Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Floating States Of Maldives: 2010 Skyscraper Competition Finalist

The Maldives, a tropical island nation in the Indian Ocean, may be on the fast track to becoming the world's first country to be submerged by rising sea levels. In response, their government has pledged to become carbon-neutral within the next decade, looked into buying land elsewhere to relocate the entire population - and to top it off, staged an underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to the plight of low-lying countries threatened by rising seas. Now the Maldives is also the inspiration for a competition entry into this year's Skyscraper Competition, aptly-titled Floating States of Maldives - which answers the question: what would an entire nation, housed in towers floating in the middle of the ocean, look like?

This network of skyscrapers will hover to a maximum of 1000m above sea level, while their keels will dive 1000m below the water. These beautiful series of towers will accommodate floor areas of up to 56 times that of the combined Petronas Twin Towers. With the increase in population, the height of the tower will be increased or more towers could be erected to accommodate people. With their plan, designers William Fong, Joshua Loke, Livee Ta haven't let the recognition of Maldives as a series of islands fade away. The Floating States of Maldives is one of the finalists in the 2010 Skyscraper Competition.

We like the idea of a dynamic form that not only seems to biomimic the natural shape of a flower (or is that a cracked coconut?), and yet can be augmented to respond to changing population demands. So if you can't beat them, float them, right?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Maldives: Parliament dismisses Auditor General

The Maldives Parliament yesterday voted to dismiss the Auditor General over alleged misappropriation of state funds.

The controversial vote saw 43 in favour and 28 against.

The Anti-Corruption Commission accused the Auditor General of using missing the state funds. Allegations said he used his corporate credit card to buy a tie and visit Thulhaidhu island in Baa Atoll.

Subsequently, a parliamentary sub-committee led by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim put forward the motion of no-confidence against the Auditor General.

However Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem has denied charges, calling it an “attempt to discredit his office,” minivan news reported.

Parliamentary sessions leading up yesterday’s vote saw members in physical blows, verbal clashes, abrupt ending of parliament, opposition street protest followed by the arrest of parliamentarians.

The motion also saw allegations being hurled by the ruling MDP and the opposition DRP, at each other.

The MDP said the DRP wanted to oust Naeem because he published reports implicating opposition members including the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
But a DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said yesterday’s vote made it “very clear” that the Auditor General was corrupt.

“Independent MPs who always vote on MDP side voted on DRP side today,” Ilham was quoted as saying in Minivan news, after yesterday’s vote.

The government was trying to defend Naeem in many ways, “which proves that the government is promoting corruption in the country in the name of erasing it,” Ilham has added.


President supports Guin Batten’s attempt to cross the Zero Degree Channel solo

President Mohamed Nasheed has extended his support for Olympic rower Guin Batten’s attempt to cross the Zero Degree Channel (Addoo Kandu) in the Maldives solo.

Ms Batten began her attempt in a standard coastal rowing boat to be the first person to cross the 60 kilometre wide Zero Degree Channel solo in a rowing boat, today. She will make the cross using a standard coastal single sculling boat that is 6 metres long, 78 centimetres wide and weighs 35 kilograms. She is expected to complete feat on 2 April.

Objectives of the crossing include raising international awareness of the threat of climate change on the Maldives, and supporting and increasing the profile of rowing especially women’s rowing in the Maldives.

Wishing Ms Batten success in her crossing, President Nasheed said this attempt in the Maldives by a world renowned athlete from a friendly country was a glaring example of the Ms Batten’s and the international community’s support for the development of women of this country.

Guin Batten won an Olympic silver medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. In 2003 she also broke the world record for crossing the English Channel.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Maldives’ donor conference begins: Nearly 40 donors to help prop up Maldives’ economy

The Maldives’ donor conference kicked off today, with nearly 40 donors now poised to inject funds to the country’s economy, grappling a budget crisis.

The two day conference, bringing together a total of 40 countries and international agencies will be held at the Bandos Island Resort and Spa.

“Countries and international agencies that have confirmed attendance number 40 including the US, EU middles eastern and neighbouring countries,” Press Secretary to the President’s office, Mohamed Zuhair told the Asian Tribune.

“About 80 delegates are already in town,” he said.

Zuhair said the conference is “very important for the economy as the government is seeking donor assistance to alleviate the budget deficit.”

He said it will also “help Public Sector Investment programmes with short term goals of 3 years.”

However, he refused to predict on the amount of the donor funds the country will get.

“How much may be pledged by donors would be clear at the end of the conference Tuesday,” Zuhair added.

President Mohamed Nasheed is scheduled to address the conference.


Earth Hour crosses Asia – from Kazakhstan to the Maldives

Astana, Kazakhstan
About 90 cities and towns in Kazakhstan joined the global Earth Hour campaign by switching off their lights for an hour. In the capital of Astana, some landmark buildings, such as the Astana-Baiterek Monument, the Presidential Palace, the Supreme Court building and the Independence Palace, will turned off the lights between 20:30 and 21:30 local time. In Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan, the city hall building, the television tower and many other buildings will also join the action. Major cities in Kazakhstan participating in Earth Hour include Uralskaya, Atyrau, Aktau, Aktobe, Petropavlovsk, Aksu, Chaimey, Karaganda, Shymkent, and Taraz.

Kulna, Bangladesh
The Bengal Tiger was the official Earth Hour ambassador of Banglash as lights in Bangladesh city, Kulna were turned out.

Kathmandu, Nepal
In a region where electricity is not a constant power source – instead of being able to turn lights out, the citizens of Nepal instead held a candle lit vigil at the UNESCO world heritage site in Kathmandu, Boudannath Stupa led by WWF Nepal.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
In an event organized by the Environment Ministry, the Environment Ministry building and all surrounding government buildings turned their lights out. Sri Lankan VIPs lit an oil lamp which was passed along to delegates like an Olympic torch while crowds were entertained by traditional dancers.

Delhi, India
Chief Minister of Delhi turned off the lights at iconic India Gate. Around the country, landmarks such as the Red Fort, Humanyun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar all descended into darkness, while 27 cities and towns saw citizens recognize Earth Hour.

Leading Bollywood actor, Abhishek Bachchan – an Earth Hour ambassador – said, “As responsible citizens of this planet, it is extremely crucial for us to address the colossal problem of climate change through ensuring responsible action and adopting a sustainable way of life. Earth Hour is one such platform and a people’s campaign that goes beyond national, regional, economic and cultural differences.”

Karachi, Pakistan
The President and Prime Minister switched off the lights in their homes joining citizens in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. In this – their first year of being involved – President Asif Ali Zardari said, “Conservation of natural resources and essential commodities is critical to creating a sustainable environment.”

Male, Maldives
Supported by President Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives observed a walking tour as part of the program to mark Earth Horu 2010. Not only did Television Maldives (TVM) not go to air for the hour of 20.30 to 21.30 but local hotels including the Shangri-La Villingili Resort and Spa and the Four Seasons observed Earth Hour.


TUI Europe’s biggest Tour Operator expects a travel boom for 2010 reports that the head of TUI Germany, Mr. Volker Boettcher revealed that TUI expect a record breaking increase of 4.8 million long-distance trips from Germany in 2010. He also noted that key focus of the company will be to increase and develop the growth of long-distance trips for upto 2020.

He also noted in the interview to the Focus Magazine, that TUI group will be targeting couples and older age groups in developing their packages in the future.

Rewe group; German’s third-largest tour operator said they also see an increase in demand for the travel this year from last December onwards. Mr. Norbert Fiebig, in an interview to Wirtschaftswoche magazine noted that the number of bookings for this summer has increased compared to the same period last year.

He also noted that if we are to maintain quality and sustainability in tourism; we have to stop reducing prices, except with the special offers only during selected periods.

This would certainly mean a positive tourism growth to the Maldives from the German market.

Maldives recorded 67,478 tourists for the month of January 2010 making it the strongest month in tourist arrivals for the past five-year period. Overall all the European markets did well and Germany had a growth of 9.8% with 5,890 arrivals.


The Former veterans of RAF visits the Former RAF Base – Gan Island, Addu Atoll

The Former Royal Air force veterans have visited Maldives yesterday for a reunion in the former RAF base – Gan Island, Addu Atoll. The group who are visiting Gan Island consists of 49 members including family members, 29 of them are the former Royal Air force veterans who were employed in former base during the 1950’s. The group visit to Maldives was arranged by the UK Tour operator Cosmos Monarch Holidays. Together with Cosmos Monarch Holidays, Kaimoo Travels & Hotel services, Island Aviation services and Maldives Tourism promotion board extended a warm welcome for the visiting RAF veterans in both the international airports, in Male and Gan.

The whole of Addu Atoll was also prepared for the occasion. The entire team received a rapturous welcome from the locals. They were greeted by cultural performances from the Maradhoo youths club. A series of activities have been prearranged for the event which includes meeting the locals, a Tour of Addu atoll (Feydhoo, MFeydhoo, Hithadhoo, Gan Island, HulhuMeedhoo). Furthermore their itinerary includes visiting the significant historical locations in Gan which includes World War II memorial, the base used by RAF during World War II in Hulhu Meedhoo and visiting various structures used by the RAF during World War II. The locals of Addu have also arranged Volleyball Match and a Football Match between two selected teams amongst the youth.

The Royal Airforce Base in Gan Island – Addu atoll was formed during British was occupied. The Base was first used by the British Marine royals in 1941. In 1957 the Royal Air Force took over and construction of a permanent runway began. It was used primarily as a staging post for military aircraft. Other nation’s air forces also used it as a stopover. The base was finally closed down on 31 March 1976.



The Maldives has topped the poles in 22nd Annual Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards leaving other popular beach destinations such as Bali, Phuket and Seychelles trailing behind in its wake.

The award, which was announced on Thursday, October 15th night, was for Top Islands Award. The Maldives scored consistently highly in categories which included variety of activities, atmosphere / ambiance, great beaches, friendliness of people, range of lodging, food and restaurants and scenery. The overall score was an impressive 87.50, out of a total of 100.

This year, 25,008 readers responded the annual Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice survey and the results were announced at the Readers’ Choice Awards gala which was held at New York City’s IAC Building hosted by Stanley Tucci and Mary Louise Parker.

On top of this accolade, the Maldives also bask in the reflected glory of a number of its resorts was recognised in the Top Resorts – Asia category. These resorts includes Soneva Fushi by Six Senses, Maldives at number fifteen, Soneva Gili by Six Senses, Maldives which took twentieth place and One & Only Reethi Rah, Maldives which came in at number twenty four.

Condé Nast Traveler’s annual reader awards are regarded as one of the most authoritative in the US tourism industry. The magazine has an unbending ‘truth in travel’ policy and is renowned for its editorial integrity. The questionnaire was available to all readers through a secure Wed site and the results were collated and analysed by Mediamark Research, Inc., of New York City.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 12 reasons to visit Maldives

Maldives is made of 800 islands and this goes to make it a more beautiful place. The local folk are called Maldivians and the closest city to this place, Male, is lovely!

Dhivehi is the spoken language throughout Maldives. It has its roots in old South Asian languages, intermingling with Arabic, Hindi and English words.

Maldives has a very high literacy rate - 98%, to be precise. English was introduced as the medium of instruction in most schools in the 1960s, while Dhivehi is still the language used for the overall administration.

The food there is very tropical and island-like but it’s very good. One thing you might like are the chillies you get here. They are so hot and the ‘chilliest’ that you have got to get some back home. Trust me, they are nothing like what you’ve eaten before.

If you are a water person, Maldives is the place to be. Snorkelling or diving are fun options.

Reef and wreck diving are the experiences to kill for. They havediving schoolswhere you can avail of courses on diving. It’s something I would recommend to all.

Shopping is definitely not the highlight of the place. The closest place is Male and if you would need to buy anything you must go there.

Every resort has its own vegetation and one resort in every island who is reponsible for everything from the sewage to the food. The best part is, you get to learn so much from the people here as they go about explaining the history and topography of the place.

If you’ve got the adventurous streak in you then this is the place to be in. They say you don’t see that much life on earth as much as you get to see withing 15 minutes of being underwater.

Sharks, star fishes you name them and you have it here.

How about an underwater eating experience? Eight meters under the water there is this restaurant where you can actually sit and dine as you watch the fish. An experience on its own for sure!

Island hopping is something one should definitely try since one island does not look like the other, plus one is never enough so every time it is like you’re visiting a new place.

The accomodation is unique and spa treatments (after a day of diving and underwater experiences), are something you will look forward to.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

20 MPs broke rules on declaring hospitality in questions or debates after visiting locations such as the Maldives, Cyprus and Gibraltar.

Hundreds of breaches of parliamentary rules by MPs who accepted free overseas trips from foreign governments have been uncovered by a BBC investigation.

More than 20 MPs broke rules on declaring hospitality in questions or debates after visiting locations such as the Maldives, Cyprus and Gibraltar.

Between them, the MPs - from all the major parties - breached parliamentary regulations on more than 400 occasions.

One former standards watchdog says it shows MPs cannot regulate themselves.

Some MPs dismissed the breaches as technical errors or oversights.

However, the former Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, told the BBC repeated rule breaches threatened to "undermine the integrity" of the democratic system.

He said it "demonstrated the failure of the self-regulating system of discipline in the Commons" and called for a shake-up of the way MPs' behaviour is monitored.

"This is a very worrying situation which will further demean the standing of Parliament," he said.

BBC home editor Mark Easton, who led the investigation, said it would raise further questions about the Commons' ability to regulate itself.

The rules on overseas visits are there to ensure that no-one can accuse MPs of accepting foreign hospitality in return for political favours, for example pressing the UK government for financial assistance.

They require MPs to register such visits and then declare relevant trips in questions, motions or debates.

One of those who appears to have fallen foul of the code of conduct is Labour's Andrew Dismore, a member of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee - the very body which polices MPs' behaviour.

He broke rules more than 90 times, following annual visits to Cyprus, by failing to declare the hospitality when raising issues about the island in Parliament.

In total, he has tabled more than 200 Commons questions about Cyprus since the last election in 2005, on topics such as missing persons from the island and its victims of past conflict between Turkey and Greece.

The Commons information office estimates it costs on average £149 to answer a written question.

Mr Dismore has also signed motions and led debates about Cyprus. However, he denies any wrongdoing and claims his questions about Cyprus were not sufficiently relevant to his trips to require a declaration.

Conservative David Amess has admitted failing to register a free trip to the Maldives - regarded as a "very serious" breach of the rules by the Committee on Standards and Privileges, according to the MPs' code of conduct.

He also accepts he did not register a second trip for almost a year, blaming an administrative error by his office staff.


During a debate he tabled about the Maldives in 2007, Mr Amess told the Commons how his "splendid visit" had given him "an early taste of paradise".

"No words can describe adequately just how beautiful the islands are," he added, before suggesting the UK Government "could be encouraged to do a little more than is being done at the moment" for the islands in the Indian Ocean.

Despite leading two debates about UK support for the Maldives and asking 15 questions about the islands, he failed to declare an interest. Referring to the MPs' code of conduct, Mr Amess told the BBC: "It is for the member to judge whether a financial interest is sufficiently relevant."

Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, who has been actively calling for a clean-up of Parliament following the expenses scandal, has admitted breaching the rules on 37 occasions.

In a statement to the BBC, Mr Baker accepts he failed to declare an interest when leading debates and tabling questions about topics such as human rights in Tibet. He has travelled to India twice, courtesy of the Tibet Society and the Tibet government-in-exile.

"I should have then declared a relevant interest in respect of the parliamentary activities you list," he said. "It is an unintended oversight that I did not."

The MP who heads the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, Tony Wright, told the BBC that such rule-breaking was "unacceptable" and that the system should be more transparent.

"Declarations should be the norm. It is quite proper for MPs to go on visits. Some of those visits will be financed by foreign governments. But... if they're lobbying on behalf of governments who have paid for their visits, then clearly we need to know about it."

The rules are enforced by MPs themselves. Breaches are only investigated if a formal complaint is made and there is no independent body to ensure that members stick to the regulations.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox has admitted breaking the rules on two occasions, having visited Sri Lanka five times in the past three years courtesy of its government. He failed to declare the hospitality when asking ministers how much UK aid had been given to Sri Lanka.

In a statement, Mr Fox said: "I should have noted an interest and will be writing to the registrar to make this clear." He blamed a "changeover of staffing responsibilities" for registering one of his visits more than two months late.

During the current Parliament, Gibraltar's government has funded 31 trips for MPs to attend an annual street party on the territory.

Street party

Labour's Lindsay Hoyle has been a guest at these National Day Celebrations three times. Following his visits he has asked 30 questions, tabled three early day motions and signed a further seven, all without declaring his interest.

Mr Hoyle also broke the rules by failing to declare an interest following registered trips to the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

"I have never received or sought any financial benefit," he told the BBC.

Conservative Andrew Rosindell has been a guest of Gibraltar's government twice in recent years. He subsequently asked 48 questions and signed or sponsored nine motions related to the territory without declaring an interest.

Thirteen of his questions about Gibraltar were before a visit had been registered. The BBC put the matters to Mr Rosindell but has yet to receive a response.

The BBC has identified a further 10 MPs from all three major parties who have been guests of Gibraltar's government and shortly afterwards breached rules when signing motions or tabling questions about the territory.

The investigation has also identified three more Labour MPs and another Conservative who failed to declare an interest following visits to Cyprus.

MPs who have breached the rules:

David Amess
Norman Baker
Crispin Blunt
Graham Brady
Colin Breed
David Burrowes
Andrew Dismore
Jim Dobbin
Alan Duncan
Liam Fox
Mike Hancock
Lindsay Hoyle
Paul Keetch
Bob Laxton
David Lepper
Andrew Love
Madeline Moon
Mike Penning
Andrew Rosindell
Richard Spring
Theresa Villiers
Rudi Vis


-Any MP who has an overseas trip paid for by a foreign government must register it within four weeks

-They must declare a financial interest if it "might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question"

-This includes when tabling questions, motions, bills or amendments, and when speaking out during Commons proceedings

-Members may not, for example, call for increased UK financial assistance to the government which provided the hospitality


Travel and Tourism - Maldives - new market report released

The Travel and Tourism in Maldives report offers a comprehensive guide to the size and shape of the market at a national level. It provides the latest market size data (2002-2007), allowing you to identify the sectors driving growth. It identifies the leading companies and offers strategic analysis of key factors influencing the market - be they new legislative, technology
or pricing issues

Background information on disposable income, annual leave and holiday taking habits is also included. Forecasts to 2012 illustrate how the market is set to change. Sector coverage: travel accommodation, transportation, car rental, retail travel and tourist attraction markets Why buy this report? * Get a detailed picture of the travel and tourism industry; * Pinpoint growth sectors and identify factors driving change; * Understand the competitive environment, the market’s major players and leading brands; * Use five-year forecasts to assess how the market is predicted to develop.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Maldives Prez Says Stopping Climate Change Isn't About Hugging Trees

I'm only going to feign momentary offense at Maldives' President Mohamed Nasheed, because I happen to think there's nothing wrong with hugging a tree every now and then... At a climate change seminar in Helsinki, Finland Nasheed said that apart from environmental concerns there are very good reasons that we have to collectively act on climate change, and need to reframe the discussion ahead of COP16 in Mexico at the end of the year:

The Economic Times reports that Nasheed said that the security, economic and human rights aspects of climate change need to be brought more to the fore. Additionally a price tag needed to be placed on "the extent to which we destroy the atmosphere, the extent to which we pollute the atmosphere."

Nasheed also emphasized that the time for pointing fingers at one another was over, with a need to build more trust between developed and developing countries.

It Wasn't Because of Too Much Tree Hugging That COP15 Failed
As usual, Nasheed is right on the money in intent--there is indeed much more to climate change that the strictly environmental impacts. However, I'm not sure the non-environmental aspects of climate change weren't forcefully put forward in the run-up to last year's climate summit in Copenhagen. Plenty of military officials, economists and human rights organizations laid out, over and over, the potential impacts of a warming planet.

It wasn't because there was too much emphasis on hippy-dippy let's all roll in the grass and hug trees that the outcome of COP15 fell well short of the scientific recommendation. I'd argue that at least partially it was the exact opposite. Among developed nations and the larger developing nations everyone was looking out for their own interests first and foremost and those of the people to be worst affected only secondarily or even farther down someplace. Perhaps a little bit more focus on universal compassion, for both the natural world as a whole and for our fellow human beings, might have helped.


Eco-luxury hotel on Hadahaa in the Maldives

Can a luxury resort ever be green? A new hotel on the Maldivian island of Hadahaa is a true eco-paradise

With great pride, our "butler" Atheef is describing the utter deliciousness, the supreme sweetness, the irresistible flavour and vast superiority of the Maldivian mango. When I offer the Indian mango in comparison, he snorts with derision: the Maldivian variety is clearly in a much higher league. It's also only available in this island paradise for two months of the year, and as Atheef speaks I have a flashback to childhood and the giddy excitement of strawberries coming into season – a delight wholly unknown to my own children, for whom such exotic delicacies are these days pedestrian staples thanks to the global food market.

The Maldives, however, is not the place to get radical about eating only local, or indeed seasonal, foodstuffs: these idyllic islands rely on imported produce, and working out how to feed themselves while striving to become the first carbon-neutral nation on earth is one of the many conundrums facing the inhabitants of this breathtaking collection of islands. There are 1,190 of them in all, scattered among some of the most pristine coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, and at two metres above sea level this vacation paradise is one of the most threatened nations on earth. The most pessimistic estimates suggest that they will be underwater by the beginning of the next century, a danger their energetic new president, Mohamed Nasheed, is striving to publicise to the international community – last October the entire cabinet donned scuba gear and met underwater.

As a result of the very real threat on their doorstep, words like "sustainability", whispered among a very few of the forward-thinking hotels a decade ago, are now littered generously throughout their brochures. The bonanza that took place in the 1980s and 90s, turning the area around the capital, Malé, into a resort metropolis with barely a care for preserving reefs or local livelihoods, has thankfully all but come to a halt.

If the Maldives are a dot on the world map, the island of Hadahaa is a mere grain in an enormous oceanic expanse, as far south as you can go without crossing the equator. It lies in the utterly unspoilt and second largest atoll in the world, Huvadhoo. Until recently the whole area was off limits to visitors, the result of a government policy that sought to protect its ecosystem but also discouraged mingling between tourists and the local population, which put many travellers off these islands because they felt them to be a cultural void.

Since 2007 a small clutch of hotels has been allowed to set up among the native islands under the strictest environmental supervision, bringing employment and visitors to a region previously ignored. The contrast between this gloriously underpopulated, development-free atoll and the frenzy of the resort scene around Malé is extraordinary.

The latest arrivals, such as the one I'm visiting, pay more than lip service to environmental concerns. At Alila Hadahaa, which opened in August, they have their own desalination plant to create drinking water, hold a Green Globe Certification for planning and construction, and use wood certified sustainable from Malaysia. Most commendable of all is the presence of so many local staff; Maldivians make up 65% of the workforce. For a people in search of a homeland – as their president has described them – they couldn't be doing a better job of the audition. Staff such as Atheef – in his roving role of villa butler – and Shamin (snorkeller, babysitter, football expert and purveyor of popcorn) are proud of their country, eager to help you to experience more of it and so good with the kids that I feel surplus to requirements.

For a resort so clearly not imagined with children in mind – from the lavish luxury of the super-chic rooms to the glass and stone-hewn bathrooms – they couldn't cater for them better. Chicken curry sans spices, jelly made to order, babysitting on request and everywhere waiters happy to build "volcano land" in the sand, dive masters who long to take them snorkelling. I virtually have to wrestle the staff to get the children back for a couple of hours a day.

Alila's new resort is certainly architecturally adventurous. The two-storey state-of-the-art restaurant with its Bauhaus severity is slightly wasted on an ageing barefoot boho like myself, but the luxury beach bungalows and water villas make it a positively elemental experience. Of course it's an irony that is hard for the arriving tourist to ignore that the popular wooden water bungalows strung out on stilts above the aquamarine shallows at most resorts could, in the course of our children's lifetime, be all that's left of this island nation.

FOR THOSE WHO stray as far south as Hadahaa, the reward is a pewter evening ocean with a hazy shadow of islands on the far horizon, bearing no sign of human habitation. Ears pump with the complete silence we so rarely get to hear. When I take my four-year-old son snorkelling 5ft off the beach and find a lionfish swaying in the swell, a couple of Moorish Idols guarding the reef and as many small yellowtails as I can count, Dan starts to choke on his snorkel in excitement. To say the ocean is still stocked biblically here would be to underestimate what lies below.

Visiting the local villages is also now actively encouraged, as we discover when we are taken on an afternoon trip to Gadhdhoo, where hand-weaving straw tablemats and fishing offer the only alternative employment to the hotel and tourist sector. Despite obvious poverty and very basic amenities, the village looks like it is auditioning for a Best Kept Town award: no rubbish, well-tended homes with immaculate front yards and trees adorned with colourful strips of the Maldivian flag.

Shamin explains that every evening at sunset the women and children take to street cleaning in order to keep their collective home in good order. If only a similar civic spirit could be nurtured in the UK. During our amble around town an elderly lady in a headscarf (since 9/11 the Maldivians, previously relaxed Muslims with a little bit of local magic thrown in, have increasingly been embracing a stricter Islamic code) stops me to enquire whether Molly and Dan are my only children. When I reply that they are, she looks at me pityingly before declaring that she has produced 14. Patting my meagre contribution to the population on their heads, she wanders off chuckling in amusement at my uselessness as a woman.

This is my fourth trip to the Maldives and the first where I get to meet local people in their own environment and also to eat their cuisine. Along with western delights that include breakfast croissants the finest Parisian pastry chef would be proud of, Alila Hadahaa boasts a local restaurant – sand-floored, trestle-tabled and musically themed – offering the spiciest of curries, the tastiest of pumpkins, the crunchiest papaya and chilli salads on poppadoms, and pancakes with caramel bananas or fresh coconut rice pudding to follow. Where other Maldivian resorts can seem hell bent on ignoring their surroundings, this one is utterly committed to celebrating them.

On our last night, as the great fiery disc of the sun begins its exhausted slide into the sea, we spot a pod of dolphins gliding in and out of water thick as oil, feeding on the plentifully stocked and carefully protected home reef. The children, who have been weaving coconut-frond tapestries with Shamin, run shrieking toward the ocean, dropping clothes along the powder-white sand as they race into the sea in pursuit of each other. The dolphins make a hasty exit to open water, but in their absence a familiar figure steps into the frame: Shamin, waist deep in the ocean, still in uniform shorts and polo shirt, initiating a game with the kids.

It's my abiding image of our brief sojourn on this entrancing island. Thanks not to the cutting-edge design of the resort nor the fantastic food but to the seductive charm of the local staff, the five nights here number among the best vacations of my life.


Galana Petroleum wins Maldive jet fuel deal

Middle East based Galana Petroleum Limited has won a tender to supply a total of 1.02 million barrels of jet fuel to the Maldives for delivery between April 2010 through March 2011, industry sources said on Sunday.

Galana concluded the deal with the archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, at premium of $3.59 a barrel to the benchmark Middle East kerosene price, traders said.

The first delivery is scheduled for April, sources familiar with deal said.

"It is variable but the average size of each parcel is about 6,000 tonnes," a source said.

Galana edged out the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) and European trader Vitol, for the supply deal with the Maldives, traders said.


Strictly Come Dancing's Bruno Tonioli heads to the Maldives - and awards it a perfect 10

I was totally worn out when I touched down in the Maldives, as drained as if I'd completed a non-stop dance marathon. During many parts of the year, this is just how my working life seems.

For a long period in the autumn I'm appearing on Strictly Coming Dancing in London at the same time as I'm a judge on Dancing With The Stars - the US version of the programme - in Los Angeles.

When the two series overlap the workload gets very intense, meaning a weekly commute back and forth across the Atlantic. So by the time it got to Christmas, I was feeling fairly tired and bewildered.

The Maldives was the perfect escape - when you arrive it's as if you've been taken to another world.

I flew direct from London with Sri Lankan airline Air Lanka, which was very comfortable. When I first visited the Maldives 16 years ago, I had to stop in Dubai overnight; the fact that you can now fly direct really makes the trip much easier.

That other-world feeling starts with the seaplane transfer from Male airport to the resort, which takes about 25 minutes. I loved it - it made me feel like Indiana Jones. Let the adventure begin!

I was staying at the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa, a new all-inclusive resort. When I heard the words 'all-inclusive', I have to say I was a little bit nervous. You sometimes hear bad things about the whole all-inclusive concept.

But I can say, right from the start, that the way it works here is hugely impressive.

Let's start with one of my passions - the food. In a word: wow! There are half a dozen different places to eat and drink and they're all very good.

Read more:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Encouraging sustainable tourism for development in Maldives

Most of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) are avoided or overlooked by tourists. However, tourism can make valuable contributions to the economic growth of a country, and many LDCs have amazing things to offer their visitors. For those who wish to help make a difference in the world, there are great options for adventure and relaxation all while helping a developing country’s economy grow in a sustainable and eco-friendly fashion.

Impact on economic development

The Maldives already has an impressive rapport with travelers worldwide, and lists its main economic industries as tourism and fishing. The World Travel and Tourism Council ranks the Maldives travel and tourism sector 4th in the world for its relative contribution to the national economy. In 2009, this sector made up 63.4 percent of GDP, provided 54.8 percent of total employment, and accounted for 60.5 percent of total exports. So while the tourism industry in the Maldives is already a huge contributor to its economic growth, the challenge now is how to continue to reap the economic benefits without furthering the countries environmental issues.

At its highest points, the Maldives is no more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) above sea level, and is currently at risk of being totally annihilated from the effects of global warming. Therefore the Maldives has been one of the leaders in advocating global binding agreements on carbon emissions and other steps to fight climate change. Also looking to lead by example, it has voluntarily set the goal of eliminating all of its carbon emissions by 2020.

Already there are many great eco-friendly accommodations for tourists, and there are restrictions in place to help preserve the local environment and culture. For example, the country is made up of about 1,200 separate islands, of which 200 are inhabited, and all abide by the “one island, one resort” policy, which limits one resort being built per island. Furthermore, all resort structures may only occupy 20 percent of the islands’ land area, and are not to be built higher than the tallest palm tree.

Going forward, it will be difficult to figure out how to transform the Maldives into an emissions-free country without loosing the economic revenue from tourism. Taking all this into consideration, the most important thing now when traveling to this country, is to make as many eco-friendly choices as possible so as to support their emissions reduction goal while still making a crucial contribution to the economy.

Why you should go

Maldives is the Mecca for divers, snorkelers, and anyone who loves beaches. Its reputation as one of the best places in the world for ocean lovers is almost undisputed. First-time snorkels paddling around in the shallows and lifelong divers exploring the Maldives Victory Wreck will be equally amazed at the reefs, biodiversity, clear warm waters and white sand beaches. Some of the most famous diving and snorkeling sites in the world are in the Maldives, such as Girifushi Thila, Kuda Haa, and Lion’s Head, as well as many lesser-known yet equally impressive locations. Many of these dive sites are also off spectacular beaches. Cocoa Island, Nika, and Banyan Tree Island are all recommended, though if you choose to go explore some of the islands that do not have tourist accommodations on them, you will probably be the only one there, except maybe for some local fisherman. Windsurfing and fishing are two other popular water sports that can be found.

Apart from what the ocean has to offer, there are many cultural aspects to explore. The National Museum in the capital Male boasts a trove of the countries treasurers. Many beautiful mosques can be found here as well, including the 17th century Huskuru Miskily or “Friday Mosque.” The central fish market is always bustling with tourists and locals alike, and is filled with all sorts of goods well beyond fish. If you are looking to test out the nightlight, Male is also a great and authentic place to explore. The island of Isdhoo also has great old architecture to explore, as does the site of great Maldivian Buddhist ruins, which includes one of the largest stupas in the country that precedes the Islamic period.


Being a responsible traveler is key to aiding development. Here are a few recommendations on travel companies, hotels, guide groups, and other travel aids that focus on sustainable tourism through being eco-friendly and operating in synch with local communities to raise living standards while preserving local culture.

World Hotel Link

This Website is great for searching all sorts of activities in almost any country, and for a few destinations, there is a section on responsible accommodations. This section for the Maldives has a wide range of ecologically and socially sustainable lodgings, and each has a description of how their establishment helps the local community and ecosystem. While some places listed are better than others, World Hotel Link is a great place to begin your search.

Responsible Hotels of the World/Responsible Travel
Responsible Hotels of the World is part of the group Responsible Travel, which has been recommended so many times in these series of articles. While Responsible Travel offers full tours, with planned activities and accommodations, Responsible Hotels of the World reviews and suggests accommodations, and helps with booking. Though the site also provides information about nearby sites and activities, it leaves the guest to plan it on their own. Like its parent site, each review includes a lengthy section on how their accommodation makes a difference. This is a great site for people wanting a good place to stay, but wanting more freedom in planning their own activities.

Banyan Tree Madivaru & Vabbinfaru

These two resorts are from the same parent company, but are on different islands. Villas on Vabbinfaru were built on footprints of old buildings, so as not to further damage the environment, while on Madivaru, the buildings were built clearing only the exact area needed for the villas, and all trees that were removed were replanted elsewhere on the island. All the boats used at these resorts have special engines that prevent fuel leakage. The parent company, Banyan Tree, has also challenged all its resorts to plant 2,000 trees per year, for the next ten years, and has set a goal to reduce its energy consumption and emission by 10 percent each year. The Vabbinfaru site also supports the Green Sea Turtle Conservation Program, as well as a variety of coral and reef preservation and restoration projects.

Angsana Resorts-Ihuru & Velavaru
The parent company of these two resorts is also associated with the Banyan Tree Company, so many of the environmental goals are similar. The Ihuru resort supports the Ihuru Barnacle project, which helps restore reefs by transplanting coral onto man-made structures and stimulating growth by subjecting the coral to small electrical currents. The parent company of these resorts also partnered with local committees to establish a preschool on a neighboring island, and also helped to provide the needed administrative and educational tools.

A free visa valid for 30 days is issued to visitors upon arrival so long as they have a valid passport from any recognized country, and proof they plan to leave (for example a return ticket). There was a bombing incident in 2007, where people were wounded, however this was determined to be an isolated incident and all suspects were arrested. No security problems threatening tourists have been experienced since. Other than petty theft, the Maldives is a very safe place to travel. Recommended immunizations include all routine shots, as well as hepatitis A and B and typhoid.

For more information on safety, visit:

For more general information about visiting the Maldives, please see the following sites:


Monday, March 15, 2010

Jurists call for common SAARC platform on judicial reforms

Eminent jurists from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives, who participated in the two-day international conference of jurists on Judicial Reforms in the city, called for a joint SAARC forum for judges to introduce judicial reforms, while stressing the need to tackle the problem of corruption on Sunday. Speaking on the concluding day of the conference, Justice Avdhesh Kumar Yadav, Judge of the Supreme Court of Nepal, criticised judges indulging in corrupt practices while deliberating on the issue of rise in corruption creeping into the judiciary and the need for a free and fair role of judges.

He said no reform could be complete unless this issue is immediately tackled. He added corruption was a common problem in the SAARC region.

Addressing the valedictory function at the Law Bhawan auditorium, the Chief Justice of Maldives, Justice Abdulla Saeed, said these reforms could not be brought about single-handedly. Participating jurists also voiced concern about the lack of interaction between judges of SAARC countries, calling for a joint forum, a body for the judges of the SAARC countries, to share knowledge.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Mind the water hazard...floating golf course to be built in Maldives

Cutting-edge development in pipeline as islands plan for effects of climate change

The Islands of the Maldives, confronted by rising oceans and a landscape that is just a few feet above sea level, is poised to build a floating golf course and convention centre in what could be the first of a series of futuristic off-shore developments designed to counter the threat of global warming.

The country's government has signed a deal with a Dutch firm to investigate the feasibility of developing facilities that would be located among the 26 main atolls. It is likely the company, Dutch Docklands, which has built floating islands in Dubai, will also look into the possibility of floating homes in the Maldives.

"The methods and procedures developed by the company for floating developments reduce the impact on underwater life, and minimise the changes to coastal morphology," said a statement issued by the office of President Mohamed Nasheed. Since coming to office in late 2008, Mr Nasheed, a former political prisoner, has been quick to prioritise climate change as one of the most pressing threats to his nation, which is made up of a total of 1,200 islands.

One of his first announcements after defeating former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was a plan to try to buy an alternative homeland – possibly in Sri Lanka or India – because of the threat to his nation, more than 80 per cent of which is no more than a metre above sea level. Parts of the capital, Male, are protected by a 3m-high wall that cost more than £30m and took 14 years to build. The UN has forecast that the oceans are likely to rise by up to 60cm by 2100.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, up to 40 per cent of the Maldives was under water. A hundred people died, which spurred the authorities to think about relocating people from the lowest-lying islands. In Kandholhudhoo, about 60 per cent of residents have volunteered to evacuate within 15 years.

Ahead of last year's Copenhagen climate change summit, the President drew attention to the likely fate of the Maldives by holding an underwater cabinet meeting at which he and his ministers used scuba equipment. Mr Nasheed has also announced plans to turn the islands carbon-neutral in 10 years. No agreement was reached in Copenhagen, to the bitter disappointment of the Maldives and many other leaders of smaller nations.

"We're trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked," he said at the time. "If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel there is much chance for the rest of the world."


Sharks swim safe around the Maldives

Sharks that dwell in the Maldives can breathe a sigh of relief: the island nation has declared 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean a safe-haven for sharks, banning shark fishing as well as any trade in shark fins.

"The Maldives were one of the first countries to recognize that sharks were a key reason tourists went to dive there," said Matt Rand, director of Global Shark Conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "Today’s announcement protects the Maldives’ tourism industry—the largest segment of their economy—from the ravages of the shark fin trade. It is a bold and farsighted move on the part of the government of the Maldives."

The protected waters are home to thirty species of shark, including the scalloped hammerhead and the oceanic whitetip, both of which are up for protection at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The IUCN Red List classifies the scalloped hammerhead as Endangered, and the oceanic whitetip as Vulnerable to extinction.

The Maldives, a popular tourist location, depends on its pristine beaches, coral reefs, and marine wildlife, such as sharks, for much of its tourism industry. Globally tourism focused on seeing sharks in the wild is a growing business.

"Countries are beginning to recognize just how important vibrant shark populations are to healthy ocean ecosystems, and to their ecotourism industries," explains Rand.

The trade for shark fin soup has devastated shark populations worldwide: sharks are caught, finned (whereby fishermen cuts off their fins), and then tossed overboard into the ocean to perish. It is estimated that 73 million sharks are killed every year for their fins alone.

Currently, 32 percent of open ocean shark species are threatened with extinction.