You know when you see those picture post card shots of crystal clear water in every shade of the paint pallet in blues and greens- aqua, aquamarine, sapphire, aztec, cirilien, turquoise. Well that is where we are right now ~ 4 degrees north of the equator, aboard a traditional sail boat in the atolls of the Maldives with Nemo and all his friends!
We all thought an island was the atoll however we have discovered that the atolls are a cluster of islands in the ocean -inside the reef and grouped together they are called atolls. Or as they pronounce it over here Ah Tolls! They also pronounce the Maldives as Mall- deeves!
We have been swimming, boating, snorkelling reefs and ship wrecks, hanging out in island cays and beach combing. We have been visiting some of the small Islands, enjoying sundowners doing a bit of art and craft and novel reading~ then Repeat!
Our team arrived via a 1 hour flight from Sri Lanka to Male, the capital of the Maldives. The airport is also the main shipping port and after we clear customs ( they scan your bags for Alcohol as it’s a Muslim country and if they do find it or you declare it, they lock it up until you leave the country) ~ we walked straight out into 34 degree heat and 100 % humidity.
We have a slight issue finding our G adventures rep in the airport/boat boarding area, so we find the information counter who help and before you know it ( actually it was 30 minutes later) our CEO “Naanu” appears in the crowd in his @gadventures t shirt. He has literally just arrived back in port, said farewell to the previous boat trip and here we all are.
Their local currency is the Maldivian Rupee, and we are all reluctant to buy any as apart from a few crabs and sea shells, there isn’t much to purchase here or you can use USD and after we paid USD$16-00 for 4 bottles of water……. we all decided we will be paying our boat alcohol bill by credit card as we all brought some USD for tipping the crew, and with USD4 Beers, USD40 a bottle of Gin and USD25 a bottle of wine, we clearly don’t have enough currency in our wallets!
Anyways we exit the airport and wow we are straight onto an inflatable dinghy to our boat – a 24 year old wooden sailing boat. Called “the Kethi” and she is exactly what I thought she would be. A beautiful old wooden vessel that is home for the next 6 days and nights.
There are 5 crew on board, being the captain- Hussain, our CEO Naanu, Aziz – the boat hand, V-Jay – our chef and Yoobe- our room boy who also is the diver for the moorings! Actually they are an awesome crew who can change roles when needed. Right now, Naanu, who speaks the best English is currently not taking us on the snorkels due to an injury to his big toe and he has been out fo the water for 3 weeks. We have el capitain on snorkelling duty. They are all just gorgeous, very shy and although they understand us, we generally only have big conversations with Naanu.
Our first afternoon is spent getting settled whilst the crew go about the boat and we spend 2 hours as we cruise from busy Male – to our first night on the water. It’s also the only night we actually drop anchor, as most of the coral cays and inlets have mooring ropes that these clever sea faring guys know well. In fact have made the moorings and where possible they are always trying to protect the reef.
The 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, wiped out a few islands, lots of reef and on our 6 days travelling we see a lot of where this happened and also where the reef is now repairing itself.
On board we all have a small ensuite room with a shower and toilet. It reminds me of the Greek islands and even more so when the crew tell us not to flush toilet paper down as it blocks the system. We need to “bin” any toilet tissue etc. to avoid this and as our rooms get cleaned everyday it’s not an issue. There is also a “hose” for those who would like to wash their butts, and although we have all seen “the hose” in bathrooms throughout the world, none of us had previously really used it. We have now all added this to our skill set, although being left handed I swear I hosed the wrong parts of my body and the vanity a few times trying to “manage” the hose. Luckily its a swimsuit kind of trip!
The days start early with the best sunrises as the crew go about their duties. Getting the tea and coffee up on deck or getting us off a mooring, starting the engines for our next adventure through the atolls. It may include a dip in the salty salty water, that is so clear you could read a sign on the bottom of the boat if they had one!
Our mornings are relaxed or as our Maldivian friends tell us lazy……. full bellies, reading, snoozing, sun tanning…. you get the picture.
Breakfast is at 7.30am for fruit platters, toast and toppings, pancakes with lots of variety of either beans, sausages and cheese, before we are offered the egg or egg with chilli omelette.
Our Crew have usually given us a briefing of what the day will bring. Snorkel before or after breakfast, or dress appropriately for an island visit or just retire to the front of the deck, where there is large area with deck chairs a lounge area and our hutches to the rooms.
These allow air flow to our rooms and after the 2nd night Steve and I and Stuart and Di elect to sleep on deck….. It’s just too hot in the rooms with the fan at full pelt! Lindy joins the slumber party on night 3! There is limited breeze as it’s just after the full moon and therefore not too big a swell current or breeze. Balmy days and nights of 28-34 degree temps and the odd small shower that often bring a little gust of wind out of no where. We only got caught short once when the CEO said it might rain soon……. as we got blown across the front deck and tried to rescue books, towels, art works before they blew overboard in a little storm.
Have I mentioned how stunningly beautiful it is?
Well it truly is- however there is an ugly side to this trip and it’s called rubbish. We are all shocked and horrified to see rubbish floating by in the currents, on the shores of the islands and it’s just wrong in this picture perfect Island paradise. Of course we are all contributing to this by drinking bottled water, and as a big culprit of this I will be writing to G Adventures, and saying perhaps if they had a large 50 litre water container and we all got given 1 bottle to re-use it may reduce our foot print…… its really quite sad to see. They have solar power on some islands now and have desalination on all the boats, so why not reduce the plastic we use as unfortunately they just take it to an Island and burn it!
Anyway enough about that it’s lunch time 12.30pm! Sometimes we eat on the move and sometimes (if we have had an early start) and have arrived in a coral cay for the whole day and evening we just hang around the boat, walk around the deserted islands and beach comb for shells, or washed up bits and pieces to make sculpture art~ and then eat lunch….
Lunch by the amazing V-Jay is anything from fish curry and veggie curry ( which is my personal fav) to red tomato sauce with fish. Everyday V-Jay cooks 2 lots of pasta for the gluten free and non gluten people with salads, breads and chicken and although similar, lunch has been different everyday.
Afternoons vary depending on whether we visit a local island, or a ship wreck. It’s just an amazing week that always surprises, and after our hectic 11 days in Sri Lanka a great way to chill out unwind, recharge and enjoy these amazing amazing picture postcard views!
This morning we also went to an island where there is a boat being built ! OMG they are going to need a bigger shed! And I think we all need to come back in 12 months and take it on its maiden voyage.
Although we are in the southern atolls, this group of craftsman/boat builders have travelled down from the northern atolls to build this boat. It’s like 1 giant jigsaw puzzle of wooden wishbones that will become the hull, and let’s just say we don’t think that have heard of work health and safety. They also don’t work off large blown up plans of the boat, just a mobile phone with all the sketches.
Our next adventure is an amazing ship wreck of a fishing boat that got into trouble about 8 years ago. It is still fully intact and we got to snorkel and duck dive all around it! Pretty cool adventure, the crew also loved this and were proudly sitting on top of the boat, diving into the wheel house below the surface whilst we all swam around and enjoyed yet another ‘aquarium’ moment on this incredible trip – fish swimming around us that if they weren’t too scared you could reach out and touch.
With our early starts we also have had early nights, nodding off by 8.30pm lying under the stars of the northern hemisphere, seeing our saucepan stars upside down. We have drunk the ship dry of red wine and a couple of us took one for the team and drank white wine! (thanks Pete and Gwyn) .
Steve and David have spent the entire week, educating the crew on what an ice cold beer feels like and that when they do switch off the generator each day giving it a rest, we need to make ice for the gin and tonics and then pop it in the ice machine ready along with the beer cans so they are also kept cool. Needless to say the crew have now nailed this!
Money Making venture number 4591- stubby holders! A must for anyone coming here or Sri Lanka bring a beer stubby holder.
One of the nights we got invited to see a drumming and singing show on one of the islands, where we were anchored off.
We of course were invited to watch by Naanu the CEO what he forgot to say was that we would be part of the show, so at 8.45pm we all boarded the dinghy in the dark from our anchor point and putted into the island, beached our dinghy onto the shore where hundreds of crabs were having their own party and running riot!
This set us up for our performance where of course we were encouraged to ‘join’ in for the dancing! I think we all looked like a bunch of crabs running riot in the cafe. Sweaty and happy it’s back on board for a cleansing ale and lights out just after 11pm for us groovers!
This morning on our 2nd last day, we are heading through the southern channel back to the middle atolls. I’m blogging as we cross the channel with flying fish leaping out of the water, flying across the current, dolphins playfully swimming at the front of our boat, and we also have a fishing line trawling off the back of the boat in the hope of catching our dinner. (We) have caught a few fish that have become lunch and dinner, however yesterday afternoon, whilst Stuart was on “line watch” he caught a massive 18 kilo Wahoo fish. Allegedly the fastest fish in the ocean. The lines are on hand reels not rods and are made of what we would call whipper snipper cord. It was fun for all of us to see Stuart bring this solid live catch on board!
Our trip is coming to an end and we have had a few eventful things happen, some of us learning to duck dive while snorkelling, swimming with Nemo and all his friends on several reefs and currents that are just like big aquariums, some of us progressing from using the noodle support to swimming in strong currents, managing our floating devices -the pineapple ? and strawberry ? and learning to fish ? the local way.
The art and craft dept, ? was alive and well on the trip, with Lindy taking a water colour class, Pete a drawing perspective class and Diane as always creating the most amazing things from beach combing. Most of our drawings were of fish ? ? and I just stuck to what I know best drawing ✍ the fish ? and colouring in like a kindergarten teacher. Wait! that’s what I am! In the end it was Naanu, our CEO who showed us all up with his free drawing and water colour skills!
Boating life is always fun however fraught with challenges, catching your dinner, or finding the mooring in an ocean of blue water, or not stepping into the open roof hatch of your room below. I unfortunately did this on our 2nd night aboard whilst I was busy decorating for Diane’s birthday with my ever travelling fairy lights……….I fell leg first into the open hatch and to say I am very lucky gal is an understatement.
I have bruising all up and down my right side, from my thumb and elbow to my very painful ribs down my hip and thigh. The crew and our team had me heading back to the main land for X-rays, however I didn’t feel like I couldn’t breathe and soldiered on and have been only slightly hindered and lucky for me my stiff and sore pain disappears in the water. Gotta love buoyancy. Everyone has been awesome helping me in and out of the dinghy getting me a drink or food when I’ve made it to my chair!
We are off for one of our last snorkels now, to swim with more turtles than you can imagine and all before our breakfast. Our afternoon is a repeat of the above. However the crew banish us to the front deck, as they prepare the most artist display of palm fronds and a stunning tapas style Maldivian meal!
Gwyn reads us all and amazing poem she has written about our trip. I think we are all a little shocked at our wonderful it has been. I will upload the poem soon~ it’s a cracker.
We are truly blessed to have had this opportunity and I am sure we will all treasure our time together and the new friends we have made on board the ‘Kethi’. We are heading back to the airport (on our boat), ⛴ no bus shuttle required ???? listening to the crew sing their beautiful Maldivian songs. It just magic!
Till next time its over and out from this part of the world. Get ready for some photo spam from the Magical Maldives on instagram.
Mrs W x