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10 Things I Love About The Maldives : Etienne de Villiers



By Etienne de Villiers

1. Travelling In Style: Travelling around the island nation takes on a very Miami Vice mode as you hop from a speedboat onto a seaplane or a multimillion dollar yacht. My journey in the greatest paradise on earth is always off to a luxurious start as the speedboat glides over jewel-coloured waters, weaving between the postcard-perfect setting of the uninhabited islands of the majestic Indian Ocean, or during a scenic seaplane flight I look down in awe at the hundreds of islands dotted like water lilies in an azure pond.

2. Drumming Up Local Culture: Traditional Maldivian activities invite you to delve beneath the surface of this fascinating culture with experiences that stir the senses and arouse the imagination. I love tuning into the authentic rhythm of Maldivian life by learning how to play the Bodu Beru drums, an art that has evolved over years to refer to the music itself. As the slow tempo gradually reaches a crescendo, those around are enticed to join in song and dance, affording a glimpse into this island nation’s history.

3. Savouring The Freshest Maldivian Coconut: Every morning, walking through an old coconut plantation on a sandy path to my office, my visual and taste senses are astounded as barefoot tree climbers serve freshly picked coconuts to anyone who passes by. I watch in amazement their agility as they masterfully ascend the trunk and minutes later descend to open the coconut shell expertly, using only a small cutting tool, for me to savour the quenching water and sample the delicious young flesh with a carved natural spoon.

4. Unique Insights Into Typical Maldivian Islander Existence The Maldives is so much more than just luxury resorts – more than 300 000 people call it home. From many of the resort islands you can take a short boat ride to a nearby local island to experience the traditional Maldivian way of life up close and personal. Try the ‘short eats’ of local sweets and savouries which inevitably are coconut or tuna-based, and often very spicy. Look out for Thun’du kunaa or mat weaving, one of the most prominent of Maldivian crafts, and traditional lacquer ware. In the island nation’s bustling capital, Male, visit the Old Friday Mosque with its famed fine lacquer work and elaborate woodcarvings, and the bustling fish market.

5. Story Time In Paradise: Our Anantara resorts are a paradise for story collecting travellers and our guests can enrich themselves in a mystical afternoon of Maldivian storytelling at the Coconut Grove of the exclusive Naladhu Maldives resort with the Bodu Katheeb (Island Chief), Didi, as their gracious host. Here we are enriched with tales of heroes and spirits who traversed the waters of the Maldives’ atolls in days of old, affording a fascinating first-hand glimpse into this island nation’s history. Inherently special, these tales are passed on from generation to generation in the same artful expression that has been used for centuries.

6. A Dhoni For Two: As the day slowly drifts away with the setting sun, you can indulge in the ultimate romantic experience when you sail into a tapestry of unimaginable colours with a Dhoni, a traditional Maldivian sailboat. Ostensibly designed for romance, it is perfect for intimate sunset sailing with a significant other, sipping on champagne and sampling delectable canapés whilst simply lying back and relishing the tropical breeze on an endless ocean at the end of yet another perfect day in the greatest paradise on earth.

7. Symbols Of Love: I’m a romantic at heart and although I’m definitely not planning nuptials anytime soon, the Maldives will definitely be my first choice should that day ever arrive. The resorts offer an endless array of idyllic options, from a sandy white beach to a luxury yacht or even an underwater wedding, but I will opt for a ceremony on a deserted island, featuring various symbols of love expressed in rituals, such as flame, floral vine, sand and rings rituals, preceded over by the Bodu Katheeb (Island Chief).

8. Hanifaru Bay: Hanifaru Bay lies within the Baa Atoll, 20 minutes by speedboat from our Anantara Kihavah Villas resort, and is one of the few places on earth where whale sharks gather to mate. In June 2011 UNESCO declared the Baa Atoll a Biosphere Reserve. Though you literally only have to walk into the water in front of your resort villa to swim with turtles or see a school of dolphins go by, the short trip to Hanifaru Bay takes you a world away when you swim with hundreds of mantas. Within a few weeks the whale sharks will return, and I will definitely be the first one on that speedboat.

9. Night Fishing: All the resorts offer sunset fishing excursions. But nothing beats joining weather-beaten local fishermen for a night’s fishing on their traditional Dhoni (Maldivian fishing boat)! It’s an ancient scene, one which plays out every night of the year here in the Indian Ocean. They start by catching reef fish with live bait on a hand line just off the island. As darkness descends across the ocean the Dhoni steers further out to sea, where the recent catch becomes the bait for night’s harvest of tuna, snapper, dorado and wahoo. Many fishermen still use the moon and stars to navigate – you’re unlikely to see a GPS on a local fishing boat.

10. An Underwater Paradise Unlike Any Other: Imagine your own aquarium filled with Oriental sweetlips, spotted eagle rays, red-tailed and butterfly fish in a warm, deserted lagoon. All you need are goggles and flippers, stepping into the ocean right in front of your villa and there striped lionfish, moray eel, parrot fish and bright orange clownfish look for a meal around the corals, while just a bit further away trevallies chase whatever they can. Neon fusiliers and surgeonfish are all around with midnight and two-spot snappers in the distance. Linger here long enough and your patience might be rewarded with a glimpse of an eagle ray or turtle hurrying by. This is truly the greatest paradise on earth!

Editor’s note: PR guru Etienne De Villiers has spent more time in five-star hotel and resorts than elsewhere. After leading PR team for number of luxury hotels in South Africa and Middle East, Etienne joined Anantara Resorts as the Area PR Manager for its 4 resorts in Maldives. He led the PR team of award winning Anantara Kihivah Villas for its successful launch in 2010.

An Insider

Oriana Migliaccio: The Marine Guardian Transforming Conservation in the Maldives



At the heart of Anantara’s commitment to tailored luxury and authentic experiences lies the passionate work of Oriana Migliaccio, a marine biologist whose devotion to oceanic preservation resonates deeply in the sky-blue waters of the Maldives. Oriana, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer with a PhD in Life and Biomolecular Sciences, embodies the spirit of discovery and conservation at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, Anantara Veli Maldives Resort, and Naladhu Private Island Maldives.

Raised on the sun-kissed shores of Naples, Italy, Oriana’s early years were steeped in the wonders of the Mediterranean Sea, a rich biodiversity hotspot. She frequently spent winter breaks at the aquarium. “It is this deep love for the marine world that got me interested from an early age in pursuing a career in marine biology,” she reflects. Following her passion, Oriana earned her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Marine Biology in Italy. Her journey then took her to the Maldives for an additional master’s in Tropical Marine Biology, where the allure of tropical environments steered her focus towards specialising in coral reef biology and conservation. This newfound dedication culminated in earning her PhD in the United Kingdom, solidifying her commitment to preserving marine ecosystems.

Oriana’s expertise, honed in the jungles of Borneo as a Conservation Manager and Dive Leader, now flourishes in the Maldives. Her initiatives span coral reef restoration, sea turtle protection, and sustainable practices, all pivotal to the region’s marine ecosystem. A crowning achievement is her creation of the “Reef Hero” PADI specialty, a course designed to educate divers on coral conservation, nurturing a new wave of ocean stewards.

“I created the ‘Reef Hero’ course during my time as a marine biologist and dive instructor in Malaysian Borneo. This course, focusing on coral reef restoration and rehabilitation, was inspired by my diving students’ desire to positively impact the oceans they love exploring. Witnessing the adverse effects of marine issues like debris, over-fishing, pollution, and global warming, this inspired me to create guidelines that can be used by recreational divers to save coral reefs around the world.” – Oriana Migliaccio

In April 2023, Oriana joined Anantara, where her role transcends traditional boundaries, as she immerses guests in a world of marine wonders through various interactive initiatives:

  • Marine Talk on Coral Reef & Marine Life: Weekly educational sessions that spotlight the vital role of coral reefs and the importance of responsible diving.
  • Discovering Marine Biology for Kids: Fun, interactive lessons that spark young minds’ curiosity about the underwater world.
  • Workshop on Repurposing Ghost Nets: Transforming abandoned fishing nets into bracelets, raising awareness about their impact on marine life.
  • Marine Biologist Corner: An open forum for guests to engage with Oriana, deepening their understanding of marine conservation.
  • Visit the Coral Nursery: Snorkeling adventures to coral nurseries, where guests explore coral species and participate in the resort’s coral restoration efforts.
  • Coral Adoption: Encouraging guests to play an active role in coral restoration, either by planting corals or sponsoring a coral rope, and tracking their growth.

“In the Maldives, a country faced with pressing environmental challenges, sustainability and environmental conservation are not just trends. They are a necessity,” Oriana emphasises, outlining the long-term goals for sustainability and marine conservation at Anantara’s Maldives resorts. “The survival of this tropical paradise is intertwined with adopting sustainable practices and reducing the anthropogenic impact on the environment.”

Following the devastating coral bleaching event of 2016, Oriana has been instrumental in Anantara’s HARP initiative (Holistic Approach to Reef Protection), aimed at rehabilitating damaged coral reefs. With over 10,000 corals grown and planted since 2017, the project is on course to double this number, enhancing marine biodiversity. Guests are invited to become coral gardeners, contributing to the project’s success while receiving progress updates on their adopted “baby corals”.

Collaborating with esteemed organisations like the Olive Ridley Project, Manta Trust, and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program, Oriana’s work includes a photo-ID programme for studying sea turtles, manta rays, and whale sharks. She invites guests to join as citizen scientists, aiding in data collection during their underwater explorations.

Oriana Migliaccio’s contributions reflect the essence of Anantara’s luxury experience — unique, immersive, and deeply connected to the local environment. Her passion and dedication are not just preserving the ocean’s beauty but also inspiring guests to become active participants in its conservation, ensuring its wonder endures for generations to come.

For more information on Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, please visit 

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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.

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An Insider

Hamzath Ameen: Elevating human resources



In the fast-paced and thriving hospitality industry of the Maldives, where exceptional service and guest satisfaction are paramount, there are individuals who stand out for their dedication, expertise, and leadership qualities. Hamzath Ameen is making his mark as a proficient human resources professional in island resorts of the Maldives. With an impressive career trajectory and a passion for excellence, Hamzath has become a respected figure in the industry.

Hamzath Ameen was born and raised in Addu Atoll, a region known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture. Following his schooling, he pursued his higher education at Cyryx College in Male’, where he successfully completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Management. This academic foundation laid the groundwork for his future career in the dynamic world of hospitality.

Hamzath embarked on his professional journey at Dhonveli Beach Resort, where he assumed the role of Accounts Officer. This initial foray into the hospitality industry allowed him to gain valuable insights into the financial aspects of resort operations and the importance of maintaining accurate records and efficient systems.

Eager to expand his horizons and broaden his skill set, Hamzath sought opportunities at various reputable companies and resorts throughout the Maldives. His determination and exceptional work ethic caught the attention of industry professionals, leading to his appointment as the Human Resources Officer at Furaveri Island Resort. Recognizing his potential, Ameen quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager, and subsequently, Human Resources Manager.

During his tenure at Furaveri Island Resort, Hamzath made significant contributions to the establishment’s human resources department. He spearheaded various initiatives to enhance employee engagement, streamline recruitment processes, and foster a positive work culture. Under his leadership, the resort witnessed an increase in employee satisfaction and a notable reduction in turnover rates, solidifying Hamzath’s reputation as a skilled people manager.

In 2022, Hamzath accepted an exciting new opportunity and joined Rihiveli Maldives Resort as the Human Resources Manager. With his wealth of experience and proven track record, he assumed a pivotal role in overseeing the resort’s human resources functions, including recruitment, training and development, performance management, and employee relations. Hamzath’s strategic approach and ability to build strong relationships with staff and management alike have made him an invaluable asset to the resort.

Hamzath Ameen’s journey from an Accounts Officer to a respected Human Resources Manager exemplifies his commitment to personal growth and professional excellence. Through his hard work, dedication, and leadership abilities, he has successfully carved a niche for himself in the competitive Maldivian hospitality industry. Hamzath’s passion for nurturing talent, fostering positive work environments, and delivering exceptional guest experiences continues to make a lasting impact on the resorts he has served.

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