A Travellerspoint blog

FEB 6 MOVING TO OMADHOO

To Do Some More Snorkelling

sunny 32 °C

MOVING DHANGETHI TO OMADHOO
We pack and say our goodbyes to Nish and the staff. They have been exemplary catering to our every need. Our luggage is wheeled down to the dock while we walk sharing memories. We wait for the ferry to arrive. A fisherman jigs for a couple calamari to use as bait for Marlin. Young boys dive off the dock while young girls give them the eye. The boys entice first one young girl onto an open kayak and soon the girls are all as wet as the boys. It brings back memories of 60 years ago. In some ways life hasn't changed much. One hour later we reach Mahibadhoo and are picked up by an old working boat and transported to the Island of Omadhoo 20 minutes away.

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LIFE ON THE DOCK

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STEERING WITH ONES FOOT

We are met by Ishmael and shown our digs the Kuri Inn. Not as fancy as Dhangethi but half the cost at $40 per night including breakfast. There are three houses offering accomodation on the Island all owned by Ishmael's family. The Island seems more traditional and not so used to tourists. There are supposedly two public places to ear on-Island but we have only seen one.

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THE KURI INN

After lunch Don and I drift snorkel the outer reef of one side of the Island. It takes about 2 plus hours as the tide runs against us. When we get to the end of the island there is no place to cross the coral encrusted reef to get to shore so we have to snorkel partway back to where we started until we find a channel to access shore. The reef does not have as much coral as Vilamendhoo but more fish and a deeper drop-off which makes life more interesting. One moment you are in warm turquoise waters on the reef in 2 metres of water the next cooler rich blue waters with the bottom 25 meters below. We get to shore just as the sun is setting.

Posted by RDILL 10:52 Archived in Maldives Republic Tagged omadhoo Comments (0)

FEB 4 FEB 5 WHALE SHARKS, TURTLES, GIANT MORAY EELS & CORAL

Snorkelling ALIFU Atoll

sunny 33 °C

TURTLE REEF AND VILEMENDOO REEF
Don and I arrange for our host Nesh to take us out in his boat to some nearby snorkelling sites. It is a superb way to explore the reefs in solitude. First we head out to turtle reef and I have the pleasure to video a Giant Moray Eel almost totally out of its den and then to swim side by side with a friendly green turtle and get some marvellous video footage with my Go Pro. Unfortunately there is not enough band width here to upload the footage. It sometimes takes over 15 minutes just to log in. Next we head over to Vilemendhoo Reef which is known as one of the better snorkel areas on the Maldives. We do a drift snorkel with the current for an hour. The reef is alive with coral dropping off the shelf and we get lost in its underwater beauty. Then we head over to the outer reef circling the atoll. It is too rough to snorkel the outside so we drift the shallow inner edge with some more interesting corals. It is a day well spent, each site within 15 minutes of Dhangethi.

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CORALS AWASH
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SWIMMING WITH A WHALE SHARK
Don, Erik, Nesh and I head off to the southern tip of the atoll in search of whale sharks. They are the biggest shark species averaging 10 meters in length and weighing an average of 9 tons, but are totally harmless to humans. We charter the high speed local water taxi (with two 200 horsepower motors) and cross the atoll in 30 to 40 minutes. We skirt the outer edge of the reef joining up with 3 other boats and finally sight one. Over the side and we are swimming along side the beast. The whale shark is barely moving, just a relaxed swish of the tail every so often but they swim against the current and we can barely keep up. When we fall behind our boat comes alongside, throws a trailing rope over and we catch and hold on and it revs the engines and drags us through the water until we are alongside again. The whale shark is like a living entity from a different world primordial in nature. I try to relax and savour the moment but one cannot tarry or one gets left behind. After Half an hour it slips into the deep, We patrol the coast some more but no others appear and we head back home.

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THE VILLAGERS
Today is Friday, the school holiday. Everyone goes to the Mosque in the morning and again at noon. School is closed and nothing's open till after 2. Then the kids come out and play, young moms take their kids to the beach or sit chatting in the shade. They graciously allow me to photograph them. Many of the men still work cleaning leaves, or go fishing or sit in the shade and talk. Life is pretty laid back. The only activity is at the playground where the young kids play on the play equipment and the local Bangladesh workers play a rousing game of soccer (barely breaking into a sweat in the 33 C. sun), or on the dock where the monthly supply ship comes in and unloads staples and the twice a week vessel brings fresh produce and fruit to be distributed from the local co-op. Later in the day Nesh invites us to tea and we sit in the shade of the beachfront watching the sun go down. Life here could get addictive.

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Posted by RDILL 13:13 Archived in Maldives Republic Tagged turtles and green sharks whale coral moray eels Comments (0)

FEB 3 DHANGETHI

Touring The Island

sunny 32 °C

DHANGETHI
I awake to the gentle sound of the surf. Dhangethi is a small island in the Alifu Atoll. Population just over 1000 permanent residents. The Ariston Dhangethi Inn is one year old and the biggest of three places that offer accomodation on Dhangethi. Our rooms are spacious and spotless. The beach front enticing.

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ARISTON DHANGETHI INN

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MY ROOM

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VIEW TO SEA

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SAND AND MORE SAND

After breakfast, the owner of our villa gives us a walking tour of the town. Soon we know everything about town life. We visit the ship builders (building new Dhoni sailing craft), the council office, the police station (they have 6 police but nothing to do), the old mosque reserved for special functions and the bigger new mosque, the football field ( to play soccer), the telecom centre (the Inn will soon have the Maldavian TV station), the teen centre (built from funds from the Canadian Red Cross), the preschool and most interestingly the public school. Education is free to grade 10. We meet the principal and teachers. There are 124 students grades 1 to 10 and 20 teachers and staff. They start school at 6:30 am, have a breakfast break from 8:00 to 9:30 and then go to school to 12:30 pm and are finished for the day. When kids go to university, the whole family moves to Male the capital. We walk past the two restaurants (beach shacks) on the Island and down the Main Street (full of family shops selling shells, t shirts, flowing women's beach dresses and various handicrafts). We visit the central banyan tree (reported to be anywhere from 200 to 600 years old depending on the story), and are told the name of every tree and the 3 kinds of coconuts. We enter the homes of many residents, check out their gardens and say hello. There is a special fenced off beach area at the south end of the Island called "bikini beach" where visitors can sun and swim in bikinis and short swim trunks. On the rest of the Island women need to cover their arms and both women and men need to cover their legs down past their knees even when swimming. The women do not seem as happy and chatty as those on Sri Lanka.

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THE BOAT BUILDERS

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THE SCHOOL CHILDREN

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THE ASS LINE LEADER?

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STREET LIFE SCARCE DURING THE HEAT OF THE DAY

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THE BANYAN TREE

Don and Erik and I spend the afternoon snorkelling the reef. It is very shallow there is a swift current so we have to be careful not to get hung up on the coral. It is great to spend a couple of hours just drifting with the current along the reef - a great meditation just the fish and coral and turquoise blue waters. The water is 28 degrees so is a delight to spend time in. We watch the evening sunset. We settle in to Island life.

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Posted by RDILL 09:20 Archived in Maldives Republic Tagged village life Comments (0)

FEB 2 NEGOMBO TO DHANGETHI

We Reach The Maldives

sunny 32 °C

NEGOMBO TO DHANGETHI
It feels like the end of the earth. Don Kathy and I comfortably settled at the Ariston inn on the small Maldavian Island of Dhangethi.

We say goodbye to Mani at the Alexandra Guest House in Negombo. Mani leaves to get a last minute massage from an Ayurvedic centre (I think she's hooked now) before catching a late afternoon flight back to Victoria with a stopover in Shanghai on the way. I am sorry to have her leave as we've had a great trip together.

We catch a tuk tuk to the airport, check in and 1 1/2 hours later we land in the Maldives an archipelago of over one thousand small Islands in the Indian Ocean. They are famous because the highest point of land in the whole country is just 2.4 metres above sea level making the country vulnerable to global warming and in danger of disappearing entirely in the future. We are met at the airport by someone who walks us over to a boat that takes us over to the next Island of Male, the commercial hub of the Maldives where someone else directs us to a car that circumnavigates the Island to get us to a launch area for the high speed inter-Island water taxi where we are met by a third person who directs us to the boat. We get there 5 minutes before the last departure of the day but have not had a chance to change any money so someone walks with us to an ATM that restricts the total we can withdraw, we walk back, and jump on board and we are off.

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BOAT TRAVEL MODERN SPEED BOAT - TRADITIONAL DHONI

The Maldives are strongly Muslim and most of the women all wear the hijab. After a one and one half hour trip over rolling seas we arrive at a small Island the end destination of the water taxi We are directed to another high speed boat that takes the three of us south for another 30 minutes till we arrive at our destination - the Island of Dhangethi. We are met by the owner of the Inn and walk along sand pathways till we cross the Island (about 300 metres) and reach our destination just as evening descends on us. We are greeted with a warm face cloth, fresh fruit juice, and are adorned with a fragipani (they call honey flower) lei. This is service. We check in, are served a delicious fish dinner buffet, share a table with Erik a Swedish traveller who has also just arrived and has taken Mani's place at our table . We look forward to shangri-la for the next 3 days.

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THE MAIN PORT AND STREET

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HAPPY CAMPER

Posted by RDILL 08:59 Archived in Maldives Republic Tagged dhangethi Comments (0)

JAN 31 FEB 1 NEGOMBO

Last Days In Sri Lanka

sunny 33 °C

GETTING TO NEGOMBO
We catch a tuc tuc to the rail station. Our train is an hour late and finally arrives by noon. We have a 6 hour ride to Colombo by train and then a couple hour bus ride to our destination which will get us in after dark. Our first class coach has no air conditioning but all windows are wide open and it is a comfortable ride. We pick up some Sri Lankan pakoras and othe spicy nibbles at the rail station and buy peanuts and sliced pineapple from buskers plying the train. In discussion with the conductor he suggests to Don that we get off before Negombo at a train junction and catch another train to Negombo rather than go all the way to Colombo and then take a bus. We take a chance and it works brilliantly with only a 20 minute wait between trains. Only problem is there is only 3rd class coaches so we hop on with all our luggage to full cars and standing room only but within a few stops we have seats. We get to our destination before 6 so the gamble pays off.

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WAITING PATIENTLY

NEGOMBO
We have a layover day in Negombo, the closest town for tourist arrival and departure from the International airport. It is known for its fish market so we take bikes from our home stay and bicycle to the market. The market is basically closed with the fishermen on strike to protest against illegal fishermen who set dynamite in the waters and kill not only their catch but every other living fish around. We catch the fishermen marching in the streets. We still get to see the drying process they use for calamari and mackerel as well as for larger fish. The women clean the innards, the men wash them in baskets in the ocean, the women salt them and Lat them out to dry for one day and then turn them the next day, and
Resto died fish which will keep 6 months.

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THE PROTESTORS

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GUTTING THE SQUID

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WASHING THE FISH

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DRYING THE SQUID, MACKEREL AND BIGGER FISH

Across the way their is a girls school field day event taking place and we walk by as the young girls give us the eye and big smiles. We continue biking along the Oceanside and find a nice seafood restaurant for lunch.

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GIRLS AT ATTENTION

Mani has booked a massage for the afternoon and Don and Rob walk the beach, swim in the ocean, tan in the late afternoon sun, and admire the homemade outrigger canoes used for fishing and more recently to take tourists on little excursions along the coast.

Posted by RDILL 20:26 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged negombo Comments (0)

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