Recreation

Must-see places and can’t miss things to do from Malé to Bali

Scuba Diving in the Maldives

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Scuba Dive Site in Maldives Baa Atoll

AN UNDERWATER DREAM COME TRUE

Don’t let the name deceive you. Diving in the ‘MalDIVES’ is anything but mal! Teeming with marine life, the 1,190 tiny islands of the Maldives lie scattered across 800 kilometres of Indian Ocean like jewels escaping from an overturned treasure chest. And they offer some of the best diving in the world.

As the Indian Monsoon Current sweeps across this equatorial island chain, it brings with it nutrients that feed the soft corals and sponges found clinging to rock walls. Caverns and overhangs dotted with mysterious, vibrantly coloured creatures line the ocean channels, while rock pinnacles extend to the water’s surface within crystalline lagoons.

These coralene islands are home to some 900 species of fish. While manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and eels co-exist below the waves, stunningly white beaches provide a dreamscape for visitors looking to get away from it all.

The blissful Baa Atoll is a prime pick for when it’s time to tick ‘Diving in the Maldives’ off your bucket list.

“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish” – Jaques Cousteau

Diving Baa atoll is an experience like no other. Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in June 2011, it is the jewel on the necklace that is the Maldives. The atoll is situated on the west of the archipelago and experiences far fewer visitors in comparison to its southerly neighbours. From above, the 61 islands – half of which measure less than 10 hectares – resemble extra-terrestrial orbs spread out over a deep blue canvas. Close up, they offer heavenly visions overflowing with stunning natural beauty.

Our top pick in Baa Atoll is the less-than-one-kilometre-long Amilla Fushi, which translates to ‘your island home’. This quintessential paradise island boasts some of the and can be reached in under a half an hour by seaplane from Malé International Airport. From Amilla Fushi, visitors have the opportunity to dive any of the 30 sites of the Baa atoll, including the Blue Hole and world-renowned Hanifaru Bay.

To guide you in your underwater explorations is HUB (Home of the Underwater Biosphere) in partnership with luxury dive pioneers Dive Butler International. Their team includes an international group of highly qualified marine conservationists and dive professionals who can tailor excursions to meet your needs.

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Healthy Holiday: Detox in Lombok

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Sira Beach, Lombok

Dreaming of a tropical holiday to cleanse your mind and body from stress, chemicals and environmental toxins? Thanks to the runaway success of ‘Eat Pray Love’, everyone associates Bali with yoga retreats, soul-searching and D.I.Y. detox.

But what about its more secluded neighbor island Lombok? In many ways, this lush evergreen landscape with its pristine white-sand beaches are even better! Crack open a coconut and drink to healthy holiday paradise found.

Take a look at these tips for choosing the right accommodation, nutrition program, fitness activities and spa treatments to create your unique wellness vacation in Lombok.

The Anandita Lombok villa staff serving fresh juice

Located on picture-perfect Sira Beach on the north shore of Lombok, The Anandita has all the elements for a healthy holiday. This private sea-front villa has four luxurious bedroom suites, sprawling grounds, private swimming pool, a deserted white-sand beach and attentive staff at your service.

 

Healthy Hydration

Hydration is key. Drink a half liter of water when you wake up and at least three liters throughout the day. The heat and humidity can easily dehydrate you –  especially when you’re active.

Try Jamu, a traditional Indonesian healing and detoxifying drink used to cure everything from weight gain to flu. All you need is a shot-glass-sized serving. The main ingredient is turmeric, whose powerful healing properties include helping your liver with the detoxifying process. Make a trip to the attractive Tanjung Traditional Market to buy some fresh or powdered turmeric to add to any drink.

Avocado-banana juice is an excellent power boost. The healthy fats in avocado help you to slim down while banana fights against bloating. Remember to order your fresh fruit juice without sugar, as it’s normally added.

Sip on a young coconut while watching the sunset. It goes without saying, fruity cocktails are a no-go during detox. Coconut water is a delicious refreshing drink packed with vitamins and minerals.

 

Island Nutrition

Good news! You don’t have to restrict yourself to a juice-only fast during your healthy tropical getaway.

As any D.I.Y. detox-er already knows, short-term low-calorie cleanses are not successful programs for detoxification and long-term weight loss, as they can rob your body of vital nutrients and cause you to lose weight through fluid rather than fat loss.

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Where in the World? The Biggest Asian Elephant Gathering

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The Gathering at Minneriya National Park

Elephants are amazing. There’s something about their grey leathery hides, their tiny soulful eyes, their wispy mop-like tails and their playful trunks. Oh, and I love it when they run!

Given my penchant for Pachyderms I couldn’t be living in a better place than Sri Lanka, land of the Asian Elephant. There are thought to be around 2,500-3,500 wild elephants on this 65,000-square-kilometre island, mostly living in protected national parks and reserves, which are connected via ‘elephant corridors’ – forested passageways.

 

Minneriya National Park elephant reserve

One of the world’s most significant elephant phenomena happens in Minneriya National Park – a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Every year, from the beginning of the dry season – usually late August – groups of elephants start to congregate around the receding waters of the Minneriya Tank, a vast and ancient waterbody spanning some 4670 acres, which was built by the ‘tank-building’ King Mahasena in the 3rd century. This tank at the centre of the reserve never empties so when other drinking sources become scarce, elephants find their way here to drink, bathe and feast on the young shoots of grass that flourish on the edges of the tank as the water recedes.

This phenomenon, which usually lasts until the monsoon begins in October, is known as The Gathering. The term was coined less than a decade ago by renowned Sri Lankan naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijerathne, and since then crowds of visitors have come to observe these majestic creatures in their natural setting. As many as 300 elephants have been recorded at the tank at any one time; it’s thought to be the biggest gathering of Asian elephants in the world. Minneriya forms part of an elephant corridor that links Kaudulla and Wasgamuwa national parks, all located in Sri Lanka’s North Central region.

 

Minneriya National Park See Asian elephants at the gathering

Last September I was lucky enough to witness this natural spectacle for myself. The afternoon is the best time of day to observe the elephants, so I was at the park by 2.30pm to meet up with my driver and tracker. Jeep drivers double up as safari guides, though trackers (some are former poachers) are often more experienced at sighting wildlife. Luckily, mine spoke English.

We drove slowly, taking in the park’s scenery as our guide scanned the forest for any signs of movement.

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Top Five Phuket Day Trips

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Phuket Thailand Elephants

Phuket’s golden sands, warm seas and sensational sunsets have long lured visitors from around the world, but there’s a lot more to this tropical island paradise than the beautiful beaches that fringe it’s shores, glittering temples, majestic wildlife, breathtaking seascapes, underwater wonders and a fascinating cultural heritage are yours to discover.

Here are the five essential Phuket day trips.

#1 Phang Nga Bay

James Bond Island Phuket

JAMES BOND ISLAND – IMAGE CREDIT: TINGGLY.COM

Beckoning just off Phuket’s east coast, this sheltered bay is perfect for a luxury yacht charter or a sea kayaking trip. Glide past towering limestone karsts, visit the Panyee floating village, or paddle through caves to find hidden lagoons of ethereal beauty. In the middle of Phang Nga Bay is James Bond Island, whose steep rocky pinnacle jutting out of the emerald water has become the iconic image of Phuket and the Andaman region. A busy spot at times but a breathtaking sight nonetheless. 

#2 Big Buddha

Phuket Big Buddha

Travel to Phuket’s southeastern interior to find two of the island’s most sacred sites. Wat Chalong is a 200-year-old Buddhist temple of golden-spired marble pagodas with red-tiled roofs. At the heart of the temple is the 61-metre Phramahathat Chedi, a glimmering three-storey stupa that houses a sacred bone fragment believed to trace back to the Lord Buddha. Climb to the top level to enjoy views of the surrounding hills and the Big Buddha, an imposing 45-metre statue in pure white marble. The views extend across much of the island’s south and to the sea beyond. Entry is free for both Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha but donations are welcome. And make sure to dress modestly when visiting these religious sites.

 

#3 Elephant Sanctuary

Elephants in Thailand

IMAGE CREDIT: PHUKET ELEPHANT SANCTUARY

Elephants are highly revered in Thai culture but sadly their diminishing habitats across Southeast Asia and popular use as tourist attractions have led to their abuse and exploitation. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, opened in late 2016, offers an alternative to visitors who want to see these majestic giants without contributing to their mistreatment. Adjacent to Khao Phra Theao National Park,

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Bali Highs

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Bali Thrilling Things to Do

Bali delivers equally extraordinary experiences to seekers of chic elegance as it does to those pursuing adrenaline, education or picture perfect mountain scapes. Here are just a few of the enriching experiences to seek out on your next visit to Bali.

 

WICKED APERITIFS

Those who appreciate a well-curated cocktail will love Akademi, a hub for Bali’s growing mixology scene. Not only can you sample amazing cocktails here, but Akademi also offers regular master classes led by the internationally celebrated British mixologist Dre Masso.

Bali cocktails Akademi bar

AKADEMI COCKTAILS
JL. PETITENGET NO. 51B, SEMINYAK, BALI
IMAGE CREDIT: www.akademi-bar.com

Delve into the mysteries of Bali’s tropical produce with cocktail ingredients like mangosteen, jackfruit and salak, plus a range of unique spices and roots. Get up close and personal with luscious infused dark rums, inspired gins and araks saturated with rare botanicals from the Indonesian archipelago.

Dre brings the knowledge accumulated from trips to more than 40 countries and includes the history of flavours in his classes. Cocktail-making skills will be honed while learning about indigenous ingredients and how to balance flavours with every integral part of the recipe. A recent master class explored the two cocktails that were presented by Akademi at the Southeast Asian Finals of the Diageo World Class Mixology competition.

Other master classes have included the analysis of nutmeg and cascara (coffee fruit skin), where spices are dissected and the bar-made tincture, liqueurs and jams are tasted. Cascara was first used in Yemen, where it was infused into hot water with a powerful selection of spices to make a drink called ‘Qishr’, and has now become the star ingredient in one of Akademi’s cocktails.

The Akademi daily cocktail menu is seriously worth a visit. Check out the artisanal ceramic, copper and wooden cocktail vessels that make a clear statement about this exclusive destination.

 

WINE TIPS-Y

Head into the verdant hills of Ubud and the beautiful Bridges restaurant where the Divine Wine & Cocktail Bar is located below the Riverside dining room and is the exclusive haunt of Bridges’ sommelier Rahul Mehra. Participate in an outstanding master class, listen to the river flow and enjoy the privileged view.

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