Obofili: a name synonymous with Maldives beauty
Talent comes in many forms. For some, it comes naturally, while others turn one of their passions into a sought after talent. Ahmed ‘Obofili’ Shuau is a fine example of the latter; he has made a name for himself as one of the leading photographers in the Maldives through hard work and dedication. From a passion that began as a young man to a career that now earns him recognition both locally and globally, Shuau has indeed come a long way.
“A friend lent me one of those [Nikon] film cameras,” Shuau says, recalling his first experience with a camera as a teenage boy. “I was just an 18-year-old kid. I knew nothing about photography or even to properly operate a camera.”
That was in 2004 and he was working as an architectural technician cum graphic designer at an architectural design firm based in capital Male. In his free time from work, Shuau borrowed his friend’s camera and another one, which used CDs as storage, from his office, and just roamed around the city, capturing the architectural landscape of the congested city and daily lives of the people. The processed images — he was lucky enough to get unlimited number of images processed through his friend — evoked his creativity like nothing else did.
What better way to show the world the natural beauty we are blessed with than through photographs?
Shuau’s experimentation with the camera came right around the time Maldivians started getting into the habit of blogging. Flickr, the image and video hosting service run by Yahoo!, came to his aid. And thus, his trademark name, Obofili, which is the sound of ‘O’ in local Dhivehi language, was born. Shuau’s photos showcasing the natural beauty of the Maldives, its diverse culture and the lifestyle of its people came to signify the Maldives’ identity on the internet. Soon enough, Obofili, a subtle way of creating an ‘X’-shaped icon, became a household name, recognised by professional photographers and the public alike.
“It was a whole new dimension to showcase my work. The feedback I received from home and from abroad was very positive. That inspired me to explore further,” Shuau says.
With the exposure being received on the internet, Shuau was also getting offers to put his photography skills to use. In 2006, he was chosen as the official photographer of popular local rock band, FasyLive. It was another great opportunity for the budding photographer, who also had a keen interest in music and played music with friends. In designing the band’s album covers and posters, Shuau combined his photography and designing skills with his taste in music, creating artworks that signified the best of creativity.
Despite his early struggles mostly because he did not have his own equipment, Shuau never looked back. For every project that he got, he borrowed a camera and other equipment either from a friend or from a fellow photographer.
One such project that still reminds him of his roots happens to be the beginning of his career as it is now known. It was a time when his career as a photographer exclusively catering to weddings in resorts came to an abrupt end due to a management shift at his main client in mid 2015. With his one and only source of income cut off, he was on the look out for a reboot in his career when he was offered to do architectural and commercial photography for Filitheyo Island Resort and Medhufushi Island Resort, managed by AAA Resorts & Hotels, in late 2015
“I got that opportunity from my friend Moosa Shiyam, who happens to be a director at AAA company. I had just got back home from Sri Lanka after doing architectural photography of No.26 Colombo, a private luxury holiday villa built by a Maldivian family,” Shuau explains the beginning of his new career.
He is backed by several local and international awards and recognitions. From having had the honour to do branding work for big names such as the Maldives’ flagship carrier, Maldivian and the state-owned Waste Management Corporation Limited (WAMCO) to have received the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award in Cultural Achievements conferred by the local branch of Junior Chamber International (JCI), he has also won the third place from the Amateur Category in CEDAW photography contest held in Asia-Pacific by UNIIFEM in 2009, and Best Logo Design award by Maldives Film Association and Sonee Hardware in 2006.
Shuau’s digital marketing skills have won him international recognition too. His Facebook page and Instagram account, followed by more than 19,000 people, are affiliated with the renowned Luxury World Traveler, whereas his work has been featured by DJI’s official account, F**ck It All and Go Travelling, and celebrities like Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers.
The self-taught photographer now specialises in architectural and commercial photography for the Maldives’ luxury tourism and hospitality industry. His growing portfolio of clients include renowned names in the industry, including AAA hotels & Resorts, Reveries Diving Village, Bandos Island Resort & Spa, Lily Beach Resort & Spa and Crown & Champa Resorts. And less than just three months into the year, Shuau is in high demand for several existing and upcoming properties in the Maldives.
“I couldn’t have reached where I’m today without the extraordinary support of my family and friends, and several others. Behind every photo that you see, there’s so much that you don’t see. For instance, dozens of resort staff make time from their already packed schedules to help me in my shoots,” he says.
Shuau is no ordinary photographer from the Maldives. He has a much broader vision from which he derives the idea for each and every photo that he shoots. That vision stems from his deep rooted love for nature, especially the natural beauty of the paradise islands of the Maldives. It is with this vision that he also hopes to one day showcase his work at local and international exhibitions, and achieve his grand plan of creating his very own product line that promotes the Maldives as the perfect holiday destination in the world.
White sandy beaches. Crystal clear waters. Lush green vegetation. These are all characteristics that are unique to the Maldives, and so are the defining features of Shuau’s photography. By perfecting his photography skills over the past 10 years, Shuau, through his work, has established himself as a true ambassador of the Maldives. As he puts it, “What better way to show the world the natural beauty we are blessed with than through photographs?”
Nafiu Ahmed on striving for excellence at Le Méridien Maldives Resort
Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is a luxurious haven for travellers seeking an unforgettable experience. At the helm of this paradise is Nafiu Ahmed, the Assistant Director of Rooms, whose journey in the hospitality industry is nothing short of inspiring. In this exclusive interview, Nafiu shares his career progression, what motivates him, and his message to young Maldivians who wish to pursue a career in tourism and hospitality.
Nafiu’s career began in 2009 as a Front Office Agent at Rihiveli Beach Resort (now Rihiveli Maldives Resort). He recalls, “I was always fascinated by the idea of working in a beautiful environment and meeting people from different cultures. My first job at Rihiveli Beach Resort was the perfect opportunity to turn my passion into a profession.” After a brief stint at Rihiveli, Nafiu joined Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa in November 2009 as a Guest Service Duty Manager. Over the years, he climbed the ranks, becoming the Assistant Guest Services Manager in October 2016 and eventually the Front Office Manager in December 2018.
In May 2021, Nafiu took on the role of Front Office Manager at Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa, where he continued to excel. In March 2023, he was promoted to Assistant Director of Rooms, a testament to his dedication and hard work. “I believe that success in the hospitality industry comes from a combination of passion, perseverance, and a willingness to learn. I’ve always been eager to take on new challenges and grow both personally and professionally,” Nafiu shares.
When asked about his motivation, Nafiu explains, “What drives me is the opportunity to create memorable experiences for our guests. I take great pride in ensuring that every guest leaves our resort with a smile on their face and a desire to return.” He adds, “I also find motivation in mentoring and developing the talents of my team members. Watching them grow and succeed in their careers is incredibly rewarding.”
Nafiu’s journey is an inspiration to young Maldivians who aspire to join the tourism and hospitality sector. He offers valuable advice, saying, “The hospitality industry is a dynamic and exciting field with endless opportunities for growth. My message to young Maldivians is to be passionate about what you do, be open to learning, and never be afraid to take on new challenges.”
He continues, “It’s essential to understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, dedication, and a strong work ethic. Embrace every opportunity to learn and grow, and always strive for excellence in everything you do.” Nafiu also emphasises the importance of networking and building strong relationships within the industry. “Networking is crucial in the hospitality sector. It opens doors to new opportunities and helps you stay informed about the latest trends and developments.”
As the Maldivian tourism and hospitality industry continues to thrive, Nafiu believes that young Maldivians have a unique advantage. “Maldivians have a deep understanding of our culture, traditions, and the natural beauty of our islands. This knowledge, combined with a passion for hospitality, can help create truly exceptional experiences for our guests,” he says.
Nafiu’s dedication to his craft is evident in his meticulous attention to detail and commitment to providing exceptional guest experiences. As the newly minted Assistant Director of Rooms, he is responsible for managing the resort’s reputation by ensuring exception guest experiences, ensuring that all aspects of guest rooms are consistent with the brand’s values and ethos. “I work closely with my team to ensure that our guests receive a consistent and memorable experience that aligns with the Le Méridien brand,” he explains.
In an ever-changing industry, Nafiu highlights the importance of adaptability. “The hospitality sector is constantly evolving, and it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve. I’m always looking for ways to improve our services and adapt to new trends and challenges,” he says.
Nafiu Ahmed’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a shining example of passion, dedication, and hard work. His story serves as a powerful reminder that with the right mindset and determination, young Maldivians can achieve great success in the tourism and hospitality sector. As Nafiu puts it, “The sky’s the limit. Believe in yourself, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
Hideaway Beach Resort appoints Vikram Singh as Reservations Manager
Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa has announced Vikram Singh as it’s Reservations Manager.
Having completed his hotel management course at one of India’s most prestigious private hotel management schools, Vikram went on to gain valuable industrial training with the esteemed brand Marriott International. After receiving multiple placements from well-recognised brands such as Oberoi and IHHR Hospitality, he began his career working at the front office, covering all aspects, including reception, concierge, business centre, and airport representative roles.
Vikram’s diverse experience in various roles within the hospitality industry has allowed him to develop a keen eye for detail and exceptional customer service skills. He is passionate about ensuring that every guest has a comfortable and memorable stay at Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa.
Vikram’s journey to becoming the Reservations Manager at Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa (including their new elevated high-end collection of villas – The Signature Collection at Hideaway) has been inspiring. Since joining Hideaway, he has upheld his personal motto that “good is not good enough.” With his unwavering commitment to excellence, Vikram has earned a reputation for providing personalised and unforgettable experiences to guests. As the Reservation Manager, he will continue to uphold these high standards and ensure that every guest at Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa has an exceptional stay.
Before joining Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa, Vikram worked as a Cluster Reservations Advisor and Travel Consultant at Coco Collection, specifically for the exclusive property of the operator – Coco Prive’. In this role, Vikram was solely responsible for handling reservations and pre-arrival arrangements for a select group of guests, including bureaucrats, Hollywood stars, and country leaders. He additionally worked with Minor Hotels as Cluster Reservations Supervisor for five properties before getting promoted to Cluster Assistant Reservations Manager of the five properties.
As a skilled professional with extensive experience in the luxury hospitality industry, Vikram has proven himself to be adept at handling the needs of high-profile guests. His attention to detail and commitment to providing exceptional service have earned him a reputation for excellence.
Nestled in the pristine northern part of the Maldives, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa is a luxurious retreat that offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.
The resort is known for its novel recreation experiences, spacious villas and island, bevy of tantalising dining options, beautiful greenery, and wellness treatments. From fine dining restaurants serving gourmet cuisine to a range of water sports and beach activities, guests can indulge in various experiences during their stay.
Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa is also home to one of the largest island spas in the Maldives, where guests can enjoy a range of pampering treatments and therapies that rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul.
For more information on the inclusions and offers at Hideaway, click here.
OUTRIGGER Maldives Maafushivaru appoints new resident marine biologist
Ocean conservation is a core pillar for OUTRIGGER Resorts & Hotels and the newly appointed resident marine biologist at OUTRIGGER Maldives Maafushivaru Resort has ambitious plans for guest interaction and participation this World Ocean Month, which runs throughout June.
As part of OUTRIGGER Zone – the premier beach resort brand’s global conservation initiative on marine and environmental protection – guests can join in and learn about conservation activities that go beyond World Reef Day on 1 June, World Environment Day on 5 June and World Ocean Day on 8 June.
Danielle Stanley, a dual British-South African national, who grew up in Tanzania, took over her new post with OUTRIGGER Maldives Maafushivaru Resort in March. Throughout June, she and her colleagues will implement a wide-ranging variety of conservation initiatives that guests can join.
Activities include coral planting, whale shark and manta excursions, showing marine-themed documentaries, holding arts and crafts sessions, conducting a school educational visit, and inviting guests to participate in marine wildlife database and research activities.
OUTRIGGER guests help Danielle compile encounter sheets when they join the resort’s excursions to see manta rays and assorted benign sharks in the surrounding waters. She describes the surrounding seas as “one of the top seven shark sanctuaries in the world”. Sightings of whale shark, black tip, white tip, grey reef, nurse and silver tip are quite common.
Danielle adds: “I want people to shift away from negative misconceptions about sharks. They are misunderstood animals. They are truly beautiful and critically important for the health of our oceans.”
Incorporating artistic creativity into her marine work is important. For example, Danielle paints murals and invites kids at the resort to draw aquatic creatures or make art from materials they discover on the beach.
Since taking up her post at OUTRIGGER Maldives Maafushivaru Resort, Danielle has introduced Monday and Thursday evening guest presentations. These are on topics such as Maldives Megafauna, Life On Our Blue Planet, The Ocean: A Carbon Sink, Oceans and Climate Change. There are also specialist presentations on sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays and coral reefs.
Friday nights are also marine documentary nights at the resort.
Danielle, who completed a postgraduate course in marine biology at Newcastle University in England last year, has been inspired by the work of marine conservationist and author Sylvia Earle. “She’s a legend in the world of marine activism,” says Danielle.
She is also inspired by ‘shark girl’ Madison Stewart whose Project Hiu aims to repurpose shark fishing boats in the Indonesian archipelago by turning them into marine excursion vessels run by former shark fin fishermen.
Danielle is also an acclaimed underwater photographer. Her image of a diver in the waters off Tanzania trying to remove a fishing line and hook from the mouth of a whale shark was shortlisted in the Environmental Photographer of the Year Awards 2022.
Regarding World Ocean Month, she says: “I am looking forward to raising awareness on the importance of healthy marine wildlife and ecosystems for our guests, hosts and local communities here in the Maldives. It is critical that we form a sustainable connection between people and our oceans.”
People can find out more about Danielle’s outlook on the marine world in an interview she gave to the Ocean Culture website.
For further information about experiencing the barefoot luxury 81-villa OUTRIGGER Maldives Maafushivaru Resort and participating in its OUTRIGGER Zone conservation initiatives, visit the property on OUTRIGGER.com.
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