Maldives - Crusing Through Paradise on a Dhoni

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
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Flag of Maldives  , Vaavu Atholhu,
Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Maldives are a favorite of haunt of honeymooners, the rich and famous, and others willing to spend a pretty penny for some time in paradise. This is one of those countries that carefully planned out its tourism infrastructure to keep out the backpacking riffraff and keep its visitors from influencing impressionable locals; tourists are required to have accommodation booked upon entry into the country and (except for the capital city) are banished to resort-only islands or boats that cruise around and only have specific islands where they can stop. The resorts are mostly of numerous stars and very expensive, so there's no way of visiting the country on the cheap unless you’re invited to stay as a guest on the private islands owned by sports stars like David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo.

I managed to find a rather affordable way to visit the Maldives with Explore on a weeklong cruise on a dhoni, a Maldivian style fishing boat, to several coral atolls south from Male. The focus was on snorkeling with two to three stops at different sites along the reef each day. With ten passengers and nine crew members we were actually on two boats that sailed together, tied up against each other at most stops, and shared most meals together.

The Maldives are like that Kevin Costner movie "Water World" with little specs of sandy land sticky only a few feet out of the water. The mix of deeps and shallows over white sand create an amazingly beautiful mix of colors with all shades of blue and green. Pictures hardly do it justice, and without having a camera that works underwater I wasn’t able to take pictures of the best stuff of all – the reefs and marine life.

The Maldives have by far the best coral reefs and marine life I’ve seen anywhere, although here I must admit I’m not as much of a connoisseur of coral reefs as I am of mountains. The reefs all looked very pristine with little evidence of the damage I observed 10 years ago in Egypt. Each site had different coral formations, multitudes of colorful fish, and at various places I saw larger more charismatic fauna – sea turtles, dolphins, and even a couple sharks.

The crew prepared massive meals three times a day, so despite all my time in the water snorkeling, I’m sure I suffered a severe calorie surplus over the week. A good part of those meals consisted of fresh fish caught from our boats’ lines as we traveled along – tuna, yellowfin, bonito, and sailfish. Probably because they get adequate protein growing up from eating fish three times a day, Maldivians tend to be much larger in stature than other people in South Asia.

The accommodation on board was pretty basic, though, with bunks in un-air conditioned cabins. Not much of that sea breeze makes it down into the hull. The beautiful sunrises, sunset swims to sandbanks, and evenings sitting on deck made up for it.  
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