Free diving is becoming quite a popular pursuit both around the world and in the Maldives. The reef-protected atolls provide exceptionally calm waters to practice plunging the depths. Anantara steps up with its own dedicated centre and the first to provide the popular PADI certification.
While competitive free diving can be quite mind-bendingly difficult and hazardous, basic free-diving does open up a new way to experience this aquatic wonderland. The Anantara announcement provides an alluring description of free diving’s enchantment…
- “Aquafanatics is the first PADI-certified free diving centre in the island nation…A truly liberating activity, it relies on the diver to hold their breath, leaving them free to move unhindered through the translucent Maldivian waters. With no oxygen tank bubbles to distort vision, the vivid colouration of coral life glows brighter than ever. Devoid of heavy equipment, guests move at will alongside inquisitive fish, developing a sense of belonging. With every dive guests acquire the ability to stay below a little longer, discovering more on each descent. Free diving is entwined with the cultural heritage of the islands in the Indian Ocean. Since ancient times locals have harvested sponges and clasped gleaming pearls from beneath the waves. Anantara’s professional free diving instructor, Mari Kagaya, reveals a peaceful, intrinsic underwater encounter. ‘The Maldives provide the pinnacle in free diving adventure,’ she explained. ‘Escaping the trappings of scuba gear, our encounters with sea life are graceful, natural and deeply personal. Guests discover their own hidden depths, not only of their body, but also the mind’.”
Anantara makes an astute point that free diving is not a new fad, but actually an ancient necessity as generations have used it to explore and exploit the seas which surround it for centuries. I always remember the tradition I read about when I first visited the Maldives for coming-of-age young men. Boys, often no more than 13 years old, would jump off a boat with a rope in hand, free dive into the water where a whale shark was swimming, SWIM INTO THE WHALE SHARKS MOUTH, and then OUT ITS GILLS, hence lassoing the fish. Young boys were the just small enough to pull off this crazy feat. I would certainly consider someone to have proven their “manhood” if they did such a thing. Not surprisingly, the government prohibited this practice years ago because too many young lads were drowning in the effort.
Proving one’s mettle with a PADI certification seems much more sensible to me.
If you yourself want a deep dive of learning with your own diploma, then Dusit Thani was the first of the Maldives resorts to offer an official free diving certification. With their $36,000 investment in specialised support and safety equipment
“Dusit Thani Maldives takes pride in launching the first official and internationally approved free-diving centre in the Maldives, an incredible addition to the selection of water sports available at the resort. Free-diving is a form of underwater diving that relies on the diver’s ability to hold his or her breath until resurfacing without the use of scuba gear. Besides experiencing the tranquillity of underwater kingdom, there are various health and fitness benefits attributed to this unique diving activity. Dusit Thani Maldives’s free-dive centre has joined forces with Apnea Total, a globally renowned free-diving organisation. The Apnea Total Free-diving Education System and Standards are followed at the centre and guests will be provided Apnea Total certifications that are recognized worldwide. Resort guests will train under the supervision of highly experienced free-dive instructors who have themselves worked and trained under record-holding free-divers. Additionally, the centre boasts world-class CRESSI equipment and the rental cost of these is included in the course price. The center offers all levels ofApnea Total courses:Free-Diver Basic, Advanced Free-Diver, and Free-Diving Master, each lasting 2 days, 3 days and up to 5 weeks respectively. The Basic course will equip guests to dive safely and comfortably down to 20 meters on a single breath and the Advanced course equips guests to dive down to 40 metres below sea level.”
Extracting the very essence of the magic coconut fruit is so easy a child could do it. In fact. at Soneva Fushi, children do do it at the resort’s exquisite summer camp programme…
“We head to the spa, where the spa therapist will help the children make fresh coconut oil using coconuts of the island, the children are given the opportunity to take part in all aspects of making the oil.”
Sounds a bit better than the “bug juice” and frigid lake swims when I went to Camp Belknap as a child. If you want to give it a go at home, I’ve found a pretty handy video guide above.
Most live entertainment in the Maldives is either rock DJ or romantic acoustic. Given the upper crust economic brackets of most of the Maldives’ guests, I always wondered if something a bit more sophisticated wouldn’t go amiss. Like opera or ballroom dancing. Well, NIYAMA has brought one of the most sublime arts to the land of ethereal beauty and sublime grace – ballet…
“Fluidity and strength take centre stage against a backdrop of Indian Ocean. Under sparkling stars and above the crystal waters of the Maldives, the Mariinsky Ballet’s First Soloist, Xander Parish, performs for PULSE by PER AQUUM. Accompanied by dancers and soloists of the Mariinsky, the movements of Scheherazade, Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote and Carmen Suite come to life in a tidal swell. Guests at PER AQUUM Niyama will enjoy an exclusive performance on 21 August with an encore at PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi on 23 August. Budding ballerinas and ballerinos will also have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take centre stage themselves. Xander and his hand-picked ensemble, including Oksana Bondareva and Renata Shakirova, will be offering masterclasses at each resort during their visit.”
Grand jetés for grand jet setters.
One of the highlights of flying to the Maldives is the flight itself. Once the azure tapestry of the archipelago emerges below you feel like you have been transported to another world. Sometimes it’s worth getting a transfer to a distant atoll just to enjoy a bit of the aerial scenery.
The MEGA Maldives Airline gives high-flying tykes more than the view to enjoy with their “Kiddie Flight Attendant Program”. (thanks Paola)…
“Children aged 7-12 years old are invited to experience the fun and excitement of being a MEGA Maldives Airlines Cabin Crew. They are provided with an apron and a name tag and given the chance to join the cabin crew in their on-board services. For example, they may be given the opportunity to make in-flight service announcements and do fun things like delivering ice cream to passengers. They may also get special souvenirs and, after landing, may be allowed to tour the cockpit, and meet and take pictures with the pilots (when the plane is on the ground, subject to operational constraints).”
I wonder if I slouch low enough I could pass for a 12 year-old?
When people think “Maldives” and “glass”, they think about the dramatic glass floors that have become de rigeur in the luxury water villas. These transparent apertures provide a portal to the main event of the Maldives – its colourful seascape below. Now Soneva Fushi is producing visions of glass just as striking and stylish…but you can take home with you. Soneva has opened a glass studio on the resort to create all sorts of aquamarine pieces of art.
Furthermore, the pieces are not only a memento of your experience, but are literally a part of your experience. The eco-obsessed Soneva uses only discarded glass from the island. So you can take home that bottle of the wine you drank in the form of a glass to commemorate your stay.
“The first glass studio in the Maldives has opened at Soneva Fushi, the award-winning luxury resort located in the Baa Atoll, where guests can watch world-renowned glass artists create objects of art, and learn the art of glass blowing. The state-of-the-art facility also includes a retail boutique and art gallery, which are designed as platforms to exhibit the work of the Maldivian and international glass artists. The facility uses only waste glass materials used at Soneva resorts and other resorts in the Maldives. It is estimated that more than five tonnes of glass waste is produced by resorts in the Baa Atoll alone, every month. ‘The idea behind this project is turn the glass into something that is much more beautiful and valuable than it was in its previous state.’”
A few years ago, our daughter gave us a Christmas gift of a session in a glass studio and it was fascinating. Not only did we get to watch and contribute to the molten fluidity of working with the hot glass, but we also took home two tree ornaments that we designed and helped “blow”.
If Maldives is the Venice of the tropic, then Soneva is now its Murano.
Another translucent pool of blueness to peer into (as well as another great lead by adjunct correspondent, Paola). NIYAMA’s “FLOAT” centre for dive training. Over the years, I’ve seen a number of folks taking intro-to-SCUBA courses in the pools and lagoons while other family members look on or take photos. NIYAMA’s unique set up provides the perfect setting for those Instagram pix of the first breaths underwater.
A bit of a tripod trifecta for Gili Lankanfushi this week of style. I generally, avoid repeating resorts too frequently to keep up the diversity of coverage, but Gili has offered up more photo opps than a Maldivian sunset after a rainshower. In this instance, Gili not only provides one of the most popular venues for photo shoots, they also provide the instruction. Their website describes…
“Come and join David Evans photographer and myself at the Worlds Best Resort Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives this September for the workshop of a lifetime, learning, sharing and relaxing all at the same time, in one of the most spectacular places in the world. David and I were lucky enough to spend some time here last year and the images you see in this slideshow were all taken in those 3 days.”
- Landscape and travel photography
- Sunrise and sunset
- Night photography
- Wildlife and macro photography
- Food photography
- Portrait photography
- Using off-camera flash and reflectors
- Time-lapse photography
- Short videos and Gopro
- Post-production of images
Models not included…
The exhilaration of the Maldives begins well before you land. It actually begins about 30,000 feet above the Indian Ocean about 20 minutes before arrival at Male airport. As you cross the first of the northern most islands, you are treated to an ultramartine vista that seems like you are descending on different planet with some bizarre aqueous landscape.
The Maldives are defined by their geography. They occupy a rare “Goldilocks” point right at the sea level’s edge. Not mostly below the water (like the Great Barrier Reef and Red Sea reefs), and not relatively high above the water (like the South Pacific islands). But right AT the water surface’s edge. As a result of this topographical anomaly, the islands paint a cobalt tapestry of colours. You can’t help but ask ‘how did all of this come about?’
The magical formations didn’t happen over night. They are the products of eons of plate tectonics, volcanic eruption, implosion, erosion, and coral formation. Many resort marine biologists cover this subject as a part of their routine bar presentations. But Park Hyatt Hadahaa has taken this odyssey a literal step further with their Island Creation excursion.
The guide walks you through millennia by taking to to an island that is partially submerged and then to another less so, all the way through the various phases of island formation until you finish at a large inhabited one. They show how different formations are representative of different stages of island (or thila or reef, etc.) development. A gee-whiz geology lesson.
The whole concept reminds me of our expedition in the Grand Canyon (another one of those rare destinations where you feel that you are on another planet). You start at one end and as you progress, you don’t just get a history of the canyon, you get a history of the Earth itself.
All of the most stunning places on this planet are so because they provide a glimpse to the ancient miracle of the Earth, its majesty and its mystery. Maybe they should name this excursion ‘the Majesty Mystery Tour’.
“I do pottery. I love it. It’s very relaxing; it takes me to another planet.” – Eva Herzigova
Some people think all you do in the Maldives is lie around in the sun all day. And some can’t conceive of wanting to do anything that would require any effort. But another group of folks actually enjoy doing things on their holiday break. Time to do the things they don’t get to do during their busy lives. And some of these “activities” can be quite relaxing in their own right.
One such activity is pottery. Especially, “throwing pots” on a wheel. The rhythmic rotation and the silky wet clay is reported as a very sensual and soothing experience. Perfectly apropos for a Maldives holiday. And the One & Only Reethi Rah has a full pottery studio. Set outside so one can enjoy the beach breezes while spinning or painting your creation, it even features a resident potter, Liliia Lapika Babych (see pictures) who provides classes and tutoring. The studio features pieces created by past guests as well as some of Lillia’s work. You can also make Venetian masks and other items with all of the equipment for glazing, painting and other creative media.