Best of the Maldives: Manta On Call – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giravaru - manta on call
Mantas at Hanifaru Bay, Baa atoll

Most visitors to the Maldives was to just switch off and that includes all the stress inducing electronic devices, but at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru you just might look forward to that phone ringing in your room. If it is their signature “Manta on Call” service.

  • Sign-up for this thrilling adventure, that sees you contacted wherever you are in the Resort and whisked away by speedboat to snorkel with these elusive gentle giants

Creatures in the wild sort of follow their own whims and there are never any guarantees of seeing the critters you want to see when you want to see them. Even in a place like Baa atoll renowned for its population of Mantas (and even the occasional whale shark. That said, even Baa Atoll or the even more confined Hanifaru Bay part of the Baa, is a big place and the mantas could be anywhere. You can spend (and we have spent) an entire day just trawling around in the dhoni looking for signs of mantas. That is why Landaa keeps in regular contact with dive boats through the day to keep updated on the latest manta sightings. If a large group has decided to collect at some point, the resort calls your room and can have you on a speedboat in minutes to take you to the gathering so you can enjoy a view of these majestic animals and even join them for a swim.

Best of the Maldives: Manta Napkin – Canareef

Canareef - manta napkin folding

I have “pinned” about every medium to the Maldives Complete Pinterest boardstowels, palm fronds, watermelon, coral pieces, flowers, pancake batter, coloured rice, sand, soap suds, bread, cooked rice, coconut husk and milk foam. So I was especially impressed when I arrived at Canareef who presented their welcome fruit arrangement with a bit of aquatic-inspired artistry manta shaped out of a napkin. Serviette with a smile.

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Fashion Design – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - Funoas

Who puts the “fun” into “Funoas”? Kandolhu has introduced the “Funoas” range of swimwear which you can buy at the resort. Her designs based on the distinctive and colourful sea life of the Maldives are truly inspired. We caught up the Maldivian born Funoas designer Sumii Haleem for her first exclusive interview:

Q: Where are you from in the Maldives?
A: I was born and raised in Male’, Maldives. My mother is from Henveiru district and my father is from Maafannu district.

Q: Where are you living now?
A: I am currently living in Perth, Australia.

Q: What brought you there?
A: Education brought me here to Perth. Back then, when I finished high school, there were no universities in Maldives. Anyone who wanted to get a tertiary level education, had to go overseas. So my parents decided to move to Australia so my little sister and I could have a chance at a quality education. Ever since then I have been moving back and forth between Maldives and Australia.

Q: What inspired your career in art?
A: I have always been fascinated by nature and science and have always used art as a way of expressing this fascination. I also grew up around my aunt who was a seamstress. So it was a combination of curiosity and exposure to designing clothes, that started my career in art.

Q: What was the first piece you sold?
A: The first piece of artwork that I ever sold was in 2012, an abstract ink on paper drawing called “The City Never Sleeps”. It was on Society6 that I sold this print. I felt ecstatic, that someone had actually bought my artwork!

Q: How did you move into fashion?
A: Initially, I started printing my artwork on t-shirts, mugs, laptop and phone covers on Society6. I got a lot of positive response from friends and with their encouragement decided to start my own clothing line. At the time I started working on Funoas, I had also just started scuba diving and was blown away by the beauty and the vulnerability of our coral reefs. I wanted my brand to be an environmentally conscious one, so I could use clothing and fashion to create awareness about issues faced by Maldives, such as climate change, global warming and sea level rise.

Q: What’s your biggest selling item?
A: My best selling item is the Thaana printed clothes. Thaana is the unique writing system of Maldivian language, Dhivehi. I created this piece because I thought Dhivehi is a unique language spoken by a minority of world’s people and the scripture is also visually so unique and eye catching. So I think this print is very sentimental to Maldivians, especially those that live away from home, like myself.

Q: Who are your favourite designers?
A: My art is influenced by people from different walks of life, nature and scientific concepts so it is difficult to narrow it down to only designers. Some of the people that influence my work include Ashish Gupta, Adam Manik, Hassan Manik, Aishath Shafeeg, Moosa Mamdhuh, Ahmed Shafeeg, Maya Arulpragasam, Karl Lagerfeld, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Nicola Tesla, David Attenborough,Fibonacci, Neil Degrassi Tyson, Scuba divers and all underwater photographers, just to name a few.

Q: If someone gave you $1 million to invest in your business, what would you invest it in?
A: If I had a million dollars I would invest it on building Funoas to become an internationally recognised brand that creates quality clothing, 100% ethically and eco-consciously. I would concentrate on creating our products solely from recycled polyester, which is something I am currently looking into for my future collections. Once Funoas is a well established clothing brand, I would love to be able to work with local Maldivian environmentalists, marine researchers and climate change advocates to study more about our own marine ecosystems and bring a positive change to Maldives’ growing environmental crises. I believe this is a social responsibility.

Funoas suit
Manta crop-top

Funoas suit 2
Nudibranch two-piece

Funoas suit 3
Oriental sweet lips

Funoas suit 4
Thaana printed swim shorts

Best of the Maldives: Most Marine Biologists – Athuruga

Athuruga - Marine Biologists

The ultimate “fishonistas” are the increasing schools of marine biologists at the Maldives resorts. A few years back, having a resident MB was limited to a few luxury properties, but now many resorts feature them. They provide an insightful snorkel/dive guide, offer educational talks, and conduct their own research in the surrounding ocean.

I’ve seen a few resorts with two marine biologists on staff (eg. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Velaa), but Athuruga had FOUR there when we visited.

One was Enrico (far right photo above) from the University of Milan. He was conducting research on COTS. He told me he was finishing his secondment and he appears to have replaced by fellow Italanian who spoke about the Athuruga COTS research recently…

“Our resident marine biologist Luca Saponari during a speech regarding his scientific research on the outbreak of ‘Acanthaster planci’ (crown-of-thorns sea star) in the Maldives, a study that he is currently conducting at Diamonds Athuruga and Diamonds Thudufushi Beach and Water Villas. Luca spent 4 days at the #Bicocca University in Milan, participating in the first National Congress named “Biodiversity: Concepts, New Tools and Future Challenges”.

Another one works with the Manta Trust project hosted at the resort…

“On the Islands of Athuruga and Thudufushi, the Manta Trust biologists accompany our guests on private excursions, mainly dedicated to manta rays, explaining their activities and giving tips and scientific information on their behaviour. Diamonds Athuruga and Diamonds Thudufushi, both run a “Biology night” and a “Marine Biology Laboratory” which allows our guests the possibility to enjoy a brief description of overall Marine life in the Maldives, from plankton and up to bigger species.”

One of their ongoing projects is the Athuruga YouTube series “Maldives Marine Lab Diary” which features a number of informative shorts on various aquatic subjects like turtles and feeding habits.

Best of the Maldives: Flying Sculpture – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru manta sculpture

One resort can *guarantee* that you will be able to enjoy the spectacle of the soaring Manta. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru is a major destination for Manta watching with their proximity to the manta favoured Hanifaru, their ‘Manta Ray Research Project’ and their special ‘Manta on call’ service. But even if all that falls through, you can always enjoy their manta masterpiece they commissioned for their Marine Discovery Centre.

The piece was created by British artist Scott Gleed who specialises in marine subjects like sharks and mantas. Finalist in the David Shepherd International Wildlife Artist of the year competition, you can find his work at the Paris Aquarium, Imperial War Museum and the House of Fraser. He also does commissions and private sale pieces if you wanted a memento of your own manta encounter.

Best of the Maldives: Manta Research – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru Manta 2

Mantas are the most magical creatures I have seen in the wild. They have an a otherworldly aura to them that seems almost like a beneficent alien spaceship. And they too appreciate spa treatments that they get from wrasse fish at ‘cleaning stations.’

Similarly smitten Martin Clunes recently produced a television show ‘Man to Manta’ on ITV which is on ITV Player.

The resort most smitten with Mantas has to be Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. One of the major focus areas of their Marine Centre are mantas where they run their Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP). The programme was founded by Senior Marine Biologist Guy Stevens and is supported by Save Our Seas. It has the largest number of identified manta rays on record in the world. Landaa honours this work with a distinctive Manta sculpture in its Marine Discovery Centre. And, the Maldives section of Clune’s show is filmed at Landaa including an interview with Stevens.

The picture above was taken during one of our Landaa dives in November.

 

Martin Clunes Man to Manta

Maldives Kurumba Visit – Day 4: Manta madness

Manta Point

Best dive of my life. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It was raining this morning so we cancelled our snorkel trip and went on a dive trip to Manta Point. Coincidentally, Manta Point was the last subject of this blog before my departure for Kurumba and so I was all geared up for brilliant possibilities.

We had been there the day before, but I didn’t get to see mantas. Both our son and I had some minor problems with our equipment and decided to come up relatively early. My wife Lori stayed down and saw several. The other dive group with us said they saw three baby mantas which the dive master found humorous (“most Mantas are very graceful moving smoothly, but these babies were a bit uncoordinated and were flapping much more erratically obviously trying to find their sea wings…most amusing.”).

So we decided to give it another go today and boy are we glad we did. About 15 minutes in, we rounded the corner and there coming straight at us was three of the most alien looking creatures you could ever see. It turned out to be a parade of large Mantas with some reaching 8 feet across. They turned and circled the coral outcropping which was one of their ‘cleaning stations’. Then for the next 15 minutes we just sat there while this group of majestic submarine airships floated, cavorted, did loops. They floated inches over our head.  They seemed to be attracted to the air bubbles and I couldn’t help think that they liked how the bubbles felt on their freshly cleaned tummies.  After all, this coral cropping was like a big Manta ‘spa’. Mantas come for miles around to have sucker fish clean their bodies. Maybe the scuba bubbles are a Jacuzzi-like bonus.

They are the most peaceful and seemingly happy creatures I have ever encountered in the wild. Outstanding!

The picture above is from a video taken by Kurumba photographer Mohamed Ibrahim (the diver at the right hand side of the screen at minute 1:09 is around my wife and diving buddy Lori).

Best of the Maldives: Mantas – The Haven

Manta YouTube

Possibly one of the most placidly dramatic aquatic encounters in the Maldives is the graceful and commanding creature Manta Ray. Quite prevalent across most of the Maldives, we have seen them a number of times from shore. In fact, Conrad Hilton Rangali had a regular manta visitor who came every evening like clockwork to feed on the small sea life attracted by the lights of the dock. The resort guests would go down to watch the balletic display of this spaceship-like fish doing loop-the-loops underwater scooping up big mouthfuls (see picture below we snapped).

The YouTube clip above is from a National Geographic piece on Mantas in the Maldives which has great pictures and commentary. It provides good tips on ‘when’ to see Mantas (and other large pelagics like Whale Sharks). Unfortunately, the ‘best’ time for pelagics is the ‘worst’ time for weather, ie. the monsoon season. The seasonal rains spur the growth of the microscopic food on which these filter feeds feast.

The top spot for Mantas is the eponymous ‘Manta Point’ (see dive chart below) near The Haven resort. Tim Godfrey’sDive Maldives’ book describes,

“Manta Point has a world-wide reputation as being one of the most consistent sites for attracting large numbers of manta ray…In eight metres of water on the south east corner of Lanaknfinolhu reef are several large coral rocks which mark the point where mantas converge during the south-west monsoon season. Mantas have been photographed here as early as April and as late as December. These rocks are one giant cleaner station for the mantas. Blue-streak cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, often working in pairs, can be observed swimming out to the hovering mantas to remove old skin and parasites. The mantas circle the rocks awaiting their turn to be cleaned and when finished they swim gracefully up and down the reef feeding on zooplankton in the shallow water.”

If you can’t make it to Manta Point, but still want to regale in a spectacular show of these majestic creatures in the Maldives, MaldivesComplete has the scoop that BBC2 will broadcast ‘Andrea: Queen of Mantas’ on Wednesday 11 November 8 pm (if you do not live in the UK, check out the BBC iPlayer website to see if and when the programme will be broadcast over the Internet which many of their shows are now).

“Andrea: Queen of the Mantas tracks student Andrea Marshall over the course of a year as she dives the Indian Ocean unlocking secrets about the manta ray – a balletic cousin to the shark, with ‘wings’ which can span 7 metres (20 ft) wide…[R]evelations in the film include…the first tv footage of around 150 mantas massing near the Maldives…[in conjunction with the show] an online campaign seeking better safeguards for sharks and mantas is being run by The Save Our Seas Foundation, a main sponsor of manta ray research in Mozambique and around the Maldives.”

Rangali Manta    The Haven Dive Chart