Best of the Maldives: Bodu Mas – Summer Island

Summer Island - Bodu Mas

Eid ul Adha starts today. For non-Muslims you may have thought that “Eid” had already passed. Well, Eid ul Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan did take place in June. It often gets a high profile due to its association with Ramadan, but to many Islamic scholars, Eid ul Adha is actually a bigger event marking a more sacred event and calling for bigger celebrations.

A few do it bigger than Summer Island with their distinctly Maldivian celebration called “Bodu Mas”…

“Bodu Mas is a tradition a lot of local islanders have during the Eid after Hajj day. We call it Bodu Eid, this Eid is for religiously and traditionally known for celebration and we usually get a longer holiday as well. Bodu Mas is usually accompanied by Maali neshun (ie. dance by a group of people painted and dressed up as Maali – ghosts). If I am not wrong, the story goes like this – A big fish (Modu was) together with Maali (ghosts) comes out from the sea and the men and women in the island tries to catch it. They finally manage to catch it with the help of a holyman in the island, finally ending the night with dancing of the Maali. In summer island, this year, we also brought out a Koadi, the big decorated thing in the front of the parade. However, there is a completely different story this. I think traditionally in different islands, they do it differently. We did a bit of everything. At the local island they do it every year. It’s a custom that has been passed on from years. There was a time that this discontinued in some islands, however, I think, with cultural and traditional awareness, more islands have started practicing these traditional rituals now. First time for Summer Island Maldives as well, and since we had many local guests staying during Eid, it was a fun event, and a great experience for tourists alike.” – General Manager Mariya Shareef

Their “Koadi” is also, by a long shot, the “Best Palm Folding” in the Maldives.

Eid Mubarak!

Summer Island - Bodu Mas 2

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Objects – Summer Island

Summer Island - underwater objects

The Maldives seascape is a world of extremes. The house reefs are often dramatic, colourful, textured, vibrant spectacles. The lagoons, on the other hand, can be vast expanses of underwater deserts of endless, featureless white sand. A number of resorts have introduced a range of Reefscaping initiatives to brighten up their lagoon, but none more funky than the work of Diverland (the resident dive operation) at Summer Island.

In the lakes of England where they teach diving, they submerge bicycles, shopping trolleys, anything to provide some visual interest to the otherwise boring landscape. Summer Island has quite a quirky collection shown in the chart above and include a phone booth and a lamp post (see photo at bottom). All of the items are marked with a red buoy (12 in total) making it easier to find and navigate your swimming to them.

Summer Island also features probably the easiest beginner “wreck dive” one could ever find. They have sunk a sand barge and an old speedboat. Reminds me of the post-war practice by the American and British of scuttling obsolete naval vessels to provide reefs for recreational diving and promotion of sea life. Also, the closest thing to #7 in the 4th collection of “Haven’t Seen Yet”.

Summer Island - sunked boat

Summer Island - underwater phone box

Maldives Tour 2017: Summer Island

Summer Island - tour

Going native. After visiting 74 resorts, one would think that we might go a bit native after a while. We have visited more Maldives resorts than any even Maldivian we have met (we are beyond the “that’s a lot” response to the “that’s amazing”, but always followed by the observation “you must really love the Maldives” #true).

Summer Island was a superb way to start our latest Maldivian adventure. After nearly two decades of visiting this tropical paradise, our arrivals now feel like we are coming home. And Summer Island has a very down-to-earth, homey feel. It was smaller than I imagined it. At the reception end, the island is so narrow that you can hear and almost see the ocean flanking you on either side of the sandy path down the middle of it.

They say if you are looking for a good restaurant, bar or club on holiday, then find out where the locals go. And Summer Island is popular with the Maldivian’s out for a special break. We met a few during our stay and our host, Alson, noted that during the celebration of Eid, the resort was at 100% capacity. Summer Island has an inherently Maldivian vibe. Ample heaps of soft, white sand on not just the beach and the paths, but also the reception, restaurant and lounges. Maldivian swings everywhere. A number of chickens roams freely so your breakfast egg station is truly free range, but also my host noted that they decided to let the birds roam free because it adds to the authentic native island ambiance where such poultry perambulation (my words, not his) is the norm.

One of the earliest resorts, it had a complete overhaul a couple of years ago modernising it and updating it. It’s billed as a 4-plus star category which suits it just fine. It doesn’t have lots of luxury amenities, but it does all of the basics exceptionally well – over water spa, big bed with soft linen sheets and mattress pad, outdoor bathroom, diverse and tasty buffet, infinity pool.

So many Maldivian veteran bemoan the trend of classic Maldives properties getting refurbed and then upgrading to an out-of-reach super-premium, but Summer Island bucks this trend. They have done a sterling job remodelling the resort from top to bottom, but have kept it a very affordable 4 star property. I would highly recommend it for a first visit to the Maldives (I recommend that people go to more modest properties for their first time even if they are multimillionaires, because if you start with the full-trapping super luxury ones, between the natural beauty of the destination and the extra [stimulation] of the resort amenities and features, there’s almost too much to take in at once.

Simply stylish unpretentious paradise.

Best of the Maldives: Female GM – Summer Island

Summer Island - GM

America didn’t quite go for its only female chief executive, but in a land known more for its glass floors, Mariya Shareef is breaking a few glass ceilings with her appointment as General Manager of Summer Island – the only female GM in the Maldives at present. Maldives Complete had a chance to catch up with her for an exclusive interview about her career and views on tourism in her country…

  • What was your first ever job?
    The first job I ever had was helping a friend’s mom sell school uniform badges just before the school season started – I must have been around 14 – 15 years old. As a reward for this work, we were treated to a nice meal. I took it seriously, I was always there, punctual, and I memorised the prices of all the badges. I worked alongside a friend, who remains close to me now, and we would sit and chat as we waited for clients. It was such fun!
  • What was your first job in hospitality?
    I worked in Bandos island resort as a pastry assistant. I always thought I would become a pastry chef someday, but my career has taken me into management.
  • What has been your favourite sighting on the Summer Island house reef?
    The little ‘Nemo’ clown fish and anemones near the jetty. It is the first thing you see when you arrive on the island. I never tire of looking at them – they are such pretty little ones.
  • What has been an idea (eg new dish, a new activity, a new offer) that completely failed?
    I wish I could remember a specific idea or incident. Of course, I have failed at things. Lots of ideas have been rejected, and there has always been things I wanted to do but couldn’t, or that I started and stopped midway through. Failure, I think, goes hand in hand with success. If you never make any mistakes, it probably means you are too risk averse. As long as you always learn from your mistakes, it’s an important part of growing and developing.
  • How have the guests changed over your career?
    I think the clientele who holiday in the Maldives haven’t changed that much over the years. The country still has a well-preserved image as the perfect honeymoon or romantic destination. Probably, the honeymooners have overtaken the divers now, who were the first group who started coming when tourism first began. Nowadays, we also have new groups visiting such as surfers. The market keeps expanding, especially with the introduction of new tourism offers such as guesthouses on local islands, as well as cruises and safari boats that cater to surfers. There are also more family orientated resorts. I would say the country is more open now for different segments of guests and we are better able to cater to different needs, different age groups, activities and nationalities. But the honeymoon image is still the one for which the Maldives is world famous.
  • How have the management challenges changed over your career?
    Management style differs from company to company. I have always been happy where ever I worked and have been quite blessed with good bosses. I had the privilege of working with foreign and local management. I believe things will change, and the new generation needs to bring change. I believe locally managed companies are changing for the better. As one of the only Maldivian women to hold the post of resort manager, I hope to be a good example of such change. I am not only happy for myself, but for the positive change the company has brought – it is very motivating.
  • What is your favourite dish served at Summer Island restaurants?
    I love food, so everything I eat is always good! The best food I had in Summer Island was a very yummy prawn curry. And I shouldn’t forget the satay in the snack menu, which we also sometime have on the buffet – it’s so good!
  • If you had $1 million to add one single feature to Summer Island, what would it be?
    With $1 million I would do lots small things, predominantly to the staff areas. I would redo the football pitch with astro-turf, pave the badminton court, add one more floor to the staff lounge and bring in more snooker tables, table tennis tables, and other sports; do up the cafeteria nicely, add lots of cozy areas for staff to lounge and mingle. A Million Dollars will also go along way to “comp” offer complementary experiences.
  • What’s one question I didn’t ask that you either wish I asked or were surprised that I didn’t ask (and what the answer)?
    Maybe, ‘how does it feel to be in this position now?’ and my answer would be, it feels like I am finally home. I was and have always been in love with this beautiful island and its people, including the management and the owners. They are such wonderful people. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming – but in a very happy way. And today, when I think about all these questions, and everyone talking about me; being in the media and all that, I have never felt anything different from my people here at ‘home’. I started this new job with huge responsibilities on my shoulders but when I saw the smiles on everyone’s faces, I knew I had the support of my colleagues. I have been in this new job for about 20 days now but I know that I’m not alone and that is a great feeling. I never feel I am being treated differently because I am a woman, or because I’m young… this place simply makes me feel like I am home.