Adventure in Ari: Highlights from the Visit Maldives Storytellers’ Conference 2023 Sideline Adventures

The Visit Maldives Storytellers’ Conference 2023, which took place on the 30th of May, can be described as nothing short of a resounding success. With over 70 participants in attendance, the conference provided a platform for sharing stories and experiences, fostering connections, and immersing oneself in the breathtaking beauty of the Maldives. 
As the sun rose over the glistening waters of the Indian Ocean, a group of intrepid storytellers embarked on a journey that would forever etch itself into the depths of their memories. Fresh off the Visit Maldives Storytellers’ Conference Day at Crossroads Maldives, they found themselves whisked away to the breathtaking Ari Atoll, known as a haven for the majestic whale sharks. This adventure was the second element of the Visit Maldives Storytellers Conference 2023 where the participants were divided into several groups and sent to 08 different regions of the Maldives. This is the story of the #VMSTC2023 Ari Atoll team! 
The storytellers were hosted by LUX* South Ari Atoll. From the moment they set foot on the island, they were enveloped in an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality. The staff at LUX* South Ari Atoll greeted them with genuine smiles and open arms, ensuring that their every need was not only met but exceeded. Their attention to detail was unparalleled, as they guided them through the resort's magnificent overwater villas that would be their sanctuary throughout the stay.
The first day began with a deep dive into the wonders of the Maldivian marine ecosystem. They joined forces with a passionate marine biologist who imparted their wisdom about the delicate coral reefs that form the backbone of this pristine archipelago. As they planted corals with their own hands, they couldn't help but marvel at the interconnectedness of this underwater world. Engrossed in the task, they engaged in insightful conversations, learning about the challenges and triumphs of preserving this precious natural resource.
The dedication to sustainability at LUX* South Ari Atoll left them in awe. They embarked on a sustainability tour that showcased the resort's commitment to protecting the environment. The very first floating solar panels in the Maldives provided renewable energy, while the absence of plastic in every aspect of the resort's operations showcased their eco-conscious mindset.
From their efficient laundry process to the use of distilled drinking water and the farm-to-table concept, every detail had been carefully curated to minimise their ecological footprint. It was heartwarming to witness their genuine efforts to give back to the local community and create a sustainable future.
“It was one of my favorite things to see what the Maldives is doing for sustainability. It’s just incredible, it’s far more advanced than many western nations. It was amazing, we really loved seeing that. It gave me a whole new perspective on the Maldives” - Benjamin Andryc & Dianne Patricia Costa @benanddi
The most thrilling adventure awaited them beneath the surface of the azure waters. The storytellers' journey reached its crescendo as they ventured out to witness the grandeur of the whale sharks. Swimming alongside these gentle giants was an experience that transcended all expectations. The sheer magnitude and grace of these magnificent creatures left them spellbound. The joy on their faces was infectious, as they realised the rarity of their encounter. The local influencer, Rishan, had been the sole witness to these magnificent beings before them, making their experience all the more extraordinary. 
“First day out, out on the boat, and  we saw a whale shark. It was amazing! We’re so happy, it was just such a highlight” - - Benjamin Andryc & Dianne Patricia Costa @benanddi
They also visited Dhigurah, an island blessed with the longest beach in the Maldives. The island councils played a significant role in enhancing the participants' experience. The councils went above and beyond, arranging every detail of their tour and extending their warm hospitality. Welcomed with Maldivian toddy, the participants felt a deep connection to the local culture. A council-appointed vehicle whisked them away on a journey through the island, allowing them to absorb its unique charm and beauty. The island council even arranged a complimentary room in a guesthouse. Gathering on the longest beach in the Maldives, they shared an evening tea with the council, appreciating their efforts to make the day unforgettable.
Beyond the planned itinerary, the participants had the opportunity to indulge in additional experiences offered by the resort. They embarked on a treasure hunt, channelling their inner adventurers as they unraveled the mysteries of the island. The "Tree of Wishes'' allowed them to share their hopes and dreams, connecting on a deeper level with their fellow travellers. The resort's library provided a serene escape, where they lost themselves in the pages of captivating stories. They savoured the delicious taste of ICI, an ice cream delight crafted on the island itself. And, most importantly, they had the chance to engage with the resort staff, conducting interviews that revealed the heartwarming stories behind those who made their stay truly exceptional.
The overall experience left an everlasting imprint on the participants' souls. Bonds were formed, stories were shared, and memories were created that would transcend time. They marvelled at the beauty of the Maldives, both above and below the surface, and developed a deeper appreciation for sustainable and conscious travel. The enchanting paradise of Ari Atoll had gifted them not only with awe-inspiring scenery but also with a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to spreading the message of responsible tourism.
A debt of gratitude is owed to the management and staff of LUX* South Ari Atoll, the island council of Dhigurah, and all those who made this experience possible. Their warmth, dedication, and genuine care transformed this journey into an unforgettable adventure. For the participants, this experience was a turning point, a chapter in their lives filled with beauty, wonder, and the ever-present call of the ocean. 
As they return to their respective corners of the world, they carry with them the magic of the Maldives, ready to share their stories and inspire others to embark on their own extraordinary escapades.
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