Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Beauty – Coco Bodu Hithi

Coco Bodu Hithi - Raudha Aathif - advert

Athif Raudha is literally the face of the Maldives. She displays the classic sun-kissed, delicate features of the Maldivians, except for one extremely striking exception. While most Maldivians have dark brown eyes, hers are an iridescent blue more like the cerulean sea that surrounds the country. Even her Facebook handle is “Wild Blue Lustre

Her captivating look has drawn her into modelling for a number of years now including Coco Bodu Hithi’s recent campaign (see above). She is also a favourite subject of artistic fashion photographer Alexey Vladimir (in fact, her red hooded portrait featured in yesterdays Christmas Red post is Alexey’s Facebook Profile picture).

Raudha agreed to do a first-ever, exclusive interview with Maldives Complete to share some insights into this intriguing poster child for Maldivian beauty (thanks Paola)…

  • How were you “discovered”, ie. how did you get started?

It was always a hobby, because I grew up posing for pictures. But it wasn’t until I did a few shoots with Sotti (a professional photographer) that things really kicked off. I started getting offers for ads, and I always had people advise me not to take any of them until something good came up. And that worked out quite well.

  • What was your first modelling gig?

If I remember correctly, it was something like a PSA, for national TV, encouraging people to stop using plastic bags, and choose eco-friendly stuff. I was 14 years old, and quite the environmentalist, so, naturally very happy to be a part of it.

  • Do you have an agent?

I don’t. Anyone’s free to contact me directly, regarding any business.

  • Where did you get your distinctive eyes from (do other members of your parents families have similar eyes)?

My paternal grandfather, his eyes were a sort of dark hazel. And my beautiful great grandmother had a greyish blue.

  • What types of work would you like to do in the future?

Contrary to popular belief, modelling isn’t all I want to do with my life. I’d like to work as a doctor, in many places all over the world. I’m leaving to Bangladesh to study for a Bachelor s of Medicine next month. And that, becoming a doctor, has been my dream, and primary interest, since I was 5, maybe.

  • Is there a model whose look/work you most admire?

I can’t possibly name just one. Adriana Lima, Cara Delevingne, Angelina Jolie. And I can never leave out Deepika Padukone. These women are beautiful, inspiring, and I love them for the things they stand for.

  • What’s been your most lucrative modelling gig?

That would definitely be working for Sotti in his “Maldives” series.

  • What’s been your most enjoyable modelling gig?

A collaboration shoot with Alexey Vladimir, where I got the chance to entertain my inner daredevil. I had to make my way to the middle of the reef. Beyond an area called Usfasgandu in Male’ where there’s a destroyed, unused platform-like bit covered with seaweedy things. Between land and the platform, we had steep, slippery tetrahedral rocks to climb down, then the reef, with more rocks and sharp corals. Strong waves too, because it was a rainy day. Had I slipped or fallen over, or lost my balance with an incoming or outgoing wave, my face would be in coral hell. And then I didn’t fall. And it was all done with me in a full length dress. I LOVED it. The result was a beautiful picture titled “The Night”. Everyone lived happily ever after.

  • Are any particular pressures you face doing modelling?

Well, before a shoot, there’s almost always pressure. A weird, unspecific kind. Ha ha. I suppose it’s natural, wanting to do well, feeling nervous for how it’s going to turn out. But once it starts, it’s always fun and an amazing experience. I’ve been lucky to work with great people.

  • Any pet peeves when you are working modelling?

I think the only thing would be, when people fail to communicate very well. Maybe my friends think otherwise, and I don’t express this very often. But, I actually have very little tolerance for rude or bossy people.

  • What are your favourite pastimes?

Modelling IS a pastime for me! Ha ha. Okay seriously though? I have phases. All in all, I love learning new things. And a lot of that happened while I worked at the military hospital and then IGMH, for a year and a half.

Besides that, I’ve also had my time with yoga, painting, dancing. At school in India, I played the congas – that was fun. And also failed quite terribly at singing. When I want to laze around, there’s always a good book to get lost in. Most recently, I’ve taken up open water diving and trying to play the piano. New things are excitingly endless, you know.

Coco Bodu Hithi - Raudha Aathif portrait

Best of the Maldives: Expert Marketeer – Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach - Kat 1

All Saints Day and it was today 13 years ago (on a 9:30 am Qatar airways flight to be precise) that a saint among the communion of Maldives experts arrived on its azure shores. Kat has all received the digital equivalent of beatification being anointed as a TripAdvisor Forum Destination Expert (which she has since stepped down from).

I had a chance to not only spend time with Katherine Anthony (“Kat” to just about everyone in the Maldives circles), but also to sit down with her and talk her about many years in this paradise during my stop at her resort, Hideaway Beach, this July…

  • Q: When did you get into the hospitality industry and what was your first job?
  • A: I actually came into hotels completely by accident. I was working as a graphic designer in my hometown of Bristol. The company went bust and my godmother said ‘You’re never going to get a decent job in Bristol. You need to go to London. London is where the work is. So I moved up to London and realized there wasn’t a huge number of graphic design jobs there either. And I just ended up temping and the first job I got was working as a secretary in the sales department of the Churchill Intercontinental. And I have never left hotels since. I’ve never even left the sales team since. I’ve been in Sales and Marketing the whole time.
  • Q: Did you go from London to the Maldives?
  • A: Oh no. I did 3 years in London. It was fabulous. I didn’t save a penny. Had a really great time. Then I got offered this job in Qatar in 1999. At that time, nobody had heard of the place. I had to look at the map. And everybody was like ‘Why would you go to Qatar?’ I found a picture of the hotel when they were building it. It was literally desert, turquoise water and nothing else. I thought, ‘what the heck, let’s try it.’ So I flew there. Never seen the country before. Never seen the Middle East before. I had travelled around Europe, but I never been that far. I remember landing in Doha and it was flat, flat, flat. There is nothing there. Nothing, nothing, Nothing. And I thought to myself, ‘oh my god.’ And I ended up staying [in the region] almost 12 years.”
  • Q: How did you get introduced to the Maldives?
  • A: I got targeted by a headhunter basically. I had sent my CV out to a whole bunch of places and this guy from Australia came back to me and said, ‘I have this fabulous opportunity in the Maldives. Would you consider it.’ And I gave it half a second thought and I said, ‘Yeah, okay!’ I mean who the heck says no to a job in the Maldives?!
  • Q: Did you know what the Maldives was at that point?
  • A: I did. Because having lived in Doha, it is close to the Maldives and Qatar Airways had started doing flights. So I had seen some Tourism Board advertising so I had a vague idea – the whole image of the Bounty bar island.
  • Q: What year was this?
  • A: This was in 2003.
  • Q: Which resort?
  • A: What was then Hilton Rangali.
  • Q: First impressions?
  • A: Wow. You get there by seaplane. I think everyone experience this feeling when you come to the Maldives. First of all, you’ve never flown in a seaplane before. It’s a really amazing thing. It was a beautiful sunny day when I flew in. It was just magic, absolutely magic. When I landed, my boss Carten was there on the platform to meet me. And I was all ecstatic and I think we was wondering, ‘oh, what have we hired?’ But I calmed down after a few days. How can you not love this place? How can you not like it?
  • Q: What most exceeded your expectations?
  • A: The thing that really blew me away was the underwater world. Because you read all of the journalists’ stories about how amazing the coral reef is and how colourful the fish are, etc. But nothing really prepares you for what it’s like to come face to face with a manta ray or really any kind of fish, any colourful fish. And there you are in the water in their environment. It’s just magic. It really is amazing. That I did love.
  • Q: And what fell short of your expectations?
  • A: Well, I’m a redhead so I don’t tan particularly well and living in a tropical environment so living in a tropical environment with daily sunshine is probably not the smartest move. You have visions of lying on a hammock under a palm tree. I don’t do an awful lot of that because I burn really quickly. It’s hot and I don’t like sand that much either, so it’s not ideal.
  • Q: Have you been in the Maldives non-stop since you arrival.
  • A: No, I’ve tried to leave the Maldives three times…and I keep coming back.
  • Q: What was it like the first time you left the Maldives?
  • A: I was still working for Rangali and I got a great job offer in Dubai. I’m a city girl at heart so I thought, ‘Okay, fine, time to leave the Maldives.” I’d been there nearly 5 years at that point so I’d done my time in the Maldives. And I cried, and I cried and I cried on the plane…it was awful. I have a great time in Dubai. I made great friends and I loved Dubai. When you move to a new country and you don’t know many people, you always get homesick for the place you’d left before. I’d spend my Friday evenings in Dubai (which is the weekend in Dubai) thinking, ‘Oh, if I were in the Maldives right now, I’d be sitting in the staff bar.’ I actually got quite homesick for the Maldives.
  • Q: The Maldives has evolved enormously over the years. What has struck you about how both the guest experience and the staff experience has changed over the years?
  • A: The guest experience when I came in 2003 was all ‘no news, no shoes’, barefoot. That was the standard that everyone would expect when they’d come to the Maldives. There were no newspapers, no TVs in the guest rooms. We didn’t have Internet. If you wanted to check what was going on the world, I think there was one computer in the business centre somewhere. And there was only dial-up on the Internet. Whereas nowadays if you were to tell guests that you don’t have Internet and 500 satellite channels, I think they would go into complete melt-down. And I’m not convinced whether or not that is a good thing. For me on of the great things is that you are not part of the rest of the world here. It is just something separate and different. I see people complaining about the bandwidth, that they can’t download, they can’t Skype people. We are in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of nowhere, do you really need that technology? We did a test once when I was working at Conrad. They had 20 mbs Internet speed and they had 1,200 devices connected to it. So you have almost 300 guests in the full hotel, almost 400 staff, everyone has 1 or 2 devices on them. It’s a lot of things sucking up bandwidth not to mention that the hotel itself it trying to run on the same connection.
  • Q: You were at one point a Destination Expert for the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum. That’s quite a kudo. There are only a few DEs designated per destination. What advice do you have for resorts and resort staff who want to engage with TripAdvisor?
  • A: Whoever is doing the engagement with TripAdvisor needs to be someone who likes to talk and chat to guests and give information. It’s no good saying, ‘Well, it’s your job to do TripAdvisor’ so someone who is not naturally communicative. You have to want to talk because otherwise it becomes just another task that you have to tick off every day. People can feel whether you are genuine or not. It comes across in your words and what you are writing. And the other thing is that you can’t take it personally. People are going to not like you resort or not like what you say and that’s their opinion and they are entitled to it. There’s no point in arguing with them. Your resort is never going to be perfect for everyone. All you can do it try to correct facts. So if someone says that you have a Chinese restaurant and you don’t have a Chinese restaurant, you can go and say, ‘no, that’s not correct.’ But you can’t argue whether the food was good or the staff were friendly because that was their experience. It’s very, very hard to keep your own emotions out of it. I mean I love this country and I see someone writing things about Maldivians or things about a resort or guests house are particularly coming under attack at the moment, it’s hard not to want to defend it.
  • Q: How has Trip Advisor itself changed over the year as the Digital Revolution evolves?
  • A: It’s grown. I would say now that about 60% of English-speaking guests have been on TripAdvisor. They’ve either checked out hotel reviews or they’ve gone to the Forum and gotten information from there. In that way, it has worked really, really well because people can get the information that they want.
  • Q: Final questions…what are you doing today?
  • A: I’m going to be sitting in an air conditioned office all day. My parents have no idea what I do. They are under the impression that I spend my day wandering around beaches, picking up seashells and working on a great suntan. I’m in the office from around 8:00 in the morning to 7:00 or 8:00 at night. But at least I have a view out my window.

 

Hideaway Beach - Kat 2

Best of the Maldives Online: Maldives Lifestyle Blogger – Samyoyo & Belinda’s Travel (Belinda Young)

Belinda Young 1

One of the things that struck me in my recent fashion research is the prevalence of the Lifestyle (Fashion and Travel) bloggers.  Of the 220+ subjects I discovered, 57 fall into this category.  All of these share a few key things in common – (a) they are female (I have yet to find a male Fashion/Travel blog with a Maldives post), and (b) they are all attractive (bit of a cross-correlation between their being kind to fashion and fashion being kind to them).

They also tend to come to the Maldives once to tick that bucket list destination off the list and then jet off to some other corner of the world.  One big exception struck me – Belinda Young.

Belinda and her sister Samyoyo have visited 14 different Maldives resorts (and One & Only Reethi Rah twice).  Belinda explores a range of tropical resorts all over the world, but she keeps coming back to the Maldives.

Furthermore, her resort pedigree is truly top class… 

Most of the Maldives veterans on Trip Advisor Forum have tended to frequent the upper mid-market properties.  Visits to the emerging 5+ star super-premium segment (like Belinda’s list) are quite rare.  And the glamorati who do go to such places, tend not to share much of their travels (though that is changing with Tweeting and now Instagramming becoming a popular activity for celebrities even on their get-away-from-it-all breaks).

I came across Belinda’s travel/fashion blog researching the Maldives fashion database.  She has posted an extensive range of photos that both provide alluring snapshots of the resorts, but also feature her in many striking poses.  I got in touch with her to get permission to use some of the photos and also to enquire a bit about her Maldive expeditions.  She promptly responded with a warm and helpful reply.  After a few email exchanges, she gladly agreed to do an exclusive interview for Maldives Complete sharing some of her perspectives (she also provided both English and Chinese versions of the interview).

· What is your favourite photo of yourself in the Maldives? 談談妳自已最喜歡的一張在馬爾地夫拍攝的照片? 

The photo in Banyan Tree Madivaru [see top]. I wore my customized dress inspired the colors of Maldives. Not enough words to describe, but you know what I mean…

我最喜愛的應該是在 Banyan Tree Madivaru 的這張,當時我身上穿的洋裝是出發前特別訂做的,顏色啟發自馬爾地夫的海洋色澤。在多的言語都赘述了,我相信您看照片就可以體會了

· Which resort most exceeded your expectations?  哪一間飯店超乎妳的預期?

In our memories, One&Only Reethi Rah is the number one. But the tiny, peaceful and romantic Cocoa exceeded our expectation. It’s hard to forget the nature beauty of Cocoa Island. You must be curious why Reethi is the No. 1? I wanna to say is all about the friends…old friends and new friends made our stay really One&Only!

在我們姐妹心目中 One&Only Reethi Rah 是我們的最愛; 但屬中小型,擁有寧靜浪漫氛圍的 Cocoa 卻是超乎我們所預期的美好。Cocoa Island 的原始美相當令人難以忘懷。不過你可能會好奇為何 One&Only Reethi Rah 占居首位,我認為這完全成就於 “人” 的美好,新朋舊友的齊聚互動讓那次的住宿體驗只能用 “獨一無二” 來形容。

· What was the most romantic touch that a resort added to your stay? ? 聊聊妳所入住的飯店中碰過最浪漫體驗?

The sunset cocktail party at Fanditha restaurant in One&Only Reethi Rah. I think the major reason was that we had just been invited to join a sunset beach wedding before the party. Although I am not the bride, I could feel the joy and happiness. The moment was so precious and special.

我想是第二次入住 One&Only Reethi Rah 的 Fanditha 舉行的一場夕陽雞尾酒會;在酒會前我們受邀參加了一場住客的向晚夕陽婚禮,雖然不是主角,但我仍感受到滿滿的幸福,我相信這應該是一種情緒的延續,使得這場擁有幻彩夕照的 Fanditha 酒會浪漫指數破錶。

· You travel all around the world…what do you find different about the Maldives as a tropical destination? 常常旅遊的妳,認為馬爾地夫與其他熱帶渡假海島較不同的一面是?

We just like to travel tropical islands. The beautiful nature and isolation make the Maldives very unique destination. I love doing nothing just staring at the sea all day and feeling the time standing still…

我們真的很愛海島,旅遊一定都去海邊。但馬爾地夫的獨特是來自於她的自然美以及與世隔絕感,也僅有在馬爾地夫我能充份享受放空的快感,時間在此就好像靜止凍結。。。

· What is your pet peeve at Maldives resorts?有沒有你不太喜歡的飯店?

Well….I think….OH!  Too difficult to answer. But back to summer of 2005, we experienced an incredible stay at Dhoni Mighili. Look at the island right now? I think I have no right to judge Safari island Resort, but can’t go back anymore! I hope the same situation never happens on Banyan Tree Madivaru.

這個問題有點難回答,如果一定要,可能要回到2005年的初夏,當時我們入住 Dhoni Mighili 就像圓了一場相當棒的航海夢。但是看看現今的島?基本上我覺得我沒任何立場去評論一家我沒入住過的飯店 Safari Island,但對於我們個人的 Dhoni Mighili 印象,我們真的回不去了~這點,我希望不會再次發生在 Banyan Tree Madivaru。

· Reethi Rah appears to be only resort (Maldives or other places) where you returned…why did you visit there twice? O&O Reethi Rah Rah 算是妳們旅遊馬爾地夫所有飯店中唯一重返的,什麼原因讓你們再度入住呢?

Not only the One&Only Reethi Rah, we have been The Brando in Tahiti and Song Saa Private Island twice too. For Reethi I think there are 2 reasons. First, we went to O&O Reethi the first time, it had only opened for 2 weeks, and there were lots of small issues not so perfect as we expected.  We got transfer problems on the way back to Male, so the management team invited us return and experience. Secondly, we are going to publish our travel book “Islands Chic” (introduce Maldives/Tahiti/Hawaii), we returned for more photos for the book.

其實不止 O&O Reethi Rah, 大溪地的 The Brando 及柬埔寨的 Song Saa Private Island 我們都曾經重返。對於 O&O Reethi Rah,二個原因造就了我們再次入住,1第一次時飯店開幕僅二週,一些小小的問題真的需要改進,而在我們回程馬列的接送出了極大的問題,也因為如此管理階層請我們回去再試試入住,另一個主要原因則是我們正著手準備出版我們的旅遊書 “時尚島嶼之旅“ (這本書介紹大溪地/馬爾地夫以及夏威宜這三個熱門時尚島嶼),也因為這個因素,我們也希望呈現出更多的海島旅行照片,所以我們就重返了

· The Maldives is renowned for the best snorkeling in the world, but you have seen some many tropical islands around the world. Which other tropical island comes closest to the Maldives for snorkeling quality? ? 馬爾地夫是著名的浮潛勝地,妳遊歷過這麼多熱帶海洋島嶼勝地,還有哪些熱帶海洋地點妳認為能跟馬爾地夫媲美?

I have to tell you….we don’t know how to swim…and…even a little bit of afraid the water (especially the rogue wave). So it’s shame that we didn’t really enjoy snorkeling…crazy right? But we have been to Palau long long time ago…we did snorkeling in there and enjoy it. I think the snorkeling is very good.

Bruce, 我老實跟你說,其實我們姐妹不會游泳。。甚至於有點怕水 (尤其是那種很強勁的洋流),所以有點不好意思的是浮潛活動對我們而言並不是重點,這對於一向喜歡島旅行的人來說很瘋狂吧!不過我們也不是都不浮潛,我們曾經訪訪過帛琉四天三夜,天天浮潛,那裡的浮潛經驗相當好,我相信能媲美馬爾地夫

· What have you not seen in the Maldives that you would love to see or you think some resort should feature (maybe you saw it at a tropical resort in another part of the world)?有沒有任何特點妳會期盼能在馬爾地夫或馬爾地夫的飯店中能體會到 (也許這些特點是在其他熱帶島嶼飯店中所擁有的)

How about the special way to delivery your breakfast to villa likes Canoe Breakfast in Tahiti. But I hope it had a little different from Tahiti…it have to be in Maldives way! But I have no any idea right now.

我蠻想看看大溪地特有的獨木舟早餐在馬爾地夫到底行不行?但一定要有馬爾地夫自已的味道及特色,不過什麼形式呈現,說真的我現在真的還想不出來

· Do you have any favourite foods or drinks you like to have specifically in the Maldives? ? 請告訴我們妳到馬爾地夫旅行時,有沒有特別喜歡的食物或必點飲料?

Local food: chapatti (with Maldivian chili), we ate chapatti almost every morning when we were there.

當地食物 恰帕底 (當然還要配上馬爾地夫土產辣椒),我們幾乎每天早晨都叫 恰帕底

· Which is the next Maldives resort you want to visit? 妳對於未來即將開幕的新飯店最想入住的是哪一家?

But for the future resort i think it is Soneva Jani.  I love the concept of SONEVA..  Soneva Fushi not yet! This is only Soneva we didn’t go to yet.  I am still interested in Soneva in Aqua…but don’t know when will it open!

如果是對未來即將開幕的飯店而言,我最期待 Soneva Jani,因為我太愛 SONEVA 集團了,雖然我唯一沒入住過 Soneva Fushi (這也是我唯一一家未入住過的 SONEVA 品牌飯店),也許 Soneva in Aqua 正式啟航時也許有緣份入住

· Which resort is the one you would most like to return to? 有沒有任何飯店是妳想再度重返的?

Cheval Blanc Randheli is the resort that I would want to return to.  I was the one of the first grand opening guests of Cheval Blanc.  Unfortunately, they had lots of issues I had encountered during my stay (I don’t want to mention), but the most important thing was that I didn’t travel with my elder sister Samantha (we always travel together), so I want to experience it again with my dearest.

Cheval Blanc Randheli!我是 Cheval Blanc 開門第一天就入住進去了,但很可惜的是可能剛開業很多事情皆未上軌道 (多到我懶得再提了),但最要的一點是當時我的姐姐 Samantha 並沒有跟我一起同遊,我們姐妹感情相當好,也是最佳旅伴,我相當希望能跟著她再次入住 Cheval Blanc Randheli ,因為我知道現在一切都上軌道了,我不會失望的

· Do you have any favourite “shots” you like to get (my wife and I always get a photo of us in front of the resort sign)? 分享一下妳所喜歡的特別攝影定格 (像我跟我老婆總喜歡在飯店標誌前拍照)

The bottle of water with resort logo (I love the resort logo on the bottle…not all the resorts have it!)

有飯店標緻的玻璃瓶裝水 (我喜歡有飯店 logo在瓶身上的那種,但不是每間飯店都會有的)

· Any tips to offer first time visitors to the Maldives?對於第一次造訪馬爾地夫的朋友們有沒有任何建議?

Bare foot anywhere as you can…you will miss the sand in your toes when you back to city.

光腳!光腳!光腳!~相信我,當你回到城市後,你會時不時想念起腳底有砂,踩砂的那段日子

 

Belinda Young 2

Best of the Maldives: Marine Biologist – Verena Wiesbauer

Verena Weisbauer

When I first started coming to the Maldives, a few marine biologists kicked around the atolls usually on their own initiative maybe working on some research project. Now, every self-respecting top-fight resort has its own staff “MB” to provide presentations to guests, offer expert tours of the marine life on outings and also to support the resort’s eco-friendly initiatives to keep the reef and island healthy and vibrant.

I’ve meet dozens at this point, but one really stands out – Verena Wiesbauer. We first met her when he gave one of the best presentations on Maldives marine life at Kurumba a number of years ago. . She works as part of the “Eco-Islanders Maldives” organisation that helps resorts with a number of environmentally friendly initiatives especially around reef preservation. She’s the only Maldives MB I know of who is a published author on the Maldives. I’ve already featured her book, “Trees and Flowers of a Tropical Paradise” in one of the “QI – Maldives edition” series posts. In fact, she is a veritable “Maldives QI Elf” being by far the most prominent contributor to the quirky facts of that Maldives Complete series of posts.

In fact, in general, she is the most active MB contributor to Maldives Complete. She is always promptly responsive to questions I have and regularly offers up fun and useful information. Of course, she came into her own when I launched the “Dive Site Complete” feature. I have received material and information from many MBs across the country, but Verena has provided more support and material than everyone else combined (including the comprehensive list of the MPAs).

Best of the Maldives: Snorkel Guide – Vakarufalhi

Vakarufalhi snorkel guide Tania

No matter how good you are at something, a local expert and guide is always a sound move.

My wife and I do most of our skiing (I snow board) with our best friends who happened to meet as ski instructors. We tag along to which ever of their favourite European slopes catches their fancy this season. Having such experts along transforms the experience. The stress is halved and the excitement is doubled. The stress is cut because you don’t have to worry about getting lost, or going somewhere over your capability. The excitement is doubled because they introduce you to places literally of the beaten path and point out things that you probably would have missed focusing on where you were going.

Those same slope benefits are the reason to grab a snorkel guide at a resort whenever you have the opportunity. My wife and I are advanced divers and have snorkelled over 100 times, but we still benefit from having a local expert show us around. In and among all those guided outings, the guides have all been superb. But we have never come across a guide quite so enthusiastic and proactive as Tania Gae Militello, the marine biologist at Vakaufalhi.

The fact that she holds daily routine guided excursions on the house reef is a key and relatively uncommon at resorts. Other resorts either have the marine biologist on demand or else they have periodic guided excursions. Her regular excursions mean that you can simply work it into your daily routine. You don’t have to feel self-conscious about asking for a guide as she is going anyway. She will also do special excursions to suit you for free as well (schedule permitting).

We took advantage of this ad hoc offer to do a sunrise snorkel (on the wise advice of TripAdvisor Destination Expert ActiveGirl) where we saw tons of sights. Lots of stuff we would have missed if it wasn’t for her trained eye as well as knowledge of the local seascape and knowing where the interesting critters tend to congregate.

One of the best examples is a loggerhead sea turtle named Camilla. She has a favourite resting space on the house reef drop-off ledge about 3 metres deep. Tania showed her to us. More importantly, without any provocation or disturbing her, Camilla popped out and came for a swim with our group when she saw that Tania had arrived. Camilla seemed to recognize Tania and seemed very comfortable around her (no, Camilla does not do any feeding of marine life whatsoever). As close to a guaranteed turtle sighting as you wil get.

As I mentioned at the top, a guide also allows you to push yourself further than you might. When we did our morning snorkel, Tania took us around the further house reef side…and a storm squall came in about 30 minutes into our venture. Normally, I would have been quite spooked being a good distance from shore with a dark, windy sky. But, Tania knew that we were strong swimmers and we were going with the current towards the jetty and reassured us that everything would be fine. When the squall (aka mini-monsoon) hit us, aside from some swells in the ocean and the tickle of rain on our back, the snorkel was as delightful as any. As a result, we were rewarded with some memorable sights we would have missed without her support.

She also took a number of videos and pictures on both of outings with us and loaded them onto a USB stick for us so we could have them.

Tania is passionate not just about the undersea world, but also about the snorkelling itself and makes it even more accessible and thrilling at Vakarufalhi.

Best of the Maldives: Veteran Manager – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi

Asim Mohamed Hudhuranfushi GM
Asim Mohamed on right from his Flickr photostream

For Mohamed Asim, it is not just a job, not just posting, not just a career, not even a passion…it is his life. He is not only one of the few Maldivian native GMs, but he is definitely the first one still serving.

He doesn’t just ‘manage’ the property, he lives it. He surfs the Lohi surf break. He dives. He has his own Flickr stream with nearly 100 images to share his avid photography documenting so many facets of Maldive life and Adaaran Hudhuranfushi highlights. He first cut his teeth in ‘food and beverage’ operation when he entered the Maldive tourism industry in its earliest days so he even mixes it up in the resort kitchen from time to time.

Asim has decades of experience and despite numerous assignments and bountiful opportunity to travel and work just about anywhere in the world, he can think of no better place to be than the Maldives. I can think of no better legacy of the Maldives increasingly proud and world leading tourism industry.

Happy Birthday Asim!

Best of Maldives Online – Visitor Contribution: Francisco Negrin

Francisco Negrin

It just gets easier and easier to work on Maldives Complete because more and more visitors are kindly writing to me with help, suggestions, missing information, corrections. But one individual stands above all his ability to ferret out the most esoteric and obscure details – Francis Negrin.

He has identified new islands, quirky features, and buried website troves of tidbits. Sometimes I actually have come across some of these things and I think he finds it fun sport to see if he can uncover something missing in the Maldives Complete collection. We also have good chats about all sorts of Maldives topics.

And if his current trip is any indication, he stands out in his adoration of the Maldives. Many people feel blessed with one week in the Maldives though if budget and holiday time permits so many people prefer two. Francisco and his friends are going for an entire month during which include Rihiveli (“truly stunning and very very cheap. A gem . The rare find . Way way better than any resort at that price range except there is no house reef”), Cocoa Island (“Cocoa is stunning. I even cried a bit when i got here.”), Dhoni Island, (excursion to Athuruga from there) , Alila Villas Hadahaa, Kanuhura, and Anantara Kihavah.

To add to his long collection of contributions, the Cocoa Island profile is now 100% complete thanks to his snapping me a picture of the fitness centre that I have just loaded up. You too can follow along (if you can tolerate the envy) at his photo-blog http://gallery.me.com/fnegrin#100179.