universe to apply it to. A “zetta” is “10^21” (1 with 21 zeros after it).

Best of the Maldives: Vegan Beef – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - vegan beef

The ecological impacts of what you eat affects both the surf and turf of your dinner plate. Beef cattle methane flatulence is a major contributor of global carbon which contributes to ocean warming which kills coral. Concern over beef consumption has led to many initiatives to take the beef out of the most classic beef dish of all – the burger. Even mainstream chains like Burger King have introduced vegan versions like its “Impossible Whopper”. In the Maldives, LUX South Ari Atoll has introduced its own vegan “beef” burger

  • Embraced by leading brands, tech companies and major news media, the plant-based protein, formally known as ‘Beyond Burger™’ is now available at three of the resort’s eight restaurants to provide additional vegan and kosher options.”

Inspired by LUX’s culinary carbon-reducing crusade, I found myself trying my first vegan burger yesterday in London. It was a Avocado Chipotle Burger by the UK chain, Leon’s. Admittedly, my expectations were pretty low, but I must say that they were handily exceeded. Eating it, you realise that the taste of a “burger” is a real collection of tastes – bun, condiments, lettuce, charcoal grilling. So getting a patty of something that is remotely evocative of a burger in texture and even some flavour make the whole sandwich a pretty close facsimile to the original. But with much less impact on the coral reefs you are enjoying during your stay.

Best of the Maldives: Groupers – Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu - Grouper 1

You’ll should see more groupers at on the Six Senses Laamu house reef if Blue Marine work succeeds:

  • “Grouper in the Maldives are in trouble. Due to high demand and market prices, the Maldives grouper export fishery has escalated since the 1980s, spreading throughout the country. The most recent study in 2011 revealed a concerning situation: grouper stocks are declining and smaller sized fish are being taken. Larger fish have selectively been removed and fishers are targeting spawning aggregation sites. Recent catch data show that for the ten most commonly exploited species of groupers, 70% of individuals are taken prior to reaching sexual maturity, meaning that they had not had a chance to reproduce before being caught. The Blue Marine Foundation has formed a partnership with the Maldivian Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MOFA) and Six Senses Laamu, a beautifully sustainable, luxury resort with a passion for marine conservation. In collaboration with MOFA, BLUE has designed a project to promote a better documented and more sustainable grouper fishery in the Maldives by protecting threatened grouper spawning aggregations. Research suggests that grouper have been overfished for at least 15 years in Laamu Atoll.”

Blue Marine are the grouper groupies of the Maldives.

With this post, I’ve added the tag “Marine Life Conservation” to cover post about initiatives to save various aquatic creatures (bigger than coral polyps as those projects are covered extensively in the “Reef Regeneration” tag).

Six Senses Laamu - Grouper 2

Best of the Maldives: Edible Straw – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - edible straws

When most of what there is to do all day is savour pina coladas in the sun (or whatever your favourite tropical tipple is), plastic straws can pile up. Most resorts are moving away from plastic to a variety of sipping tools (so much so that with this post I have introduced the “Straws” tag). LUX south Ari Atoll has introduced another variety of edible straws:

  • The biodegradable straws, made from cooked rice flour, tapioca starch and water, can last up to one hour before they soften and eventually dissolve.”