How to Get The Best Value Dream Maldives Holiday

There are so many options these days when it comes to booking your holiday. There are an abundance of online platforms to choose from, as well as travel agents and tour operators, but how do you know when  you are getting the best value?

Resort holidays in the Maldives have always been a popular choice and now there is also the option of staying in guesthouses and hotels on local islands at a fraction of the price.

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The Maldives is a perfect destination for all year round travel because of the amazing weather and consistent temperatures. For European’s it can cost the same to travel to the Maldives in the European summer months than a package holiday somewhere close by like Spain or Italy for example. For those in Asia there are a large number of budget  airlines offering flights at an affordable price.

When people search online for local island holidays it looks like a very cheap and affordable option, maybe from around $50 for bed and breakfast per night with food options around an additional $10 per person – sounds like the cheapest option right? Maybe it is and you have located a great deal, but it may also not always be the case.

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Like many countries the Maldives has additional taxes and charges for purchases including accommodation, excursions and food. Usually when prices are quoted they do not include these fees. So we would always advise you to check the small print and ensure all applicable tax is included – 10% service charge, 12% GST and $3 Green Tax per person per night ($6 if you are staying on a resort or boat).

Next are the transfers from the airport island to whatever local island you are visiting, this can be via a local ferry maybe costing as little as $2 each way, but options for islands further away can cost from $30 per person upwards for a speedboat transfer and from $150 per person one way for a domestic flight, with seaplane flights being a lot more. Again the price of your ‘cheap Maldives holiday’ starts to creep up.

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Close your eyes and imagine – you are now in the Maldives surrounded by the beautiful turquoise waters, crystal clear lagoons and don’t get us started on the breath-taking sunrise and sunsets……..and you decide to add some excursions into your trip. Maybe a little snorkelling, a day visit to a resort, a discover scuba dive, a sunset cruise to see the dolphins playing in the water or maybe a trip to encounter Whale sharks, nurse sharks and Manta rays.  This so called ‘cheap getaway’ is no longer quite the budget holiday you had bargained for. All these additions can soon add up and if you are not careful your dream holiday takes you over your initial budget expectations.

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Image Credit @movingtomaldives

At this point you may be asking – why then do so many people manage to take local island holidays to the Maldives and enjoy a budget trip, what is their secret? Well we think there are two answers to that.

Firstly, they have taken time to do their research. Researching and planning a trip can be quite fun, but it can also be overwhelming. A good starting point is to chat with family or friends who may have visited. Search Maldives blogs online and check out the advice of other travelers, there is a wealth of first hand information from bloggers and travelers. Blogs are a great way to get insider knowledge about logistics, costs and things to be aware of in a destination. As well as Google, check out Pinterest and Instagram to get an idea of what sights you may want to see and capture yourself. There are plenty of Instagramable opportunities in this island paradise! It’s also worthwhile checking sites like Viator to understand what tours, activities and unusual experiences are worth considering and finally be sure to read reviews especially when booking accommodation.

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Secondly, they may have booked with a tour company such as Secret Paradise who have provided a tour package inclusive of accommodation, meals, activities and experiences,  as well as advice on additional expenses that may be incurred.  This will then allow you to budget for your entire trip, know exactly what is covered before you even board your flight to the Maldives and how much ‘pocket money’ to bring along with you.

According to Google search the 7 most popular local island activities are:
–  Island hopping
–  Surfing the waves
–  Snorkeling with sea stars
–  Dolphin spotting on a sunset boat tour
–  Sunset fishing
–  Visiting a deserted island or sandbank

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Secret Paradise have you covered with all of these activities and much more. You can pick and mix day tours if you are staying in Male or Hulhumale or choose from one of our popular multi day tours and explore further afield.

So when you are booking your dream vacation to the Maldives and are looking for the best experiences at an affordable price, drop us a line and #letusguideyou on the most amazing Maldivian tours of the local islands.

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How to pack for your Maldives Holiday Responsibly.

A question we often get asked by potential guests is ‘what do I need to wear when visiting the Maldives?’

Whilst the blanket answer would be pack light weight, loose fitting cotton clothing there are some notable differences to what you should consider packing in your suitcase all dependent on where you will be staying.

If you are staying on a local island T-shirts, skirts and shorts are the best options to stay cool. The ideal footwear would be sandals and flip-flops. As the Maldives is a Muslim country care needs to be taken in relation to the dress code on local islands. Whilst it is acceptable for men to wear T Shirts and shorts or swim shorts; females should avoid causing offence by maintaining a more conservative approach to clothes by wearing T Shirts, loose shorts, or a sun dress with a sarong covering their shoulders. Whilst islanders are now far more tolerant of guests wearing traditional beachwear, females should NOT wear bikinis and swimwear unless on an uninhabited island, picnic island, sandbank, or tourist bikini beach. Should your visit include visiting the home of a local family or visiting a mosques shoulders and legs should be covered out of respect of local customs.

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If you are staying on a resort island, casual beach clothing, together with swimwear and bikinis is the norm. However, some of the more luxurious resorts may require that you dress for dinner. A sun dress for ladies and a short sleeve shirt with chinos for men are perfect.

Finally, if you are cruising or diving on board a boat, from my own experience you need to pack very little as more often than not you will be in the water or sunbathing. Meals are board are also a very casual affair. Just ensure you have something appropriate to wear should your itinerary include a visit to a local island or Male.

Whilst considering your wardrobe is an important step of any travelers’ pre-trip plans, we would also encourage you to consider travelling responsibly. As you will know from our previous blog posts we all need to do our bit in the fight against single-use plastic. Packing with care and consideration can help reduce the waste that you leave behind.

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How to pack responsibly.

· Sun screen is a must in the Maldives,. Purchase wisely to ensure that your sunscreen is  coral reef friendly whilst also protecting you from the harmful rays of the sun.

· Whilst there are an increasing number of  resorts, hotels and guesthouses that offer water in glass bottles there are still many that use plastic water bottles. Bring a reusable water bottle and then buy a large 5L bottle of water from a local store and fill up your bottle as needed. You will always have water on the go!

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· In almost every shop on local islands in the Maldives you will be given a plastic bag for your purchases. Just as you may do at home bring along your own cloth shopping bag and refuse the plastic bags!

·  Whilst purchasing mini toiletries makes packing light far easier, why not consider decanting products from your large containers at home into small, reusable containers that you can take with you every time you travel. When I was last in Europe I picked up a great little set in Primark for less than 5 Euros!

·  In tropical countries such as the Maldives a wet wipe is handy to have to freshen up but the majority of mainstream brands contain plastic fibers. Stick to biodegradable versions or carry a wet face flannel in a pocket size cool pouch that can be washed and dried overnight and reused the next day.

·  Join our #strawwarMV and pack a bamboo or metal straw so that you can refuse the plastic ones offered in local cafes and restaurants.

· Ensure you are using rechargeable batteries for cameras and other electronics. No where in the Maldives can batteries be recycled.

Finally, pack light! The lighter your luggage, the lighter the load of your plane and other modes of transport you take and this will assist in burning less fuel.

Happy holidays!

For more information on preparing for your Maldives holiday check out our travel information.

 

Understanding the Mysteries of the Ocean and Coral Reefs

For those who have traveled the Maldives with Kamey, you will know he has a wealth of information regarding the oceans and marine life. We asked him to share some of his knowledge with us, as well as his concerns for the future of our oceans.

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Have you ever wondered how old this strange rock we call earth is or even wondered how old the life blood of earth which we call the oceans are?  I do! They are both pretty old and we still don’t know all there is to know about them. The place we call home is around 4.56 billion years old and the ocean where there remains millions of mysteries is around 3.8 billion years old. When the earth cooled down from malting lava, the gas in the atmosphere cooled down to below the boiling point of water and it rained for approximately a million year nonstop. That’s lots of rain! Worse than UK! This rainfall filled the basin of the earth that we now call the ocean.

Then I wonder how old is the underwater rain forest that we refer to as coral reefs? The oldest fossil of coral ever found is 500 million years ago but sadly they died around 225 million years ago. The modern day coral reefs that we see today are around 240 million year old, so literally speaking that is old too. Coral reefs keep growing and the polyps keep multiplying so we could say that they have the capacity to live forever. There are corals that we see that are around 4000 years old, one species of coral called ‘stag horn coral’ are around 5000 years old.

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The formation of atolls and barrier reefs around the world, dependent on size, has a time gap of between 1 million to 30 million years. This is how long  scientists believe atoll formation takes to create the forms we see today. Coral has a slow growth rate all over the world and it’s growth is dependent on both the clarity of water and its quality.  The slowest coral grow is around 0.4 centimeter in 1 year. The fastest corals can grow at a rate of 13 centimeter per year. Isn’t that amazing?

There are around 420,000 recorded species of animal in the ocean and there are still an estimated 500,000 to 2 million marine organisms yet to be discovered. Most marine scientists  predict 91 percent of species on the ocean have yet to be discovered. All I can say is WOW!

The ocean covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface and still 95 percent of the ocean needs to be explore. Who is coming with me?! The ocean is the biggest play ground we have in the world and we know more about the stars then our own oceans. These facts astound me. 2/3 of the world population rely on the ocean. 53 percent of world’s economy is linked to the oceans. The Ocean generates half of the oxygen we breathe and stores carbon dioxide 50 times faster than even a forest. My final fact is that the ocean regulates all the weather patterns around the world.

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Climate change acidification plastic pollutions

Climate change and acidification are the biggest threats to our oceans and there is no easy way to fix everything. Climate change and its impact has been fast and is moving much faster than ever predicted. Sometimes we don’t even realize it is that big until we see an article online or on TV and we see how much devastation it brings.
When a weak storm hits in tropical waters,  the warm surface provides additional moisture to fuel the storm and create a hurricane. This is because of the sudden temperature change in surface water.

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Ocean acidification happens because the ocean is trying to absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) created by the increased levels of CO2 that we are producing. The saltwater molecules have a chemical reaction with the CO2 that changes them into hydrogen ions. The more this reaction is off-balance with the natural calcium carbon ions that are the building blocks of the ocean structure, the greater the risk to the whole food chain. The more hydrogen ions there are, the warmer the ocean gets. Plastic pollution is the biggest threat and one that we created by ourselves.  The most common type of ocean debris recorded is cigarette filters.  A minimum of 30% of ocean species are threatened by just plastic, as it starts to decay it turns into micro plastic and this has begun to end up in the food that we eat daily. We can’t just stand and watch we need to hold hands and stand for the protection of our oceans as our lives depending on it.

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In the Maldives our life revolves around the ocean. When I think to myself that my whole life I have lived in this beautiful place that I call heaven on earth. We are born as sons of the sea and we live and breathe with the beauty of it.  I have such respect for the amazing diversity of our coral reefs. It is sad to see it is fading faster than we I could ever imagine. As a world society we need to educate more people worldwide and use more effective and sustainable eco-system management methods to slow down this process and find a solution to this sadness. There is lots of research happening right now that we need to closely observe and learn from. We can all take action to reduce the damage, something as straight forward as saying no to plastic will have a positive effect on out oceans.

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For me I want to try hard to live a sustainable life that is adventures and fun. Creating awareness of our environment with both my guests and my friends so that we can pass on the beauty and mysteries of the ocean to a new generation.

Join Kamey on a 7 Night Ocean Discovery Cruise, contact sales@secretparadise.mv for more information.

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The Importance of Responsible tourism, Sustainable tourism and Eco-tourism in the Maldives

When Secret Paradise was formed in 2012 local tourism was at the beginning of its journey and our co-founder, Ruth Franklin, was conscious that however we developed the business we needed to be mindful of ensuring we promoted local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs.  As many of you know Secret Paradise provides a range of unique guided local island multi tours as well as day tours and guesthouse accommodation options. All combining the beauty of the Maldives, with activities and cultural engagement.

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Over recent years the terms responsible tourism, sustainable tourism and eco-tourism have become common vocabulary within the travel industry and through discussions with our guests, but what do they actually mean?
There are countless interpretations of these terms floating around the internet and while there are a lot of overlaps between these terms, there are also significant differences.
The differentiation of the individual terms might not seem very relevant at first, but knowing the differences is especially important for businesses such as ourselves as well as for travelers wishing to ensure they book wisely and inline with their values.

Responsible Tourism
Responsible tourism refers to the way in which visitors, residents and businesses interact with a destination. This style of tourism should maximize the benefits to local communities and minimize negative social or environmental impact, helping local people to preserve fragile cultures and habitats.
In many instances it is reflective of those who choose to travel responsibly and foster a positive interaction between themselves and their chosen destination.
Examples include
• Choosing environmentally friendly products
• Respecting local customs and traditions
• Conserving energy
• Choosing and supporting local businesses
• Buying souvenirs that are produced locally.

 

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Sustainable Tourism
This is tourism that leads to the management of resources in such a way that economic, social, and environmental needs can be fulfilled.
In essence it is the stakeholders of a destination,  be that businesses such as Secret Paradise or governments and tourism related bodies who work to achieve and improve sustainability within their destination. Sustainable tourism is integral to the continued practice of the travel industry worldwide.
Examples include
• Conservation of resources such as water
• Reduction of waste
• Strengthening local production
• Protection of the environment
• Promoting local economy and securing jobs
• Involving local people in decisions that affect their lives.

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Ecotourism
Ecotourism is now defined by the International Eco Tourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). Education is meant to be inclusive of both employees and guests.
The interests of the local population and a positive guest experience are the top priorities of ecotourism. Interference with nature, the local traditions and ways of life are to be kept to a minimum. One of the big advantages of ecotourism is that the majority of revenue produced flows into the local economy.
In essence ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainability.
Examples include
• Providing positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
• Providing direct financial benefits for conservation
• Generating financial benefits for both local people and private industry
• Designing, constructing and operating low environment-impact facilities.

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With people now able to travel to the remotest locations, tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world, one that employs countless people and keeps many nations afloat. Whilst there is an argument by environmentalists that international flights does nothing to support an individual’s green foot print, the United Nations state that annual international trips around the world are expected to double to 1.6 billion by 2020, a quarter of them by long-haul travelers. That’s a substantial figure isn’t it? So we think it is fair to say tourism will not be disappearing any time soon.

Travelers however increasingly want to take steps to cut their holidays’ environmental impact. We have seen this in the type of questions our guest’s ask and the activities and experiences our guests are looking for.
According to the 2019 Booking.com survey, 86% of global travelers would be willing to engage with activities that counteract the environmental impact of their trip – whether that be helping with beach cleaning projects or consciously booking more eco-friendly stays.
71% of travelers think that travel companies should offer consumers more sustainable travel choices
73% of travelers intended to stay in an eco-accommodation in 2019, up from 68% in 2018 and 65% in 2017.
Around 77% of all consumers state that they trust companies that produce or offer ethnically correct products.
The transition then from mass tourism to sustainable tourism is we would suggest not simply a temporary fad but an unavoidable step to combine our responsibility as a tour company  towards the environment, the needs of our guests and the economic interests of our destination and local communities.

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At Secret Paradise Sustainable and Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life.

By staying in local island guest houses our guests are contributing to the local economy and increasing local employment. The properties we partner are run by local island families where everyone is instrumental in the day to day running of the guest house.
Buying locally made souvenirs and eating local produce means that local farmers and small businesses benefit. We recommend souvenir shops in Male that are off the main tourist route, where guests have the opportunity to buy locally crafted products as opposed to the imported souvenirs that are sold in standard tourist souvenir shops.
We attend and support local art and craft exhibitions and share on social media to create awareness to locals and guests alike.

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We provide employment, good working conditions, a fair wage and performance reviews for our local employees. Our guides are all Maldivian and with the exception of our Sales Director, our operations team are Maldivian. Not only does this ensure our guests get a real insight to Maldivian life, our guides achieve personal development through interaction with guests from different cultures and backgrounds. They also have the opportunity to participate in tour leader development programs available from our international partners.

Our guests travel the Maldives with one of our local guides who between them have years of local knowledge and expertise to share. They are passionate in sharing their country’s culture, history and tradition, as well as their own personal experiences.
Our tours are designed so that guests not only experience the natural beauty and participate in activities commonly associated with the Maldives but that they have the opportunity to learn about it’s people and culture first hand.

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Eco tourism and sustainable tourism has always been an integral part of our philosophy and part of our mission statement. As we have grown we have looked for opportunities where we can support local initiatives. We seek out ways to open up channels to allow Maldives based organisations, NGOs, marine-life charities the opportunity to interact with guests and in so doing increase their exposure to a wider audience.
Our guests can become actively involved in conservation programs and learn how they too can be responsible during their stay in the Maldives. We specifically developed an island hopping tour that incorporated volunteer opportunities in order that guests who wished can contribute to the environment by attending beach cleans or working on coral nurseries as well as enjoying a Maldives holiday.

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Both education and communication play a vital role in the growth of sustainable tourism. They allow people to make informed decisions, take considered actions and understand how their decisions and actions can impact a destination. We provide guests with pre trip information as part of the booking process to ensure they understand the requirements of travelling to a locally inhabited island. Social content provides information on local customs and requirements, particularly in relation to religion, dress, food and beverages and upon arrival our guests receive a further briefing from one of our guiding team which includes environmental and cultural awareness and highlights the opportunities they may have during the time with us to support local environmental initiatives.

We understand that sustainable tourism requires focus and adaption. It requires long-term thinking and realization that change is often cumulative and gradual. We also believe that in  a destination such as the Maldives it is our responsibility to make that difference and we are proud to have that responsibility and voice.

 

How Our Team at Secret Paradise are Making Sustainable Waves in the Maldives

Since 2012 we have been providing a range of unique Local Island multi day tours and holidays as well as day tours and guesthouse accommodation options. All combine the beauty of the Maldives, with activities and cultural engagement. We are delighted that  for the fifth year running we have been awarded the TripAdvisor certificate of Excellence and that we remain the number one provider of day tours in the capital.

There is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by our guests and it is a remarkable vote of confidence to our business, out amazing guiding team and to our continued commitment to sharing our island experiences.

For those that have travelled with us you will know that responsible tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life.

Our team of tour guides have been specially selected for their commitment and passion to local island tourism and environmental initiatives, our TripAdvisor recognition would not be achieved without them.  Check out why some of our team do what they do and why we love to #letusguideyou

Engaging guests with local life, culture and traditions

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The best and unique aspect of my job with Secret Paradise is touring with our guests around this special Island paradise I am lucky enough to call home. They get to experience local culture and traditions like dining with a local family, sampling local foods that they would not get to experience in a local restaurant or café, interacting with local families and learning first hand how local island people live. My mission with each tour is to teach them at least 3 local phrases and pass on as much knowledge about our traditions and culture as I can so that they leave with a greater understanding of my island home.

Kokko Ibbe – Tour Leader

Educating guests on responsible snorkelling

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Responsible snorkeling is essential in the preservation of our coral reefs. Following the Green Fin protocol is not only for the safety and well-being of marine life and it’s habitat but our own as well. Think of entering the ocean as entering someone’s home.

Ahmed Mashir Ali – Tour Guide

Why work for Secret Paradise

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I’ve been working in the travel industry for more than five years and joined Secret Paradise just two months ago. I am really pleased to be working with a company that is committed to its employees. There are not many companies in the Maldives that can boast 100% local employment with the exception of one member of the team, who is the boss and we class as a local anyway!

Archie Athif – Tour Guide

Reducing the use of plastic

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Reducing plastic is a must for a cleaner safer environment for future generations. Saying no to plastic is something everyone must consider. Reducing the use of plastic is becoming easier with all the plastic replacement biodegradable/reusable products on offer and as part of our tour briefings as guides we highlight how plastic impacts our environment. We encourage our guests to support this fight on plastic by using reusable bags for shopping, re-fillable bottles for water and refusing plastic straws. Small actions making a difference.

UB Waseem – Tour leader

If you have any questions, require copies of the tour itineraries or just wish to seek advice do not hesitate to contact us.

You can view our Responsible Tourism Policy Here

Keep up to date with Secret Paradise news and offers by joining our Facebook family

 

 

Plastic Pollution, Marine Life and Sustainable Tourism with Secret Paradise Maldives, part 2

Following on from part one of Plastic Pollution, Marine Life and Sustainable Tourism with Secret Paradise Maldives we wanted to highlight some of the initiatives recently implemented by our accommodation partners on local islands.

All of our guesthouse accommodation is carefully selected to provide a balance of comfort, service, local atmosphere and value for money, as well as ensuring each property shares our values for responsible tourism and sustainability. So we are always delighted to see guesthouse partners coming together with tourists and local communities to make a difference.

Guraidhoo Island

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Guraidhoo is another forward thinking island with exciting eco initiatives introduced this year (2019). Their band new NO PLASTIC program has been introduced on the island and is being very well received by locals and visiting tourists. They knew when setting this up that the only way this would work is to involve all the community in the efforts including the local island children, local school, teachers, parents, Island council members, guesthouses, dive center, watersports center and the local island community.

They completed their first island clean up last month and collected a massive 1700kg of plastic; what amazing results – which ultimately will have a positive impact on our environment and the local island children’s futures, thanks guy and keep up the great work.

Guraidhoo Palm Inn our partner here have pledged to remove plastic drinking water bottles which is also forms part of our initiative in 2019 .

Dhigurah Island

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TME Retreat another property partner of Secret Paradise is taking the sustainable opportunities to a whole new level and as part of the #Earthday2019 celebrations they announced that TME Retreats will be producing its own water at Dhigurah. The water will be distributed to all the guests in refillable glass bottles and all guests will be able to fill their glass bottles from the water dispenser at the lobby free of charge.

Barefoot Eco Hotel

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The Barefoot Eco Hotel on Hanimaadhoo island has always followed the principles of eco-sustainability and conservation of the environment; that’s why we have always loved working with them. They actively educate their guests in reducing their eco footprint, their initiatives include:

  • Paper bio-degradable straws instead of plastic straws
  • Aluminium cans instead of plastic bottles
  • Reusable Aluminium bottles for senior staff
  • Yogurt served in ceramic cups instead of single use plastic containers
  • No more plastic bags: only juta or fabric bags
  • No more plastic sachets of coffee: Coffee now comes in paper bags

But how do you make a difference as a tourist when travelling abroad?

Most individuals are now trying to do their bit in the war against single use plastic particularly, but how can you continue your positive actions when travelling and at the mercy of the people and places visited?

Bring your own shopping bag

In the not so distant past here in the Maldives, every shop you made a purchase in, you were given a blue plastic bag. This is starting to be addressed but make life a little easier for the shop keepers and bring your own re-useable bag and say no to these wasted items.

Leeann and her friends showing nostraw needed to enjoy a kurumba on yesterday's Male walking tour

Say no to single-use plastic straws

If you are buying a drink in a café or bar say no to the plastic straw. We would love to give kudos to the places you visit who are embracing this so make sure you take a snap and #strawwasMV.

Bring your own water bottle

When you are travelling especially in the heat, you must stay hydrated but you don’t need to keep purchasing single use plastic bottles, ask a local café or bar to refill your water bottle. The local accommodation you stay in will be sure to assist you.

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Choose plastic-free destinations

If you are really serious about reducing your carbon footprint then choose destinations and places where they are taking the sustainable approach seriously. Reward those businesses who are committed to making a difference in their environment, like the ones we mentioned above.

Participate in cleanups

Our team of tour guides regularly participant in beach clean ups with local island residents and we encourage our guests to join us too. It is a fantastic way to meet the local community and also make a massive difference to the amount of plastic waste in the ocean.

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Spread the word

Don’t be shy, let people know what you are doing, if everyone takes small steps daily together we will make a huge difference.  We need to create awareness and let people know what do to and how to do it.

If you want your holiday to make a real difference why not think about a volunteer based visit, we offer volunteer trips with our partner Sunshade Maldives as well as a 14 night island hopping volunteer tour.

Women in Business, Eco Tourism & Sustainable Travel

Ruth Franklin is the co-founder of Secret Paradise Maldives and together with her energetic and engaging team of local guides, they have been leading local island Maldives tours since 2012. Ruth was recently interviewed about being a women in business in the Maldives and here is what she said:

Tell us more about Secret Paradise Maldives

We partner 25 guesthouses on 15 islands across 8 atolls. The properties we partner are owned and in the main operated by local island families where everyone is instrumental in the day to day running of the guest house ensuring profits are directed back into local hands. We are also using services developed and managed by locals which in turn provides employment and business opportunities for local people.

Sustainability What are your key communities? How does your organization actively support and strengthen these communities? 

Local communities are crucial to sustainable tourism and this has always been the foundation of the Secret Paradise offer.

We have built over a period of time what I would see as three key communities.

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Our local island partner community

We chose to work with only selected guesthouses in order that we could build strong relationships. This has resulted in us being able to support them from a business management and marketing perspective in the very beginning, to them supporting us in our sustainable tourism wish list such as the removal of plastic straws, the introduction of water coolers to minimize the use of plastic bottles which is a project we are working on this year.

The feedback we have received from the families with whom we work closely is that they are proud to be able to provide such opportunities . At first they could not understand why we would want our guests to interact with them, share meals and visit their home.  Now they understand that their everyday practices are of interest to international visitors. Our role with the local communities has been to highlight that not all tourists are visiting for an affordable beach holiday and that many are looking to get under the skin of the country and learn about culture and traditions. For me this is important as these traditions need to be kept alive.

Our NGO community  

We seek out ways to open up channels to allow NGO organisations the opportunity to interact with guests and in so doing increase their exposure to a wider audience. Many of our tours involve some form of conservation awareness or activity. Our guests spend time with NGOs gaining an insight into the conservation challenges that face local islands or social challenges that people within the local community may face. We offer opportunities for guests to get involved if they wish, supporting local conservationists on coral nurseries,  attending beach cleans or events held within the community. Even on our Villimale day tour our guides and guests can be seen collecting rubbish as they explore the island. As a business we try where ever possible to support environmental events organised by our NGO partners both financially and in person and a proportion of the tour cost is provided in the form of a donation to their funds.

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Our employee community  

Tourism has seen an increase in demand for experiential travel opportunities. Meeting and travelling with local people and seeing the Maldives through their eyes allows guests to connect with locals and enhance their trip. No one should know the Maldives better than a Maldivian and hence why with the exception of myself the Secret Paradise team is 100% local.

We provide good working  conditions, the opportunity to travel, a fair wage and performance reviews for local employees. Our guides achieve personal development through interaction with guests from different cultures and backgrounds. They also have the opportunity to participate in tour leader development programs available from our international partners.

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How do you consider societal well-being and benefit as part of your strategy and daily operations?

I came from a 30 year retail background and therefore my tourism knowledge was based on my own experiences as a traveler as well as my desire to give back to the people who had welcomed me into their homes when I visited the Maldives myself as a tourist.

When Secret Paradise was formed in 2012 local tourism was at the beginning of it’s journey and I was conscious that however we developed the business we needed to be mindful of ensuring we promoted local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs. With this in mind our core strategy was formed and has over time developed on the basis of three values – economic responsibility, social responsibility and environmental responsibility.

I am a great believer in keeping it simple and as a small business we needed to recognize that it was far better to build a solid foundation of a few key principals that could be followed through and kept alive than produce a manifesto or sustainable tourism standard operating practice that would gather dust on a shelf.

We drew up three key actions for each value.

Economically:

To use locally owned and operated tourism infrastructure.

To use wherever possible business services in country which are operated by locals and not out source to businesses aboard.

To provide employment for local people.

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Socially:

For a local guide to travel with our guests from time of arrival to departure.

To educate our guests on local history, customs and cultural practices and provide opportunities for guests to engage with the local community in some format.

To actively support local communities, NGOs and environmental organisations.

Environmentally:

To limit the physical impact of trips and work with our partners to educate and improve awareness within local the community.

To brief all our guests on the Green fin snorkeling etiquette

To encourage our guests to deal with waste appropriately, to lead by example and where possible take plastic waste home.

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We are fortunate that we are in a position that our business model allows societal well being to form part of our day to day practice.

Our guests stay in local island guest houses. We utilise local transportation providers as opposed to owning our own vehicles.

Our guests eat at local cafes, regularly enjoy evening tea – hedikaa, we buy food items for our tours from the local market and we encourage guests to purchase locally made souvenirs, all this mean means that local individuals and small businesses benefit.

We encourage our guests through briefings and general conversation to respect the environment and lead by example, for example to refuse plastic straws and bags.

We carry out annual audits of our guesthouse properties that includes a review of responsible and sustainable practices and we offer support and advice on improvements. Our guides provide a trip report following each tour which amongst other things will highlight best practice or improvement opportunities. Our guests complete feedback forms which again include the opportunity to feedback and comment on sustainable practices.

We hold regular training sessions with our guiding team and provide opportunities for their education and development. For example the team recently spent two days with Coral Doctors learning more about coral and reef rehabilitation and we have a planned session on the importance of seagrass up and coming.

Our social media feeds include images and information that are locally inspired. We highlight historical facts, religious festivals, national holidays, food, wildlife and overviews of local islands. We share and celebrate environmental best practices such as beach cleans by local communities, awareness days and community news that we feel would be of interest to our followers.

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We provide guests with pre trip information as part of the booking process to ensure they understand the requirements of travelling to a locally inhabited island. Content provides information on local customs and requirements, particularly in relation to religion, dress, food and beverages and upon arrival they receive a further briefing from one of our guiding team which includes environmental and cultural awareness and highlights the opportunities they may have during the time with us to support local environmental initiatives.

With local island tourism continuing to grow my dream would be that government policies would be brought into place to regulate and provide accreditation to properties across a number of standards but with sustainable practices playing a significant role.

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