I first heard of the Maldives from my friends, the pictures they showed me just simply forced me to take a deep breath and stop to admire the incredible beauty being showcased. That’s what I’d always thought a paradise would look like. From the white sand beaches to turquoise water filled with colourful fish and magnificent coral reefs, I was expecting a relaxed holiday where my days would be spent chilling on a hammock sipping cocktails under the palm trees. Simply amazing, so in Feb 2014 I decided to stop there on my way home from backpacking in Thailand and nearby countries despite the not-so-student-friendly price level on the islands.
Well it didn’t go quite as planned.
I arrived pretty late in the evening, ended up on the wrong island to start with, and finally got to the hotel at 1am only to find out there had been a double booking. They gave me a room at another hotel, which was allgood, at least I got some sleep. In the morning there were no cars available, the solution? Let’s take this tiny foreigner with her 23kg backpack and other stuff to the right hotel by a scooter. Scooter. That was interesting.
First day, my dream-come-true relaxing holiday was about to begin. The hotel was awesome, the sun was shining, perfect. “This is my first beach holiday, four days in these beautiful surroundings ought to be what is needed to clear my head and release all the stress from the drama that had happened previously”, I thought.
I could write a 2000 word story on what I did, what I saw. It was all very beautiful, but there are three main points that are vividly in my memory, the three things that weren’t quite what I had expected of my holiday in the Maldives.
The Men. The Rules. The Sea.
Firstly, The Men. Oh dear, I had gotten used to a lot of unwanted male attention in Malaysia and Sri Lanka but this was insane. You could not walk alone for too long without getting someone to follow you and politely, or sometimes not-so-politely, to come up and take a photo or ask for your number. The younger guys were nice and polite; it was fun chatting with them every now and then but the older the men got the creepier the conversation. Why ask your name when you can just go straight to 1) do you have a boyfriend 2) where are you from 3) how old are you. I wonder if I ever meet Michael the doctor or Steve the lawyer that I told so many stories about during those few days 😉 Btw never say you are dating a plummer etc, they WILL try explain why they are a better choice.
But seriously by the third day I was ready to throw a coconut at the next man who would try bother me when I was reading a book on the beach.
And no I was not wearing a bikini then, which brings me to the second point: The Rules.
It is important to follow the local rules and customs when you travel, to show respect. It was silly of me to not do enough background research. To let you know, unfortunately the sipping of the cocktails is not possible in the Maldives unless you go to the “honeymoon islands”, the resorts. It’s an Islamic country after all. Oh well, probably good not to drink anything for the gin & green tea drinks in Colombo had been pretty tasty earlier on.
I had not realized that the clothes I had bought with me weren’t suitable for the Hulhumale island, there was only one skirt and a couple of t-shirts to choose from. Despite the +29 lovely weather, you still needed to dress appropriately – fair enough. No bikinis allowed, shoulders and knees had to be fully covered at all times – even when swimming. And the rules were strictly enforced so if you even consider sunbathing in your swimsuits like the elderly British couple did for a few minutes, well they got yelled at and quickly returned to the hotel for more clothes.
Thirdly, The Sea. Snorkeling was The most incredible – and scary – thing I have ever done. Here’s a copy of my Facebook update;
I love making people smile simply by walking past haha ohhh I’ve never been this sunburnt…! 😀
Snorkeling was incredible, the turquoise water turned deep blue as I drifted past the edge of the coral reef, there were hundreds of fish everywhere – from tiny multicoloured aquarium fish to comical looking square head ones with eyes almost the size of my fist.Sweet lullaby of the lapping waves and the dance of the rays of sunlight on the corals just made it all surreally beautiful as the strong current pushed me within reach of two turtles. What a wonderful world we live in! [22.2.2014]
But at the same time, snorkeling there was also the scariest thing I’ve ever done, skydiving was nothing compared to that.
There were only three people there, me and the hotel owner were snorkeling and one guy was in charge of the boat. I jumped off the boat and by the time I was ready the currents had already taken me almost ten meters ahead. The water started turning turquoise as we reached the coral reef, there were hundreds of fish everywhere, two turtles, the colours and everything just breathtakingly beautiful. But it was quickly lost.
The turquoise faded. The coral reef fell sharply downwards, almost unexpectedly, as we reached the edge. The tropical fish were suddenly replaced with creatures much larger, much deeper below. The rays of sun could no longer reach the bottom, the navy blue turned into overpowering blackness. I tried to swim back to the colours, I gave it all I got. The current embraced be so tightly there was nothing I could do, there was a lump in my throat, I couldn’t fight it.
Do you know what it’s like feeling completely helpless? Not a pleasant feeling.
Luckily the boat picked us up maybe 40m later, off to another reef. And to check out the sand dunes, the two hour trip becoming something like 6 in the end. It was amazing seeing all the beauty under the surface, an adrenaline rush every time I jumped and let the currents guide me. It took me a long time to learn how to relax, float and breath calmly.
All in all, it was a wonderful and relaxing experience. I met some lovely people, and did enjoy my time there. If you wonder about travelling to the Maldives – do it. It is a paradise – and the food is yummy! But if I’m going back one day I’m taking a real husband to a resort island with me 😉