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South Ari Atoll: One of the best places to see whale sharks

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The whale shark is the largest and heaviest fish ever seen in our oceans, and its existence dates back to more than 65 million years. Yet, we still know very little about these mysterious gentle giants.

Despite the broad distribution of whale sharks in tropical and subtropical areas of the globe, there are only about 20 locations where regular sightings of these creatures have been reported in coastal areas, including the Maldives, South Africa, Mozambique, Mexico, Belize and Australia, and the majority of these locations represent seasonal “feeding aggregations” for whale sharks, which are seen only for a few months each year.

In contrast, whale sharks are year-round residents of South Ari Atoll in the Maldives, which is a Marine Protected Area (SAMPA), making this a very special place. Maafushivaru is blessed to be located in such a unique part of this beautiful island nation indeed. Snorkelers and divers are frequently surprised by the colossal and magical presence of this iconic species, with the vast majority of encounters happening very close to the surface.

There are a few global facts we know about whale sharks. They are gentle, slow-moving filter feeders, feeding mainly on zooplankton, and the largest on record was reportedly 20 metres in length with a mouth that can be up to 1.5 metres wide! They can live up to 100 years, and interestingly enough, each individual whale shark has a unique pattern of spots and stripes, much like a human fingerprint, which can be used to identify it.

Out of the over 9,700 whale sharks identified in the global whale shark database, around 2/3 are juvenile males. Sightings of females and adults of both sexes (and babies) are very rare. Very little is also known about their reproduction and life history, and no one has yet seen a whale shark mating or giving birth! Whilst we still lack information about the global whale shark population, the species is considered endangered, having suffered a population decline of more than 50 per cent in the past three generations according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Maafushivaru collaborates with the Maldivian Whale Shark Research Project (MWSRP), a non-profit organisation, which carries out whale shark research to understand their population dynamics in the Maldives. Every time the resort takes its guests snorkelling or diving with whale sharks, ID photos and sighting data are submitted to the MWSRP. This means everyone can participate as a “citizen scientist” and help with the global conservation of this threatened species.

These collaborations have allowed the MWSRP to identify 391 whale sharks in the Maldives, of which 86.2 per cent are juvenile males. In addition, the data indicates that re-sightings of individual whale sharks at SAMPA are very high and over long periods of time. For example, the individual whale shark WS071 has been seen 238 times in 10 years. Therefore, SAMPA appears to offer a critical habitat and a global significant aggregation of whale sharks in the pre-mature stage, which shows no seasonality.

In the last couple of months, the team at Maafushivaru has had 10 incredible encounters with whale sharks in South Ari Atoll, including a few re-sightings, during snorkelling and diving safaris. The team has also been very lucky to identify a new juvenile male, which had not been previously registered in the MWSRP database. His name is Javaahiru (jewel in the local language Dhivehi) and it has been seen twice in two months!

Diving and snorkelling with these gentle giants is not only a truly breathtaking experience but also a unique opportunity to contribute to the much needed conservation of these amazing creatures.

Set in the picturesque South Ari Atoll and accessible by a scenic seaplane flying over the breathtaking archipelago of Maldives and its mysterious atoll formations, Maafushivaru is an island that charms guests with its dazzling turquoise lagoon, knitted with lush flora and wide sandy beaches. A stone’s throw away is Lonubo, its very own exclusive-use desert island, all set to provide couples with an intimate island experience.

The resort, which is managed by leading local resort operator Universal Resorts, offers a choice of three distinct villas. Beach Villas sit on the postcard perfect beach with views out to the sea, while the chic Water Villas offer panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. Families or friends travelling together will find the Pool Villas ideal as they come with two separate villas with a shared private pool. All villas are fine-tuned with hints of modern architecture and design.

Maafushivaru’s main restaurant overlooks the lagoon and offers a buffet of international and local flavours. 135° East is a contemporary Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurant with its own overwater pavilion. The Library Lounge coffee shop serves a range of tea and specialty coffees. There is also bar and a wine chiller.

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Uncover the Gems and Untold Tales of the Maldives’ Baa Atoll Through Personalised and Free-Spirited Adventures with The Nautilus Maldives

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When envisioning the Maldives, one often conjures images of pristine white sands and  luxurious resorts. However, beyond the typical tourist attractions lies a realm of adventure,  cultural immersion, and natural wonders waiting to be explored. The Nautilus Maldives, an  ultra-luxury private island hideaway, is crafting extraordinary journeys in the captivating Baa  Atoll, inviting its guests to embrace escapism through immersive cultural experiences. 

Inspired by The Nautilus’s brand hallmarks of the Art of Bohemia and Free Spirited  Adventures, guests are encouraged to step outside their comfort zones and indulge in  transformative experiences. Through encounters with local personalities, guests gain an  insight into island life, delving into cultural roots, traditions, nature, language, cuisine, and  more. 

The Nautilus prides itself on tailoring bespoke experiences to suit the unique preferences of  its guests—whether adventurers, culture enthusiasts, or families seeking more than a  beachside retreat. Guests embark on one of The Nautilus’s luxurious yachts, exploring  treasured spots of the Atoll and creating unforgettable memories that will linger in their  hearts long after their journey ends. 

Discover the roots at the Kendhoo 

Nestled in the northwest of the Baa Atoll, Kendhoo carries a rich tapestry of experiences  weaving together history and culture. Once a vital hub along ancient maritime routes,  Kendhoo’s vibrant cultural landscape is shaped by centuries of influences from Indian, Arab,  and Southeast Asian merchants, as well colonial conquests. Guests can wander its streets, 

indulging in local culinary treats with distinct flavours, and exploring landmarks like the 800- year old house marking the place of prayers of Abdul Barakaath Yoosuf al Barbary, a renowned Islamic scholar. 

Weave your memories of the Maldives into art at Kihaadhoo 

On the beautiful island of Kihaadhoo, guests can immerse themselves in the therapeutic art  of coconut leaf weaving, a cherished tradition passed down through generations. Through  hands-on experiences with the island’s residents, guests can learn to create baskets, hats,  and decorative pieces, fostering a sense of cultural identity and belonging.

www.thenautilusmaldives.com 

Traditional lacquer masters at Thulhaadhoo 

Venturing to the southern tip of Baa Atoll, guests discover Thulhaadhoo island, renowned for  its exquisite craftsmanship in traditional lacquerware. Here, artisans share their secrets of this  ancient art of decorating items with vibrant colours and intricate designs inspired by the  Maldives’ marine life and lush tropics, which has been passed down through generations. 

Guests can even try their hand at creating these unique art pieces, serving as precious souvenir  of their tropical getaway. 

Exploration of the Deep Blue Waters of Dhonfanu 

At Dhonfanu, one of Baa Atoll’s premier diving spots, vibrant coral gardens and diverse marine  life awaits beneath azure waters. In season, there’s also a high chance for guests to encounter  graceful manta rays and majestic whale sharks, igniting the senses with excitement and awe. 

Delve into Poetic Ambiance of Dharavandhoo 

Guests can make a stop at Dharavandhoo island, which boasts a rich tradition of Maldivian  poetry, where locals celebrate history and folklore through the art of storytelling, expressing  emotions, beliefs, and aspirations in the most poetic ways. These enchanting verses, inspired  by the islands’ natural beauty, love, nature, and daily island life, transport listeners to a world  where ocean rhythms intertwine poetic imagery.  

To craft your own cultural journey across Maldivian islands, contact The Nautilus at hello@thenautilusmaldives.com and begin creating your ultimate bohemian dream escape. For more information visit www.thenautilusmaldives.com.

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InterContinental Maldives invites guests to third Manta Retreat in March 2024

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After the successful launch of the Manta Retreat in 2022, the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort is gearing up for its third Manta Retreat, scheduled to take place from March 9th to 12th, 2024. This unique experience offers guests an opportunity to delve into the world of manta rays, their natural habitat, and the conservation efforts led by the Manta Trust.

The Manta Retreat, designed for travelers seeking an extra dimension to their vacations, encourages participants to explore and understand these majestic creatures while contributing to ocean conservation. The retreat will be led by Meral Hafeez, the Manta Trust base leader at InterContinental Maldives, who will guide participants through an immersive experience.

The focus of the third Manta Retreat will be on meeting the manta rays that inhabit the surrounding waters of the island, emphasizing their protection and ocean conservation. Meral Hafeez expressed her enthusiasm for sharing the wonders of Maldivian marine life, stating, “I can’t wait for everyone to experience their first manta ray and the wonders of the deep!”

This year’s retreat coincides with the Maamunagau Manta Season in March, where young manta rays gather in the resort’s lagoon, offering a unique opportunity for up-close encounters. The Maamunagau Lagoon serves as a crucial research ground for the Manta Trust team, allowing guests to actively participate in the identification and naming of manta rays through the Manta ID workshop.

The Manta Retreat package, priced at USD 1490 per guest, includes two manta ray snorkeling trips, a guided house reef snorkeling experience, the chance to name and adopt a manta ray, and various workshops covering manta rays, plankton, and coral restoration.

For certified divers, dedicated dive spots around the resort provide opportunities to observe the natural manta ray ‘spa’ at cleaning stations, showcasing the fascinating symbiosis of marine life in the Maldives.

The purpose of the Manta Retreat goes beyond education and exploration; it also serves as a fundraiser to support the valuable work of the Manta Trust. Guests staying at InterContinental Maldives can enjoy the resort’s luxurious facilities and accommodations while those not participating in the retreat have plenty of entertainment options.

To book the Manta Retreat or for more information, visit InterContinental Maldives Sustainability or contact the reservations team at reservations.icmaldives@ihg.com or on WhatsApp at +960 730 9300.

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Football legend Lukas Podolski lights up Heritance Aarah with friendly match against Maldivian youth

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In a heartwarming display of football’s unifying spirit, German legend Lukas Podolski traded the grand stadiums for the sun-kissed shores of Heritance Aarah, Maldives, to play a friendly match with a team of eager young players from Meedhu Island. The event saw Podolski donning a custom Heritance Aarah jersey and taking to the pitch alongside the spirited Maldivian children.

More than just a friendly kickabout, the match was a platform for learning and inspiration. The young athletes showcased their skills and learned new tricks from the seasoned pro. The air crackled with a distinctive camaraderie as Podolski’s guidance and encouragement blended seamlessly with the children’s infectious joy.

As a memento of this extraordinary encounter, each participant received a personally signed jersey from Podolski, adding a priceless touch to the occasion. The football star’s presence transformed the friendly match into an unforgettable experience, etching itself indelibly into the memories of the young players and their families.

Podolski later took to his Facebook, sharing photos from the event with the caption, “Football is our global game. A pleasure to meet you all thanks @oneluxury.de & @heritanceaarah #LP10 #football #strassenkicker #enjoy #love.” The post resonated with fans worldwide, celebrating the power of sports to connect people across cultures and backgrounds.

Heritance Aarah, a Premium All-Inclusive resort, offers an idyllic setting for the ultimate getaway, presenting a diverse range of experiences. From the culinary delights crafted by award-winning chefs to the exploration of the captivating over and underwater wonders of the Raa Atoll, the resort sets a remarkable tone for luxury and adventure. With five restaurants included in the Premium All-Inclusive package, exclusive bars, and access to Hatha and Baani with supplement charges, Heritance Aarah offers a holistic experience. The spa and wellness facilities, featuring a hot tub and a fitness center, further enhance the overall well-being of guests, who can also enjoy various activities.

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