FREE COPY

ISSUE 19 | MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI Inflight Magazine

IN THIS ISSUE:

Maldives Resorts USPs | Night Snorkelling | Fly ‘n’ Surf | The Amazing Maldives Maldives Paradise Above and Below the Water’s Surface | Extreme Repeaters Turtle Conservation Projects Making Waves in the Maldives | A Day in a Cabin Attendant’s Life
www.maldivianairtaxi.com

Photo: Sakis Papadopoulos

MADE IN KANUHURA/WOOD THE STEPS FROM YOUR VILLA DOWN TO THE WATER; A CHILD DRAWING WITH DRIFTWOOD ON THE SAND; THE MAHOGANY CLASP ON YOUR HEIDI KLEIN BIKINI; THE OLD CHESS SET AT THE HANDHUVARU BAR
www.kanuhura.com

Kanuhura, The Maldives

4.3° North, 73.3° East

Editor’s NOTE
Welcome to the 19th issue of Inflight. As you fly over the beautiful atolls and islands of the Maldives, take some time to take a deeper look at the country and Maldivian Air Taxi. We have presented for your reading pleasure, a range of exciting articles by writers who have lived and worked in the Maldives. Adrian Neville has been writing about the Maldives since the 1990s. His article on resorts’ unique selling points (USPs) over the years offers a casual view of how resorts of the Maldives have evolved. Along the same theme but from a different perspective in ‘Extreme Repeaters’ by Verena Wiesbauer Ali two ‘extreme repeaters’ take us back to the days when tourism first began in the Maldives and how they view the changes that have taken place since. Both Rob McIntyre and Mads Wallentin are pilots. While Rob has returned home after his tenure, Mads is still with Maldivian Air Taxi. Mads and Rob offer some unique insights into different aspects of their experiences with Maldivian Air Taxi and the Maldives. With such a unique geography, the environment and marine ecology are of paramount importance for the Maldives. Verena’s second article is about the flora of Maldives in ‘Paradise above and below the water’s surface”.Sarah Harvey presents two interesting articles; one on the serious work of turtle conservation in the resorts and the other on her very own experience of night snorkeling. Enjoy! Adheel Ismail . Editor

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI Inflight Magazine | ISSUE NO. 19

Published for

Maldivian Air Taxi Private Limited Company Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Republic of Maldives Phone: +960 331 52 01, Telefax: +960 331 52 03 www.maldivianairtaxi.com

Published by
Think Associates Pvt. Ltd. 3rd Floor, M.Chaandhaneege, Majeedhee Magu, Male’, Republic of Maldives Tel: +960 334 2640, Fax: +960 334 2642 Email: info@thinkmaldives.com www.think.com.mv

Please address all enquiries to: Lorie Flores, Executive Assistant to General Manager Email: lorie@maldivianairtaxi.com

Photo: Sakis Papadopoulos

Contents
10 14 20 24 27 34 38 42 46 50 58
Maldives Route Map

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI Inflight Magazine | ISSUE NO. 19

Contributors
Writers Adrian Neville has been
photographing and writing about the Maldives since living here in 1993/94. He has traveled throughout the country documenting island life and is presently focused on his new website, based around his best selling guide book, ‘Resorts of the Maldives’.

Maldives Paradise Above and Below the Water’s Surface The Amazing Maldives; The View of a Barefoot Pilot/Photographer A day in a Cabin Attendant’s Life Maldives Resorts USPs Turtle Conservation Projects Making Waves in the Maldives Fly ‘n’ Surf Extreme Repeaters Night Snorkelling Twin Otter

Mads Wallentin is an avid aviator who joined Maldivian Air Taxi in 2012. When not flying the Twin Otter he’s a journalist back home in Denmark where he does investigative journalism and feature writing.

Verena Wiesbauer Ali, M.Sc., is an independent marine biologist, environmental consultant and author in the Maldives. Specialized in the combination of tourism and marine biology as well as artificial reefs, she has recently founded the company Eco Islanders Maldives together with her husband to offer environmentally friendly products and services. Contact: marinebiology.verena@gmail.com Sarah Harvey is a British travel
journalist and resort reviewer based in Male’. She has lived in the Maldives for almost three years and is a co-founder of Manta-media.com. Sarah is the Editor of Travel News Maldives and a regular contributor to travel magazines, websites and guidebooks.

Photography
Sakis Papadopoulos, Rob McIntyre, Adaaran Resorts, Mads Wallentin, Yaasin Hameed, Think Associates Cover; Sakis Papadopoulos Disclaimer
MAT Inflight is published for Maldivian Air Taxi Pvt. Ltd. by Think Associates Pvt. Ltd. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written permission of Maldivian Air Taxi Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2011 by Maldivian Air Taxi Pvt. Ltd. Opinions in MAT Inflight are the writers’ and not necessarily endorsed by Maldivian Air Taxi Pvt. Ltd. Maldivian Air Taxi Pvt. Ltd. and Think Associates Pvt. Ltd. accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, transparencies other material. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information in the magazine and kindly please contact the publisher to call to attention of any errors or omissions in the MAT Inflight.

Rob McIntyre is a pilot and a passionate photographer who combines his careers to present magical views of the Maldives. In this article Rob presents a collection of his beautiful photographs of the Maldives

athuruga beach & water villas thudufushi beach & water villas

ari atoll

superior in style, excellence in value

enjoy real hospitality
diamonds@diamonds-resorts.com www.diamonds-resorts.com

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

ISSUE NO. 19

Welcome Aboard
2012 is the year in which Maldives is expecting to have more than one million arriving tourists for the first time. This is a doubling from 10 years ago, and who can be surprised. The beauty, serenity, and the uniqueness of this country is clear to all who know the Maldives, and will soon be for those of you who are visiting for the first time. Even with the growing popularity of this destination, do not worry about crowds. With over 1000 islands, hundreds of resorts, most of them being one island - one resort concept, Maldives never feels crowded. To me it is one of the most peaceful places on earth. Maldivian Air Taxi has since 1993 been an integral part of the Maldives tourism development. Earlier, resorts close and far from Male were served only by boats, and the transfers were often time consuming and at times uncomfortable. Today, a majority of the resorts in the country are served with a door to door (or dock to dock) service by seaplanes. Flying with us is an amazing way to start your vacation, see the beauty of this country from above, and then get to repeat the experience when it is time to travel home. Please do relax and enjoy your brief time on board. Our fleet of 21 aircraft is maintained in accordance with the highest international standards, our flight crews are among the most experienced in the world, and the entire organization is designed to ensure the maximum safety and enjoyment of your trip. Thank you for choosing a destination served by Maldivian Air Taxi. I trust you will enjoy the experience. Hope to see you back soon again, and please do take this issue of InFlight with you back home as a memory of Maldives and this unique seaplane experience. Have a great and safe flight. Fredrik Groth General Manager

FACT SHEET
No. of aircraft: Passengers per month: Resorts being serviced : No. of employees: 21 (including 2 VIP aircraft) approx. 34,000 passengers over 40 (including photoflights/ charter flight destinations) 450 Take-off and landing per day: upto 200 flights

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

7

MAGIQUES, MERVEILLEUSES, MALDIVES.

Plages pour rêver. Croisières de plongée uniques. Lune de miel au paradis. Hôtels exclusifs. Croisières en voilier inoubliables. Wellness par excellence. Bonheur en famille pour grands et petits. Snorkeling à grand spectacle. Saveurs culinaires pour gourmets. Tombez sous le charme des Maldives.

Informations et réservations: tél. +41 44 277 47 01 info@manta.ch · www.manta.ch

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

Lars Erik Nielsen Chairman of the board

It is a pleasure to have you on board Maldivian Air Taxi. At Maldivian Air Taxi, we have a wealth of experience in this unique form of air travel and have carried millions of passengers to their dream holiday destinations, on excursions and on photo flights. We strive to capitalize on that experience to make your journey with us an exceptional and unforgettable one. We thank our partners who have worked with us to help us grow, to become the largest operation of its kind in the world. We extend our appreciation to each and every individual resort and the industry at large and the Government of Maldives

for their unwavering support to make air transfers part of the unique tourism product that the country has to offer. We at Maldivian Air Taxi enjoy working with the Government to increase access to transport in the whole country for domestic travellers as well as tourists. Our objective is to ensure convenient, safe and comfortable air travel to all the corners of the country through the introduction of innovative infrastructure and round-the clock services, which is unique only to the Maldivian Air Taxi. We wish you a memorable flight and an enjoyable stay in the Maldives.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

9

Photo: Sakis Papadopoulos

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVES

The Maldives is mesmerising from the air, beautiful on the ground and awe inspiring underwater. The special qualities of this country are the very simplest that nature has to offer: blue sky, green palms, white sand, turquoise lagoon and deep blue sea. All bathed in equatorial sunlight. Nothing can distract you from achieving the ideal of calm, relaxation and regeneration.

MALDIVes
Geography: The Maldives is a garland of islands dropping across the equator, southwest of India and west of Sri Lanka The flowers of this garland are the 26 atolls that hold the 1,193 islands.These islands are spread over a distance of 700 kilometres. Their average height above sea level is less than one metre and two thirds of the islands are less than half a kilometre square. . Climate: The temperature across the country varies
little around the average of 28 degrees Celsius. There are two monsoons that determine the weather pattern. The northeast monsoon, from November to April, is dry and calm; the southwest monsoon, from May to October, brings some rain and wind. The south has a higher rainfall than the north.

Population: The population of the Maldives
has increased rapidly over the last few decades. It is estimated to be 395,000 in July 2012. This still makes it one of the smallest independent nations on earth.

Religion: All Maldivians are Sunni Muslims. The pivotal event in Maldives history is the conversion of the country to Islam by a Persian notable called Abul
10
..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

shipwrecked, from southeast Asia and the Arabian peninsular. Isolation ensured a mostly independent existence, even under the suserainty on colonial powers. The last sultan was replaced by a presidency in 1968.

Culture: Remote island life has cradled a strong, self-reliant culture. Tuna fishing has always been the mainstay of life on the islands. A remarkably skillful people, Maldivians excelled in coral carving, gold and silver smithing and weaving cloth and mats. The Thundu Kunaa is still made today and is recognised as the finest grass mat in the world.

Barakat in 1153. There are some fine ancient mosques and carved tombstones on inhabited islands you may visit.

History: The islands were populated relatively early, around 500 BCE, by voyagers from India and Sri Lanka. Others arrived, often

Language: The language of all Maldivians is Dhivehi, although dialects are spoken in the south of the country. It is an Indo-Aryan language closely related to Singhalese. The word ‘atoll’ comes from the dhivehi word ‘atolu’. The unique script is called Thaana and is written from right to left. English is the primary language of education and it is widely spoken throughout the country. Capital Island: Male’, the
capital, with around 150,000 people on 2 square kilometres is one of the 11

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVES

Jumhooree Maidan (Republic Square)

The fruit and vegetable market

role. Today it is tourism that has enabled the country to establish a modern, open economy.

Currency: The local currency is
Rufiyaa. At the time of publication, the exchange rate is pegged between Rf 10.28 and Rf 15.42 to a US Dollar. If you are heading to a resort, you need not worry about local currency as all your bills at the resort can be paid by US Dollar, Euro or any other European currency. All major credit cards are also accepted at the resorts. However, if you are visiting Male’ or any of the local islands, you will need to hold local currency for purchases you may wish to make.

most densest populated places on earth. It is the centre for business, politics, education and health care.

Economy: In the earliest days, cowrie shells,
coir rope, weaving and turtle shells were important components. Then for centuries tuna fishing and dried tuna export was the mainstay. In the second half of the last century, into this one, shipping played a significant 12

Education: Maldives boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

Communication: Mobile
telephone services in the country are offered by Dhiraagu and Wataniya Telecom Maldives. Both companies have roaming agreements with various operators across the globe. All the resorts in Maldives offer internet services as well. Some resorts offer broadband connections in the room while others offer Wi-Fi zones at key locations on the island. All resorts offer IDD telephone services.

Shopping: The northern end of
Chaandhanee Magu is the place to be if you are looking for souvenirs to take home. A range of batik sarongs and wraparounds, wooden handicrafts, candles and other knickknacks are available from the shops lining the street. You will also be able to find some souvenir items if you visit the neighboring islands near your resort. Look out for genuine Maldivian hand painted t-shirts and lacquered boxes, miniature dhonis and reed mats (Thundu Kunaa), if you really want to take a piece of Maldives with you as a memento.

world with 98% of the country’s population being able to read and write. Educational standards are among the highest in the region and schools follow the British system of education.

Health: The Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’ is the state run general hospital in the country providing a high standard of medical care. ADK Hospital, also located in Male’, is the largest private healthcare facility in the country. A decompression chamber is within easy reach of most resorts in case of a diving emergency. Business Hours: The working week in Maldives begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Government offices are open from 08:00 to 15:00 hours and the private sector from 09:00 to 17:00 hours. Some offices in the private sector open on Saturday. Weekend falls on Friday and Saturday.

Country Dialing Code: +960 Electricity: 240 Volts AC Local Time: +5 GMT

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

13

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MAT RouTE MAp

14

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

Adaaran “Select” Meedhupparu Alimatha Aquatic Resort Anantara Resort & Spa Maldives Athuruga Island Resort Banyan Tree Maldives Bathala Island Resort Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo Club Med Kanifinolhu Constance Halaveli Resort Maldives Constance Moofushi Resort Dhiggiri Tourist Resort Dhoni Island Dusit Thani Maldives Filitheyo Island Resort Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda- Huraa Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru Fushivelavaru Heenfaru * Huvafen Fushi by Per AQUUM Island Hideaway at Dhonakulhi Maldives, Spa Resort & Marina Kandholhudhoo Kanuhura Maldives

Lily Beach Resort & Spa at Huvahendhoo LUX* Maldives Maayafushi Madoogali Resort & Spa Medhufushi Island Resort Nika Island Resort One & Only Reethi Rah Palm Beach Resort & Spa Ranveli Village Rasdhoo * Royal Island Soneva Fushi Resort & Six Senses Spa Soneva Gili Summer Island Taj Exotica The Rania Experience The Regent Maldives Thudufushi Island Resort Vashugiri * Velidhu Viceroy Hotels & Resorts Vivanta Coral Reef Maldives W Retreat & Spa – Maldives Zithali Resorts & Spa Kuda-Funafaru

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

15

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Discover more
Four Seasons

of the Maldives with

K U DA H U R A A

FOUR SEASONS EXPLORER
..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

16

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

With three distinct resort experiences, Four Seasons makes it easier to discover more of the Maldives. Start at Kuda Huraa, a vibrant garden island infused with traditional Maldivian charm, or retreat to the remote natural wilderness of Landaa Giraavaru in the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Then swop paradises via a complimentary* 30-minute point-to-point seaplane transfer or embark on a marine odyssey between the two on the 11-cabin, three-deck Four Seasons Explorer. THE ADVENTURE STARTS HERE ... www.fourseasons.com/maldives
*Guests booking a minimum of three nights at Kuda Huraa and three nights at Landaa Giraavaru will receive complimentary seaplane transfers for two between the two resorts. Quote ‘Paradise Twice’ when booking.

L A N DA A G I R A AVA R U
................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

17

The jewel island.

w w w. c o n s t a n c e h o t e l s . c o m

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Maldives; Paradise Above and Below the Water’s Surface

by Verena Wiesbauer Ali

from uninhabited “jungle” islands with dense vegetation, up to the modified resort islands, where most of the introduced plant species are found. Only a few meters above sea level, the coral Atolls of the Maldive Islands are a hostile ground for plants with hardly any nutrients in the sand and freshwater available only during the rainy season. Thus, it is no wonder that there are no indigenous plants in the Maldives, but that all plants arrived from neighbouring continents, and even from as far away as the Polynesian Islands. They were transported either by seabirds, carrying seeds sticking to their feathers or by sea currents, washing partial or entire plants - like the ubiquitous coconut - ashore. All plants landing on the islands had to be salt-water tolerant or capable of extracting freshwater from the surrounding seawater like the mangroves do. Over time, some 300 plant species have colonized the islands, and an equal number had been introduced by man for food, timber, building material or simply because of their beauty.

Tropical vegetation on a Maldivian island in Noonu Atoll, as seen when flying above it with the Maldivian Air Taxi Seabirds, like this Brown Noddy, brought plant seeds to the Maldives, attached to their feathers

As you are flying over the Maldives on board your seaplane, you will be looking down on pristine coral reefs, tiny islands that are scattered over the vast ocean, sandy beaches and... oh! lush green vegetation too! Even though the island nation consists of about 99% water, we shall focus our attention now on the remaining one percent: on the flora of the Maldives, 20

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

So where do plants get their freshwater from?
Well, the answer is simple: from rainwater, stored in a so-called “freshwater lens” in the centre of the island. Imagine this as an underground reservoir, where the freshwater from seasonal rain floats on the denser saltwater that is present in deeper layers. Before the introduction of Reverse-Osmosis plants, which produce freshwater from seawater, Maldivians dug wells up to this lens and got a continuous supply of freshwater for drinking, showering and cooking purpose. Many people still use these wells in their daily lives.

Plants make the world go round
You will be encountering a lot of different plant species on the resort island of your choice. Plants are not only useful, but they are beautiful too. Certainly you will know the Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera), which feeds humans, clothes them and provides shelter. When you talk to Maldivians about “the coconut”, you have to be a bit more specific! Being their livelihood, the Maldivian language uses different words for the various development stages of this palm tree: Pick up a fallen coconut from the ground, shake it, and if you hear nothing, you found an unripe fruit (Dhivehi: Kurumba), that is, however, full of delicious coconut water. If you hear the sound of a liquid sloshing

A “Kurumba“ or young coconut. In the opened fruit you can see the outer fibrious coat, the thin hard, dark shell and the layer of white meat. The glass contains the coconut water.

Collection of nuts and flowers cut from treetops: the brown sheath of the flowers (Dhivehi: iha), the small green fruits (gobboli) and the slightly bigger yellow fruit (miri) can be seen here. The young coconut seedling grows outsite the hard nutshell. It develops an edible, sponge-like, foamy, light tissue that protrudes into the nut, filling the entire enterior.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

21

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) with its beautiful pseudoflowers can climb, aided by its thorns over high walls. The beautiful Frangipani (Plumeria sp.) produce a fragrant scent to attract pollinating insects and contain a poisonous milky sap. The Cat Tail (Acalypha hispida) has foot-long, pendent, red chenille-like female flower clusters that bloom in intervals.

around inside, then you have a ripe coconut (Kaashi), good for eating the meat contained within the brown shell. A ripe coconut, if left on the ground, will eventually germinate and the young coconut seedling (Mudi) climbs out of the hard nutshell and develops an edible, sponge-like, foamy, light tissue that protrudes into the nut, absorbing the coconut water, degrading the whole meat and supplying the young plant with essential nutrients. To prevent accidents on tourist islands, nuts and flowers are cut from treetops overhanging public walks. Then, you may get the rare chance to see the coconut flower (Iha), or the small green (Gobboli) or slightly bigger yellow (Miri) fruits. Walking along the beach, you will find a variety of tropical plants that are able to cope up with saltwater intrusion: The “Fan flower” (Scaevola taccada) or the “Tree heliotrope” (Tournefortia argentea), or the much taller “Screwpine” (Pandanus sp.) with its walking stick-like roots that stabilize the trunk, just to mention a few. In the centre of islands, particularly in resort hotels, you can discover beautiful ornamental plants with colourful flowers, like the “Frangipani” (Plumeria sp.), the “Bougainvillea” (Bougainvillea glabra) or the “Cat tail” (Acalypha hispida) with its foot-long, pendent, red flower clusters. In order to identify plants on your resort island, you should look for flowers or fruits and if the tree is too high, you might find them shed on the ground. The leaves of many trees have a similar size and shape and look pretty much alike in the tropics.
..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The Fan Flower (Scaevola taccada) can be found on every Maldivian beach and is, besides the Coconut, probably the most common plant on the islands.

22

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

This plant identification book for the Maldives will help you: “Maldives: Trees and Flowers of a Tropical Paradise”, written by Dittrich P Galvan ., DF., Wiesbauer Ali V., published by M7 Print in 2012. Simply ask your resort shop or a bookshop in Male’ for it!

Did you know...
... that the “Maldives Coconut” actually never grew in the Maldives? Before the 18th century, when the Seychelles were uninhabited, coconuts resembling a woman’s buttocks fell from trees in the Seychelles, were drifted eastwards to the Maldives and there gathered from the beaches. They were given the name “Maldives Coconut” (Lodoicea maldivica) and valued as an important trade and medicinal item. Until the true source of the nut was discovered in 1768, it was believed by many to grow on a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea. Now we know that the “Coco de Mer” is rare and endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles, but never grew in the Maldives.

The Tree Heliotrope (Tournefortia argentea) grows preferably in the open sandy habitats of Atolls, being the species closest to the ocean. The Screwpine (Pandanus tectorius) is a tall tree up to 10 m heights and forms impenetrable thickets because of its saw-edged leaves and the walking-stick like adventitious roots that stabilize the slender trunk.

The first and only bilingual plant identification guide is now available in resorts and bookstores in the Maldives for retail and wholesale.

Did you know...
... that the “coconut” is actually not a nut in the botanical sense, but a drupe? A nut does not have an additional outer envelope as does the “coconut”!

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

23

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The Amazing Maldives
The View of a Barefoot Pilot/Photographer
by Rob McIntyre

Flying barefoot in the Maldives provided me with such a unique opportunity. Not only from a pilots perspective but also from the point of view of a photographer
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a pilot. I think that inspiration must have come from my father, now retired, who was also a pilot. I am now 20 years into my aviation career and to this day I am still very much enamoured with aviation especially the Twin Otter. I have flown a fairly wide variety of airplanes to date from small single engine bush planes in Canada’s North Country along with jet aircraft throughout North America and even into parts of Africa. With all of this in mind it always comes back to the Twin Otter as my favourite! There is also another great passion in my life and that is photography! Having first picked up a camera because of the inspiration given to me by my grade seven elementary teacher I have been taking pictures, and along with my wife Sophie I have been evolving as a photographer. Together we offer professional photography services in Victoria BC Canada under the name Sophie Photo, www.sophiephoto.com. I have such an amazing opportunity to combine my photography with my flying career. In fact it seems like a natural fit; after all the travel offered me through my aviation career gives me opportunities I am sure most photographers would be very envious of! One of the results of this marriage of careers is my contribution to Maldivian Air Taxi, not only as a pilot but also as a contributing photographer. The other result is my photographic blog at www.barefootpilot.blogspot.com, which is where I display some of my favourite images along with my perspectives of this most beautiful country called the Maldives! 24

It is rare that I was without my camera and as a result I managed to capture a wide variety of images from all walks of life in the Maldives; from the amazing atolls, the many modes of transportation along with street scenes in the Capital City of Male’, just to name a few of the subjects that interest me. I hope you will enjoy some of the samples of my work selected for this issue of Inflight and that they interest you enough not only to learn more about the Maldives, but also to visit my blog at www. barefootpilot.blogspot.com or check out my Gallery at www.photomac.ca Though I am no longer working in the Maldives the images I have captured will serve to remind me of its unique and fragile beauty! I will end by leaving you with a quote from one of the most amazing photographers that I can think of, Mr Ansel Adams: “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” Ansel Adams Yours truly Rob McIntyre!
Rob McIntyre is a pilot and a passionate photographer who combines his careers to present magical views of the Maldives. In this article Rob presents a collection of his beautiful photographs of the Maldives

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

25

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

26

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

A day in a cabin attendant’s life
by Mads Wallentin

They take your hand luggage and stow it in the aft luggage room. They jump from the floats onto the dock and tie down the aircraft in sun or rain. And they give you a safety brief with a smile before takeoff. Meet one of MAT’s cabin attendants.
A very important member of the crew in one of Maldivian Air Taxi seaplanes is the cabin attendant. On a sunny day with no wind and calm water his job seems easy. And one might be right in that, at least if one forgets about the average 700 lbs. of baggage that he needs to manually load and off load at each stop. But then also throw in the monsoon rain, winds of 30-40 knots and 6-8 foot waves – then the cabin attendant’s job gets to be a bit more exciting than most other jobs. He has to get out in the rain, stand on the float while keeping his balance, ready to jump onto the jetty or floating platform and secure the aircraft in a tight coordinated operation with the captain of the aircraft. All the time while the rain is hammering down from above, the waves washing over the floats; the platform goes up and down like a rollercoaster ride, and the noise of the airplane’s howling turbine engines only allow non-verbal communication. “Luckily those days are far apart, although we do experience them during the monsoon season. But ninety-five percent of my days are pure enjoyment, meeting happy passengers either on their way to a resort or coming back from an enjoyable vacation,” explains Ismail Raeef, who is undoubtedly Maldivian Air Taxi’s most experienced cabin attendant. He has been with the company this year for 18 years, joining the company when he was only eighteen years old in 1994. Today Ismail Raeef – who amongst all his colleagues and friends is known as just Raeef – has flown over 16.000 hours as a cabin attendant on the Twin Otter.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

27

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

He has seen all of the Maldives islands from the air, landed at most of those where one can land on water at, and is not seldom approached by a new captain for facts about water, platform location or something else at a destination. “I’m very often paired with new captains or with experienced captains flying with new first officers. You see, this is a team operation. We help each other and we teach each other. I, for example, teach new first officers how to load the planes, take care of the passengers when we are loading and offloading in rough weather and so on,” explains Raeef.

While the captain and first officer check the aircraft and its systems, Raeef then checks the cabin, stocks up on extra inflight magazines and briefing cards, checks that the earplug bag is full, and gives all the extra ropes for docking and beaching on board a thorough check to see if they need to be exchanged. Then the baggage arrives, and together with the dockhand, he loads the aircraft and checks that it is loaded accordingly to the company’s standard operating policy. If there is time, he will then give the first officer a hand with the fuelling. Now the time is almost six o’clock in the morning and the captain gives a short brief to Raeef and the first officer about the first flight of the day. “It could for example be a flight to Ari Atoll where we take passengers from the international flights that have arrived during the night to a couple of different resorts where we also pick up passengers or staff.” During such a flight a lot of baggage is loaded in and out of the aircraft. On average Raeef and his cabin colleagues handles 8.400 lbs. of baggage during a normal day that normally consists of six flights with two to four stops en route before returning to Male. “It’s hard work but I love it. I’m not the type that can sit around doing nothing. I like working and always doing something,” explains Raeef when asked if it’s not an exhausting job.

Early start
Raeef’s day starts at home in Male’ when the alarm on his clock goes off at 4 am. A shower, a quick breakfast, and ironing the uniform and then he is off for the dhoni at 5 am. Maldivian Air Taxi has their own staff-dhoni leaving from Male’ every morning at 5 o’clock. When the dhoni arrives at the airport the red MAT bus is waiting to bring Raeef and his colleagues over to the seaplane airport. Now the time is almost 5.30 am and Raeef starts to prepare the aircraft he is going to fly with on this day. “If we are away from the base then I will pump the left float free of any water while the first officer does the right float. In Male’ we have dockhands that does this for us, but that is something new. A few years ago that was also my job,” says Raeef.

End of the day
Ask one of Maldivian Air Taxi’s training captains about Raeef and they will talk about him with the highest regard, except when they are doing training of a new captain. Because if Raeef gets impatient and thinks the new captain under training uses too much time to get the aircrafts nose swung into the platform or dock, he will take the rope and pull the aircraft – all 12.500 lbs. of aircraft, passengers, baggage and fuel – in and tie it down by himself. And as the training captains all explain,

28

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

then the captain under training will not learn how to dock the aircraft when Raeef does that. “Hahaha, yes I know. I’m not allowed to do that but I sometimes forget if we are late for lunch or only have a short break,” says Raeef while he laughs. As the day is coming to an end around 5 to 6 pm Raeef will either be back in Male’ at the base or he will be at a resort for an overnight. On average 4 to 8 of Maldivian Air Taxi’s seaplanes stay at a resort every night. This is so that early next morning they can return with passengers who need to catch the international morning flights out of Male.

Cabin Attendants in MAT
Maldivian Air Taxi has 37 cabin attendants. An average working day is 6 to10 hours. A work week is 5 days. To become a cabin attendant one starts out as a dockhand at the base in Male. From there one continues through classes of emergency training, evacuation, crew relation management, first aid and aircraft handling before being released for flying with an instructor. After minimum 25 hours of flying, the new cabin attendant is released for flights by himself.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

29

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

30

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Maldives Resort USPs
by Adrian Nevielle

From the simplest of beginnings the Maldives has become possibly the most prestigious holiday destination in the world. How did it get there? The country’s natural assets have never changed but every new resort and almost every resort upgrade has incorporated the very latest Unique Selling Point and then pushed on to find another unique idea or level of luxury to distinguish themselves.

The rooms were built of the best local materials available; there were coral walls, coconut wood beams and palm-thatched roofs. There was a bed, a wardrobe, a luggage rack and a dressing table. That’s all. Drinking water was from collected rainwater or a well. The meals were a repetition of tuna curry, rice, local fruit and vegetables and not very much else.

As you fly to your destination today think back just 40 years to when the only way to get around was by sail dhoni. Think how long that would It was 40 years ago this year that the first resort was take to get to your destination. In the built, against all the odds. A United Nations body had same year of 1972, the first engine written in a report that tourism wasn’t worth pursuing in was put into a dhoni, much to the the Maldives because the obstacles were too big. There distrust of the fishermen. It wasn’t was no bank in the country, so no access to finance, there was no airport to speak of, there wasn’t even a telephone. until 1989 that helicopters came Yet Kurumba manage to open in 1972 and Bandos a few along and in late1993 that seaplanes made their appearance. By the way, months later. 34
..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

The overwater bungalow is probably the greatest and certainly the most significant innovation of all. It is fair to say that it transformed tourism for the Maldives.
the telephone system was finally established in 1980. Before that all communication was by ham radio or Morse code! Hot water was probably the first major innovation. And for many years afterwards, resorts would advertise ‘Hot & Cold Water’ . When ceiling fans moved to air conditioners this was something to shout about. Then in-room telephones were something a bit special and finally televisions were put into the prestige rooms. Of course, these have gone from small, wide and heavy to 50” wafer thin LED numbers with Bose surround sound, which is also connected to the blu-ray player and iPod dock. Bathrooms have been the growth area for a few years now. Once a small, neglected space at the back, they are now luxurious expanses of flowering plants, sand and green marble, with twin basins, showers inside and out, a jacuzzi and plunge pool. The amenities have gone from wall-mounted soap dispenser to Molten Brown skincare products and other such premium beauty brands. The inside/outside style of resort 35

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

photos: Adaaran Resorts, Maldives

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

bathrooms derives from the first resort rooms that in turn copy the design of Maldivian island houses. The bathroom of those houses, called a gifili, is a fenced enclosure extending from the back of the house, with a well in the middle from which water is drawn using a large tin tied onto a long stick. When I went around the resorts in 1996 for the first edition of ‘Resorts of Maldives’ a saltwater shower in your room was not uncommon. Desalination was a major boon for the industry and its guests. After sweet water in the rooms came sweet water in the new swimming pools but I distinctly remember a couple of occasions when I jumped into a resort pool at the end of a day’s work to be unpleasantly shocked by a mouthful of saltwater. Today there is some competition to have the biggest pool but this doesn’t seem to me to be a great prize in a country that specialises in private experiences.

As for food and beverage, set plates of local curry and vegetables was superseded by the simple buffet, which in turn became extravagant buffet spreads sourced from all around the world and transported in very carefully controlled and documented container shipments

36

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI
photos: Adaaran Resorts, Maldives

coming through Dubai and Singapore. The all-day coffee shop was once a bit of a novelty. Now, of course, we have Conrad’s and Anantara Kihavah’s underwater restaurants. It was many years after wine was first

of the spa idea that, amazingly, only arrived in the country in the late ‘90’s. It was such a perfect fit for the Maldives that it took off like wildfire and in just a few years almost every resort had one. In the same way, waterbungalows took off in the early ‘90’s, a full 20 years after tourism began, and quickly spread to every resort that had enough lagoon to accommodate them (and a few that didn’t). The overwater bungalow is probably the greatest and certainly the most significant innovation of all. It is fair to say that it transformed tourism for the Maldives. It not only enabled more, and more expensive, rooms to be built without impacting the island but they delivered the lagoon and reef dropoff right to the wooden steps off your deck. If that deck is entirely private and faces the sunset, you are as close to heaven as you are going to get while still smiling.

served that the first wine cellar was built in Soneva Fushi - an impressive feat in shallow coral sand. Shortly afterwards the sommelier appeared. Quite a few resorts have a sommelier now and some have several, one for each outlet, but only a few have that latest, greatest, a mixicologist who will design a cocktail around your selection of spirits, fruits and flavours (Constance Halaveli is one). On the other hand Niyama now has the country’s first underwater nightclub to have that drink in. Underwater is the new overwater. It is the thrilling new idea that has resorts feverishly playing off the cost against the prestige and instant international media chatter. We now have the underwater restaurant (that you can also book for a night as a bedroom), the underwater nightclub and the underwater spa. The latter belongs to Huvafen Fushi and is the culmination

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

37

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

by Sarah Harvey

With clumsy-looking flippers and a shell smaller than the palm of your hand, it’s hard not to fall in love with a baby turtle at first sight. Five out of the world’s seven species of turtle live here in the Maldives, where passionate teams of conservationists are working hard to try to make everyone love turtles as much as they do. One of the most common types of turtle found in the Maldives is the green sea turtle. You may see one if you go snorkelling or diving. Hawsbill turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and loggerhead turtles are also found in the waters here. Leatherback turtles are less commonly spotted and they are not thought to nest in the Maldives. While the charms of a baby turtle at close quarters are undeniable, the odds are stacked against them in the 38

wild. Up to 50 per cent of all turtles never live to see their first sunrise and only one in a thousand survive to adulthood. Throughout their lives they face all kinds of dangers. Sharks, groupers and snappers are natural predators. Many turtles die from accidentally eating plastic bags which they mistake for jellyfish (a favourite snack). They also get caught up in abandoned fishing nets and lines and then drown or starve to death. Staff at Angsana Velavaru resort alone find an average of one turtle per month entangled in a net. Then there’s an even more direct threat to turtles from humans apart from what they discard into the sea. Sometimes turtle eggs are sold for cooking, adult turtles are still occasionally served up as dinner and fragile baby turtles are sometimes sold as children’s pets. Green turtles are officially classed as an endangered species and hawksbill

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

turtles are classed as critically endangered. Turtles are protected by law in the Maldives in an effort to combat the dwindling population, and several resorts have established conservation programmes. Around ten years ago the team at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru resort pioneered a successful conservation programme which increased the survival rates of baby turtles into adulthood from one in a thousand to one in a hundred. Still going strong today, the Marine Turtle Conservation Programme involves a combination of strategies, research and education to achieve its aims. These include identifying turtle nesting sites and relocating the nests before fisherman can find them. A small percentage of the hatchlings are raised at the resort until they are big enough to be released into the wild, giving them a head start free from predators when they are at their most vulnerable. The Marine Lab team also offers to buy turtle eggs at a higher rate than the market rate. As well as this, they rescue and rehabilitate injured turtles. Guests and local schoolchildren are allowed to visit the baby turtle enclosures on the island and in the lagoon, where they can find out more about turtles from the marine biologists. The Marine Lab at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru is led by Mirta Moraitis. Her passion for the programme and love of turtles is infectious. “Our project intends to use the captive turtles as appointed ‘ambassadors

of the sea’ to the community and school children of the Maldives and to all our guests”, says Mirta. “Maldivian children visit the turtles, learn about their life cycle and their biological and conservation needs and also our mascot, Felly the Turtle. They’ve shown interest and concern, which is then taken back into the homes of Maldivian people. The kids get so enthusiastic that often we’re invited to visit their schools and speak to the whole school about what we do here. The Maldivian people, from day-trippers to ministers, from hotel staff to scientists, have all been involved and touched and will carry these memories into every far and distant reach of the country and even beyond,” she says. Each turtle nest typically consists of up to 180 eggs. Only one in a thousand hatchlings survives if nature takes its course in the wild. Mirta’s team takes ten percent of hatchlings to rear at the resort until they are

big enough to release; carefully monitoring, measuring and weighing them as they grow. By doing this, the baby turtle survival rates are increased by a factor of ten. The hatchlings start their lives in tanks on the resort island, where they are fed a natural diet of fish and vegetables for the first five months. Then they are taken to a cage in the lagoon where the turtles can grow bigger in a semi-natural environment without threats from predators.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

39

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

After about a year they are tagged on their flippers with titanium tags giving the contact details of the resort in case they are found by anyone, and released into

injuries from where she had been trapped in the net. One flipper had been chopped off. After a week she could dive again, so we let her go. We try to interfere as little as possible with ‘born free’ turtles.” The successful programme at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru has been rolled out to the company’s sister resorts, Angsana Velavaru and Angsana Ihuru. The teams have also shared their expertise with marine biologists based at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives. As with the Banyan Tree Resorts’ programme, guests and local school children visiting Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa can learn about baby turtles at the new Marine Discovery Centre. The Marine Discovery Centre is the headquarters of the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme. The new centre has much to offer children in particular, although adults too will enjoy the colourful pictures on the walls, 3-D films and interactive computers. The marine biologists there, who are from Male’-based environmental consultancy Seamarc, hold regular lively chats about the life cycle of turtles and why it is so important to conserve them. The resort’s turtle project involves the rehabilitation of injured turtles and a local educational programme aimed at discouraging the raiding of nests. They offer to buy turtle eggs for more money than fisherman can usually sell them for, and staff have regular meetings with island councillors, egg collectors and the general public about the issue. At the time of visiting Kuda Huraa,

the wild. Previously some of the released turtles were fitted with satellite responders and radio transmitters; something which Mirta hopes to do again in the future. Some of them were tracked after leaving Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru to locations as far away as Sumatra, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles, Mirta says. “It’s proof that they’re surviving,” she adds. Mirta and the team also receive many calls about injured turtles which people have found on other islands. “Our lagoon cage has one section especially for rescued turtles,” says Mirta. “For example, we once looked after Holly the turtle, who was found at Holiday Island Resort. She was a loggerhead turtle which was found entangled in a net. We collected Holly and kept her in our lagoon cage for one week because she had 40

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

there were more than 40 baby green turtles and baby hawksbill turtles there. The young turtles are kept at the resort for up to 15 months. As with the Banyan Tree programme, they spend the first part of their lives in land-based pools (which tourists can visit) and then are moved to lagoon enclosures before being released into the wild. Alban Viaud, head of marine biology at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, says: “We rescue eggs from egg collectors and relocate nest sites. We release 95 per cent of the hatchlings. “Our research and monitoring programme uses photo IDs and sometimes GPS tracking too to monitor the turtles and their migration

If you visit a turtle conservation project at a resort, you’re likely to find green turtles and hawksbill turtles being raised there, being as they are more common than the other species found in the Maldives. Each of the five species of turtles found in the Maldives has its own specific habits and characteristics. Apart from when they are babies (when they are omnivores) green turtles are mostly vegetarian and feed on seagrass and algae in the lagoons. They have short snouts and are usually lightly coloured with a yellow hued carpace (belly). Hawksbill turtles have a distinctive curved beak like a bird of prey, and they use it to probe between corals to find invertebrates and sponges to eat. They live on coral reefs. Leatherback turtles, the largest of all turtles, are usually found in deep water and they seem to mostly eat jellyfish. Instead of a hard shell, they have thick ridges of skin along their backs. Loggerhead turtles have reddishbrown shells and yellow or brown skin. Like leatherback turtles, they are also found in deep water and they like to

“Maldivian children visit the turtles, learn about their lifecycle and their biological and conservation needs and also our mascot, Felly the Turtle. They’ve shown interest and concern, which is then taken back into the homes of Maldivian people.
patterns. All of the information goes into a database. “The biggest turtle we have is currently two kilogrammes in weight and 23 centimetres in length. We hope that it will get to 30 centimetres and then we can release it. At the end of the year we plan to release as many of the turtles as possible, as long as they have grown enough. We’ll see how they grow this year.” eat bottom-dwelling invertebrates. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to observe one of these graceful creatures in the wild, or even as a youngster growing up in the safety of a resort conservation programme, it’s likely to be an experience that you will never forget.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

41

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Photo: Tropic Surf

Latheef barrel riding

Fly‘n’ surf
The best day for captain Steve Pembo and cabin attendant Ibrahim Latheef is when they are chartered to take guests on a ’Fly ’n’ Surf’ trip and bring their surf boards to work.

by Mads Wallentin

photo: ripping.com.au

Every night around 7-8 pm all of Maldivian Air Taxi crews get a text-message with the next day’s meet-in-time. One thing that will make captain Steve Pembo and cabin attendant Ibrahim Latheef smile immediately is when that message contains the wording ‘Surf Charter’. This means they need to bring their surfboards and bathing/swim shorts to work. “We love surfing and to be able to combine work and 42

pleasure by taking guests up in the air and out for a search of some of the world’s most epic surf spots for a paddle, that is our stoke”, explains captain Steve Pembo and cabin attendant Ibrahim Latheef. The Maldives is one of the world’s most consistent yet intricate places

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

photo: Tropic Surf

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

to surf. Because of the maze of reef passes, varying swell directions and changing winds, a world class of waves often occurs in secluded hideaways where surfers don’t come. By chartering a Maldivian Air Taxi seaplane, these far away and normally difficult to reach surf-spots are suddenly accessible. And by going by seaplane, one is guaranteed to get some pristine surfing. While some surf breaks might be tiny, there are those that are six feet and pumping, all due to a more compatible swell direction. “I normally pick up the guests at their resort. We load their surfboards in the back and takeoff for the search. Upon arriving over the surf spot, I circle the break at lower altitude for a close inspection – if it looks sweet then I land the seaplane and taxi close to the break -as close as possible where Latheef then drops the anchor -so its only a short paddle to your own private surf spot,” explains captain Steve Pembo.

very different start to their surfing lives.While Steve Pembo was able to buy a used surfboard, Ibrahim Latheef had to make one himself out of a piece of wood. Ibrahim is from the Maldives island of Muli in Meemu atoll. Since he started surfing at the age of seventeen, his life has been about surfing and he dreams of being able to work as a professional surfer one day. Steve is from the ‘Gold Coast’ south of Brisbane in Australia. He started surfing when his parents took him on a surf vacations as a teenager. He got his first surfboard at the age of sixteen as a birthday present. Other than flying, it’s surfing that is Steve’s greatest passion. He even has his own company – RIPPING surf threads, at ripping.com.au – that makes surf apparel for surfers. Both agree that the best way of surfing the Maldives is by seaplane. And they both mentioned that Thaa atoll too is another spot to go when you want those perfect long straight tube sections. But when asked what the spot is called they both laughed and said “it’s a secret”. “One of the amazing things about going surfing by seaplane is that there is no one else around because we keep the spots a secret. It’s just our guests and us. And when we land it’s always the guest that has the first ride in the ‘untouched waves’ ”,explained Steve and Ibrahim.

Started surfing as teenagers

No uniform when going home

During a normal surf charter-day, one will normally be flying around two hours of the day and visiting around Both Steve Pembo and Ibrahim Latheef started surfing as teenagers. But they had a 4-6 different surf spots. The wind, tide and waves are
................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

43

photo: Tropic Surf

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

constantly changing. If the waves get too big it is just a matter of getting in the seaplane to go to the next spot. Either while enroute in the air or when having a break at a spot, Ibrahim will serve refreshments and fresh fruit. “The best days at work are of course the surf charter days. I get to meet surfers from around the world and once in a while surf with some of the best surfers in the world”, says Ibrahim Latheef. While Steve and Ibrahim are surfing with the guests, it’s the job of the first officer to stay with seaplane. But he too gets a little bit of action as he is allowed a swim to cool down from the heat. HoW To SURF THE MAlDIvES And since everybody is wet and has salt all over them, it’s normal that the crew fly the seaplane home only wearing their swim shorts and sunglasses. Quite a view - which a lot of waiting passengers take photos of– when Steve, Ibrahim and their first officer, steps out April to November are the best months for surfing in the Maldives. All types of waves can be found due to the steady supply of swells rolling in from the Indian Ocean. Maldivian Air Taxi arranges most of its surf safaris together with Australian company ‘Tropic Surf’. They have a base in the Maldives and can supply both instructors, film crew for recording the perfect ride, and arrange the stay at a resort. They put together tours, trips and stays that are tailor-made to your surfing experience.
Read more on www.tropicsurf.com.au
photo: Tropic Surf

photo: ripping.com.au

THE SURFING CREW
Name: Age: Rank: Years with MAT: Twin Otter hours: Years of surfing: Name: Age: Rank: Years with MAT: Twin Otter hours: Years of surfing: Steve Pembo 31 Captain 5 5.000 13 Ibrahim Latheef 23 Cabin Attendant 5 6.000 6

Read more about Steve Pembo’s and Ibrahim Latheef’s surfing at www.ripping.com.au

of the aircraft back at the base in Male’, with big smiles on their faces. If you want to do something out of the ordinary then try charter your own seaplane and go surfing. The Maldives is not only fantastic for relaxation and tranquillity, it also contains some of the most secluded, yet intriguing surf spots. 44
..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

Reiseführer und Rail & Fly inklusive

Malediven | WO INSELTRäUME WAHR WERDEN
Aus der Luft betrachtet eröffnet sich ein grandioser Ausblick auf das etwa 2.000 Inseln und Inselchen umfassende Archipel im Indischen Ozean. Wie herrliche Juwelen erscheinen die Eilande im tiefen Blau des Meeres. Doch auch aus der Nähe halten die Malediven, was sie versprechen. Strahlend weiße Strände, im Wind wippende Palmen und tropische Vegetation – die Malediven gehören zu Recht zu den Traumzielen dieser Erde. Hier finden Schnorchler und Taucher herrliche Korallenriffe und eine faszinierende Unterwasserwelt. Die modernen Urlaubsresorts bieten besten Service und verfügen über eine breite Palette an Sport-, Wellness- und Unterhaltungsangeboten. Genießen Sie die Ruhe und Abgeschiedenheit der Malediven – und freuen Sie sich auf einen Traumurlaub im Inselparadies. 43 inseln Mit JAHN REISEN können Sie die herrliche Inselwelt der Malediven entdecken. Jede Insel ist einzigartig – sicher ist auch Ihre persönliche Trauminsel dabei.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

45

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Repeaters
“We have already booked our next holiday to the Maldives, as we do every year,” tells me Kurt with a big smile on his face, looking at his wife Assi, “though we have to say that the country has changed a lot since we came here for the first time”.
The couple from Germany are exceptional visitors to the Maldives. If you talk to repeating guests, they have usually returned five to six times and experienced different island hideaways. Not so for Kurt and his wife Assi. They haven’t just been here many times – they have come and left in fact for 64 times to date, with their next holiday already booked. When the couple invited me to their villa near Frankfurt, I got the chance to find out what made them return to the island nation over and over again. “We arrived in the Maldives on Air India via Colombo for the first time in 1977, which you have to imagine is more like a ride on a military plane rather than a modern passenger liner. There was no big choice of resorts to stay, so we thought of trying ‘Club Nature’ 46

Extreme

by Verena Wiesbauer Ali

(Farukolhufushi) for our holiday in paradise. It was ‘paradise’ indeed since guests took off their clothes as soon as they arrived,” Kurt begins. Wait, wait a moment... no clothes in the Maldives? Many times I heard that even naked sun bathing is prohibited in Maldives! He must be joking. Assi noticed my sceptical look. “Back then,” she said, “things were different from now. The staff on the island was clearly distracted by the customs on the island, but the concept was successful and tourists kept returning to the island.” I was shocked. “I didn’t know life was so relaxed back then... ”I was confused. “It was relaxed for tourists, but never for locals,”Kurt interrupted me, “and the government tried to minimize the cultural exchange between locals and tourists, but sometimes...,” he started giggling and looked at Assi. They confused me. I knew they were trying to hide something. “ Just say what you think, I need to know everything,” I demanded. “Well, our German friend working at the dive school back then had to smuggle certain magazines into the country for staff that was expecting them like vultures. Most of the magazines, however, were confiscated at the airport in the 1980s ( even newspapers like Spiegel1, Stern2, but also Neckermann catalogues2” ).The whole picture was clear to me: with no internet available those days, locals had to find other means to get the forbidden items into the country. “Did you visit Male’ back then?” I wanted to know. “Yes of course,” they replied simultaneously, “you would see only a couple of cars and there was enough space to take a nice walk through the streets. The scene was truly that of a typical Maldivian village, with beautiful women

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

breakfast, we passed by President Mohamed Ameen Didi’s graveyard and greeted him with ‘Hello Mr. President’.” Mohamed Ameen Didi was the first President in the Maldives and was well known for his efforts to modernize the country, which included the advancement of women and of education in the Maldives. When his

in their long skirts and men in sarongs. Apart from some old ladies, hardly any woman was wearing a veil at that time, and people seemed to be happy and enjoying life. Male’ was a beautiful place.” That sounded quite different to the loud and crowded concrete jungle Male’ I got to know just about ten years ago. “However,” Kurt continued, “we thought of trying another resort for our next visit and landed in Kurumba: 60 Bungalows, no air conditions, a wonderful lagoon and a fantastic house reef. It was paradise. Kurumba was a jungle resort at that time; we had lizards in our bungalow during the day and geckos at night that ate annoying insects and spiders. Assi got furious when she found staff killing the lizards and geckos because of the guests! Every day we went for

health deteriorated, he was brought to Vihamanafushi (now “Kurumba Maldives”) where he died and a funeral was held for him in 1954. “How about water?” I wanted to know, “Were there freshwater showers at all? And which kind of water did you drink?” Assi recalls, “We had showers, but these were brackishwater showers. Whenever it rained, especially us women were happy because we could wash our hair in freshwater. Ear infections among guests were common at that time. We remember Lankanfinolhu island having seawater showers, and no one had ear infections. There were no desalination plants like now, imagine! Drinking water was either boiled for us, or imported in bottles later. “

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

47

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

“So have you always returned to Kurumba?” I wanted to know eagerly. “No,” said Kurt, “when Kurumba became a first class resort, we had to flee from the European luxury that we were offered. We wanted to stay in the traditional Maldivian backpacker’s resort, so we moved to Fesdu in Ari Atoll. It was only reachable with a Japanese ship on a five hour’s boat ride. I remember when we came to Fesdu the first time, there was no glass on the island - just like nearby Kuramathi, which we visited in 1981. Back then, Kuramathi had only 21 palm-thatched bungalows, can you imagine?” I had to take a minute to think. Kuramathi, also situated in Ari Atoll, with only 21 bungalows on such a huge island? Unimaginable. Now, I think there are nearly 300 guest bungalows, but people still love it. I always have good feelings when I think of Kuramathi – the first Bio Station was opened there in 1999 by my favourite lecturer at University Dr. Kikinger. Fesdu without glass I could not imagine either, since Fesdu has been taken over by the Starwood hotel group some years ago and is now also one of the top hotels in the Maldives. “For some years, we combined our stay in Fesdu and Nakatchafushi to see other resorts as well,” continued Kurt. Oh yes, I know Nakatchafushi and its Underwater Spa very well, or let’s say: its renovated version, branded “Huvafen Fushi”, since I worked there myself for some months. “I dived and filmed a lot in Nakatcha. I think over the years, we saw everything spectacular in the Maldives that you can imagine– the only creatures I have not seen is a Blue Whale and a Sunfish”. “How about the Crown-of-Thorns outbreak in Nakatcha?” I wanted to know, since I remember that Nakatcha is said to have been affected severely by the coral-eating venomous starfish that destroyed entire reefs in the Maldives. “Oh,” Kurt sighed, “you wouldn’t believe it. The outbreak of the Crown-of-Thorns starfish was a direct result of the Giant Triton snail that has been overfished for the souvenir market. So the Crown-of –Thorns multiplied and came to our reefs in masses! On one afternoon alone, we fished 600 of them with hooks. It was a disaster, entire reef patches turned white because these beasts were feeding on the corals. The ecosystem was completely out of balance. However, on the other hand, 48

we saw schools of sharks that you can only dream of – Reef sharks, Nurse sharks, Grey reef sharks, Sand tiger sharks in great abundance! We could literally see their decline over the years and believe me, we dived a lot... I don’t understand why fishermen hunt such ancient creatures just for the fins.” “That’s always the great dilemma, Kurt,” I replied,“because economy

is given the priority over ecology, but let’s hope the best now that a ban on shark fishing in all atolls has been imposed in 2010.” “We could observe this just too many times, Verena,” Assi continued, “when we dived with Prof. Hans Hass, his wife Lotte and Irenaeus Eibl-Eiblsfeldt from Kurumba in the 1980s, they have already expressed their concern over the environment.” “What?” I interrupted them, “You met Prof. Hans Hass?” I know that Kurumba is still a hot-spot for celebrities, but I would push all the pop stars, actors and actresses, presidents and sheiks I have met

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

in my life from the jetty if I could only have a chance to meet Prof. Hans Hass, world-famous diving pioneer and probably one of the most famous marine biologists ever. “Back to the story,” Assi tried to destroy my day dreams meeting Prof. Hass, “When Nakatchafushi was upgraded with a freshwater pool, it was time to move back to Fesdu. We generally

morning, they were sent on a motorboat in the middle of the night on a four to six hours ride, depending on the weather. Without mobile phones and only Walky-Talkie systems available on the boats, at least four islands in range were involved in monitoring the safe journey of the boat up to the airport. But guests liked it, and kept returning again and again, just like Kurt and Assi did. “However,” continued Kurt, “when Fesdu got upgraded in 2006, we had to move again and stayed two times in Makunudhoo and in Eriyadhoo, where we had our

refuse to stay in resorts that have swimming pools or water bungalows, since we’ve got the best pool in the world just around the island. So we returned to Fesdu for the following ten years, where we got to know your husband. He allowed us to eat the hot curries from the staff canteen and always reserved a table for us outside. The other guests were so jealous!” My husband told me a lot about his time as a manager in Fesdu which surprises me over and over again. He says guests back then were happy with the same breakfast – toast, butter, jam, bananas and a coffee – every day! When they had to catch a flight departing from Hulhule’ airport in the

best beach barbecue ever. For the last six times, we have stayed in Angaga which means for us: no water bungalows, no swimming pool, no golf-cars, only sandy floor where we can walk barefoot. That’s paradise for us. We wonder for how long they will keep it that way? Our 65th trip to the Maldives is already booked, no matter what!”

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

49

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Night snorkelling
by Sarah Harvey

Underwater adventures by torchlight
We stood on the beach clasping our torches as twilight gathered around us. Okay, so we really are going to do this, I thought to myself. I’d been snorkelling plenty of times before but never actually tried it after sunset. The idea of being underwater in the dark seemed ever-so-slightly eerie to me but I was excited about giving it a go and discovering what happens on the reefs at night. I’d heard that the reefs come alive with a different cast of characters to those you usually see during the day. I’d also seen beautiful footage in nature documentaries of coral blooming at night but never experienced it firsthand, which was another attraction. So there I found myself, standing on 50 the beach at dusk; waiting to plunge into the inky ocean. Fortunately I had the advantage of having a marine biologist from Male’based environmental consultancy, Seamarc, as a guide. Hopefully we’d see some lobsters, shrimp, scorpionfish, pufferfish and maybe even the resident lemon shark, she had told us during our briefing at the Marine Discovery Centre at Four Seasons Resort Maldives Landaa Giraavaru. As we waded into the lagoon at Four Seasons, I was relieved that our guide had two back-up torches with her in case the waterproof torches we each

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

had failed and we were plunged into darkness! We set our torches to a medium level of brightness; too bright and we’d blind the fish, too dim and we could accidentally bump into some scorpion fish. This is something you definitely want to avoid, being as the remarkable-looking creatures pack a nasty punch of poison in their spines! We slipped under the black water, gently kicking our fins. I shone my torch around me in every direction to test how far I could see. Visibility was at least a few metres but so far all I could identify was the bottom of the sandy lagoon and the dim torchlight of the other snorkellers ahead of me, everything else was blackness. So we pressed forward into slightly deeper water, following the soft beam

of light coming from our guide’s torch. Within minutes we reached the house reef where we discovered some pretty table coral and staghorn coral, much of which was growing on the cobweb-shaped frames which are used to propagate coral. (To do this, they attach tiny coral nodules to the frames and eventually the coral grows to entirely cover the frames. The final result, with frames established several years ago, is surprisingly natural.) Corals ‘bloom’ at night, stretching their feeders out to absorb nutrients from the sea. It seemed like the coral was moving in slow motion, its tiny fronds delicately waving in the water. It was almost hypnotic to watch. Nearby, an ethereal-looking red feather starfish also gently swayed its feeding arms. Our guide then spotted some movement and beckoned us to come closer to watch a scorpionfish hunting. The incredible crimson, orange and brown striped creatures usually hide away in crevices in the reef during the day but come out to

hunt crustaceans and small fish at night. Also known as firefish, they have a serious sting in their spectacular venom-coated spines. While they’re not aggressive, they will erect their spines if they feel threatened so it’s best to have a healthy respect for them. We carried on paddling and found a lobster lurking in a crevice, its antennae conspicuously poking out above the rocks. Lobsters are omnivores and eat fish, worms, mollusks and even other crustaceans. He definitely wasn’t going to come out of the crevice in a hurry to meet his curious guests, and neither was a banded cleaner shrimp nearby, but just a stone’s throw away was a plump little pufferfish conspicuously sleeping on top of one of the coral frames. It could
................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

51

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

seem almost reckless for such a little fish to be sleeping on its side in such an exposed position on the reef, but it wasn’t so much a case of foolhardiness but rather that pufferfish are one of the most poisonous types of vertebrates in the world, so becoming dinner for one of its neighbours wasn’t really a concern!

my torch into the void behind me in case I may have caught a glimpse of him. In the meantime, we spotted a moray eel hiding on the sandy floor of the lagoon and several colourful parrotfish sleeping amongst the rock crevices. At the briefing we had heard that several species of parrot fish secrete mucus from their mouths to create a bubble cocoon to surround themselves while they sleep. This is thought to help prevent predators like sharks and moray eels from detecting them or perhaps it gives them an early warning system if the membrane is disturbed. It was only 8pm resort time, which was perhaps too early in the evening for them to have made the bubbles on this occasion, our guide suggested. Oh well, something to look out for on my next night snorkelling trip, or maybe night diving trip, I thought to myself! And as for the resident lemon shark, we never did see him that evening, although I wonder if at any point he had observed us craning our necks with excitement as we combed the reef and marvelled at his neighbours…

And speaking of dinner, the thought of a lemon shark lurking nearby somewhere in the darkness was on my mind a few times during the guided snorkelling trip. Of course this was foolish because lemon sharks aren’t particularly interested in people at all but they certainly look a bit more serious than the baby blacktip reef sharks commonly found in the lagoons here, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation as well as excitement that I occasionally shone 52

Many diving centres at resorts and also city-based diving schools offer guided night snorkelling trips or can organise them on request. We recommend that you only try night snorkelling without a guide if you’re an experienced snorkeller and have checked the weather conditions, current and tide. Ideally take a friend and a back-up torch and tell someone when and where you’re going, for your safety.

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MALDIVIAN AIR TAXI

Value Redefined ...

The Firs t Premium All-Inclusive Resor t in Maldives…

Lily Beach Resor t & Spa at Huvahendhoo South Ari Atoll, The Maldives Tel: +960 668 00 13 | Fax: +960 668 06 46 | sales@lilybeachmaldives.com | w w w.lilybeachmaldives.com
................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... www.maldivianairtaxi.com

53

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Bank at at your own leisure with Personal Internet Banking from HSBC Bank your own leisure with Personal Internet Banking from HSBC

We understand the importance of We understand the importance of quality time quality time We understand the importance of quality time

Why inconvenience yourself with traveling to to the bank when you Why inconvenience yourself with traveling the bank when you Bank at your own leisure with Personal Internet Banking from HSBC can enjoy banking at your ngertips? With Personal Internet Banking can enjoy banking at your ngertips? With Personal Internet Banking from HSBC, now you can control your bank accounts online and from HSBC, now you can control your bank accounts online and Why inconvenience yourself with traveling to the bank when you access a wide range of features anytime of the day. access a wide range of features anytime of the day. can enjoy banking at your ngertips? With Personal Internet Banking from HSBC, now you can control your bank accounts online and 00960 3330770 00960 3330770 access a wide range of features anytime of the day.
www.maldives.hsbc.com www.maldives.hsbc.com
00960 3330770

www.maldives.hsbc.com

54

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Issued by the Hongkong andand Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. Issued by the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited.

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

56

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

TWIN OTTER
The first de Havilland Canada aircraft flew in 1925, piloted by none other than Geoffrey de Havilland. This first aircraft was called the ‘Moth’ and was quickly followed by many variations – all of them highly successful. However, in the early ‘60s, pressure was put on de Havilland by the US Army to come up with a safer, twin-engine version of the aircraft, and thus the Twin Otter was born. The Twin Otter proved to be an immediate success, proving immensely popular for short-haul commuter transportation. It replaced many aging piston aircraft that had come on the commercial scene after World War II and it was common to see the Twin Otter flying regional routes around the world. It is our belief that MAT’s success in the Maldives and the consolidation of our reputation as a safe and reliable seaplane operator in a relatively remote country is primarily due to the fact that the Twin Otter is the most ideal small aircraft to an aviation environment such as the Maldives. At first the Twin Otter was most popular for short-haul commuter air transportation. It was not until the Twin Otter was forced out of urban routes by newer, larger capacity aircraft that it returned to it’s primary role as an aircraft that can take off and land in a very short distance. This proved of immense value to the operations in the Maldives, where seaplanes are now the primary source of travel for tourists visiting resorts located in atolls far off from the international airport. The fleet of planes operated by MAT is at present making the company one of the largest seaplane operators in the world.

58

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Palm Beach Resort & spa Maldives

Palm Beach Resort & spa - Phone: 00960 6620084 Fax: 6620091 reservation@sportingholiday.com.mv www.palmbeachmaldives.com Sporting Vacanze S.p.A - Phone: 0039 645410410 Fax: 0039 645410340 sportingvacanze@sportingvacanze.it