Best of the Maldives Online: Fish Identification – Name That Fish

Not purely a “Maldives” site, but ever so perfect for it. “Name That Fish” couldn’t be better named itself. Here’s the concept – load your snorkeling or diving videos up their website, they run it through their AI algorithm, and al the prominent fish in the video get prominently tagged with a box identifying their species. Lori and I love our piscatorial treasure hunts in the Maldives and can’t wait to get back to the room to go through our collection of fish identification cards and books to figure out the new things we’ve seen. Now we can just let the computer do the work while we go and sip our pina coladas.

The project is the work of Jake Easterling, co-founder of Scubotics, and features over 11,000 fish in its algorithm.  The technology is especially interesting to me because it is the core of my day job.  I run a company which uses machine learning algorithms to detect variations in brain health on MRI images of multiple sclerosis patients.

Before reviewing it here on Maldives Complete I thought that I should test it myself so I uploaded one of our fish soup heave vids from a recent trip. There is no formal charge for the service, but the site requests a donation and suggest $5 which seemed reasonable to me. I uploaded it and a few days later I received an email with a link to the new video in a Dropbox location (see above as I’ve loaded on my YouTube channel). It came out superbly capturing most of the main fish visible and no errors of identification that I could spot.


Best of the Maldives Online: Dhivehi Lessons – Maldives Secrets

  

If you do find yourself staying for an extended period or are just looking for some other project to embrace in the final months of lockdown, then why not learn the local language of the Maldives, Dhivehi? I reached out to the stars of this fun and helpful vlog, Kate and Hambe, who gave Maldives Complete an exclusive interview about their project:

  • What prompted you to make the Dhivehi lesson video?I personally couldn’t find a strong source for learning Dhivehi online, so I thought, why not create online lessons with both a fluent Dhivehi speaker and non-Dhivehi speaker? I thought this would ease the learning and through bite-sized and theme-focused lessons that are around 5 minutes each, we hope to provide a quick and fun learning experience!
  • What’s your favourite Dhivehi word or phrase? – I like the phrase “iru ossey manzaru varah reethi” which means “the sunset is very beautiful”.
  • Can Kate read Dhivehi too? – I am learning how to read, it takes more time and practice. We would potentially start writing lessons in the future too.
  • Are there any special sounds in the Dhivehi language (that might be a bit unfamiliar to a new speaker)?Not that I can think of. Most of the syllables / vowels are the same sound and it is quite a basic language with little complications.
  • What do you do for your day jobs?Hambe and Kate are both working as freelancers, in the aim of putting aside enough time for Maldives Secrets to truly blossom as tourism starts to pick up in the Maldives over the next few months. Hambe is a musician and Kate works in Marketing and by being based in Hulhumale, they have the flexibility of being able to travel easily to all islands in the Maldives.
  • What are your top 3 tips for choosing a guesthouse? / What is your top tip for choosing a guesthouse?The Island: When choosing a guesthouse, it’s important to understand the island you’ll be staying on. With thousands of islands in the Maldives, it may seem challenging to pick the right one… but trust me, there is definitely a local island that will suit your needs. Head to Dhigurah for the once in a lifetime experience of swimming with whale sharks, or explore the lush agricultural farms of Thoddhoo… Or go to the eco-friendly paradise of Hanimadhoo in the very north of The Maldives and do yoga every morning on the beach. These experiences are tailored to the island you’ll be staying on… so pick wisely!
  • How well do people who run guesthouses speak English? Usually very well, Maldivians in general tend to have a good level of English as it is a requirement to learn it at school.
  • What are the most useful phrases when staying at a guesthouse or visiting a local island?
    • What type of food would you like?: Koaccheh kaan beynumi?
    • I want to try Maldivian food: Aharen kaan beynumi dhivehi keun
    • No spice: Miroos naala
    • A little spice: Kuda kuda koh kulhikoh
    • A lot of spice: Varah kulhikoh
    • Can we have the bill?: Bill genes dheebah?
    • Where are the toilets?: Koba fahana?
    • Food is great: Varah meeru
    • I need some water: Aharen fen fodheh beynun
    • Thank you for the service: Varah bodah shukuriyyaa
    • Thank you!: Shukuriyyaa!
    • You’re welcome!: Marhaabaa!

   

Best of the Maldives: Maldives Yoga Instagrammer – Cassie Foley

With all that body building, I recommend some serious stretching to keep from getting muscle bound (maybe too late for some fashionistos). They probably want to check out (as would any Maldives Instagram devotee) Cassie Foley’s @OceanYogaCas feed.

Cassie herself is clearly an accomplished practitioner who posts engaging shots regularly. All based in the Maldives where she works full time running yoga sessions for guests. But also, just as important for this online medium is the quality of the shots done by her partner Aaron. The collection is really a masterclass of shooting the Maldives – well chosen dramatic skies, impeccable lighting, aesthetic framing. The tranquil drama of both Cassie’s poses and the tropical backdrop complement each other completely.

Cassie kindly gave Maldives Complete an exclusive interview to share their world of shutter stops and shavasan.

  • Which resort are you based at?Currently based in Atmosphere’s Sangeli resort, I have previously stayed and worked at OBLU Helengeli and Constance Halaveli
  • How long are you based there? – I moved to the Maldives at the start of August 2019, during this time I spent almost 14 months in Constance Halaveli (yes, my partner Aaron and I stayed through the lockdown, patiently waiting for work to resume) In October we moved to Helengeli, we split up for a month as he was sent to Sangeli and I soon joined him in November 2020, we have been here since then.
  • What is your most popular yoga session that you offer?I actually work in the Maldives as a Scuba Diving Instructor! The days can be incredibly busy with up to four dives a day, in fact, my Christmas day was spent entirely in the ocean from 8 am to 7:30 pm – we did a night dive!  (of course, I did come up for some lunch at one point!) My yoga practice is done at sunrise almost every day, I practice on the beach, in my room, on the jetty, anywhere outside is perfect for me, then I really get that connection to nature, those deep breaths of fresh sea air – now that’s true medicine. I have yet to start teaching online properly as I have never had stable enough Wi-Fi to offer a class, but I did complete my YTT online during the lockdown.
  • What is your favourite Instagram yoga pose photo?I think the ones where you can see I am truly connected and peaceful or focused (the balancing ones!) are my favourites, that’s the essence of yoga – not to really care about the outside but to focus on what’s going on inwardly.
  • Who takes the photos?All the photos are taken by my absolute soul mate and love, Aaron. He is so talented and manages to wipe that early morning, sleepy vibe right off me and make me look fresh and glowing – he’s got the magical touch. Often, he takes the photos whilst I simply go through my early morning flow, gently waking up my body and setting my intentions for the day. 
  • Where are you from originally?Aaron and I are both from the UK, originally from either side of London. We met on a boat in the middle of the ocean in Western Australia whilst looking for a whale shark (but that’s another story!) 
  • How did you get into yoga?From 2012 I worked in London as a Marketing Manager, I lived in Camden and I was also a freelance writer. I’ve always like to have a personal project on the go as my career didn’t fulfil me whatsoever. By the end of 2012 I was having some serious health issues, undoubtedly emanating from my non-stop lifestyle, my mum suggested me to start yoga. Every amazing idea, every brave new step I took in my twenties often came from my mum – she has always taught me to reach further than my grasp, to believe in myself, I am so grateful to her for that because it has led me to constantly fulfil and exceed my dreams. She saw that I was struggling and pushed me gently towards trying yoga, she must’ve mentioned it twenty times over six months before I went to a local class which my housemate & best friend, Rachel had found for me. that was in March 2013. Starting yoga sent me on a whole new path, very gently and subtly my perceptions changed, my ambitions grew, and my confidence saw me leap into my dream of travelling in 2016. ultimately ending up where I am today, sitting with perfect health, in utter happiness, gratefully watching the ocean from my water villa in the Maldives. Now, as a professional scuba diver, yogini and content creator, I see my whole life a personal project; inspiring, expanding, creative and free and I am so in love with it. 
  • What else do you do to pass the time in the Maldives?I wake up at 5 am for yoga and meditation, I go to work for 7:45, I can be diving all morning or in the dive centre speaking with divers and guests. Lunch is between 12:30-2:15 and then it’s teaching in the afternoon, getting new divers certified or perhaps guiding a turtle snorkel or sunset dolphin watching before finishing my day at about 6:30 pm. Then there’s time for dinner, some catching up with friends, family and of course, Aaron. We will send some emails, create some content and right now, we enjoy sitting out under the stars for an hour or so before going to bed.  What more could I want? 🙂 
  • What tips do you have to guests who want to do yoga in the Maldives? Bring your mat and get into nature here – listen to the ocean, feel the breeze, try not to get too sandy if you opt for the beach, but most importantly, get up early or give yourself time in the evening – otherwise,, it’s much too hot. Yoga doesn’t have to be about following a specific sequence, it should be dynamic and appropriate for what you need each day… sometimes that might be fast, sometimes it might be slow, sometimes it may be simply to lay flat on your back in Savasana and simply breathe – there’s no wrong way, you just need to give time to appreciate yourself at that moment. (I have a beautiful travel, eco-friendly yoga mat from Yogo that I couldn’t recommend more – use my code OYC10 for a special discount on any purchase.My outfits are also sustainably made and eco-positive, from a carbon-neutral company which ship worldwide. Shop Wolven here and use code OYC20 for an amazing 20% off these beautiful artisan yoga, swim, night and daywear collections!) 

Best of the Maldives: VR Scuba Dive – Six Senses Laamu

Since it will be a while before most of us can go explore the Maldivian reefs, Six Senses Laamu is bringing their reef to us with a virtual reality 360 degree view of one of the local manta ray cleaning stations:

  • · “We’re in Week 5 of our online Junior Marine Biology program with amazing work sent in to us from kids all over the world…Or that manta rays “dance” because … well tune in to find out! Particularly special is the recent remote underwater video footage captured in the waters around Laamu as well as the chance to meet a manta ray in virtual reality. The video works on your computer, tablet or smartphone, but we recommend a tablet or smartphone for the most immersive experience.”

Back at the resort, they also have a set of VR glasses to bring the experience to guests with even more realism (see below).

Underwater immersion without being immersed in water!

Six Sense Laamu - VR

Best of the Maldives Online: Whale Shark Spotting – Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme

Whale Shark app

Another two things I love in the Maldives are logging apps (with maps) and whale sharks. Now the Maldives Whale Shark Research Organisation has brought these two great things together in their mobile whale shark tracking app:

  • Since 2016, we’ve worked with the team at Critter to develop a mobile app built on their Track system, and in 2019 we’re proud to release the next generation full of exciting new features. ‘Whale Shark Network Maldives’ now takes technology that has long been the preserve of scientists at desktop computers and puts it into the hands of anyone with a mobile device. This innovative approach representing a huge leap for efficiency in citizen science engagement caught the attention of Apple, who selected the app from over 2.5 million others on the app store and championed it in the Keynote of Apple’s annual World.”

Whale Shark Spotter on steroids. They’ve also merged two general features of Maldives Complete – (a) a spotting tracker, and (b) a database lookup (with individual profiles). Add a blog and you have Whale Shark Complete!

Whales Shark programme

Best of the Maldives: Instagram Video – Cocoon

A post shared by Nicole M. (@nicolemazzocato) on

Instagram has started as a straightforward snap sharing service from simple phone cameras, but it has exploded so much that now you get Hollywood quality productions being shared. I check out the Maldives geotag every morning over coffee as a great scouting radar for resort highlights as well as the latest fashionista shoots so I have been tracking the Maldives material for a couple of years. The video clips have increasing popped up and feature more and more in my fashionista posts. My favourite, that really stuck out for its sophistication and quirky style is Nicole Mazzocato’s post (above) filmed by Fabio Colloricchio.

Best of the Maldives Online: Yoga Instagram – Jessica Olie

In addition to having the world’s first underwater yoga session, Hurawalhi also secured one of the world’s best yoga Instagrammer, Jessica Olie. Her collection of Maldives shots are some of the best yoga post shots I have come across (and that is quite a competitive category in the atoll photo anthology). Here are a collection of some of the most stunning…

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Anantara Dhigu - 5

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) Anantara Dhigu 1

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Anantara Dhigu - 7

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Anantara Dhigu - 10

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 3

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 5

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 6

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 9

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Givaavaru - 2

Best of the Maldives Online: Swedish Blogger – Linda Lundmark

Linda Lundmark 2

When I first launched Maldives Complete, I added a blog onto it almost as an afterthought. Working in the tech industry, blogging had become a quite popular information sharing tool and other forms of social media hadn’t really hit the mainstream. People appreciated the resort database, but many didn’t even know what a blog was. Now nearly a decade later, the world is awash with bloggers and micro-bloggers (the technical term for status posting on platforms like Twitter and Facebook is “micro-blogging”). Maldives resort marketing managers tell me they get dozens of requests every week from this swarm of self-proclaimed “travel bloggers” wanting to visit their resorts. Most are glorified “gap ya’s” or “daddy’s credit card” serving up the same old lifestyle porn. Pictures of sunsets and lagoons with carbon copy post copy gushing over the palm trees and pina coladas.

So I have a special appreciation for the authentic bloggers who actually know something about their subject and share it generously and expertly. Still surprisingly few such sites for Maldives resorts, but one I stumbled upon is Linda Lundmark’s MaldivesBug site. Linda is a self-confessed “atoll addict” (like me) who has been visiting these islands in paradise since 1999. Her blog is a strong blend of writing, photos and videos.  She hails from the chilly Nordic and so offers an especially appreciate perspective on fun in the sun (from a home which doesn’t see as much sun half the year)

If you are looking for a second opinion on resort overviews and the best in the Maldives, then check out MaldivesBug and her rich archive of resort reviews and information.

Linda kindly shared a bit of her nearly two decades of experience with Maldives Complete for this exclusive interview.  Today being National Day in Sweden seemed like an appropriate time to post it…

    • How many Maldives resorts have you visited?
      About 40 resorts so far. And counting…… 😉
    • When did you first visit the Maldives?
      In February 1999.
    • What was the first island you visited?
      Kuredu. Loved it! It is a shock coming to the Maldives for the first time, I still get chills every time I land on Hulhule, but the colours, the sounds, the lush foilage, the people, the reefs, I simply could not believe such a Ppace existed. Not IRL.
    • What inspired you to take your first trip?
      It was kind of a coincidence, as we were supposed to go to Thailand for 3 weeks in March, but my husband suddenly could not go due to work. On a short notice I dug out a last minute trip to the Maldives with Fritidsresor (Swedish branch of TUI). I have never looked back since.
    • What are the biggest change in the Maldives you have noticed since you have been travelling there?
      The luxury race. In 1999 Komandoo and Filitheyo were actually considered “high-end”. These resorts are still absolutely wonderful, but it does say something about the development. My first time on Kuredu I had no warm water in the shower and no AC, just a ceiling fan (noisy). Still, I thought it rather lush…Nowadays the luxury is beyond anything you can imagine and the cost has spiraled. I am slightly worried about that, but at the same time I understand why. If you have such tiny islands you have to get well payed/bed to have a sound business.
    • Which resort is the one most popular with the Swedish market?
      So far it has been Kuredu, our big charter companies all sell trips there. But people are spreading out all over the Maldives to a greater extent nowadays, not least because of the Internet, making it possible to book yourself and do much more research.
    • There is no such thing as a “best resort”, but do you have any pet superlatives (eg. best dish, best piece of décor, best service)?
      I am constantly surprised that the resorts can be so different from each other. They are all lovely, it is just a question of finding the resort that fits your needs and expectations. That is where I come in. Good advice.
  • Kuredu

for beginners is a great choice! Just make sure to stay on the south beach (jetty side) in O resort or Sangu resort. You can be very active or completely relaxed on Kuredu. Fantastic for divers!

  • Baros for best service. I LOVE Baros. It is like staying at your friend’s house. Very personal but never intruding.
  • Komandoo is amazing value if you want a couples holiday, no kids on the Island, fab house reef and really good food.
  • Huvafen Fushi blew me away too, but that is not quite as…cost effective. 😉
  • Kandolhu in Ari atoll was a wonderful tiny surprise! Must be the prettiest resort Island anywhere.

 

  • Anything you think would be great for a resort to have or offer, but you haven’t come across it yet?
    Well… I cannot imagine being more clever than all the competent people working there but… I do Think that the system with seaplane transfers does create a bit of irritation at times when guests get sent to Male at noon and then have to wait in the heat until their Emirates flight at 23.55….not a great last memory of the Maldives. Hopefully this can be improved. Longer transfers are becoming more and more common due to more resorts being remote. I have been both far south and north and the domestic flight worked perfectly. Just time it to your international one.
  • Any advice for resort managers?
    Keep it up! You are doing a WONDERFUL job!

 

Linda Lundmark 1

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).