Saturday, September 29, 2007

First-ever bomb blast in the Maldives

Colombo - A bomb exploded at the entrance to a recreation park in the Maldives, wounding at least 12 foreign tourists on Saturday, a government official said.

The homemade bomb exploded outside Sultan Park in the capital, Male, leaving 12 people, including two Britons with burn injuries, government spokesperson Mohamed Shareef said.

"The Maldives has never had something like this before. We are taking this very seriously because tourism is our life blood," Shareef said. - Sapa-AP

Could Paradise Be Lost?

It's the honeymoon destination of choice for thousands of people every year, writes Sky News Environment Correspondent Robert Nisbet.

But the 1200 palm-fringed islands which make up the Maldives could become a paradise lost if the direst predictions of the United Nations' panel of climatologists are realised.

In The Maldives, the Christmas period usually ushers in dry, hot weather and thousands of tourists, chasing the sun.

But when we arrived, the capital Male was awash with torrential rain.

We spoke to fishermen on the waterfront who told us the weather had become increasingly unpredictable, which fed into a wider concern about the consequences of climate change on the low lying coral atolls, where the 360,000 inhabitants are dotted.

Their fears were echoed by the scientists who make up the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In a report in 2001 they projected that global warming could prompt sea levels around the world to rise by between 3.5 and 35 inches by 2100.

"If the higher end of the scale is reached, the sea could overflow the heavily populated coastlines of such countries as Bangladesh (and) cause the disappearance of some nations entirely such as the island state of the Maldives," they suggested.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has also put his concerns in writing, in the preface to a new book called Global Warning.

He said: "The Maldives is one of the lowest lying nations of the world. [Read More on Sky News]

Tourists Injured In Bomb Blast

Two Britons are among 12 tourists injured in a bomb blast in the Maldives.

Both Britons are receiving treatment, but have been described as "stable and out of danger".

The Foreign Office said the blast, which occurred in the capital Male, was caused by a homemade device.

Two Japanese and eight Chinese tourists were also injured, all of whom have been treated for minor injuries and discharged from hospital.

No claim of responsibility for the attack was made.

Government Spokesman Hussain Sharif told Sky News: "Never in the history of the Maldives has anything like this happened before."

Mr Sharif confirmed the incident took place near the city's main mosque at an entrance to the Sultan Park, a regular stop-off for tour groups.

"We are taking this very seriously because tourism is our life blood," he said.

Local media said the explosion was triggered by a homemade device using a mobile phone and washing machine motor attached to a gas cylinder.

A witness said he saw nails scattered in the park before the area was cleared by security personnel.

The spokesman said the park was crowded at the time of the blast, including many locals breaking their fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

Police have launched an investigation and the government will seek help from Interpol, the United States and India.

More than 500,000 tourists visited the idyllic holiday islands last year.

Source: Sky News

Maldives blast injures 2 Brits

TWELVE tourists, including two British nationals, have been wounded in a Maldives bomb blast.

The homemade bomb exploded outside Sultan Park just after 3pm local time in the capital of Male, leaving the 12 people with burn injuries, government spokesman Mohamed Shareef said.

“The Maldives has never had something like this before. We are taking this very seriously because tourism is our life blood,” Shareef said.

Local media reported the bomb was made from a washing machine motor attached to a gas cylinder.

Witnesses reported seeing nails scattered in the park, before the area was cleared by local security forces.

The two British tourists were staying on Baros, just one of 87 designated tourist islands in the ocean chain.

A spokeswoman for Universal Resorts, a firm based in the Maldives that owns some resorts, including Baros, confirmed that two British guests had been injured.

She said the couple, who live in the Gulf state of Qatar, were already
preparing to fly back to the Middle East.

“As far as we are aware Universal Resorts have a total of 10 guests who were injured, two of whom were UK citizens that actually live in Qatar,” she said.

“Those two guests are being taken care of in the hospital in Male and are with Universal Resorts staff.

“They have requested that they would like to go back to Qatar as soon as possible.”

One Japanese and eight Chinese tourists have also been confirmed among the injured.

The population of the state is Islamic, but the threat of terrorism is classed as “low” in the Foreign Office advice to tourists.

Thousands of tourists from the UK visit the idyllic islands each year, many of them couples on their honeymoon.

Tourists normally stay on resort islands away from the capital but usually pass through Male to get there.

Source: The Sun

Friday, September 28, 2007

Six Senses Spas Introduces Resident Ayurvedic and Specialist Practitioners in Maldives

Six Senses Spas at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili in the Maldives have taken their holistic wellness programmes to a higher level with the introduction of resident Ayurvedic medical doctors at both locations, plus a certified resident naturopath at Soneva Fushi.

A comprehensive lifestyle consultation with the resident certified practitioners provides guests with tailor-made programmes to achieve better health - extending to their daily diet, routine and surrounding environment.

According to Ayurveda we each inherit a unique composition of three ‘doshas’ or elements. At both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili, in the idyllic location of the Maldives, the resident Ayurveda Doctor determines guest’s constitution or ‘dosha’ type. The fully trained Doctors, who are also accredited General Practitioners, advise guests regarding the most suitable Ayurvedic programme or lifestyle programme to suit their individual needs in order to rejuvenate, restore balance, build immunity and encourage natural healing.

Consultations with Soneva Fushi’s internationally trained and certified naturopath and homoeopath focus on current ill-health and long term health issues or concerns. Programmes include classical homoeopathy, herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, and dietary and lifestyle advice including live cooking demonstrations aimed to inspire guests to make healthier food choices in life. Remedies and dietary adjustments are subscribed by the certified naturopath from the spa dispensary to support and enhance the body's own healing capacity.

Healthy cuisine is created to compliment each holistic wellness programme utilising the freshest produce from the region and freshly picked fruit and vegetables from each resort’s organic gardens. Additionally, each programme is supported by daily sensory spa journeys and wellness activities such as yoga and meditation - ensuring a positive impact to the guest’s wellbeing.

Source: E-Travel Black Board

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maldives borrows US$30mn from HSBC

The Maldivian government has secured a 30 million dollar commercial loan from the global banking giant HSBC to rebuild harbours, a senior minister said Tuesday.

The money will be used to repair jetties damaged by the December 2004 tsunami that cost the atoll nation nearly two thirds of gross domestic product (GDP), Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim said.

The tsunami damaged 20 islands -- a 10th of the 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives. Almost a third of the country's 369,000 Sunni Muslims were also directly affected by the destructive waves.

"We got about 400 million dollars in international aid, but we are still short of about 70 to 80 million dollars to complete projects related to fishing and transport," Ibrahim told AFP by telephone from the capital island Male.

Maldives imports virtually everything ranging from oil to timber and Ibrahim said the post-tsunami phase is facing cost overruns.

The eight-year loan from HSBC carries an interest rate of 2.25 percent over the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, he said.

In 2002, the government borrowed 10 million dollars from HSBC to finance the nation's second international airport on Gan island, which opens in November.

Meanwhile, Maldives has appointed international credit rating agency, Standard and Poor's, to rate its credit worthiness.

A sovereign, or country rating serves as an indication of a nation's ability to repay its debt and is a key requirement to raise money from the international capital markets.

Maldives has never defaulted on debt and the country enjoys the region's highest per capita income of 2,674 dollars.

About 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka, Maldives is a string of 1,192 coral islands scattered across the equator. Eighty-nine coral islands have been developed as exclusive tourist resorts.

Source: LBO

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hubble and Facebook Help Save Endangered Species

Hubble space technology and the global networking power of the Internet is being put to good use in wildlife conservation by giving researchers a clearer understanding of the status of the endangered whale shark.

A group of researchers, including Australian marine scientist, Brad Norman; NASA astrophysicist, Zaven Arzoumanian; and computer expert, Jason Holmberg have devised a creative use for a mathematical formula used by Hubble space telescope scientists to recognize star patterns-- they have adapted the formula to identify the unique spot patterns on whale sharks. With this formula, the researchers can use photographs taken by underwater divers and posted to an online library at to monitor the movements and habits of the whale shark.

When a new shark is discovered and its photo is uploaded to the Web site, it is given a number. When it is photographed again, a "resight" note appears on the Web site. This way, in addition to the conservation information it supplies researchers, individual photographers can track the movements of "their" sharks.

Norman won the Rolex Award for enterprise last year, and is using the prize to take his project to more than 20 locations worldwide. Current, or planned locations for whale spotting centers include Thailand, Taiwan, the Seychelles, the Maldives, the Galapagos, Indonesia, India, the Red Sea and along the east coast of Africa.

Before this technology, researchers had no definite way to track the whale shark. Now, with thousands of individual photo submissions from over 30 countries around the world Norman believes the whale shark is "a flagship species for marine conservation... we raise a lot of public awareness."

Most exciting is where some of the photos come from. "We have found photos from Web sites like Facebook," Norman said. Community sites such as those provide the conservationists with a powerful tool to improve public awareness for their work.

The age of the photos submitted aren't a barrier for this technology either, with photos from 10 or 20 years ago having been successfully submitted to the Web site. Norman believes the project is a true case of citizen science where "members of the general public, regardless of age can contribute."

In addition to the helpful online community and the mathematical formula, researchers are using two other technologies to monitor the whale shark. A stereo camera system allows the team to monitor the growth rate of the sharks, and a new wildlife monitor developed by Rory Wilson tracks the shark's speed, direction, heart rate, heat loss, feeding, diving, energy expenditure and other actions.

This continued research has been instrumental in highlighting the vulnerability of the whale shark to the international community. Whale shark hunting has now been outlawed in the Philippines, India and Taiwan, and the success of the photo library and Web site is the first time conservation data has been collected from wildlife enthusiasts.

Depending on funding, the success of the program could see the technology adapted for other forms of wildlife-- all that is needed is for the species to have distinctive marks on its hide.

Source: PCWorld Yahoo News

Friday, September 21, 2007

Maldives to open Honorary Consulate in Bangalore

Bangalore is fast becoming a favoured destination for Maldivians who depend on South Indian cities for medical and other emergencies.

With direct flights opening up more South Indian cities to the islanders, the Maldives Government is now taking the first steps to ‘formalise’ its relations with the Garden City. The Maldives Government is planning to open a Honorary Consulate in Bangalore in view of the increasing presence of its nationals there. There will not be a full-fledged office, but a Honorary Consul will be appointed, sources said.

Maldives already has a full-fledged Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, the South Indian city currently most depended upon by Maldivians particularly for medical needs.

Majority of the direct flights between India and Maldives are operated from Thiruvananthapuram, but this is fast changing with other South Indian cities also demanding their share of the pie.

The Honorary Consulate in Bangalore will be the second in South India after Chennai. Maldives strung south of Lakshadweep and comprising 20 atolls, also has Honorary Consulates in Kolkata and Mumbai.

Thiruvananthapuram has been playing host to Maldives nationals for some years now and many private hospitals extend special packages to the islanders. In fact, some hospitals in the city even sport special Maldivian dishes on their menu.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ross Philips donating $5,000 to Care Society Maldives

After 11 years of running surfing adventures to the Maldives through his company Tropicsurf, Sunshine Coast surfer Ross Phillips is finding even more fulfillment from his day job….only this time it’s not from the thrill of riding those perfect waves, but giving back to the place that has given him so much over the last decade.

Just last week (Tuesday 11th Sept) Phillips and Mohammed ‘Fittey’ Fayyaz (Tropicsurf Maldives General Manager) met with founding directors of Care Society Maldives, Fathmath Afiya and Ijazulla Abdulla to commit a US$5,000 donation to assist with program implementations.

Ross Phillips, (39yrs, Sunshine Beach, Qld) started out 20yrs ago coaching through the Surfing Queensland Coaching Course accreditation system. A short time later he developed the business model and formed a partnership with ASP WCT World Champion Mark Occhilupo and ASP WCT Womens Runner Up Serena Brooke to create a self help DVD titled “Surfing Made Easy”.

Harbouring a fervent desire to travel and discover new territories on the surfing front, Ross formed Tropicsurf in January 2002 with business partner Vic Kavals which as he recalls evolved from his Wavesense Coaching business. “The whole Tropicsurf concept just grew from the existing business, from our passion to go surf waves in idyllic locations while helping our guests improve their skills and maximize the whole experience, sharing what we loved doing with others was such a catalyst for where we are today”, said Ross.

Over the years spent defining Tropicsurf some wisdom was gained through the unexpected agony here and there, but the dream always shone bright and today, after learning priceless lessons from seaplane charter operations to local fresh produce market procedures, Tropicsurf is in the top echelon of global surfing adventures and boasts a list of clientele including high profile executives, Hollywood celebrities, sport stars and royalty.

It goes without saying that having spent so much time in one of the world’s most beautiful locations, Ross, his wife Di and business partner Vic Kavals have been moved emotionally by the their own experiences in the Maldives region. As the saying goes - ‘Passion drives Progress’ and their combined passion has seen them decide to assist in helping local communities, some of which are still struggling to rebuild after the tsunami devastation on Boxing Day 2004.

“This is something that we have really wanted to do for some time and having full trust in the Care Society meant a great pathway to get involved and it is just the beginning”, said Phillips. With a cognizant public pressuring multinationals about corporate consciousness and responsibility, the Tropicsurf statement fits the mix, same as it always has!

“We have always thought that whatever business we ended up in, part of that plan or model would be about helping people, it can’t all just be about profit, that can be a bit of a hollow dream”, said Phillips. “We feel that this is the right thing to do, we go there (Maldives) and enjoy the waves and hospitality of the region and its people, so it’s only fair that we put back in”, said Ross.

There is actually more to it than meets the eye. Phillips is one of those people that Australian culture call a ‘doer’, (he started the dream with AUD$500 and a healthy dose of inspiration from wife Diane) you know the type, meek, mild, quietly spoken and not one to waste words often. A humble guy who tends to shy away from accolades, as those who were with him when his company ‘Wavesense’ won two inductions into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 2004/5 will attest.

So, when he offers up a contribution to the conversation, you take it because he thinks first and speaks later. His vision for the future unveils a bigger picture too, “It is also about the Tropicsurf Legacy… know, it’s good to think that maybe after I am long gone that Tropicsurf will continue to help make a positive difference to the people and places we visit, wherever it is the company is venturing “, said Ross.

As for the immediate future, well Tropicsurf unveil their new Noosa based branch of the business this Friday with a private launch in Hastings St, while on the overseas front they will christen a brand new custom built vessel called ‘Tropic Breeze’ which is specifically designed to cater to all the needs of clients. It will service the 2008 season.

Care Society Maldives. Mission: Care Society is committed to improvements in the lives of people with disabilities. In collaboration with families and in partnership with government and non-government organizations.

Care Society promotes practices and public policies that:
* Support the total integration of people with disabilities into society;
* Promote access to education, training and employment for people with disabilities;
* Raise community awareness to encourage equality and fairness for people with disabilities;
* Encourage health service providers to intervene early in the lives of children and adults with disabilities; and
* Ensure people with disabilities are valued as individuals.

Objectives: Over the next five years Care Society will:
- Increase and maximize resources;
- Communicate effectively with all stakeholders;
- Provide training to volunteers and people with disabilities
- Influence policy making to encourage equality and fairness in service to people with disabilities;
- Promote formal and non-formal education and training opportunities for men, women and children with disabilities;
- Involve all staff members and volunteers in the planning and implementation of service to the people with disabilities;

Support Care Parents Forum;
- Expand services; and
- Continuously improve programs.
- Fundraise to enable self-reliance and sustainable services;
- Conduct ongoing research into the needs of people with disabilities in Maldives;

Source: GSN

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Top Chef Mark Best to serve Gourmet Delights at the Hilton Maldives in October

This October, the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa will fly out Mark Best, one of the best chefs working in Australia today, accompanied by two of the country’s most respected wine makers, Vanya Cullen from the Margaret River area and Charles Melton from the Barossa Valley, for a series of special food and wine dinners between 7 and 11 October 2007.

“Naturally we’re very excited to host a chef of Mark Best’s standing at the resort,” said the resort’s Food and Beverage Manager, Patrick Manthe, “Mark has been voted the best chef in Australia for the last two years. To add to the excitement, both Vanya Cullen and Charles Melton will also be attending the event and bringing their best wines with them, which will give our guests a fantastic opportunity to sample some of their great wines.”

Mark Best’s ‘degustation menu’ will be offered at Vilu, the resort’s open-air lagoon-facing restaurant. Mark will also be hosting a dinner both at the underground Wine Cellar, Ithaa - an intimate restaurant at two metres below sea level and The Wine Bar, with a black sand floor and designer lighting. A biodynamic lunch will also be taken place at the Mandhoo Spa Restaurant.

The Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa is running a special offer of seven nights for the price of five in Deluxe Beach Villas and Water Villas that runs concurrently with Mark, Vanya and Charles’ visit. Room rates in October begin at US$510 / night for two including breakfast.

Source: Asia Travel Tips

Monday, September 17, 2007

U.N. Approves $200 Million Funds To Help Rural Poor

The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced that it has approved almost $200 million in grants and loans to support initiatives to bolster the living conditions of the rural poor in more than a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Near East.

In West and Central Africa, IFAD will make $5.7 million in loans and $15 million in grants available. Some 28,000 farmers in the Woleu-Ntem province of Gabon will receive funding to help diversify their incomes through the development and marketing of new products form such staple crops as bananas, cassava and peanuts.

In Guinea, a grant will help finance a project to bolster local governance in rural areas while in Guinea-Bissau, one of the world's poorest nations, another grant will assist 100,000 rural people build their communities through rehabilitating infrastructure and bolstering grassroots organizations.

Lesotho, Uganda, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Pakistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Armenia, Morocco and Yemen will also receive IFAD grants or loans.

In addition, the fund approved six grants to international centers conducting agricultural research and development activities in rural areas in poor nations.

IFAD supports nearly 200 ongoing rural poverty eradication programs and projects, worth $6 billion, to reach 82 million rural poor people worldwide.

Source: ANH

Friday, September 14, 2007 Adds More Luxurious Resorts in Maldives

The leading online travel agency, adds more luxurious hotels and resorts in Maldives which provides the cheapest and lowest rates. is the online travel agency and reservation services based in Bangkok, Thailand established since 2002. We provide the large choice of hotels worldwide, up to 40,000 hotels with low price saving entire of year.

Maldives, as it is popularly known “The pearls of the Indian Ocean”, are situated in the South West of Sri Lanka, on the equator. The numerous coral reef islands, 1,190 in total, form an archipelago of 26 major atolls (groups of neighboring coral islands). The country stretches 820 km north to south and 120 km east to west. Out of the incredibly large number of islands only 200 islands are inhabited, with 44 islands adapted as exclusive resort islands. The climate is generally warm and humid. Sun shines all year through with average temperature around 29-32 degrees Celsius. The country’s 2000 population census shows a total of 270,101 people living in the country. Almost 2/3 of this figure resides in the capital island Male.

The island of Male is also the Maldives capital city. Many fascinating hours can be spent wandering through the maze of streets and selecting souvenirs from the markets. Also popular for shopping is the group of stores known as the ‘Singapore Bazaar’, where local handicrafts are on sale. Male includes over 20 mosques, from tiny one-room structures to the huge Grand Friday Mosque which can be seen from virtually any point on the small island. The oldest of Male’s mosques, the Hukuru Miski, features highly detailed stone carvings which date back to the 13th century.

The Maldives resort islands are simply stunning. Most are located in the atolls of North Male, South Male and Ari, which are close to the capital. Their palm-fringed white sands, clear waters and tropical plant life seduce every visitor. Scuba-diving is the number-one activity in the Maldives, offering you the chance to see the beautiful underwater vistas close up.

The Maldives could hardly be more romantic, which make them the ideal setting for your wedding day. As you exchange your vows in these tropical surroundings, you can be sure that it is an experience you will never forget.


Massive quake jolts Indonesia

A massive 8.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the west coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island yesterday triggering tsunami warnings across the continents.

Ten people died and dozens were injured as the quake split open buildings 300km from the epicentre.

In the capital Jakarta 600km further south, high-rise towers wobbled, water sloshed from swimming pools and panicked office workers ran into the streets. Elsewhere, power was knocked out and phone lines went dead.

The huge quake - anything over magnitude 7.0 is considered to have the possibility for widespread damage and loss of life - was felt in neighbouring Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, where office buildings swayed and shook.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said an alert was raised for the entire Indian Ocean area including Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives - all affected by the devastating December 2004 Asian tsunami.

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre," the Hawaii-based centre said.

The undersea quake erupted around 1100 GMT some 100km southwest of the city of Bengkulu at a depth of roughly 30km, the United States Geological Survey said.

It adjusted an earlier report of magnitude 7.9 to 8.4.

An official at Indonesia's meteorological agency said gauges measured a wave surge of 1 metre after the first quake.

Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India, Australia and Mauritius all issued separate tsunami warnings telling residents to move away from the Indian Ocean coastline. Australia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and India later lifted their warnings.

Authorities in Kenya also warned residents to stay away from coastal areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people in southern Bangladesh fled their homes in panic fearing a tsunami.

Chittagong district administrator Ashraf Shamim said half-a-million people were rushing from coastal regions of the disaster-prone country following a government tsunami warning.

Tens of thousands were ordered to take shelter in the southern district of Cox's Bazar, while ships were ordered to stay close to harbour in Chittagong, home of the country's largest port.

Kenya, which had warned of a "massive tsunami" and urged people to evacuate the coast, said later that only high tides were expected. In Seychelles authorities said the window for a strike had passed and they were no longer under a tsunami watch.

Source: Gulf Daily

Aviation boosts Cape Verde tourism

The introduction of direct flights to Cape Verde has made the group of islands an increasingly popular holiday spot, experts have stated.

Homes Worldwide said that since direct flights between the UK and Cape Verde were introduced in 2006, it has grown in stature as a tourist destination.

The archipelago, located off the west coast of Africa, was said to be attracting a growing number of tourists at the expense of other popular areas, such as the Maldives.

According to Homes Worldwide, the region is now accessible from the UK in approximately five and a half hours.

The site commented: "It is beginning to steal significant numbers of visitors away from the likes of the Maldives because of its improved accessibility."

Cape Verde was said to have "strong tourist appeal", which was also partly attributed to the growing range of facilities in the region.

Earlier this week, Emerging Real Estate said it had "huge expectations" for the property market in Cape Verde, due to its appeal among investors.

Source: Property Showrooms

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tsunami alerts sounded after big quake

New Delhi - India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives issued tsunami alerts on Wednesday after a massive earthquake off the west coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials said.

Thousands died across the region when a December 2004 tsunami struck after a powerful quake off Sumatra.

"We are issuing the alert after the quake in Indonesia," a Sri Lankan meteorology department spokesperson said, adding that Sri Lanka could be affected following Wednesday's 7.9-magnitude quake.

The island nation's coastlines were devastated in 2004, with 31 000 killed and one million people left homeless.

"Those living close to the coastline in the northern, southern and southwestern coasts of Sri Lanka are hereby warned to stay away from the coastline and move to safer areas," a statement from the metereological department said.

Officials in Sri Lanka said the alert was also sounded for the nearby Maldives, which was badly hit by the last tsunami.

India's home ministry warned residents of the Andaman and Nicobar island chain, closer to Indonesia than the Indian mainland, as well as those on India's southeast coast to take precautions.

"For the Andaman and Nicobar islands, yes, we have issued an alert. The (eastern) coastal states have also been alerted, but it's a precautionary measure," a ministry spokesperson said.

India lost more than 16 000 people in the tsunami, which killed a total of around 220 000 people and left material damage estimated by the United Nations at $2,5-billion.

Source: IOL

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tourism synergies between Sri Lanka and the Maldives

The Maldivian tourism industry, riding on its slogan ‘The sunny side of life’, is booming. The country has made giant strides and is now a leading destination in the Indian Ocean. Last year, 602,000 tourists stayed an average of 8.4 days in that country and spent US$ 115 per day (excluding payment for the hotel). Officials expect arrivals to increase by 10-15% during 2007.

Culture, nature and adventure are the mainstay of tourism in Sri Lanka, while beaches are the prime attraction in the Maldives. Besides, the Maldives attracts a more premium leisure tourist, exactly the kind of traveler that Sri Lanka has been attempting to woo recently. Hence, there is ample scope for a symbiotic relationship between the tourism sectors of both countries.

Addressing a press briefing in Colombo on Tuesday, Abdul Hameed Zakariyya, Maldivian Deputy Minister for Tourism & Civil Aviation, emphasized, “We are not competing destinations, we are complementary destinations.” He described tourism as a very dynamic industry and said that his visit was intended “to explore further opportunities for investors and industry on both sides”.

Immediately prior to the briefing, the Sri Lanka – Maldives Joint Task Force on Tourism (JTFT), consisting of representatives from the public and private sectors, discussed ways and means to protect each country’s tourism turf. The task force also decided to work on jointly promoting their countries to travelers from China.

Faiszer Musthapha, Deputy Minister of Tourism, seemed upbeat at the prospect of collaboration. He announced that Milinda Moragoda, Tourism Minister, had offered 25 scholarships to Maldivian students in the Sri Lanka Hotel School. In a move that is perceived as significant, the hotel school will provide certificate- or diploma-level training to these students. They will then form the nucleus for the skilled labour needed to staff the 44 new resorts opening in the Maldives.

Sri Lanka is inextricably linked with Maldivian tourism, playing a significant role in transporting passengers. Zakariyya pointed out that 35% of his country’s leisure traffic prefers flying SriLankan Airlines. Musthapha drove home the point, saying, “Through John Keells and Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka owns 12% of the Maldivian hotel sector.” Interestingly, of the 22,000 employees in Maldivian resorts also, 12% are Sri Lankans. Besides skilled labour, Sri Lanka also supplies fruits and vegetables.

Thus far, Maldivian tour operators have been pushing inbound tourism but will start promoting dual destinations soon. Last year, 26,500 Maldivians visited Sri Lanka - on holiday, to study or for medical purposes, making it the fourth largest source market.

The JTFT first met during 2004 in the Maldives but, with both countries suffering from the impacts of the tsunami, it has taken three years before this second meeting. It was decided that the JTFT would meet twice a year henceforth. An Action Committee will also be created – with six representatives from each side - to address any impediments. A smoother process for Maldivian investments in Sri Lanka and vice versa was also considered.

Source: Sunday Times

Srilankan hoteliers eye the Maldives

Srilankan hoteliers are exploring the possibilities of investing in the Maldives after the authorities there offered joint ventures for the development of resorts on four islands, industry sources say. “Hemas Group, Jetwing Group and the Mount Lavinia Hotel Group are interested in putting up hotels in the Maldives,” an industry source said.

The Maldivian government called for fresh bids to seek proposal from interested parties to undertake Joint Venture activities with Airport Investments Maldives Pvt Ltd. (AIM), for the development of a 200-bed tourist resort on each of the four islands - Dh. Maafushi, Th. Olhugiri, Sh. Farukolhu and G.Dh. Raalhe’odegella.

Jetwing officials said they had evaluated it but felt it was too expensive. “The investment that was talked about is something like US$ 20 million to enter the country and for most of us it is too expensive,” one official told The Sunday Times FT. However, the other two groups along with several others are keen on the proposals. Officials from those companies were unavailable for comment.

Aitken Spence, John Keells and a few Sri Lankan operators already run resorts in the Maldives, helping these companies to cushion the blow from their properties in Sri Lanka where the sector has been shaky due to the ethnic conflict.

Source: Sunday Times

Friday, September 7, 2007

One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives named Number One Resort in the World

Earlier this week at the Condé Nast Traveller UK Readers’ Travel Awards, the One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives was named number one resort in the world.

In addition, luxury resort was announced the winner in two other categories: Favourite Overseas Leisure Hotel, Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean; and Favourite Overseas Hotel Spa, Worldwide.

The winners, in categories including hotels, destinations, tour operators, airlines and cruise lines, were chosen by readers of Condé Nast Traveller.

Just over two years after opening, the One&Only Reethi Rah has earned recognition among a stylish and sophisticated clientele, with this latest achievement cementing its position on the luxury hotel scene. A high percentage of repeat guests re-affirms the resort’s popularity.

Michael R. Payne, General Manager of One&Only Reethi Rah, said, “We are delighted to have been named as the best in the world by the readers of Condé Nast Traveller magazine. This esteemed publication is a hugely important opinion leader in the UK and abroad, so it is most rewarding to have been recognised in this manner. I would like to personally thank each and every one of our guests who were kind enough to honour us with their vote.”

This 109-acre island in the North Malé Atoll comprises 130 exquisite beach, over-water, and duplex villas (37 of which have a private pool), designed by world famous architect Jean Michel Gathy. Every villa has a specially designated twenty-four-hour villa host, who is on call throughout, while 650 staff members are in situ to pamper and indulge. Surrounded by the wonders of the crystal blue ocean, One&Only Reethi Rah offers an unrivalled level of style, choice, and personalised exploration.

An eclectic and imaginative menu caters to every taste and occasion in three restaurants, including the Japanese specialist Tapasake and the Middle-Eastern influenced beach restaurant and bar, Fanditha. Meanwhile the extensive wine cellar, stocked with more than 700 premium labels and 18,000 bottles on the island, is available for wine tastings and dinner parties. Beach barbecues, champagne parties and gourmet dinners can also be organised.

Guests also have numerous activities to choose from, either at the Peter Burwash Tennis Academy, water sports and scuba diving in the magnificent Maldivian waters, excursions in the resort’s sleekly designed yachts, or simply relaxing on one of the 12 white-sand beaches. For extra pampering, the One&Only Spa by ESPA offers eight stand-alone treatment villas, two private spa suites, vitality pools, crystal steam rooms and saunas and a range of specially devised ESPA holistic treatments.

Source: Asia Travel Tips

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Bakhit Meets Maldivian President

Prime Minister Marouf Al Bakhit met on Wednesday with Maldivian President Mamoun Abdul Gayoom and held talks with him on the bilateral ties.

Bakhit noted to the various fields of cooperation between the two countries, expressing Jordan's readiness to put its potentials at the service of the Maldives.

The two officials also discussed chances of giving more scholarships for Maldivian students to study at Jordanian universities. Bakhit said that Jordan will provide additional scholarships in the various specializations for Maldivian students.

Talks also touched on the tourism cooperation and exchanging expertise in this domain as well as increasing trade exchange and possibility of importing fish from the Maldives.

President Abdul Gayoom hailed the distinguished level of Jordanian judiciary system, expressing keenness to send a number of Maldivian students to study at the Jordanian Judicial Institute.

Source: Petra

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sri Lanka joins hands with Maldives to promote tourism

Sri Lanka has teamed up with the neighbouring island paradise of the Maldives to woo tourists from China, Russia and the Middle East, officials said Tuesday.

The Maldives, South Asia's most exotic holiday destination, hopes the joint effort will help convince well-heeled tourists to stop in Sri Lanka and then visit the Indian Ocean atoll nation.

"The Maldives offer beach tourism while Sri Lanka offers beach, nature and cultural packages to visitors. We see synergies for joint marketing," Maldivian deputy tourism minister Abdul Hameed Zakariyya told reporters here.

The archipelago attracted more than 600,000 visitors last year, mostly celebrities and big spenders from Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Zakariyya hopes to see 690,000 tourist arrivals by year's end.

Tourism accounts for the bulk of the Maldivian economy of just under one billion dollars, making it the richest nation in South Asia with a per capita income of 2,674 dollars.

Sri Lanka, which attracts around 560,000 holidaymakers, has struggled to fill hotel rooms amid an escalation in violence between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Colombo is planning to offer a series of discount packages to encourage Maldivians to visit Sri Lanka.

"Around 27,000 Maldivians visited Sri Lanka last year and we hope this partnership will bring in more traffic," said Sri Lanka's deputy tourism minister Faizer Musthapha.

Sri Lanka's 26-billion-dollar economy earned nearly 400 million dollars from tourism last year, the fourth largest foreign currency earner behind tea, clothing and remittances from abroad.

Source: LBO

Global warming linked to stronger hurricanes

Global warming might not be increasing the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, but there is evidence to suggest it is making the storms stronger.

Speaking to the attendees of the Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier this month, Cayman Islands Senior Manager for Meteorological Services Fred Sambula said the formation of no individual tropical cyclone could be attributed to global warming.

“So far, there is no reason to believe climate change is affecting tropical cyclone activity,” he said.

There has been increased numbers of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin in recent years – as evidenced by the record year of 2005 – however the increase cannot be directly attributed scientifically to global warming.

A naturally occurring and cyclical event called the Atlantic Multi–decadal Oscillation has been cited as the most likely cause of the recent increase, especially when coupled with other factors known to increase Atlantic Basin cyclone activity, like the La Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.

The effect of climate change on global tropical cyclone activity was a topic for discussion at the World Meteorological Organisation’s Sixth International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones held in Costa Rica last November, Mr. Sambula said.

A position statement put out by the participants after the workshop pointed out that there seems to be an exception to the relationship between global warming and tropical cyclone frequency in the tropical North Atlantic, where many of the Atlantic Basin storms are formed.

The WMO’s statement said surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean are well established as one of the factors impacting the number of tropical cyclones. Evidence has shown that increasing sea surface temperatures are at least partly caused by global warming.

Because of technological advances and changing reporting techniques, it is difficult to accurately compare hurricane frequency on a historical basis.

Mr. Sambula explained why just counting the numbers of storms recorded now as compared to years past could be misleading. He pointed to the percentages of recorded hurricanes or tropical storms that made landfall before and after the advent of satellites.

Prior to satellite observation of the oceans, 77 per cent of all tropical cyclones made landfall, as opposed to 58 per cent after satellite observation. That disparity could not be possible, Mr. Sambula indicated.

“It seems that before satellite, we were missing a lot of storms that stayed out to sea,” he said.

Between 1900 and 1964, Mr. Sambula estimates two to three tropical cyclones a year went unrecorded because they did not make landfall anywhere.

Prior to satellite, tropical cyclones at sea were primarily recorded by ship reports.

The rise in sea surface temperatures is more clearly affecting tropical cyclones in a different way.

“What we have seen is that when these things do form, they are stronger,” Mr. Sambula said.

One study that was discussed at the WMO workshop showed that between 1975 and 2004 there was a 100 per cent increase in the proportion of major Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes. Another study showed a small positive trend amounting to about 10 per cent in the frequency of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes over the past 20 years.

The effects of global warming could also be felt in other ways in the Cayman Islands. Arctic polar ice has melted to record lows this summer, and it is now thought there will be no summer ice at all possibly as early as 2030.

Melting polar ice and glaciers could then cause a rise in sea levels, something the low–lying Cayman Islands cannot afford.

There are conflicting scientific opinions as to how much the polar melting would affect sea levels in places like the Caribbean. Some scientists predict a large increase in sea levels resulting from the polar melting, enough to swamp some major cities in the United States and elsewhere.

“There are some islands in the Maldives that have been lost because of rising waters,” Mr. Sambula said.

It wouldn’t take that kind of rise to be dangerous for the Cayman Islands.

“Places like Cayman that are low are at risk to any rise in sea level,” Mr. Sambula said. “If you get storm surge and the sea is already higher, you’re going to get that much more surge.”

Mr. Sambula said the climate is changing quickly.

“Never has there been such a rapid change as in this period of global warming because of the burning of fossil fuels.”

Mr. Sambula thinks all governments should factor global warming and climate change into their long–term planning.

He also thinks the Cayman Islands needs to start thinking now about how to mitigate against rising sea levels.

“I think government should have a scientific policy advisor to consider things like this,” he said

Source: Cayman Islands

Rising drug abuse in Maldives paradise

The Maldives, known as a holiday haven for the rich and famous, is grappling with a growing drug abuse problem among its young people including pre-teens.

Around 20% of the island nation’s residents under the age of 15 are using banned substances, according to the National Narcotics Control Bureau.

Bored and restless, youngsters, who comprise more than 40% of the population of 300,000, are increasingly turning to drugs, health workers say.

“It’s a tragic social crisis,” said Aminath Hamzoon, a trainee peer educator who works with youngsters trying to kick drug habits.

“The problem has escalated due to boredom, peer pressure, poor employment prospects and overcrowding on the islands,” she said at this after-care peer support training camp on Vilingili Island close to the capital Male.

There are an estimated 5,000 users in densely crowded Male, with the island’s narcotics bureau reporting cases of children as young as nine experimenting with heroin.

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, estimates the average age is 12 for first time drug users in the Maldives.

“Unlike most countries coping with a drug problem, heroin is the drug of first use for many young Maldivians here, which leaves the country uniquely vulnerable to widespread addiction,” Ken Maskall, UNICEF chief in the Maldives, told AFP.

The problem flourishes despite a growing tourism industry which has made the Maldives, with a population of 300,000 mainly Sunni Muslims, the richest nation in South Asia. Per capita income is 2,674 dollars.

Experts say narcotics are easily smuggled into the Maldives which has 1,192 islands clustered into 20 atolls that straddle international sea-lanes.

“The problem is so acute that every Maldivian family has at least one member who is a drug addict. Drugs have wiped off about two generations from our country,” said human rights activist Jennifer Latheef.

She said the government’s harsh approach to drugs has filled Maldives’ jails, but failed to curb the number of addicts.

“Street crime is on the rise, as addicts look for means to supplement their addiction,” Latheef said.

The opposition Islamic Democratic Party is now calling for tougher sentences for dealers and users and is pushing the government to execute drug smugglers.

But recovering addict Ahamed Shah, 28, who has spent time in a state-run rehabilitation clinic, said authorities need to take a compassionate approach.

Recovering addicts are stigmatised, making employment difficult, Shah said.

And counsellors like Ashfaq Latheef, attached to an after-care drug centre called Journey, said more than 80% of recovering addicts relapse after rehabilitation.

“Maldives is such a small place, everyone knows each other. It’s hard to avoid friends who lead you back into drugs,” said Ashfaq, a former addict who like many others started with cannabis oil and moved onto heroin.

An increased number of heroin users has also raised concerns about the spread of deadly diseases. UNICEF’s Maskall said addicts who were switching from smoking to injecting drugs risked contracting and transmitting HIV/AIDS, whose cases remain low in number in the Maldives.

In 2005, Italian footballer and UNICEF Ambassador Paolo Maldini kicked-off a nationwide football tournament, titled Unity Cup, advocating a drug-free and healthy lifestyle for young people.

Promoted by the government, the local football association and UNICEF, the tournament is in its second year with organisers hoping more youngsters will turn to sport and similar activities rather than drugs.

Source: Sunday Times

Inhumane Treatment of Migrant Workers

The Maldivian government was able to prevent Bangladeshi migrant workers’ community in the capital Malé from holding a demonstration on Friday, by using the threat of deportation. The Bangladeshi community, consisting of mainly unskilled workers, was trying to protest against the rise of xenophobia in the Maldives, and increasing attacks targeted at Bangladeshis.

In August organized gangs in Malé repeatedly attacked some Bangladeshi workers in their living quarters while in the northern island of Kulhudhuffushi a male worker was castrated and brutally murdered. Police claim that the murder was sexually motivated and has arrested a fellow Bangladeshi worker of the victim. In two separate incidents two Bangladeshi workers were found chained in two houses in Malé. One of them was chained to a tree.

The Bangladeshi High Commissioner to Maldives was so alarmed by the developments that he cautioned that he might have to pull out Bangladeshi workers from the Maldives. [Read more from Global Voice]


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dubai Civil Aviation Authority receives delegations from China and Maldives

The delegation from Maldives was led by Ali Hussain Didi, CEO of the Maldives Airports Company. Discussion at the meeting revolved around Maldivian plans to build as many as 10 airports on the archipelago as a strategic move to boost the island nation's tourism.

In this regard, Didi noted that Dubai has established itself as a regional and an emerging global aviation and tourism hub, and can play an important role in Maldives. He discussed with Ahli the possibilities of DCAA involvement in managing the proposed airports in Maldives. Ahli on his part welcomed the chance for greater co-operation between Dubai and Maldives and assured Didi that the idea would be taken up for discussion in the high offices of Dubai civil aviation.

The visit by Chinese delegates was aimed at benchmarking Dubai International Airport, and to study best practices followed by the airport and the DCAA. Headed by Song Airong, Vice Governor of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the delegation also included Zhang Guanghui, director General, Airport Department, General Administration of Civil China (CAAC).

Ahli welcomed the delegation and shared with the delegates Dubai's vision through a presentation on Dubai International Airport's expansion project. He noted that sharing of knowledge and best practices is an effective way of bolstering co-operation and bilateral ties between two countries.

Source: AME Info

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Map of the Internet’s Black Holes

The series of tubes famously dubbed the ‘internets’ by president G.W. Bush* constitute a world wide web of interconnectedness. But, as this map demonstrates, there are some black holes in that web. They represent the 15 countries that limit or prohibit their citizens’ access to internet as a way of censoring the free flow of information.

Perhaps most notorious among those countries is China, with its Great Firewall (and its insistence on self-censorship by non-Chinese companies operating within the Middle Kingdom). Other countries also maintain firewalls, notably Saudi Arabia, while less-developed nations might just not allow their citizens to own computers.

This map was commissioned by Reporters Without Borders, which also publishes a World Ranking of press freedom. As the list of the 15 internet-restricting countries (followed by their ranking on said list) indicates, internet censorship is a strong indicator of press censorship in general:

1. Maldives (144)
2. Tunisia (148)
3. Belarus (151)
4. Libya (152)
5. Syria (153)
6. Vietnam (155)
7. Uzbekistan (158)
8. Nepal (159)
9. Saudi Arabia (161)
10. Iran (162)
11. China (163)
12. Myanmar/Burma (164)
13. Cuba (165)
14. Turkmenistan (167)
15. North Korea (168 and very last on the list)

I happened to be in one of those countries earlier this year. While attempting to go online in a hotel, I was told that the “internet was closed for the day.” I should try again the next day, when there was supervision. Which I did as early as possible: had I waited too long, the internet undoubtedly would have been on its lunch break.

Source: Strange Maps

US to open embassy in Maldives

The United States will open an embassy in the tiny island republic of Maldives, its ambassador to the country Robert Blake said on Wednesday.

Blake told reporters at Male International Airport that arrangements are underway to have the embassy opened but did not give a specific date when the embassy will be inaugurated.

At Tuesday's ceremony to launch the United States' Virtual Presence Post in Maldives, Blake said that the embassy will have an American official and two Maldivian staff.

Blake said that the presence of an embassy in the tiny Indian Ocean island republic will help strengthen bilateral ties, facilitate Maldives' students to pursue higher education in American institutions, and provide the opportunity for multicultural exchanges as America is a diverse and dynamic multicultural society.

USAID has now contracted a company to set up two water plants, one in Lhaviyani atoll Naifaru island, the other in Hinnavaru in the same atoll. The US embassy said that each of these plants have a capacity to produce 30,000 liters of water a day.

The project is estimated to cost Rf24.41 million (about US$1.9 million) and the Singaporean contractor has to complete the project within 180 days.

Source: Haveeru

South Asian Transport Ministers Plan Rail Corridor To Link South Asia

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member nations will explore the possibility of setting up a rail corridor between Chennai and Colombo, which will connect Nepal, Bangladesh and the northeastern states of India.

The suggestion was mooted at the first meeting of the transport ministers of SAARC nations held in New Delhi on Friday. The ministers have recommended nine pilot regional and sub-regional projects to connect South Asia by road, railway, water and air corridors.

"Members states would be examining the viability and desirability of these projects for reporting to the third meeting of the inter-governmental group on transport scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in the second of week of March next year," an official press statement said in India's capital, issued after the meeting.

The proposed projects are in line with the 14th SAARC Summit's announcement to interlink the 1.5 billion people living in South Asia. Of the nine projects, India has proposed four including two projects that connect Nepal with India and Bangladesh, while Sri Lanka and Bhutan have proposed three and two projects each.

The other two projects proposed by India include Agartala-Akhaura-Chittagong road link and Male-New Delhi and New Delhi-Islamabad aerial corridor.

The member states will conduct the feasibility study of the proposed pilot projects and submit their reports during the inter-governmental groups meeting slated for the second week of March 2008, the statement adds.

The meeting deliberated on the report of the SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS) prepared and funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and recommended extending the study to include Afghanistan.

The participating ministers from Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, also elected India's Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu as the chairperson of the SAARC Transport Ministers meeting.

Source: AHN