I met my mom for two weeks in the Maldives. We wanted to visit 2 of the islands, and decided one in the north and one in the central part. The Maldives has 1200 islands stretching over 850 Km. With 200 inhabited it would take you almost three years to see them all if you just spent one day at each.
This was our first stop! We reached this newly opened Island (to tourists) after a 45-minute flight from Male. Up until November, this was only populated by locals. It now has one resort on the island that allows up to 100 visitors to visit per day. From a backpacker viewpoint, I loved this island. I liked how there was a resort on the island, but then the other half was inhabited by locals. If you wanted to get a feel for the locals and see the village you could take bikes and ride around in town. There're a few shops and a couple of local restaurants serving up delicious Maldivian dishes for cheap ($1.50 a plate!). The resort was beautiful and even though it was buffet style for the meals, we had flavors of Maldivian dishes. Local women would come twice a week to teach the guests how to cook traditional dishes. Everything they cooked was so flavorful and not like anything I’ve tasted so far in my travels. One of the ladies invited me back to her home for a cooking class, which was actually just lunch, but she and her mom made me a huge spread and even gave me a bunch to take back to the resort. The Maldives is a strict Muslim country, and since this island has locals living in the village, there’s no alcohol allowed even at the resort. It wasn’t a big deal, but we found out our resort owned a decommissioned “floating bar” sailboat in the middle of the ocean where we could take a free speed boat out to watch the sunset and get a mojito. So we went to check it out, and it was incredible! The boat is beautiful and the sunset gorgeous. After a week here, we didn’t want to leave, the beach and water were so inviting!
After our week up north and a flight back to Male, we jumped on another 45-minute ride down south but this time in the form of a private speedboat for just the two of us. The Holiday Inn Resort owns Kandooma Island, which is where we stayed for our second week. We got our room free for the week on points and were upgraded to a beachside villa. Score! A very different feel from the first resort, this was very westernized with only a couple Maldivian dishes and a rooftop bar. Our room had a private beach and balcony with a view of the ocean where we could snorkel, and we had a BBQ dinner out on the beach in front of our place one night where the chef came and cooked up our five-course meal right there for us. So many activities to do from water sports to scuba diving. I did one day of diving, and we both did a snorkel trip. The underwater world is just in such a sad state here as you’ll see in the next section.
STATE OF THE OCEAN
Being a diver, I was so excited to do a few days of diving, in the Maldives! When you look online, you see all these colorful pictures of the reef and fish, but this isn't the full story. Once I saw how depressed the waters were, I only winded up doing two dives on Kandooma. The water temperatures are up to almost 90F. All the coral is bleached, and sea life is struggling to survive. Up north in Hanimaadhoo there were hundreds of blue triggerfish washed up on shore and floating lifeless in the water. We are seeing water warming all over the world, but witnessing this up-close hits home and is just heartbreaking. I feel for the sea-life and feel helpless on what I can do to help them as this is a world problem that needs to be addressed and another post for later…
LITTER IN MALDIVES
Trash is another issue. You don’t see it on the resort grounds, but outside the resort, in the villages and even at the airport, the streets and beaches are littered with trash. The villages don’t have the means to ship their garbage off the island so they just throw it on the ground and burn what they can. The resorts send their waste to one island that is dedicated to burning trash 24 hours a day. Plastic bottles, paper, tin, you name it they’ll burn it. So the pictures you see online are only half the story, and this part doesn’t get publicized as much.
I have mixed emotions about the Maldives. Here you are in the middle of paradise and from afar it all looks gorgeous and pristine. But then you go to islands inhabited by villagers, and you see the way the locals live with all the trash. And don’t get me started on the state of the underwater world again. Out of the 26 atolls, there are two that aren’t nearly as affected as the rest with water warming. I didn't get to go to them, but maybe someday.