Michelin starred Italian chef Carmelo Greco at Coco Bodu Hithi

Renowned for the resorts’ sophisticated and relaxed dining atmosphere, Coco Bodu Hithi is pleased to announce the arrival of visiting Michelin starred chef, Carmelo Greco.

Arriving to Maldives on 18th March 2017, Greco will be spending 2 weeks at Coco Bodu Hithi, during which he will be creating exclusive dinners and interactive master classes for the resident guests. Greco’s reinterpretation of Italian cuisine has been surprising taste buds for over three decades.

Born in Sicily, Greco grew up in Piedmont and discovered his love for culinary pleasures in his uncle’s hotel and restaurant. After attending hotel management school, Greco worked in the legendary restaurant Da Guido under the experienced head chef Lidia Vanzino Alciati. Greco admires his recently deceased mentor who was one of the first people to have an impact on his cooking style: “Lidia was the grande dame of Piedmontese gastronomy. With her respectful behaviour towards traditional Italian cuisine, which she cultivated and reinterpreted, she contributed to the history of Italian cooking”.

After years of improving his skills in Italy, Greco came to Germany at the age of 20 and proved to have plenty more to offer than typical Italian pizza and spaghetti. After three years, Greco and his partner opened restaurant Osteria Enoteca. Word got around quickly that being a guest of Carmelo Greco meant experiencing first-class Italian cuisine that could not be found in Germany before, earning the restaurant a Michelin star in 1996.

In November 2010, Greco opened his own restaurant in Frankfurt, Ristorante Carmelo Greco. The menu shares classic Italian recipes dear and near to Greco’s heart. He explains. “We only work with the best and freshest ingredients, which is also why our menu constantly changes according to the general state of the market.”

Greco constantly gathers inspiration from regular visits to star chefs’ restaurants. For Greco, cooking is an ever evolving process and a never ending search for new flavour combinations. He states, “I want to keep cooking, experimenting with ingredients and making my friends and family happy with delicious food until I am over the age of eighty, if possible.”

Greco’s signature creations include his Filetto Rossini with Fassona beef, a creamy Tortelli Carbonara and Amatriciana, and a rich Vitello Tonnato, some of which will be offered in his menu at Coco Bodu Hithi.

It is with a passion to deliver fresh and flavourful creations that he arrives at Coco Bodu Hithi next year, bringing with him the classic tastes of Italy to the sunny beaches of Maldives.

S is for Something Special at Maafushivaru

You’ve read the brochure, visited the website before your arrival and now you’re finally here. After a brief overview of your resort you’re left alone in your villa. Another peak out at the view as you rub your eyes, maybe have a go on the coffee maker. Time to plan paradise.

Flicking through the resort information, past restaurants and excursion information, you soon come to the glossary – an A to Z of your island, from air-conditioning to zumba. When staying on Maafushivaru, however, you should probably start with S.

Seaplane Transit (Photography: Naj)

Seaplane. Starting your trip from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, it’s the perfect introduction to this ocean kingdom comprised of more than 99 percent water. Dropping gently down into the lagoon, you emerge onto a floating platform in the middle of a neigbourhood of islands, where the Maafushivaru dhoni arrives to collect you. Probably the world’s best transit lounge.

Reef Shark (Photography: Naj)

Sharks. Normally saved at least until after you’ve unpacked, Maafushivaru’s resident reef sharks will welcome you as they patrol the shallows just off the beach, almost appearing to dance to the gentle music emanating from the speakers lining the pier. No need to worry about fumbling through your luggage to get a picture – they’re here all week.

Beach Villa (Photography: Naj)
Beach Villa (Photography: Naj)

Simplicity. Situated on a small island – just 350 metres across – Maafushivaru retains the cosy feel of a tropical island you dreamt about. With 26 villas on the island, and a further 22 reaching out over the coral reef, you’re only ever a few footprints in the sand from your next pleasure.

Sunset Cruise (Photography: Naj)
Sunset Cruise (Photography: Naj)

Sunset. Watching the sunset from the island is always spectacular, but taking a leisurely boat ride into the flaming finale of another day in paradise is different altogether. With sunset cruises (and sunset fishing) trips twice a week, this is an experience you won’t want to miss out on. Sitting atop the dhoni, a glass in your hand as the panoramic pleasure of nature brings you that unfamiliar feeling of happy insignificance.

Sauna. Just beating the last of the daylight back to the island, there’s still time to enjoy the complimentary sauna and jacuzzi at the over-water spa, just off the island’s generous main beach. The mosaic-tiled wet room and the wood panelled dry room will give you time to make dinner plans while your stresses melt away.

Robert at 135 degrees East (Photography: Naj)

Sashimi, Sushi, and a Show. Maafushivaru’s 135° East restaurant takes the coordinates of the world’s first teppanyaki grill and transports them 62° west to an overwater pavillion over the Indian Ocean. Here, you can watch resident showman & chef Robert dazzle you with juggling utensils, spinning eggs, and flying omelettes – delivered into my mouth from 12 feet away (no exaggeration).

Snorkeling off Lonubo (Photography: Naj).

Snorkelling. As a small island, Maafushivaru has an accessible house reef, teeming with the Maldives’ most famous. Collecting your mask and fins, and with a nod to the reef sharks on the beach, you can soon be paddling alongside butterflyfish, groupers, and even turtles, just yards from your room. For those seeking bigger game, snorkelling excursions can take you out to the local manta point and whale shark sits on the ocean reef.

Lonubo (Photography: Naj)
Lonubo (Photography: Naj)

Secret Island. Just moments away from the main island, Maafushivaru is complimented by its own little secret – Lonubo. This exclusive island – with just two villas, named after the Maldives’ answer to Romeo and Juliet – can be visited by any guest during the daytime, but at night is transformed into a private island for couples looking for that real desert island fantasy. Picnics, BBQs and private beach dining are available via a personal chef and waiting staff. Couples can literally sleep on a bed under the stars on the beach, waking up to a champagne breakfast brought over from the main island.

With all you’d expect from a well-established Maldivian resort, the alphabet of attractions at Maafushivaru are too numerous to list, and we didn’t even get to sun, sea, or sand which your hosts will ensure are the most significant share of your serene stay.

Serious Luxury at Conrad Rangali

Arriving at the seaplane terminal, fresh off your flight into the Maldives, you’re ready for some relaxation and fun in the ocean kingdom. You’re heading to Conrad Rangali – the multiple award-winning hotel, recently voted one of the top ten in the Indian Ocean.

Heading into the Conrad lounge, your suspicions are confirmed. As you help yourself to complimentary coffee and breakfast and settle back in your white leather lounger; as you enjoy your complimentary massage; as you gaze out at the seaplanes bobbing outside the window – this is serious stuff.

Taking off on the 30 minute flight to South Ari atoll, you are again struck by the reality that greets you from your little window. There they are, just as you’d dreamed – the unforgettable islands of the archipelago spread out before you. But this is not a screensaver. There will be no pop-ups.

Conrad Lounge (Photography: Naj)
Rangali Footbridge (Photography: Naj)

Catching a glimpse of your destination through the cockpit as the plane dives down into the lagoon you see two palm fringed islands joined by a 500 metre footbridge, towards the middle of which your plane heads after splashing down. To the left is Rangali island, with its secluded water villas and beachfront dining, while to right is Rangalifinolhu, where you’re staying in one of Conrad’s recently refurbished beach villas.

Renovated at an expense of $3.2 million dollars, your hosts mean business. Entering the villa, you’re immediately struck by the grandeur as the spacious living and sleeping area opens out onto a sliding bay window fifteen feet in height.

At the rear of the villa, past the outdoor rain shower lies a bathtub doing a fine impression of a bathing temple, raised up beneath a pagoda surrounded with luscious green. This is not a place for the average bath.

conrad-beach-villa
Beach Villa (Conrad Rangali Island Maldives)

Back inside you have your own wifi connection, iphone dock, coffee maker, 3D HD blu-ray player, 32 inch flat screen TV and even your own sunroof. There are beach villas and there are beach villas – Conrad Rangali opts for the latter.

A few doors down the beach – one of a dozen different types of rooms available – are the 7000 sq. ft beach suites with two rooms, two private plunge pools, and their own private back door to the beach. One step up from the neighbouring villa, the open air bathtub here takes around 45 minutes to fill, during which time guests can order a custom bathing ritual, with candles, aromatherapy, or champagne…it’s your fantasy.

Beach Suite (Photography: Naj)

A leisurely stroll – or a regular ferry ride – away on Rangali island, the resort’s selection of water villas look over the breaking surf and brilliant sunsets. Back on Rangalifinolhu, the spa retreat area stretches out from the northern end of the island. The wooden structure includes 9 rooms either side of a shaded corridor ending in a piercing rectangle of sunshine at the end of this labyrinth of leisure.

Depending on the door you choose, you will be treated to any number of massages, facials, scrubs and treatments – including a ‘vichy’ shower, which words can’t really describe. Either way, they aren’t taking any chances with your wellness here.

Over Water Spa Retreat (Photography: Naj/Rangali Island Resort Maldives)

This collective quality extends to the spa retreat area’s own restaurant where things go up another level as Conrad shows you its dedication to dining. ‘Mandhoo’ restaurant lies opposite the spa, and for good reason.

With a menu themed to correspond to the five elements of Greek philosophy, diners can choose from dishes corresponding to their emotional and physical needs – nutritionists and spa therapists are on hand if needed. A dish’s taste, temperature and moisture will determine whether you wish to choose from the energising ‘air’ option, nourishing ‘earth’, detoxifying ‘fire’, relaxing ‘water’ or fortifying ‘plant’ menus.

If this doesn’t leave you impressed, perhaps the pioneering ‘Koko’ teppanyaki grill dug into the sand on Rangali island will. Should you have any remaining doubts as to Conrad’s commitment to cuisine, it’s probably time you took a trip down to ‘Ithaa’.

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Ithaa (Photography: Naj)

Famed internationally, the world’s first underwater restaurant, ‘Ithaa’ is the jewel in Conrad’s culinary crown (or pearl, according to the Dhivehi translation). Having been described as the most beautiful restaurant on earth, it’s hard to eat much on the first visit with your mouth wide open the whole time. Lobster, caviar, quails eggs, a 270 tonne structure, five metres below the surface; it’s not likely you’ll ever dine like this anywhere else.

In fact, it’s unlikely that many of the things you do during your time at Conrad Rangali island will be bettered elsewhere. This is a resort without half-measures and where your luxury is in the hands of professionals…a seriously incredible place to spend your holiday!

Style of the South at Canareef

People in the Maldives’ southern atolls have always liked to do things a their own way. They talk a little differently, they’re fiercely proud of their islands and they have a strong independent streak.

At Canareef resort, perched below the equator on the most south-easterly point of the archipelago, things are no different. Their refreshing take on the Maldives’ experience encourages you to embrace the sun the sand and the South.

Stretching down the eastern side of the heart-shaped Addu atoll, Canareef suns itself on the island of Herathera – the longest resort island in the country. Between the hydroponics garden in the north and the snorkelling point on the south, lies 4.5km of beaches, lakes and water villas amid unspoiled tropical greenery.

Addu Lagoon (Photography: Naj)

Around 200 metres at its widest point, the west of the island gazes out across the spearmint lagoon to the atoll capital, Hithadhoo. On the east, a series of lakes – known locally as kilhi and found only on a few larger islands – provide an area of serenity between you, 2000 miles of ocean and Sumatra.

Similarly, due south from Canareef lies nothing but open seas and perhaps the odd top-secret research facility before reaching Antarctica (sea-lions and shivering scientists wish they were in your kind of south).

Kilhi (Photography: Naj)

Dhoni Bar

Canareef is one of the Maldives’ larger resorts, with 271 villas still leaving plenty of room for three restaurants, a fitness centre, watersports centre, spa, and miles of sandy lanes on which to pedal along on bicycles provided for every room.

The resort’s grand scale is most notable in the main ‘Dhoni bar’, which can only be described as a beach ballroom. Shaped like an upturned boat, the enormous hall combines day-beds, cocktails, board games, ping-pong and pool, all on top of soft white sand. Outside, the second largest pool in the Maldives makes this the perfect place to idle while the sun sets over Hithadhoo.

Dhoni Bar Pool (Photography: Naj)

Elsewhere, the nearby ‘Kilhi’ restaurant offers sea-level dining in its private bunkers looking out over the Laccadive Sea, while Meeraa restaurant further along the island offers views over the lagoon and Asian cuisine by the pool. 

Canareef’s beach villas are divided into three types for those who like the sunset, the sunrise, or those who prefer the night sky from their private jacuzzi. The wooden bungalows offer bright interiors opening out onto even brighter exteriors, where comfy loungers blend into sand and southern sea.

Photography: Naj
Sunset Villa (Photography: Naj)

In addition to its size and scenery, another unusual element of Canareef is its connection to the neighbouring island of Hulhu-meedhoo. Separated by only a narrow channel to the north, the morning commute of many of the island’s staff across a small footbridge, is unique in a nation of isolated islands.

Guests can head in the opposite direction, with local island tours allowing them to visit some of the Maldives’ most important historical sights – in particular, the beautiful Koagannu cemetery, the oldest in the country.

For those seeking more adventures in the southernmost atoll, trips across the lagoon will take you from the former British air base in Gan to the precious Koattey mangrove area in Hithadhoo via the Addu link road – one of the longest in the Maldives.

addu-live

Your visit to the atoll wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the other south, the one beneath the waves that is. Addu is home to a number of world class dive sites, with 25 to choose from, including wrecks left behind by the British, year-round manta sightings and vibrant coral patches. Canareef’s PADI-trained guides can show you the way around the south of the south.

The opportunity to experience the southern side of life in the Maldives is not to be missed, and Canareef offers its guests a unique tropical island as well as a doorway to the treasures of Addu; it’s too good to refuse.

Charmed at Meedhoo’s Charming Holiday Lodge

Almost a thousand years ago, travellers journeyed across vast oceans to the tiny island of Meedhoo in Addu atoll, bringing a new way of life that would forever change the mysterious Maldives archipelago; or so the story goes.

With little evidence of the Maldives’ ancient origins surviving, clues to the countries past are few and far between. But not in Meedhoo. Here lie the men who were among the first to bring Islam to the islands in the early 12th century.

Just yards away from their charming and historic place of rest amid swaying palms and coral walls is the Charming Holiday Lodge. It is from here that you can truly appreciate the rich culture of island life – past and present.

With the country’s recent conversion to guesthouse tourism just beginning to make an impact in the atoll, Meedhoo is still largely untouched by today’s travellers. Visitors to the Charming Holiday Lodge, however, can explore in comfort, returning to spacious and air-conditioned rooms at the end of each day’s discoveries.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

All rooms are supplied with luxurious furnishings, flat screen televisions and wi-fi, giving a comfortable base from which to dip into island life (guests in the deluxe suite can do this more literally, with an outdoor shower and bathtub). The property’s four rooms, communal area and kitchen can also be rented for private groups – accommodating up to eight people.

Local culture is something those at the Charming Holiday Lodge are particularly proud of, with guided island tours – and bicycles – provided free of charge. Your visit to Koagannu – the oldest cemetery in the country – will live long in the memory, while nearby gun mounts places by the British during the second world war hint at the island’s more recent place in history.

The wide variety of locally-grown fruit and vegetables are a must if you are to attempt to copy some of Addu’s recipes, lovingly collected by your hosts. The fully stocked kitchen ensures you’ll have plenty of time to perfect Boafolhi (a sort of coconut pancake), Geshi Bankeu (indescribable!!) and many more.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Despite its busy history, Meedhoo is a quiet place with a population of just under 2000. A further 1,200 people live on the same island, although the southern district of Hulhudhu is regarded as a separate island. References to ‘Hulhu-meedhoo’ are bound to leave you confused for the first few days, though asking locals for the answer to this mystery is often a good way to return the favour (count the different explanations you hear).

Large parts of the island are still covered with thick tropical foliage, the perfect home for fruit bats and the atoll’s famous white tern (known locally as the dhondheeni), who glide lazily over the sleepy island throughout the day.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

The usual pleasures of the atolls are also available to guests, taking to the ocean to spot dolphins and to fish, while the lodge can also arrange beach barbecues and trips to nearby uninhabited islands. The Canareef resort – connected to Hulhu-meedhoo by a small bridge to the south – can also be accessed for day-trippers looking to use its facilities, including pool, spa, gym, and bars.

But perhaps the best way to succumb to the timeless tropical trance is order a coffee in a local cafe (lodge staff can recommend the best places) and let the island show you its charmed life. Watching islanders saunter over the sand to gather and gossip outside their homes, interrupted only by the call to prayer drifting over the towering palms.

Meedhoo’s gentle sway is sure to leave you hypnotised during your stay at the Charming Holiday Lodge.

Meedhoo can be reached by flying to Addu’s Gan International Airport from the capital Male’ or Colombo. From Gan, a five minute car ride will take you to Feydhoo ferry terminal from where regular ferries travel across the lagoon to Meedhoo. Alternatively, the Charming Holiday Lodge can arrange speedboat transfers from Gan.

A Song of Faru and Isle at Angsana Ihuru

You’ve settled in with your book in the shade of a brilliant Maldivian morning, having padded your sandy way back from another sunny breakfast on Angsana Ihuru island resort.

You loved the series, now you finally have time for the book. But you can’t quite relax.

It could be that you’re spoiled for choice, nestled in the secluded garden leading from your cosy villa and onto the beach. You chose the cover of the sheltered daybed in which to get stuck into your bestseller, but the loungers look pretty inviting too – essential if you’re gonna work on your tan. The undhoalhi swing also looks tempting, or perhaps a coffee on the chairs closer to the room is the place for you?

Maybe you’re distracted by the resident water hen strutting in and out of the foliage to enquire for the hundredth time as to what you’re doing on his patch. He snoops around for a while before a colleague calls him back into the undergrowth.

No, it’s not that.

Photo Courtesy of Angsana Ihuru

Trying to concentrate on the pages, on the climactic battle scene taking place in a mythical kingdom, your eyes keep drifting up to the Indian Ocean lapping at the bright beach just yards away.

You were already halfway through a fantastic story, and now you need to finish. Less than fifty feet from where you lie is the Maldives’ very own blockbuster novel – the classic tale of an underwater kingdom told by Ihuru’s famed faru (the Dhivehi word for ‘reef’). Authored by nature; lovingly edited by Angsana.

The book can wait (and if it’s the one I think it is – spoiler alert – your favourite character is about to die anyway!!).

It was just yesterday that you took your complimentary snorkel gear from the marine center and floated out through one of the island’s five designated channels indicated by little divers sticking out above the blue; helpful tropical bookmarks in case you should ever lose your place.

Photograph: Naj
Photograph: Naj

Out there, you circumnavigated the island in just over an hour – a trip that takes just 5 minutes by (sandy) foot. It was done – off your list. Now onto the spa treatments, dolphin cruises, watersports, and the book you’d promised yourself you’d make time for.

But before you know it you’re back out reading the reef, observing the butterfly fish playing in shafts of light streaming through the blue, indifferent to your presence. The live action out here is real, with a host of characters playing their parts, though you’re no more at risk than you were back on your daybed.

Photo courtesy of Angsana Ihuru
Photo courtesy of Angsana Ihuru
Photo courtesy of Angsana Ihuru
Photo courtesy of Angsana Ihuru

There’s nothing any more dangerous than the odd gnashing moray eel and the occasional itchy triggerfish. Your first reef shark may be unnerving – and they can grow over a metre long – but they don’t find you half as interesting as you do them.

The tiny island of Ihuru embodies the conservation philosophy of its parent company, Banyan Tree Hotels, whose Vabbinfaru resort is just a stone’s throw away. Twice-daily marine orientation classes are held at the beachfront ‘Velavani’ bar, while a daily ferry across to Vabbinfaru brings a practical lesson in Stingray feeding.

The island’s marine lab gives regular presentations about the island’s conservation work – which includes hosting two of the country’s three ‘electric reef’ coral growth schemes (the other is on Vabbinfaru) – and invites guests to help with its reef cleaning efforts. They also offer additional snorkelling trips.

Photograph: Naj

With just under 50 fifty rooms perched atop less than a square kilometre of sand, the perfectly formed island resort has managed to reduce its impact on its perfectly formed little reef. It’s beautiful simplicity – as one of the Maldives smallest resorts – is reflected in the island’s facilities, which tell their own tale of intelligent design.

All rooms follow the same design, albeit with some having the added twist of a jet pool in their outdoor bathroom. Colourful and clean, the rooms are reminiscent of the house reef – though a plentiful mini-bar and in-villa dining making it unlikely you’ll be heading out there for snacks.

Most meals are served in the beachside ‘Riveli’ restaurant, though diverse dining can be enjoyed with a more secluded beach BBQ or even a visit to Ihuru’s own private sandbank.

Photograph: Naj
Photograph: Naj

Less simple is the spa menu, with well-trained staff bringing a wide range of treatments from Phuket and Bintang to Ihuru’s pavillions of pleasure tucked away in the heart of the island. Many an afternoon can be lost at these skilled fingertips, with bespoke treatments lasting as long as three blissful hours.

But as you drift away your mind floats back out onto the reef, eager to re-live this fantasy thriller (a bit like reading the book even though you’ve already seen the TV programme).

Maldives Travel Awards Judging Begins this Week

The official judging process for the MATATO Maldives Travel Awards 2016 has started this week at Hotel Jen in the capital Male’.

From October 3rd until October 9th, this year’s judging panel will shortlist three nominees for each of the 35 different categories. The finalists will then receive visits from the judges before the overall marks are determined.

These marks will then be added to the online and SMS voting, which have both been open since September 18th and will close on November 15th – shortly before the official awards ceremony.

The final results will be collated by KPMG, the Independent Service Provider of this year’s awards, who will collect the scores and votes directly from the judges and telecoms providers Ooredoo and Dhiraagu.

Award categories included this year cover resorts, hotels and guesthouses, liveaboards/diving/watersports, and transportation & technology. New categories for the 2016 edition include ‘Leading Travel Website’, ‘Leading Guest House Island’, ‘Leading Innovation in Guest-House Design’, ‘Leading F&B Outlet’, and ‘Leading Airport Lounge’.

Big winners in 2015 included Bandos Island Resort (‘Best Dive Resort’ and ‘Most Supportive Resort’), PER AQUUM resorts (‘Most Romantic Resort’ – Per Aquum Huvafenfushi; ‘Leading F & B Resort’ – Per Aquum Niyama), and Anantara resorts (‘Leading Beach Resort in the Maldives’ – Anantara Kihavah Villas; ‘Leading Wellness and Spa Resort’ – Anantara Veli Resort; ‘Leading Spa Brand’ – Anantara Spa; ‘Leading International Hotel & Resort Brand’).

The awards were launched in 2011 to recognise and celebrate the leading lights in the Maldives’ famed tourism industry. They went international for the first time in 2015, when the final event took place in Dubai.

The full list of judges for this year’s awards is as follows:

1- Dr. Hussain Sunny Umar

2- Dr. Mariyam Waseema

3- Mr. Mohamed Areef

4- Mr. Ibrahim Nasreen

5- Ms. Zeenaz Hussain

6- Mr. Ibrahim Asim

7- Ms. Aminath Shaanee

8- Mr. Mohamed Shinaz

9- Mr. Ibrahim Mahudhee

Maldives.com is proud to be an associate partner of this year’s MATATO Maldives Travel Awards.

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Free(dom)-Diving at Anantara Maldives

Ten metres above, the glassy ceiling of the Indian Ocean glints and and shimmers while below the warm turquoise of the Maldives fades into an infinite blue.

Nearby, canoes and snorkellers paddle on the glittering ceiling while scuba-explorers plumb the depths of the archipelago’s coral kingdom. Here, you wait between one world and the other at Anantara in South Male’ atoll.

Having free-dived down, your lungs are squeezed to half of their normal capacity as the weight of paradise brings two bars of pressure (the exact opposite effect of the ones serving cocktails on the resort) – but you feel calm.

Anantara Free Diving

After spending an hour with Mari – your PADI-trained free-diving instructor – by the pool, you understand the physics crucial to this quickly growing sport. She’s been taking guests through their paces since Anantara became one of the first resorts in the Maldives to give free-diving lessons earlier this year.

As your lungs shrink, so your buoyancy reduces the further you get toward the end of the rope attached to the buoy above. Here, at ten metres’ depth, you have neutral buoyancy. A few kicks up and your lungs begin to expand, sending you back up to the surface. A few down and gravity will return, taking you deeper and deeper with minimal effort.

As much a mental as a physical sport, free-diving requires relaxation and control to practice. Tense muscles and a busy brain use a lot of oxygen – but luckily you’ve been relaxing hard since your arrival, and pranayama tuition is available at Anantara’s wellness centre.

Anantara Free Diving

The mammalian dive response kicks in as soon as your face hits the water, reducing your heart rate to 25 percent of its normal level and slowing your metabolism to conserve oxygen. But concentration is needed to ensure you equalise the pressure in your ears and mask during the descent.

Getting down here was the hardest part, and for a few precious moments you’re floating; a tropical spaceman. Up or down is your call, but only for as long as you can hold your breath, and your body is sending strong signals it would like to breath some time soon.

Recalling your induction in the warm and plentiful air of the morning, you know that the oxygen levels in your blood have dipped only a couple of points and remain above 90 percent. But it’s the CO2 levels that are urging you back to the surface.

Anantara Free Diving

The difference between a novice and a pro is their ability to withstand higher levels of CO2, allowing them to hold their their breath for long enough to dive to 25 metres or lower. The world record unassisted free dive is 95 metres, and the longest time anyone has held their breath underwater is 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

While the discomfort is natural at first, being able to dive down to the reef has been a way of life for Maldivians for millenia, foraging for those hard-to-reach crustaceans, octopus and sea cucumbers on their doorstep. You may feel out of your depth, but didn’t that first session back at the gym leave you feeling like a fish out of water?

Mari floats alongside you, checking you make the right decision and head back up. You do – flicking your fins and expanding your lungs as you race back up the rope leading into the sky.

Full courses are available at the resort’s ‘Aquafanatics’ Water Sports Centre, allowing you to take your skills to new depths. These include training on technique and safety procedures to ensure you can free-dive with freedom. 

Anantara Free Diving

Maldives’ First Guesthouse Conference a Success

The Maldives’ first ever guesthouse conference has been described as a great triumph by its organisers.

“We believe it was a successful event with the support of a lot of tourism stakeholders, especially the hardworking guesthouses owners, whom we cannot come this far without their heartfelt commitment,” explained Maldives Getaways’ Director of Business Development Dr Hussain Sunny Umar.

He added that the conference formed part of a campaign that would aim to attract 500,000 tourists to guesthouses by 2020, noting that the aim of the growing sector was to empower local communities, focussing in particular on women and youth.

The event, held in Male’s Dharubaaruge convention centre last weekend, brought together stakeholders from the booming sector for the unique occasion. In addition to the conference’s 15 business partners, the event was endorsed by numerous local tourism organisations as well as the UNWTO.

Guesthouse conference

Renowned the world over as the home of luxury island tourism, the Maldives has strived to develop a reputation for decadence over the past 40 years. This brand now brings over one million visitors to the country each year, with 80 percent still heading directly to one of over 100 single island resorts spread across the atolls.

In recent years, however, budget guesthouses have been springing up across the country at a phenomenal pace. From 23 registered properties in 2010, there are now more than 300 guesthouses situated on around half the country’s inhabited islands.

More than 160 of these were invited to network with travel agents while premium partners STO, Allied Insurance and Dhiraagu used the opportunity to unveil new products. Dr Sunny Umar noted the benefits for those in attendance:

“We got some positive feedback from the participants and they were really excited and happy to have such an event in the first place, and for the first time with the involvement of international representatives from renowned organisations such as Booking.com, Expedia, Vista Rooms and American Express.”

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Other guest speakers included BML CEO Andrew Healy and President of MATATO Abdulla Ghiyas, while the conference was inaugurated by finance minister Ahmed Munawar. Presentations given covered topics such as new markets, health and safety, and tax requirements.

After the presentations, lunch and ample opportunity to exchange business cards, invitees were asked to add theirs to the the pot for a lucky prize draw.

Maldives Getaways’ ‘Guesthouses Maldives’ brand aims to provide essential services to the guesthouse sector, producing the only print magazine dedicated solely to this burgeoning market.

The company will soon launch its own diving magazine – dive.mv – with the first issue to be distributed at London’s World Travel Market in November. The same month is set to see Maldives Getaways publish the first ‘Gold 100’ list of Maldivian companies.

Additional plans also include plans for a Maldivian travel trade show, and a food forum built on the success of the website eat.mv.

9 Little Things From the Maldives

When people travel to the Maldives, more often than not it is for the big things; expanses of aquamarine, sublime sunsets and captivating coral reefs.

However, with more than 100 resorts to choose from across the 26 atolls, the race is on to give guests the ultimate experience. With the world’s hospitality experts working night and day to outdo one another, it’s the fine details – from service and design to architectural quirks – that set the resorts apart.

So, here are a few of the ‘little’ things that we’ve noticed on our recent trips.

Stingrays at Coral Reef

The relaxed atmosphere of Taj Vivanta’s Coral Reef resort is accentuated by the daily feeding of the stingrays, who have become firm favourites in the island community. 5pm every day means it’s time to head to the beach and watch these normally-graceful creatures slurp up the surf, with  guests encouraged to help!!

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Champagne Phone at Finolhu

In a resort with such keen attention to detail, classy quirks can be found all over Baa Atoll’s Finolhu beach club haven. But this 1960s vintage model phone, provided exclusively to order champagne, is perhaps the best example of the retro luxury on offer.

Bicycles at Six Senses

With most islands averaging between 1 and 2 km squared, getting around your resort is never a problem. But, for those who find themselves racing to catch that sunset, or a little late for their spa appointment – bicycles are often provided, which is nice. Even nicer is YOUR own bicycle, personalised and waiting for you upon arrival at Six Senses Laamu.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Club Med Kani

Better known as a hive of activity, with an endless array of activities and entertainment, life on Club Med Kani is overseen by a towering Banyan tree around which the resort seems to revolve. The presence of nature in the midst of luxury.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Solar Power at Finolhu Villas

Designed as the first fully solar-powered resort, Club Med Finolhu Villas proudly shows off its renewable raison d’être with a corridor of panels greeting guests on their arrival. The solar streets continue up to your water villa.

Photogrpahy: Naj
Photogrpahy: Naj

Wedding Pavilion at Taj Exotica

With its wealth of dining options, even regular guests at Taj Exotica will struggle to make their way through the menu. For the more romantically-inclined however, they can spice up their meals by reserving the wedding pavilion. Its unusual stone construction puts one in mind of a sacrificial altar – though candles and fine wine is probably sufficient to demonstrate your feelings.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Pillow Menu at Naladhu

The gated island community of Naladhu is designed as the ultimate home from home – if you happen to live in a tropical paradise. With 24 room service and the personal touch spreading to the contents of the bookshelf, guests can even choose from a sample of pillows, bringing new levels of ergonomic excellence.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Wooden Hearts at Anantara Veli

Dedicated to couples, those celebrating special occasions while on Anantara Veli may well find themselves invited for cocktails in the island’s garden, after which they can leave their mark amidst the orchids.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj

Bathing at Dhigu

Clearly a favourite of architects, bathrooms in the Maldives never fail to impress – from liberating outdoor rain showers to cinematic views from the tub. Anantara Dhigu’s water villas are a perfect example, with the artistic simplicity of your tub almost as thought-provoking as the view beyond.

Photography: Naj
Photography: Naj