Diving and underwater adventures at Halaveli

Here’s the second installment from marine biologist Robin Aiello, with tales of her escapades and adventures underwater at Halaveli.

Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Some of my best moments this week…

It has been another wonderful week at Halaveli Resort. I’m getting into the routine of diving most mornings, then maybe a snorkel, and every Monday and Thursday night I give a talk on the weird and wonderful marine creatures found here in the Maldives.

The weather has been absolutely perfect with bright sunny days and a slight breeze. As wonderful as the days are, it is the evenings that I really look forward to because of the sunsets. Since I have been here, every sunset has been different. Seriously, no two sunsets have been the same so far – one evening the sky will be lit a vivid orange, then another night the sky will be glimmering yellow, and yet another night the sky will be glowing a soft pink. Incredible!

I cannot describe the beauty of sitting on the beach at sunset with the shifting colours of the skies as a backdrop to the nightly frenzy of dive-bombing seabirds (terns) as they finish their evening feeding session – just perfect.

Diving conditions this week

Diving at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Diving at Halaveli

The TGI Dive Center has been very busy. This week has been full of great dives, snorkels and cruising excursions. The tides have been perfect, so in the mornings the visibility has been fantastic – we had about 30 metres this morning. And, the currents have also been good.

Current diving

I love current diving for one main reason – the fish life is extraordinary. The waters above the reef become packed full of all sorts of fish. A majority of the fish are the plankton feeders including small neon blue fusiliers, black surgeon fish, red-toothed trigger fish and unicorn fish, which, by the way, love to hover over your head playing in the bubbles.

They seem to get a real ‘kick’ out of the jacuzzi-like blasts of bubbles as we exhale. But there are also the less abundant, but eye-catching predatory fish, such as the giant trevallies (jacks), blue trevallies (jacks), dogtooth tuna, black snappers and, of course, the whitetip and grey reef sharks.

One memorable dive the other day was at a reef where the current was a good ‘medium – plus’ (according to our dive guide). We made our way along the reef to a spectacular look out point, where we hooked in with our reef hooks and looked out into the blue water ahead of us.

Baby whitetip reef sharks

White tip reef shark, Constance Halaveli, Maldives

White tip reef shark, photo copyright Marco Care

There we were – the six divers flying like kites a few feet above the reef. Suddenly, to my left, a motion caught my eye – there was a very young (not more than a few months old) whitetip reef shark hovering right next to me, looking right at me. Just beyond was another one. They were so cute and perfect without a scratch or scar on them – perfect little sharks.

But the funny thing was that they obviously had not quite mastered the skill of swimming in such strong currents. For several minutes at a time they would be hovering just fine, barely moving their tail, but maintaining perfect position beside me. But then, the baby shark would start drifting closer and closer to me, until it was a mere few inches from my face.

Then, suddenly it seemed to realize that it was too close and would try to quickly maneuver away, but it didn’t quite have the skill to do it gracefully. Instead, it would tumble and get tossed by the current and become totally out-of-control -discombobulated – before regaining control, position and composure. It would then take up position next to me again and the whole sequence would start all over again. Hilarious!

Napoleon Wrasse

One of the dive’s highlights appeared without notice, slowly appearing out of the murky distance. The large shadow came closer and it was revealed to be a huge male Napoleon (or Humphead) Wrasse. He was magnificent – about 1.5m long and 1m deep. This dark green giant swam so easily against the current making it seem like there was no current at all. He simply drifted past in front of us and then off again into the distance.

Robin.

Find out more

Read Robin’s first instalment from Halaveli including Creature Feature #1: Redtooth Triggerfish

Read more about check booking availability on our website: Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Coming soon: Creature Feature #2: Starfish of the Maldives

Your chance to dine at Chez Bruce, London, UK

Chef Bruce Poole  has generously donated to our online charity auction, offering an exclusive dinner for 2 at his restaurant Chez Bruce, London.

Chez Bruce, London, UK

Chez Bruce, London, UK

The charity auction runs from Monday 18 January, and it’s your chance to bid to dine at one of three Michelin star restaurants in Europe, while supporting our charity – the ground-breaking school for disadvantaged teenagers in Mauritius, Etoile de Mer.

Chef Bruce Poole

The eponymous chef-patron of Chez Bruce, Bruce Poole, has a very simple recipe for restaurant success.

When he first opened the restaurant in Wandsworth, London in 1995 he created a menu based on the kind of food he thought local people eating out would like. Nothing pretentious, no gimmicks, just good food.

As Chef Bruce explains ‘From the outset it was our intention to serve the very best food and drink but within a relaxed informal yet thoroughly professionally orchestrated environment… Restaurants are not about celebrity chefs, managers, owners or design; they are about customers.’

The menu at Chez Bruce

Inside Chez Bruce

Inside Chez Bruce

It is Poole’s reading of customer tastes over the years which has cemented the restaurant’s prestigious reputation. Its exquisite menu of classic modern food based on regional French and Mediterranean cuisine has never gone out of style.

Poole describes how he and Head Chef Matt Christmas set about creating the Chez Bruce menu, ‘We only ever produce dishes which we ourselves love to eat and one can’t really say fairer than that.’

And this simple, customer-focused approach to food has garnered Chez Bruce a loyal customer base and numerous prestigious awards, including the coveted Michelin star.

All these plaudits, however, have come as something of a surprise to Poole who only began his professional cooking career in his mid-twenties. It was only after receiving a degree in history, training in hotel management and working front-of-house in several restaurants that he discovered his true passion. He found himself lured by the excitement and energy of the kitchens and began writing to several leading restaurants looking for a job.

Chez Bruce cheese board

Chez Bruce cheese board

It was Bibendum which finally responded and Poole worked his way up through the kitchen there before moving on to The Square and then Chez Max in Fulham.

When restaurateur Nigel Platts-Martin offered him a share in his own restaurant – what would become Chez Bruce – in 1995 he seized the opportunity to do things his own way.

Local to Wandsworth himself, Poole wanted to create the very best local restaurant he could while also indulging his passion for wine.

The team at Chez Bruce are self-proclaimed fanatical wine-lovers searching the globe for the very best old and new. As a result the restaurant now has an extensive wine cellar with a wine list featuring many rare wines during their perfect drinking window.

From the first it has been Poole’s passion for the food, the wine, the friendly local service which has set him and his team apart from other restaurants in the capital. A passion which he shares and passes on to his customers, a passion which keeps them coming back.

Bid in our online charity auction

Constance guests have the chance to share the passion with a dinner for two at Chez Bruce in our online charity auction.

Bid in the Constance Festival charity auction for your chance to dine at Chez Bruce.

Find out more

Visit the website to read more about Chez Bruce.

Bid in our charity auction to dine at Restaurant Serge Vieira

Acclaimed French chef Serge Vieira describes his style of delicious light, simple, cooking as ‘émotion culinaire’ or culinary emotion.

Dining at Restaurant Serge Vieira

Dining at Restaurant Serge Vieira

The menu at his Restaurant Serge Vieira, which he runs with his wife Marie-Aude, is the expression of his culinary creativity and reflects his passionate respect for the food and the environment.

Vieira is adamant that he will only ever work with the best ingredients, always seasonal and, where possible, locally sourced. He is also interested in sustainability and ensures that the meat and fish served at his restaurant will not adversely impact the environment.

Set in a mediaeval fort overlooking the stunning countryside of Chaudes-Aigues in the southern French region of Aveyron, the Château du Couffour reflects the same preoccupation of modern style and traditional values.

Venture up the lime-tree drive and you find a beautiful medieval castle. Look closer and you will discover that integrated into the old fort is a stylish modern construction of glass and wood. The building itself reflects Vieira’s philosophy of combining the culture of taste and simplicity with environmental friendliness.

How Vieira learnt his trade

Born in the Auvergne in 1977, Vieira worked his way up through some of the most impressive kitchens in France before gaining world renowned for winning the prestigious Bocuse d’Or in 2005. For several years Vieira shared his culinary knowledge, travelling the world doing consultations, seminars and training.

In 2006 he was finally able to realise his dream when he and his wife set up their own restaurant named simply, Restaurant Serge Vieira. It was quickly awarded its first Michelin star in recognition of its simple elegant food and reasonably priced menus.

Serge Vieira

Serge Vieira

This year the restaurant picked up a second star, which Vieira is the first to admit is largely thanks to its loyal customer base.

His website greets customers with the message, ‘This year the Michelin Guide has awarded us 2 stars. Many thanks to you all, clients, members of staff and partners: without you no adventure, no honours, no pleasure and no emotion…’

Take your opportunity to experience the passion at Restaurant Serge Vieira – bid for a table for two in our online charity auction and share in Vieira’s ‘émotion culinaire’.

Read more

Bid in the Constance Festival charity auction to dine at Restaurant Serge Vieira

Find out more about Chef Serge Vieira including a guided video tour of the Château by the chef himself at gastro website WBP Stars – Restaurant Serge Vieira

And visit their website to find out more: Restaurant Serge Vieira

Take part in our charity auction to dine at Beau Rivage, Geneva

Michelin-star chef at Le Chat-Botté, Dominique Gauthier, uses three words to sum up his food: nature, simplicity and taste.

At Le Chat Botte - Beau Rivage

At Le Chat Botte – Beau Rivage

The emphasis on simple dishes built around natural products of the finest quality might come as a surprise for a chef who was declared ‘Chef of the Future’ in 2005 by the Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie, and Chef of the Year by GaultMillau in 2009.

Inspiration behind Chef Dominique’s cuisine

Gauthier explains his passion for natural, locally sourced ingredients as coming from his childhood in the small French village La Côte Saint-André. He says that growing up they ate the food they grew in their garden, his father hunted and fished and they prepared and cooked what he caught.

This memory of childhood can be tasted in his food in which he takes the very best simple ingredients and combines it with his extensive culinary skills to create exquisite fine-dining dishes.

How Chef Dominique learnt his trade

Gauthier describes himself as being like a surgeon, spending 10 years as an apprentice in some of the best restaurants in France.

Learning his craft under some of the most famous chefs in the world including Point Ferdinand, Jacques Chibois and Jo Rostand, Gauthier finally found a home as the sous-chef at the Michelin-starred Le Chat-Botté in the legendary Swiss hotel Beau-Rivage.

Having worked his way up over the past 20 years to Head Chef, Gauthier was rewarded with his very own Michelin star.

Chef Dominique Gauthier

Chef Dominique Gauthier

Well settled at the Beau-Rivage with its beautiful views over Lake Geneva, Gauthier now shares his skills with cooking courses run at Le Chat-Botté’s kitchens. Those who prefer just to watch can reserve the ‘chef’s table’ situated in the heart of Gauthier’s kitchen and watch a master at work.

Bid to dine at Le Chat-Botté 

You can bid for a table for two at Le Chat-Botté in the Constance charity auction. As well as sampling some of the best food in the world you will be raising money for a ground-breaking school for disadvantaged teenagers in Mauritius, Etoile de Mer.

Find out more about the Constance Festival charity auction and how to make a bid

Find out more about Chef Dominque Gauthier and Le Chat Botté on the Beau Rivage website.

Bidding opens in the Constance Festival Charity Auction

Bid in the Constance Festival charity auction for your chance to enjoy an exclusive dinner for two at a European Michelin star restaurant, and help raise money for a ground-breaking school in Mauritius.

Chez Bruce, London UK

from Chez Bruce, London UK

All money raised through the auction will go to Etoile de Mer, located in the village of Roches Noires, Mauritius. Set up by educational visionary Christine Baudot, the school teaches teenagers vocational and life skills to help them discover opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

Over the next five days – until Friday 22 March – you can bid to dine at any of the following three restaurants in the UK, France and Switzerland.

 

1. Chez Bruce, Chef Bruce Poole (London, UK)

The offer: Dinner for 2 with wines matched by sommelier, and a behind the scenes tour of the kitchen to meet Chef Bruce Poole.

At Chez Bruce, you can enjoy top-notch modern food loosely influenced by classical and regional French/Mediterranean cuisine. Home-made charcuterie, slow cooked braises, offal, warm and cold salads, classical desserts and bread-making are specialities, as is the restaurant’s famous cheese board.

 

2. Restaurant Serge Vieira, Chef Serge and Marie-Aude Vieira (Chaudes-Aigues, South Central France)

Dining room at Restaurant Serge Vieira

Dining room at Restaurant Serge Vieira

The offer: Tasting menu for 2 plus drink

At Restaurant Serge Vieira, you can enjoy fabulous light and simple cooking, using only the finest ingredients, seasonal and locally sourced where possible.

Describing his cooking as ‘emotion culinaire’ Chef Serge runs his restaurant with his wife Marie-Aude, and the menu is the expression of their culinary creativity, reflecting their passionate respect for the food and the environment.

 

3. Beau Rivage, Chef Dominique Gauthier (Geneva, Switzerland)

The offer: Dinner for 2 at Le Chat-Botté

At Beau-Rivage’s Le Chat-Botté you can enjoy contemporary and inventive French cuisine by award winning Chef Dominique Gauthier.

At Beau Rivage

At Beau Rivage

Wine connoisseurs can indulge in some exceptional wines from the cellars of Beau Rivage, renowned as being one of the best stocked cellars in Switzerland.

Make a bid

Click on the link to place a bid in the Constance Festival charity auction.

 

Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2013

We’re running this year’s online charity auction to mark the 2013 Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau. Every day on the blog we’ll be publishing highlights from the festival. Visit the website for the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2013.

Teams are announced for Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2013

With the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2013 now underway, this year’s teams have been drawn.

At Constance Hotels & Resorts

At Constance Hotels & Resorts

European Michelin star chefs teaming with Constance chefs

  • Luc Mobihan & Hem Pulami (Constance Halaveli)
  • Roman Paulus & Beguitta Ally (Constance Ephelia)
  • Ezio Gritti & Shanifa Larue (Constance Lemuria)
  • Robert Speth & Sampath Mariyadasa (Constance Moofushi)
  • Anita Klemensen & Elodie Oudeuil (Constance Belle Mare Plage)
  • William Drabble & Sasha Dinoo (Constance Le Prince Maurice)

 

What’s happening during the festival

Monday 18March

Lots will be drawn to pair the European chefs with their island counterpart.

  • Teams will visit the local market at Port Louis to discover the local produce.
  • In the evening a cocktail competition between the bartenders of Le Prince Maurice and Belle Mare Plage featuring liqueurs from Rum Clément.
  • Norwegian judge and chef Eyvind Hellstrøm will design a special menu dinner at Le Prince Maurice.

Tuesday 19 March

The teams start work in the kitchen exchanging ideas and experimenting with ingredients.

  • Culinary Festival opening cocktail party

Wednesday 20 March

Teams continue to plan their competition menu

  • Art of tablewear & service contest. Three head waiters from Le Prince Maurice and Belle Mare Plage will present a table and do service before a judge.
  • Chef and judge Patrick Bertron of the 3 star Relais Bernard Loiseau will create a special menu for guests.

Thursday 21 March

Having consulted, advised and trained the island cooks, the European chefs withdraw from the competition so their protégés can prepare the dishes the team has created.

Friday 22 March

  • The European chefs create a ‘6 star’ dinner for guests at the Blue Penny Café.
  • A wine competition in which 3 Constance sommeliers will have the chance to pair the perfect wine to the 6 star dinner created by the European chefs.

Saturday 23 March

The winner of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2013 is announced at a Final Prize Giving Cocktail Party held in the gardens of Belle Mare Plage.

  • A gala evening with a special menu prepared by the competition Constance chefs under the supervision of Chef Frederic Goisset of the Blue Penny Café. The dinner will be served with Deutz Champagne.

Sunday 24 March

The European chefs create a second ‘6 star’ dinner for guests

Find out more

Every day this week we’ll be publishing highlights from the festival as well as photos on our Constance Facebook page and Twitter.

And you can find out more on the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2013 website.