Best of the Maldives Online: Coral Bleaching Monitoring – Coral Reef Watch

Coral Reef Watch

Hopefully, reefscaping initiatives can help restore what humans (global warming) and nature (El Nino) have disrupted on the spectacular underwater world of the Maldives. To understand and track the severity of the current challenges, the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration features a powerful online tool with literal gauges for the impact of water temperatures on the sea life called “Coral Reef Watch” (thanks Paola):

  • The purpose of these Regional Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Gauges is to provide coral reef ecosystem managers with a comprehensive summary of current satellite-monitored and model-projected bleaching thermal stress conditions to help facilitate timely and effective management actions pertaining to mass coral bleaching.”

Everyone likes it toasty and sunny in the Maldives, but we would also like to keep the ocean cool place not just for refreshing dips, but also to keep vibrant the marine ecosystem whose foundation is the bountiful coral reefs.

Coral Reef Watch 2

Best of the Maldives Online: Ferry Transfers – Wild Maldives

Wild Maldives - ferry transfer schedule

From the high ways of water usage to the water used as highways. Maldives Complete does focus on resorts (as opposed to guest houses or general destination information like inhabited islands), but I am also trying to assemble a collection of top online links for guests to this paradise. One of my original motivations for setting up Maldives Complete was my disenchantment with the quality of websites about the Maldives. Too many sites provides a thin veneer of weak, pedestrian and dated information as a lure to get you to buy expensive holidays through them. But on Maldives Complete, the “Online” tag provides a compilation of the most useful sites.

I came upon this Wild Maldives site with ferry schedules in the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum. They describe themselves as…

  • “Development and promotion of budget travel to the Maldives.   From $50/night. Beach holidays, scuba diving, exotic fishing, adventure trips, transfers. Wild Maldives aims to develop and promote budget travel in the Republic of Maldives. We link travellers directly with the local service providers – guest houses, restaurants, speedboat operators, diving schools, guides, and many more. Ideal for the self-sufficient travellers, who don’t want to overpay for services they can easily attain by themselves through the internet, yet would appreciate a helping hand during their trip to an unknown faraway land.”

What I really appreciated was their interactive ferry schedule. The route calculation form provides a parameter driven filter engine that then displays the route options graphically on a Google Map. Two of my favourite web components – database interrogation and GIS (geographical information system).

I have taken a ferry a few times for some of my more obscure tour detours. For DIY and budget travellers, they would be a necessity for getting around. I’m not sure if there is some way to forge a cheaper price tag to your resort holiday with them. Everyone gets apprehensive about spending $200-300 for a seaplane transfer, but I had a boat transfer to Cocoa Island that cost me $500 (!) and the private transfer from Kurumba to Male (8 minutes) costs $80 (although they do offer cheaper alternatives). So maybe a leisurely and notably less luxurious ferry ride might just be a useful cost saver for some itineraries (though, in reality, nearly all resorts provide speedboat transfers free of charge, and if you are paying thousands for your week stay a few hundred will likely not be a big concern).

Best of the Maldives Online: Points Travel – The Points Guy

Maldives frequent flyer travel

If you are pinching your pennies for a luxury yacht cruise, then you might want to check out The Points Guy’s comprehensive post on flying to the Maldives on frequent flyer points. While the piece is USA-centric, it still has lots of rich, detailed information that any world traveller looking to spend points could use (as most major carriers serve the USA, but the points required from, say, a closer embarkation would likely be different)…

  • The Best Ways to Get to the Maldives on Points and Miles. Not too long ago, it seemed like the Maldives was one of the most remote spots on earth; an island paradise reserved for honeymooners or empty-nesters on the trip of a lifetime. In recent years, though, the island nation has seen a veritable flurry of flight options materialize as more airlines like the ME3 — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — as well as Chinese and other Asian carriers have expanded their route networks to include Malé (MLE).”

The piece’s comprehensiveness, analysis, and completeness is a website after my own heart. The outline of the post is…

  • Maldives Basics
  • Airlines That Fly to Malé
  • Mileage Table
  • Airline and Mileage Options
  • Bottom Line (summarised in the paragraph quoted above)

Googling Honeymoon

Googling Maldives

The Maldives continues to remain the world capital of “Honeymoons” even in the digital age. “Honeymoon” is the most frequently Googled keyword in association with the word “Maldives” in the phrase “What is the cost of [x] in [y]?” Other top products from around Asia are shown above and the link on the graphic takes you to the Business Insider article which covered the whole world.

Best of the Maldives: Facebook Live – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - live event

If you want to get that much closer to “being there” in the Maldives with their holiday spectacles, then check out LUX South Ari Atoll’s Facebook Live events. This week they featured their fire show by Totem Entertainment as well as Santa’s arrival by seaplane.

Facebook Live is just the latest in LUX’s social media pioneering. Led by marketing manager Dolores Semeraro, LUX was one of the first resorts to embrace Twitter with active and creative uses (like her Twitter chats).

LUX south Ari Atoll - santa seaplane visit

Best of the Maldives: Instagram Selfies – Finolhu

Finolhu - Cara Delevigne party 1

Ultimate Maldives Beach Party (#MaldivesBeachParty) thrown by Cara and Poppy Delavigne at the newly launched Finolhu resort. Have we hit peak Instagram in the Maldives?

The Daily Mail headline says it all “Caradise Island: The Delevingne sisters and 160 pals have been given an entire Maldives resort for a week as long as they post selfies to their Instagram fans”…

  • “As a model who can open doors anywhere, Cara Delevingne is probably used to fabulous freebies. But an entire holiday island in the Maldives is exceptional, even by her standards. Cara, 24, along with model sister Poppy, 30, will take over Finolhu Baa Atoll for a week from next Saturday – and they’ve invited up to 160 celebrity friends. Of course, the mother of all freebies doesn’t come without strings attached. And the sisters have promised to blitz social media with endless selfies, bringing a fortune in free advertising, thanks to Cara’s 35 million Instagram followers.”

35 million followers is nearly DOUBLE the next most popular Instagrammer to visit the Maldives (Huda Kattan who visited Huvafenfushi and Shanri-La Villingili has 16 million).

Finolhu - party

Finolhu - Poppy Delevigne

Gan – The Air Force Island: Maldivian Holidays

Equator Village - Air Force Island 2

Historically, when it came to the rest of the world first visiting the Maldives, Gan was the centre of the map, in fact the very heart of navigation and in the whole Indian Ocean area. The Addu Island has a proud aeronautical legacy that goes back decades and continues to this very day. And for a cargo plane full of fun facts that I picked up during my stay there this summer as well as some follow up research, check out Maldivian Holidays’ latest issue features a piece on Gan by yours truly. You can read their online version, and (appropriately enough) it is also distributed as an in-flight magazine in the Maldives.

As it happens, Equator Village welcomed the latest resort manager, Mohamed Waheed, this past week. May this resort fly high for many years to come.

Equator Village - Air Force Island 1

Equator Village - Air Force Island 3

Best of the Maldives Online: Interactive Weather Map – Dark Sky

Interactive Weather Map – Dark Sky

National Geologic Map day is just the time to share one of my new favourite sites. – Dark Sky. I’m a lover of visual representation of data (bit of an Edward Tufte groupie). Dark Sky brings together two of my favourite tools – maps and interactivity. To help share updates on everyone’s favourite topic (and often top reason for going to the Maldives) – the weather. In fact, all of my interactive graphical features on Maldives Complete are map based – Snorkel Spotter, British Admiralty Maps DeepZoom (needs IE unfortunately), and Dive Maps. The Dark Sky site is very high quality and aesthetically well done with lots of weather data.

In honour of Geologic Map Day, I have added the “Maps” tag to the blog.

Happy exploring!

Best of the Maldives Online: TED Coral Reefs

For those of you who can’t make even a brief stop over to the Maldives, but still wish to explore the wonders of its world famous coral reefs, I highly recommend Kristen Marhaver’s TED talk “How We’re Growing Baby Corals to Rebuild Reefs”…

“Coral reefs are farmers. They provide food, income and food security for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Coral reefs are security guards. The structures that they build protect our shorelines from storm surge and waves, and the biological systems that they house filter the water and make it safer for us to work and play. Coral reefs are chemists. The molecules that we’re discovering on coral reefs are increasingly important in the search for new antibiotics and new cancer drugs. And coral reefs are artists. The structures that they build are some of the most beautiful things on planet Earth. And this beauty is the foundation of the tourism industry in many countries with few or little other natural resources.”

Quite a few resorts now (17 by my count) invest in reef regeneration programmes on their island. Someday maybe Marhaver’s work will allow us to go beyond strapping coral pieces to frames and actually cultivate and propagate corals.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Snorkeling

Today is International Water Safety Day. So time for a quick edition of Maldives QI…

Q: What is the greatest danger of water fatality in the Maldives?
A: Eaten by sharks?
Q: Buzzz…Nope (in fact, the Maldives has not had a single report of a shark attack on a human)
A: An adrenalin sport like scuba diving?
Q: Buzzz…Nope. Nearly all scuba diving is run by very high quality PADI dive centres or liveaboards with very high safety standards and one of the strongest safety records in for diving in the world (contributed by the fact that many dive sites are not overly deep and are often relatively sheltered in atolls).

The most dangerous activity is the one that seems so alluringly easy – snorkelling. It’s not that snorkeling in the Maldives is particularly dangerous per se.  In fact, one could argue it is some the safest snorkelling in the world.  But it is those he mill pond calm waters in often shallow depths which lull guests into a exaggerated sense of security.  When water is involved, you have a serious risk to respect no matter what the situation. As the saying goes, you can drown in an inch of water in your bathtub (and some people do). So today is the ideal good occasion for a refresher on making this inviting activity as safe as it appears (and often is) easy and thrilling.

The typical contents of a snorkel bag are snorkel, fins, mask, towel, and room key. But the “safe” snorkeler might want to bring along some extra items – eg. whistle, floatation aid. And my favourite snorkelling accompaniment – a snorkel guide. Not a book or map, but a trained, proficient, resort staffer to help and support your outing. They not only will be there to assist if anything goes awry, but they know all the best places to see resident critters on the house reef and can provide lots of great information about what you are seeing.

“TravelJody”, also a top contributor to the Maldives Forum on TripAdvisor, has written a superb piece on snorkel safety “Staying Safe whilst Snorkelling!” She goes through a catalogue of possible safety concerns including…

  • Currents/Tides
  • CoralRock Cuts
  • Boats/Motorised Water Sports
  • Snorkeling Transportation
  • Sun
  • Marine Life
  • YOU!

Her tips include…

  • Use well fitting equipment
  • Be careful judging distance in water
  • Wear a whistle
  • Snorkel with buddy
  • Get instruction

A few tips that I would add include…

  • Consult the experts. Every resort has a dive centre and the majority of resorts have staff marine biologists both of whom know the resort waters intimately. They can not only tell you how the water behaves and where various hazards are, but also provide insider tips on where to see the best stuff and how (eg. maybe free dive to look under a ledge).
  • Don’t let the weather fool you. It’s all about the water and currents in the ocean not the air. We have snorkelled in a monsoon with an expert who knew the currents and knew the conditions in the actual ocean were fine. Conversely, a warm, bright day might seem innocuous, but some current shift or other under the surface situation could create a surprise problem.

For a superb overview, I highly recommend another gem from Kurumba’s studios – “Snorkeling Tips for Beginner for Maldives Resorts.”

The final point really concerns over-confidence. Just because it is all calm and sunny on the exterior (which is it most of the time in the Maldives) doesn’t mean that some hazards don’t exist below the surface. Some people get skittish about sharks and even fish, but the real monster of the deep is the deep itself. Deep water where people go beyond their capabilities, and get into trouble. In any water activity, the risk of drowning is an ever-present danger whether it is in a community pool or even the tranquil waters of the Maldives.

This syndrome of false confidence is the key reason why some experts on the TripAdvisors protest against the use of flotation aids in snorkelling. They feel that such aids instil confidence in the weak swimmer to go beyond their limits and going beyond you limits imposes more risk (to yourself and to the reef) than the flotation aid mitigates. I agree that over-confidence is a risk, but a floatation aid will in nearly all cases provide critical protection against the greatest risk which is drowning so do consider bringing or wearing one (but just don’t let it drop your caution).

Other references…

Happy and safe snorkeling everyone!

Snorkeling sign