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Sarudhaaru Dhonbe: First Scuba Diver from Maldives



By Hamza Khaleel – The photos are in black and white and the world is dusting itself from the second world war. In the tiny islands of Maldives with a population of less than 60,000 people, Sarudhaaru Dhonbe’ or Ismail as it says on his national identity card, was taking his plunge to ensure his survival.

Dhonbe’ was a passionate energetic and artistic young man with a natural passion for the environment. His life has always been simple and introverted. His ideas and his dreams but were nothing less than those of a true visionary. Mild mannered but observant Dhonbe used to work for the Maldives National Security services. His job provided him with very little opportunity to learn or create but soon, in time, his natural instincts to reach to the inner soul of a true artist overcame him.

Due to the world war and the limited development of the country, food was at a shortage, and one who did not fend for himself often went hungry. Dhonbe’ decided to take fate into his own hands and with such a vast ocean surrounding the island it was obvious that the first option would be fishing. With crimson waters abundant with life surrounding the capital island Male’ of the Maldives archipelago, he had the whole ocean to hunt from. In his fishing/spearing expeditions, he was also simultaneously feeding his artistic hunger for colors shapes and images that filled the underwater; and it was true love that he found.

Dhonbe loved the ocean and found it natural to dive to about 20 meters easily and breath hold for about 3 minutes. His friends from the neighborhood joined him occasionally. Soon it became a passion and he found himself combining the two loves of his life. The ocean and painting and sketching the beauty of nature.

The passionate ocean lover was first given an underwater mask by a tourist which turned out to be too big for him. So he decided to let his handicraft creativeness come to use and designed his own underwater mask and snorkel. This mask was so well designed, with glass and rubber tires as a seal; the Maldivian Army came to hear of it and asked him to produce 60 more masks, for them. Dhonbe’ also designed his own spear gun. He designed it with hard flexible rubber from old tires, which still has its marks on his foot, reminiscent from all the times when he loaded the gun using his feet to pull the rubber. Dhonbe’ has speared more than any youth could probably claim to today, but for Dhonbe’, it was not only about the hunting, but so much more. It was the understanding of the life underwater and the creatures and their habitats and their behaviors. Even today, Dhonbe’ can tell you which cave to swim to in a certain atoll of Maldives where at a certain period of the monsoon one can endure watching some biological chef-d’oeuvre spawn in colors that you could never even imagine. His understanding of the creatures he hunted was his respect for them. Unfortunately this is a lacking attitude amongst the new generation fishermen who fish for fun and barely know their catch.

In the early 1960’s when the first tourists started coming to the Maldives in search of exotic island paradises, Dhonbe met the German tourist Mr.Rodney Jonklass. Mr. Jonklass, an avid diver and spear fisherman and explorer from neighboring Sri Lanka; exposed Dhonbe’ to spear fishing and also handed him the first factory made underwater mask. Later on Dhonbe’ was also lucky enough to meet the world re-known Dive Expedition Researcher, Professor Hans Hass, from Germany. It was Professor Hass who came to the Maldives, and intrigued Dhonbe’ to scuba dive and traveled with Dhonbe’ through out the Maldives exploring reefs, caves and different species of underwater life .With the dates in place it can be safely said that Prof. Hass was in the Maldives in 1957 for the shooting of the underwater documentary “Travelers Tales: The Undersea World Of Adventure” which was aired on BBC and other International Channels as well. He later published a book called “Expedition into the Unknown” in testimonial of his time spent in the Maldives.

When Prof. Hass went back, he left a spear gun, scuba gear and a diving compressor with Dhonbe’ but most importantly, techniques and tools to explore the oceans. Though Prof. Hass did not conduct a licensed scuba diving class for Dhonbe; he definitely gave the knowledge and explained the know how. In the next few years Dhonbe’ had traveled to most of the Maldives and swam, hunted, dived and scuba dived at some of the most luscious underwater gardens the world had to offer.

His memory is fond to remember the moments he once poked an electric ray near the house reef of Male’. It left electric shocking feelings that leaves jovial pictures of his youth engraved forever in his memory. Dhonbe’ also could never forget the first moment he saw a dark shadow coming towards him in the waters of Koattey Area (Addu Atoll, Maldives) which turned out to be a whale shark. The scientific significance of spotting a whale shark in that region during the early 1970’s could hold important information on the changing patterns of whale shark habitation in the Maldivian waters.

At 83 years old he still designs, paints and sketches the beautiful creatures and environment he had come to love and call home to. He never owned a camera or even used one underwater but his memory captures and his hands encompasses the images as if it was a picture. Dhonbe’ had no formal training in the field of diving nor painting but his life and work has affected so many a new younger scuba divers by encouraging and assisting them to be knowledgeable and interested in this field. His impact on the diving community of Maldives as well as the artists community will always be remembered as one who touched the hearts of so many. His plunge into new dreams has opened the hearts and minds of so many a youth and touched their lives in ways that entwined them and made them one with nature and fall in love with the beauty of the underwater life. His respect for all that is living lead him to believe his own saying that; “even if a creature like a sea urchin could harm you, you can still admire and love it”.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in Scuba Tribe magazine and republished with the permission of the author.

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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An Insider

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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