Why I was disillusioned in the Maldives
And how paradise redeemed itself
Maldives, playground of jetsetters, surfers and divers.
Fortunately for me I haven’t only travelled in a cloud of dust and diesel fumes. Nor have I only roughed it between thin sheets of a canvas tent.
I’ve luxuriated in an all-inclusive 4 star resort holiday too. This occasion I could slip between silk sheets. Nah, you’ve got me – it was cotton. Maldives has long been a huge industry for tourism. No wonder, with her seductive charm, powdery white beaches and fifty shades of blue lagoons. Who wouldn’t be wooed by this oasis of tropical islands scattered in the Indian Ocean? She has her price though, and not only in monetary terms, with the influx of tourists.
So many holidaymakers have waxed lyrical about the Maldives. Question is, will I?
Where to go?
There are numerous rings of coral islands with immaculate palm fringed beaches. So how do you choose one? It’s not easy, wading through the tons of information, from which atoll is the best for the monsoon season to which resort would appeal to you. They are all stunning, and one could happily try each one of them but of course that is impossible. I wouldn’t mind having a go though…
In the end we chose Club Med Kani on Kanifinolhu, Kaafu - North Atoll. Why? It was at the end of the dry season and they had a special which meant our currency (ZAR) would go just a bit further, so the lowish cost (although it was still very expensive) won the game. We were concerned about the weather, but after enquiring around we thought we would risk it.
We flew with Emirates from Johannesburg via Dubai and had a lengthy stopover of about six hours. Then we flew directly to Male. After being awake for about 36 hours the breath-taking sight was balm to our weary souls. Whisked away in our water taxi for a fifteen-minute journey to our island, we were enthralled with this paradise. Greeted with cocktails and escorted to our room, we could explore at our hearts content…or just relax. Our week’s stay would be bliss. We were thrilled to be able to snorkel, swim and dive at our leisure. Our only worries would be a coconut clonking us on our heads.
Our accommodation was idyllic, with our own stretch of pristine beach and stunning view over the ocean. Our room was more than adequate, and we loved the towel-art that greeted us every day.
After our long flight, the promise of exploring that ocean with its underwater paradise was enough to grab our masks and fins and do just that. We dived in and tucked our heads underwater. We were bitterly disillusioned. We were swimming in a barren area with just the odd small coral head scattered on a huge expanse of sand. Granted, it was only the area around the island, but we were expecting a whole lot more. Still, we couldn’t complain about swimming in the pleasant water.
Being all-inclusive, everything was available, from snacks and fruit to drinks, including three meals a day. We could eat and drink to our hearts content. Meals were superb and veritable feasts were laid on at every meal with themes and entertainment every night. It was a great opportunity to try out a few different dishes and fruits we’d never seen before. We did however ponder over all this food and water having to be transported onto the island – and then all the litter being carted away from the island too. Apparently there is an island allocated to just refuse. It has been a sore topic that has been debated widely, but that I’ll leave to others. I shudder just to think about it.
We had to work off those extra calories though, so booked for a snorkel trip to an atoll. We also booked a few dives as well.
To be able to snorkel around the atoll, you have to prove that you can swim. Seriously, many snorkelers had to first swim in a shallow stretch of water to see if they could stay afloat. Many of them used life jackets, but because we were qualified divers, they didn’t bother to put us through the test.
Snorkeling around the atoll was completely different to our little patch of water in front of our bungalow. We swam around the entire atoll and could have spent hours there, but unfortunately our excursion was short. Still, Maldives had redeemed herself somewhat.
To be able to dive in the Maldives, you have to do an orientation dive at the house reef. We had brought some of our own gear, kitted up and leapt into the water. As usual it takes me a while to go down, due to my left ear not equalizing quickly enough, but this time I was really struggling – not because of my ear. I did everything I needed to do as well as deflate my BC, but I couldn’t stay down. I had enough weights too, so it wasn’t that. I looked like a convulsing octopus, and our dive master must have thought he was dealing with a clumsy amateur.
Once out of the water we realized we’d packed a faulty BC that was filling with air. Once that was sorted I could enjoy the dives more sedately. The wall dive was like a massive aquarium with colourful coral and tropical fish on one side. On the other side, never-ending deep blue, with schools of squid, shark and mantas swimming past. Maldives continued to redeem herself.
Snorkeling in the shallows
Between dives we headed back into the water in front of our room. I decided to explore the tiny little coral heads. I lay still and watched for a while. I soon found out the coral and lagoon weren’t so barren after all. One by one little shrimp plucked up courage and popped their heads out. The odd crab would scuttle sideways. It was also the playground and nursery for the juvenile fish. Tiny little box fish, the size of my thumb nail swam past, perfectly shaped. We also swam with juvenile black tipped reef sharks, to the horror of patrons sitting at the bar overlooking the lagoon. They must have thought us crazy because we could distinctly here the panic in their voices when they shouted ‘Shark…shark!’ We adored watching the shark glide smoothly through the water. They weren’t even interested in nibbling our fingertips, considering they were not even a meter long.
To end our holiday, we decided to indulge ourselves with a massage. Any remaining dregs of stress was gently coaxed out of our bodies. Afterwards while sipping cocktails and watching the sun set over the sea, we must have had goofy smiles on our faces from being so relaxed. I don’t think I have every had such a soothing massage.
Most of the photos are courtesy of hubby. I was obviously too distracted by the location. Even so, they don’t do justice to the stunning scenery.