Located in the southwest of Sri Lanka are the mesmerising islands of Maldives. The country itself is a collection of scattered islands with its capital, Male, being one of the larger ones. I arrived at Maldives by a morning flight from Sri Lanka, the place I was spending the winter break at.
Sri Lanka has deep connections with Maldives that are not only limited to the tourist industries of both countries (both countries have their economies heavily dependent on the tourists and the income they bring in). It would not then come as surprise that both countries exchange 5-7 flights a day. On the morning of 25-Dec-2015, I took the morning flight from Sri Lankan capital Colombo which departed at 7:20 am and at local time 8:15 am, I was at Maldives (hardly an hour of flight time). The morning flight is recommendable so that you get the whole day to enjoy.
The entry procedure at the airport did not take long and soon I was at the dock. The island on which the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is located is connected to other islands, as all the other islands also are, by travel through speed boats, yachts and ferries. There were a number of speed boats docked at the sea side soon I was able to locate the boat which I had booked earlier for me to escort me to the Paradise Resort, my place for the stay. The short journey in the speedboat was amazing as boat went up and down over the rippling waves of the sea. Within about ten minutes I was at the resort but then came a little surprise. I showed my reservation at the reception counter only to discover that they do not have any reservation for me! For a moment some chills ran down through on the thought of being stranded on an island but the receptionist cleared my mind explaining that I had arrived at the wrong island! I was at the Kurumba Resort while my booking was for the Paradise Resort. Well, I got lucky enough to see another resort while my boatman sped back to pick me up from the wrong island. Before long I was Paradise Resort with its absolutely stunning views.
By 10:30 am I had already checked-in and was in my cottage. I could see the beach next to it and as you see in the picture, the view was enough to make me fall in love with Maldives. Well, I rested for some time before I left for the lavish Hi-Ti lunch. Coming back from the lunch, I retreated to the wooden chairs and spent the later part of the afternoon reading. Soon it was sunset: the time I had been waiting for to call in my photographer (the resort provides the photography service at a charge). Some of the clicks I got were actually amazing and nothing makes happier than a perfect or a near-perfect silhouette. As far as photography is concerned a good picture never comes by itself. One always has to try over and over. A perfect click is a matter of chance.
And now I just remember something important: always pack-in a sun protector and a mosquito lotion for your trip to Maldives. I got the former one, but it did not cross my mind earlier that mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Speaking of tips, I just remembered one more. Carry a pack of bottled waters and soft drinks with you to the resort. Not only for Maldives, but having about a dozen of water bottles and soft drinks saves a lot. The hotels and resorts provide these items in the little refrigerator in the rooms but who doesn’t know that how extravagantly those are over-charged. So making use of your own drinkables would go a long way.
With this, the dinnertime approached and my appetite gave way. Paradise Resort is particularly good with the food variety. If there is anything you ever dislike about the hotel or which is worth not the pricey tag then I can bet that it won’t be the food. Of course it is never good to give in to the temptation to sleep directly after a heavy dinner so I mustered up some courage to out for a walk along the beach before ending the day.
As I had slept on time the night before, I started the day of 26th December quite early in the morning and quickly went for another hour of the photography service because I did not want to have the regrets of missing out on the morning-time beach photos. Morning-time beach photos have their own charisma! And not to forget, the shore water is at its clearest at the early morning time.
My picture on the beach with the tripod on the bag is one of my favorites of the tour. It is only clicks like these that make me realize that a perfect picture not only captures a view but also the feelings linked to it at the time of the click. This one clearly depicts a lot more than a boy on a beach (well, at least for me). After this I started walking towards the restaurant for the breakfast but just then I felt that the bridge would actually make an excellent place for a few more clicks. I am so lucky I took that decision. Just halfway across the bridge spotted a cluster of fish in the water. The view was bewilderingly gorgeous. You won’t trust me unless you have a look yourself at the selfie I made with the fish.
After the breakfast I went for a walk around the resort to see the places I had not before. As you might have noticed in the pictures, the white sand makes it particularly picturesque. However, you do not get this type of weather all the year round. Year-end or the year-start is the ideal time to visit the island to get the suitable wind pressure. Of course, wind pressure is an important factor in the visit because that the most important determinant of how enjoyable the sea is going to be. Another nice point about the visit was that I got a mild wind pressure on the first two days that made the breeze quite pleasant. However, on the third day, the day of departure, there was very little wind that soared the humidity level.
Well, I spent the late morning and early afternoon figuring out what activities the resort has to offer. The sports center of the resort is particularly rich in this regard. They have table tennis, gymnasium, squash, lawn tennis, basketball and volleyball. These facilities are not free charge and come at an hourly rate. For example, I inquired about squash to discover that it takes $17/hour for the equipment and the court. If money is not a question then you can also add these to make your time more eventful. However, something more exciting than the sports was the water sports center located at the west end of the resort. The water-related activities are numerous. Scuba diving, snorkeling, speed boating, paddle boating, wind surfing, shark feeding, parasailing and under-water photography are a few to name. Maldives receives most of the high-end tourists to South and East Asia and charges accordingly. Speed boating, for example, is $221/hour and parasailing is $146 for 15 minutes. And yeah, talking about the water sports center, I found two talking parrots nearby!
After some time thinking about the options, I decided to go for paddle boating. It did not pre-requisite a lot of skills and the $25 tag for half hour seemed a fair one. So I was off for my first paddleboat experience! I had seen some other people paddle boating before and it did not seem a very demanding task to me, well, at first. The good thing about the facility is that they do not just rent you out the equipment but also an instructor accompanies you to the sea. At first, I fell down several times as I found it unexpectedly hard to balance myself on the shaky paddleboat. I think I fell into water more than ten times before realizing the catch: firstly, switch hands each time you switch the paddling side and secondly, put some pressure on the left foot to slightly tilt the paddleboat to the left when you paddle the right side and vice versa. When I got set, I thought that the boat was fully in my control.
It was only at that point when I realised that wind actually plays the most important role in any water sports at the sea. The wind was eastwards at that time and therefore it was being difficult for me stay near the water sports centre where my instructor was. I decided to go with the wind pressure and told my photographer to take pictures of mine from the shore. After some time, I turned back to glance at him and to my surprise he was desperately signaling at me to come back. I felt as if something was wrong and just then realized that it actually was! The experience was so indulging that I failed to take note of crossing into the deep waters! I thought that it would be easy paddle back just as I came that far but only for my lessons, it is impossible paddle against the sea waves.
The paddleboat was completely out my control and deep in the sea I had zero safety equipment.
I rose up and shook my left hand to signal emergency to him. He got my signal and ran to the rescue. Meanwhile, I tried to balance and stabilize the paddleboat under me as best as I could. I did not panic at the time and that proved to be a sensibility. Panicking could only make things worse. I sat down on the paddleboat and made no movements. Sitting down was effective and the boat stopped moving quickly. I think I stayed still in the water for about five minutes and then the rescue boat appeared on the horizon. That was a moment of relief and after that things went safely: the rescuers helped me mount the boat and dropped me off at the shore. The experience was thrilling nonetheless!
With all that, it was almost the sunset time and I left for my room to start working on this blog. I wrote for sometime and again it was the dinnertime and I obviously had to leave. Later, I went for a walk by the beach and retired to bed early, as I had to see Male and catch the flight next morning. Packing up and checking out procedures went smooth and the boat, which I had booked earlier, arrived right at its time, 10 am. So on the morning of 27th I left for Male. Since Maldives is collection of islands, the ferries are mainly used as the prime mode of inter-island public transport.
The city Male is not quite large itself. It has a radius of 4 km and a population of only 150,000. I did not write about it earlier but I found it particularly amazing about Maldivians that a population of only 450,000 has its own language, Dhivehi, which is written in its own script. The script closely resembled the Arabic one but still it shared little even in that resemblance. I had never seen that script before. But another amazing thing is that the taxi driver could talk in Urdu and he told me that most people in Male could too! The Pakistani and Indian movies are quite famous there too and, as in Sri Lanka, most locals in Maldives know Urdu because of the movies. And not only that, Maldivians love cricket as I saw street cricket going on three different places in the short taxi trip and what more, they have their own cricket stadium in the small city. Of course, this makes them the perfect South Asian country! However, the city is very congested and you can estimate this from the fact that the speed limit is 20 km/hour inside the city. Speaking about income levels, Maldives is categorized under the high-end, expensive tourist destinations. Maldives receives about 1.2 million tourists an year and a typical family spends $15,000-$25,000 on a visit but the wealth does not seem to trickle down. Judging from what I could see during the taxi ride, most of the people in the city seemingly live hand-to-mouth; they are well-to-do but not ‘rich’. Nevertheless, they live on an immensely beautiful island.
And that was it: I was at the airport and the usual airport routine followed. My flight got delayed and I landed back at Colombo an hour later than I supposed to. Thank you so much for reading about my trip and please share your thoughts in the comments; nothing would make me happier than reading your comment. All Good!