Travel Experiences

Harnessing Local Knowledge to Explore the Fascinating Secrets of the Distant Stars with Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villa’s SKY Gurus

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We have all, at one time or another, gazed up into the night sky and  contemplated the mysteries of the universe, but if ever you were planning to learn more about  the stars and the secrets they hold, you would be hard-pushed to find a more ideal location  than SKY at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas.  

Located in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Anantara Kihavah is not only a tropical  island paradise but also a stargazer’s dream location. The private island’s remoteness means  that it is free from light pollution, while its proximity to the equator affords spectacular views of  both the southern and northern sky.  

At SKY, Anantara Kihavah’s overwater observatory combined with a luxury cocktail bar, the  far reaches of the universe are brought into crystal clear focus as guests sip Champagne or  cocktails and gaze through one of the most powerful telescopes in the region while the resort’s  two resident SKY Gurus regale them with fascinating stories of the night sky. Harnessing their  local knowledge of the Maldivian sky to reveal the intriguing stories behind the countless stars  that make up the distant constellations, Zunnoon Ahmed, known as Zunnu, and Ali Arushal,  who goes by the name of Shalli, are Anantara Kihavah’s Resident SKY Gurus. Both natives  of Baa Atoll, Zunnu and Shalli are not only captivating storytellers, but they also each have  their own story to tell.  

ZUNNOON AHMED

Zunnoon Ahmed (zunnu) Sky Guru Anantara Kihavah Maldives Vills

Born and raised on the small island of Kudarikilu in Baa Atoll, Zunnu has always been  fascinated by the night sky. Driven by a curiosity to unravel the secrets and stories behind the  stars that fill the cloudless Maldivian skies, his fascination evolved into a passion for  astrophotography when he was just 16 years old, marking the beginning of his journey into  the enthralling world of astronomy.  

Although Zunnu pursued a career in the more conventional field of IT, currently serving as  Assistant IT Manager by day and storytelling SKY Guru by night, his passion for stargazing  only grew stronger. He collaborates with online telescope operators in his spare time,  engaging in astro imaging to capture captivating glimpses of the cosmos through remote  telescopes, while he is constantly looking for new ways to expand his knowledge. “I always  make it a habit to check online astronomy forums for the latest celestial discoveries and  engage in discussions with fellow space enthusiasts,” he explained. 

Having originally joined Anantara Kihavah in 2017 as an IT Coordinator, overseeing the hotel  network, managing hotel applications, and playing a key role in ensuring the seamless  operation of various technological aspects for a smooth guest experience, Zunnu grabbed the opportunity to develop his celestial passion by volunteering to study stargazing under the  supervision of the resort’s first SKY Guru, Ali Shameem. 

Across the next five years, Zunnu conducted research, took theory tests and participated in  stargazing demos as part of his detailed training process. “The experience of learning about  the stars was a bit challenging when I started,” he explained. “But it has become truly fantastic  now. The journey of understanding the cosmos has been both rewarding and enlightening.” 

Recalling his first stargazing session at Anantara Kihavah, Zunnu commented on how the  positive reactions of the guests turned it into a rewarding and fulfilling experience, both for him  and for his captivated audience. Sharing his passion now comes easily to the engaging Zunnu.  “We all have a natural curiosity to understand the world around us,” he explained. “And the  night sky, with its myriad stars, has always been a source of wonder and questions. Stars  often hold cultural and mythological significance in various societies. Many cultures have  created stories, myths, and legends based on constellations and individual stars, adding a  sense of mystery and importance.” 

While his own personal favourite star is Aldebaran, Zunnu is more than happy to take  advantage of Anantara Kihavah’s pristine location away from light pollution to find and share  a variety of celestial events with the resort’s guests. “We regularly witness awe-inspiring solar  eclipses, captivating lunar eclipses, mesmerising meteor showers, and enchanting planetary  conjunctions in our cosmic spectacle,” he enthused.  

ALI ARUSHAL 

Ali Arushal (shalli) Sky Guru Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas

A more recent addition to Anantara Kihavah’s small but elite team of SKY Gurus, Shalli is  another native of Baa Atoll, having been born and raised on the island of Kendhoo. Shalli  describes his childhood on Kendhoo as happy and enjoyable, and while his interest in the  stars began at a young age, it was not until he joined Anantara Kihavah that he delved deeper  into the field of astronomy. 

Having joined Anantara Kihavah’s transport department in 2021, Shalli is part of the resort’s  launch crew, where his main responsibilities include ensuring transport operations run  smoothly. However, his fascination with the amazing views of the Maldivian night sky resulted  in him volunteering to train as the resort’s next SKY Guru. 

During one and a half years of learning about stargazing from the resort’s first SKY Guru,  Shalli’s intensive training involved theory tests, reading assignments, and stargazing  demonstrations. Eager to expand his knowledge and complement his training, Shalli also  seeks out additional information from the internet and YouTube. 

Describing his first stargazing session with guests as stunning, Shalli quickly warmed to his  new role. As a SKY Guru, Shalli enjoys sharing his passion and imparting unknown knowledge  about the stars to others. While he names Antares as his personal favourite star, he enjoys nothing more than being able to show guests distant constellations or share such amazing  spectacles with them as a lunar eclipse, solar eclipse or meteors. 

SKY Gurus lead guests on a cosmic journey across both hemisphere’s stars and planets,  clarifying what can be seen in the sky with the naked eye and using a green laser, they point  out different constellations and explains light years and different types of galaxies. Guests are  then able to view the sky from the observatory telescope which has a viewing capacity of 30  million light years away. 

The locale gives guests an opportunity to see lunar eclipses, stars and planets invisible from  Europe or America. Sometimes, depending on climate and time of the year, you can even  catch a glimpse of Saturn with its pale-yellow rings, belts of Jupiter that vary in width, colour  and intensity from year to year and the several hundred thousand of stars that make up  Messier 13. 

SKY is the finest over water observatory in the Maldives built with a 3.8 metre revolving Ash dome and equipped with a research-grade Meade 16” LX200 telescope with a magnification  of 400x mounted on a super-giant field tripod. 

Embark on a cosmic journey at Anantara Kihavah’s SKY Observatory. For more information or to book, call +960 664 4111, visit their website or email  reservations.maldives@anantara.com

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