Oceans new – Maldives’ first female boat captain

Aishath Rizna maneuvered Kurumba Maldives’ two tiered speed boat out of the Malé harbour with an expertise surprising for a young captain who’d just gotten her license.

We were sailing against the wind, but her command of the vessel rivaled that of any seasoned captain – a post traditionally held by men. Rizna is the Maldives’ first active female boat captain.

“I feel confident on a speed boat. It’s really cool,” the 24-year-old told us 15 minutes later at Kurumba Maldives’ café lounge. She is sun-tanned, clad in a blue shirt and white shorts.

Rizna, also known as Rizu, joined Kurumba at the Children’s club three years ago, but jumped at the chance to train as a boat captain after Kurumba fleet manager Shameem offered the opportunity.

“The fleet section is traditionally an all-male section. This is very inspirational for the management team,” said a beaming Jason Kruse, Kurumba’s General Manager.

Inspirational Family

Rizu draws inspiration from her family which she says has a history of strong, self-sufficient women – proudly describing her mother’s skills for electrical work and how her grandmother still climbs trees at the age of 67.

She had grown up swimming, fishing, and driving boats as a child on northern Funadhoo Island in Shaviyani Atoll, before moving to Malé for secondary education.

“My father is a fisherman while my mother is a housewife,” said Rizu as she sipped orange juice. “When I was small I used to go fishing with my father on a small boat.”

Rizu said that her family is very proud of her becoming the country’s first active female captain, especially mentioning her father, who is very happy about his daughter’s achievements, encouraging her to move forward.

While school bored her, she always enjoyed snorkeling, diving, water sports. For her, working at Kurumba – and combining captaincy and recreation – is now a “vacation, more than work”.

Journey to captaincy

“When Rizu came, she was very quiet and shy, but you can see her confidence build throughout and now, she leads her own crew,” said Jason.

Rizu described her journey to captaincy as one of difficulty – training for a few hours every day during her free time – while recounting her very first boat lesson in which she spent over two hours practicing how to bring the boat to a perfect stop.

“The first few days were very challenging,” she explained. “It was very difficult but I always thought next time I will do better.”

Along with the practical aspects of boating – acquired from experienced captains working in the Kurumba fleet, she also had to learn the national regulations on seafaring and navigational theory.

“The crew was very helpful. They do not get angry at me even if I make mistakes, but instead they would give me a couple of lessons on how to correct my mistake,” said Rizu of the all-male crew under her captaincy.

Speaking of Rizu’s achievements, fleet manager Shameem shows great pride: “This is something I thought I’d never see.”

Opportunity for women in hospitality

Meanwhile, Rizu rejected rumours regarding female employees in the tourism industry.

“Resort managements have very good rules and regulations and local employees are not allowed to do whatever they want,” she said.

“People think that local employees would start drinking or go the wrong way, but we are not allowed to do any such thing,” said Rizu. “Instead, there are plenty of recreational activities to keep us occupied.”

Jason also highlighted the importance of increasing the female ratio of Maldivian employees in resorts, saying that there is increasing demand from female Middle Eastern clients for all female services.

“We are trying to increase our Maldivian female ration in the resorts. It’s a certain area we are making some changes in order to encourage more Maldivian girls to join the resort.”

Jason shared ideas of developing an all female crew speed boat which would be able to take such clients on excursions where they could confidently enjoy the full Maldivian experience by disrobing before a swim.

He shared Kurumba management’s ethos of breaking boundaries by getting more females into the industry, while pointing out that the resort currently employs two local women as trainee chefs and that the spa department was also headed by a woman.

Heading out from the resort back to Malé, Rizu said that becoming a boat captain is just one step towards her ultimate dream: “travelling to every island in the Maldives in my own boat”.


Six Senses Laamu to open in April 2011

The new Six Senses Laamu resort, by Six Senses Resorts & Spas, will open in the Maldives in April 2011 the company has announced.

Chairman and CEO of Six Senses Sonu Shivdasani was reported on HospitalityNet as saying the development of the project had been “challenging, [with] unavoidable delays frustrating to all. I believe though that it will all have been worthwhile, as Six Senses Laamu has all the ingredients to make it a hugely popular destination. With its remote (but accessible) location, its pristine reef, its yinyang surfing wave, its contemporary design features and focus on nightlife, it will set a new standard for Six Senses Resorts.”

Shivdasani attributed the delays to the resorts commitment to using only sustainable materials in its design and architecture, and the property’s isolation.

In addition to 97 villas, the resort will offer 10 beach front residences for purchase at U$2.5 million, fully staffed and managed by the resort part of a managed rental programme with a guaranteed five year five percent yield.


Speedboat burns eight in Naifaru

A speedboat that entered Lhaviyyani Naifaru harbour injured some of its passengers when it suddenly caught fire on January 15 at 3:15 pm.

According to police, the boat was carrying 11 passengers when it caught fire, eight of whom suffered varying degrees on burns to their bodies. Investigators claimed a short circuiting battery was the cause of the fire.


Drifting speedboat rescued at sea

A speedboat that ran out of fuel and was drifting with the currents in Baraveli Kandu last night has been rescued by MNDF Nothern Area Command.

The boat was travelling from Raa Alifushi to Lhaviyani Hinnavaru carrying six people and a child. According to MNDF they left Alifushi around 10:45 pm.

The speedboat,  ‘Zaako’, belonged to Mohamed Ismail of Lhaviyani Hinnavaru, Jambuge, and ran out of fuel around 1.40 am.

The MNDF dispatched a coast guard launch to find the stricken vessel, eventually discovering it at 3:00 am, two miles west from Lhaviyani Madivaru.

The speed boat was towed into Lhaviyani Hinnavaru harbour at 3:40 am, and all on board were reported to be fine.

Speaking to Minivan News about the incident, Lieutenant Abdul Ali of the MNDF said such incidents were becoming “more and more common.”

“Those in charge [of vessels] hould realise how long the journey will take, and if ensure they have sufficient amounts of fuel,” he said.  “It is important to be cautious before travelling at sea.”

When asked about what actions the coastguard had taken to try and reduce the number of incidents, Ali claimed the authority continuously gives advice and holds many awareness programs.

MNDF urged all sea travllers to contact the nearest MNDF area command if an incident should occur, or if that number is not known, to dial the toll free emergency number 191.