Soneva has officially launched its Namoona Baa initiative with the unveiling of the ‘eco-centro’ complex on the island of Maalhos, Maldives.
Namoona Baa sees the islands of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo in the Baa atoll pledging to end the open burning of island waste, in a radical shift towards eco-friendly waste management.
The pledge was made by the presidents of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo island councils, during a workshop on waste held at Soneva Fushi on January 5-8, 2019.
To end the practice of the open burning of waste, which poses a health and environmental hazard and damages tourism, each island will create an ‘eco-centro’ waste-to-wealth centre that will sort, recycle and reuse island waste.
The eco-centro model was pioneered at Soneva Fushi, which is located close to Maalhos. At the resort, food and organic waste, metals, and bottles are chipped, ground down or composted, and turned into things of economic value, such as concrete building blocks and fertiliser. Plastic waste is either recycled or used to create useful new objects.
Soneva has pledged funds from its Soneva Save our Seas programme to support the creation of the eco-centros on Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo. During the January workshop, the island council presidents helped forge a new partnership amongst their islands, Soneva Fushi, and Common Seas, an international NGO dedicated to reducing marine plastic pollution.
The new partnership — part of the international Clean Blue Alliance which supports islands to prevent plastic waste leaking into the ocean — sets a course for Baa atoll, and eventually the Maldives, to become a global leader in halting ocean plastic pollution.
As part of the inauguration of the Maalhos eco-centro, a friendly cricket match took place on the island. Maldivian parliament speaker, former president Mohamed Nasheed, played a game of cricket Tuesday afternoon alongside former Indian international cricketer Harbhajan Singh, and a number of Maldivian cabinet ministers and officials.
The match helped showcase a new recreational area created on the island, which had previously been the site of a rubbish dump. The area has since been transformed into a recreational area under the Namoona Baa initiative.
“What we have brought to our islands in the course of building a life, has taken us over – waste has taken over our reefs, beaches and islands. This waste is now a curse,” Nasheed said.
Prior to playing cricket, President Nasheed, the Maalhos island council president Shujau, and Soneva CEO and co-founder Sonu Shivdasani officially inaugurated the Maalhos eco-centro waste-to-wealth centre – an innovative, waste processing complex modelled on Soneva Fushi’s Eco Centro.
At the complex, the island’s waste is sorted into different categories such as plastic, glass, tin and wood; which is then compacted, crushed, and chipped where possible, and sent for recycling. The new eco-centro has enabled Maalhos to completely stop the open burning of rubbish and waste – making it the first inhabited island in the Maldives to do so.
“The eco-centro is a revolution for Maalhos. After 20 years, we have turned our dump yard into a proper waste centre,” Maalhos island council president Shujau said.
President Nasheed also viewed a photo exhibition highlighting the different components of Namoona Baa, including the local school’s ‘zero-waste’ recycling challenge, surf lessons and tournaments involving local women and girls, and the island’s drinking water plant, Soneva Water, which provides 80 per cent of households with drinking water in reusable bottles, eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles.
“Maalhos can now produce wealth from its waste. This is just the beginning; and we will roll out the eco-centros to Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo this year, and working with the government hopefully to extend the project to the whole of Baa Atoll – making it truly Namoona Baa,” Sonu said.
Dealing with waste, particularly plastic, is a major issue for every island community in the Maldives. Plastic bottles and bags tend to litter streets, island jungle and beaches, while waste is routinely burned in toxic, open bonfires. Human health and guesthouse tourism suffer as a direct result of this practice.
Under the Namoona Baa Initiative, the Maalhos model will be expanded to neighbouring Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, with eco-centro waste-to-wealth centres established on both islands later this year. With government support, it is hoped that the model can be rolled out across the Baa atoll, and eventually the whole of the Maldives.
In August 2019, Common Seas produced a preliminary report for the Maldivian government showing how the island nation could radically reduce the amount of single-use plastic it consumes, and reduce plastic pollution.
In September 2019, at his maiden address to the UN General Assembly, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced a nationwide phase-out of single-use plastics to be implemented by 2023, including phase-outs of single-use plastic bottles and bags. It is one of the most comprehensive phase-outs of single use plastics in the world.
“What we saw in Maalhos today shows how local initiatives can make a significant reduction in the amount of waste an island community produces. Common Seas’ research identifies a handful of policies, that the government could implement quickly, that would go a long way towards meeting President Solih’s commitment to phase out single-use plastics,” Jo Royle, Managing Director of Common Seas, said, during a dinner held at Soneva Fushi after the cricket match.
Soneva currently runs two resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, and luxury yacht, Soneva in Aqua. The world-leading luxury resort operator also operates Soneva Kiri resort in Thailand.
In 1995, the award-winning luxury resort Soneva Fushi set the standard for all desert island barefoot luxury hideaways in the Maldives. Located in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Soneva Fushi pairs Robinson Crusoe fantasy with intelligent luxury.
Sixty-two private villas with their own stretch of beach are hidden amongst dense foliage within touching distance of a pristine coral reef. Eight new one- and two-bedroom Water Retreats, perched above the turquoise depths of the Indian Ocean, are scheduled to open to guests by May. Intuitive service is provided by Mr./Ms. Friday butlers.
Highlights include the open-air Cinema Paradiso, counting Saturn’s rings in the high-tech Observatory, the home-made chocolate and ice cream rooms, five hundred wines to choose from, six different restaurants and countless destination dining options.
In November 2015, Soneva launched a floating villa concept, Soneva in Aqua, a treasure trove children’s Den and a multi-purpose facility encompasses a glass gallery, boutique and studio where guests can learn the art of glass blowing.
Opened in December 2016, Soneva Jani is Soneva’s newest property and the world-leading luxury hotel group’s second resort in the Maldives.
Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru within a 5.6 kilometre lagoon in the Noonu atoll, and has uninterrupted ocean views in all directions. The lagoon is 35 minutes by seaplane from Velana International Airport and one hour by speedboat from Soneva Fushi.
Meaning ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani currently comprises 24 overwater villas and one island villa, with additional villas to be built in phase two. Five islands encircle the lagoon, each one with soft white sands and covered in rich tropical vegetation. Four of the five islands will remain untouched, making Soneva Jani the lowest density development in the Maldives. The overwater villas are spaced across the expansive lagoon, offering privacy and extensive views over the Maldives’ turquoise waters. The island villas will be tucked into the lush greenery, providing the ultimate privacy, and all within steps of the beach.
Soneva Jani’s main guest facilities are located at The Gathering, the heart of the overwater villas. This dramatic three story structure is home to the main dining outlets, in addition to the Soneva Spa, library, retail area and wine cellar. It is located next to the Maldives’ first overwater Observatory.
Facilities on the island include the overwater Cinema Paradiso, the Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth centre, organic gardens, tennis courts, water sports champa and Zuhair’s Beach on a desert island in the lagoon.
Photos: HAWWA AMANY ABDULLA / THE EDITION
Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry
In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.
Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.
After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.
Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.
In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.
As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.
Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.
Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.
As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.
A remarkable tale of wanderlust: Naito Takashi’s 103rd journey to the Maldives
The azure waters of the Maldives have long been a magnet for travelers seeking paradise on Earth. Among these wanderers, one name stands out – Naito Takashi, a Japanese tourist whose boundless enthusiasm for the Maldives has led him to visit this tropical haven a staggering 103 times. His unwavering love for this island nation, coupled with its mesmerizing beauty, has turned his visits into a remarkable testament to the allure of the Maldives.
For the past 24 years, Naito Takashi has visited Maldives between three to five times annually, embarking on a journey that has spanned more than two decades. His tale is one of dedication, passion, and a deep-rooted connection with the captivating landscapes that the Maldives offers. Each visit is not just a vacation; it’s a renewal of his profound relationship with the natural wonders that have captured his heart.
Naito Takashi’s 103rd arrival to the Maldives was met with a warm and heartfelt welcome from none other than the Tourism Minister himself, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom. This gesture symbolizes the deep appreciation the Maldivian people have for their loyal and devoted visitors. The ceremony held aboard the M/V Blue of the Fun Azul Fleet was a fitting tribute to a traveler who has become an honorary ambassador of the Maldives.
The M/V Blue, Fun Azul Fleet, holds special significance for Naito Takashi. As an avid diver, he has found his perfect companion in this cruise boat specialized in diving charters. The vessel offers schedules tailored to explore the best dive spots around the Maldives’ islands, making it an ideal partner for a diving enthusiast like Naito Takashi. The crystal-clear waters of the Maldives have witnessed countless underwater escapades orchestrated by this intrepid traveler.
The Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism has lauded Naito Takashi’s enduring passion for the nation’s beauty. Their tweet acknowledging his multiple visits serves as a testament to his unique and cherished relationship with the country. He has witnessed the ever-changing landscape of the Maldives, from its pristine beaches to its vibrant marine life, and has undoubtedly contributed to the thriving tourism industry.
Naito Takashi’s story also reflects the profound impact that travel can have on an individual’s life. His unwavering commitment to exploring the Maldives has not only enriched his own experiences but has also brought attention to the natural wonders of Maldives. It stands as a reminder that the act of traveling is not just about ticking off destinations from a bucket list; it’s about forming connections, fostering appreciation, and creating lasting memories.
As Naito Takashi continues his journey through the Maldives, his story resonates as an inspiration to fellow travelers and a tribute to the unyielding allure of this island paradise. His 103rd visit is not just a numerical milestone; it’s a celebration of an extraordinary bond between a traveler and a destination, a bond that has grown stronger with each passing year and promises to endure for years to come.
Amari Raaya Maldives opens its gates to paradise
In a grand celebration of luxury and nature’s wonders, Amari Raaya Maldives resort has officially opened its doors, welcoming its first guests to experience a slice of paradise in the Maldives. The exclusive event was attended by the resort’s management team, as well as Atul Chordia, Chairman of Panchshil Realty, the developer behind this magnificent project.
Nestled on a pristine natural island in the heart of the Maldives’ Raa Atoll, Amari Raaya promises to be a sanctuary for travelers seeking an unforgettable escape amidst the archipelago’s breathtaking beauty. From the moment guests arrived via Manta Air seaplane, they were greeted with warm hospitality and a taste of Maldivian culture, as they were presented with traditional cultural items and treated to mesmerizing Maldivian dances.
Atul Chordia, the visionary behind Panchshil Realty, and Yuthachai Charanachitta ONYX Hospitality Group’s CEO marked the official opening of the resort by cutting the ribbon, signifying the culmination of a labor of love and dedication to creating a unique haven for luxury travelers.
With 187 villas offering a variety of luxurious experiences, Amari Raaya ensures that every guest’s stay is truly exceptional. Visitors can choose from an array of accommodation options, including the Beach Villas, Beach Pool Villas, and interconnecting Family Beach Villas, perfect for creating cherished memories with loved ones.
For those seeking unparalleled luxury and seclusion, the Ocean Villas and Ocean Pool Villas provide panoramic views of the azure waters teeming with marine life. Sunset enthusiasts can revel in the breathtaking beauty of the Maldivian dusk from the privacy of their villas, opting for the Sunset Ocean Villas or Sunset Ocean Pool Villas, promising an unforgettable experience.
Amari Raaya Maldives goes beyond offering captivating villas; it has curated an extraordinary culinary journey for its guests. With eight distinct dining options, visitors can embark on a gastronomic adventure that caters to every palate. From the signature Amaya Food Gallery, serving famous street food and hawker delights, to the rooftop bar Ampers&nd, where guests can savor sunset snacks and cocktails, the resort promises to delight all epicureans. Poolside Italian favorites, freshly caught seafood infused with Maldivian and Asian flavors, and the fun and playful experience of enjoying mobile snacks and drinks served from a bus all add to the culinary magic of the resort.
In the evenings, guests can find a sense of community and immerse themselves in the local culture through live music, traditional Boduberu nights, and regular cultural events and festivities, making every moment at Amari Raaya Maldives an enriching and memorable one.
Amari Raaya Maldives is developed by Panchshil Realty, a name synonymous with excellence in luxury real estate in India. The resort is managed by Onyx Hospitality, renowned for its exceptional and personalized hospitality experiences.
With its official opening, Amari Raaya Maldives invites travelers from around the world to discover the allure of the Maldives in unparalleled comfort and style. As guests arrive at this oasis of luxury and natural splendor, they are sure to find themselves enchanted by the timeless beauty of the islands and immersed in an experience that will linger in their hearts forever.
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