It was the moment we got on the plane that we realized our experience was officially beginning. Loaded with our diving, suitcases full of cameras, swimsuits and sunscreen, we headed, flying over the ocean, at Maldives.
This paradise of coral reefs, crystalline waters, fauna and uninhabited islands seemed to us like a place we would never set sail for and we would see through others. During the 13 hours we spent on the plane, we had time to think about all the places we wanted to visit, all the foods we wanted to try, the sun, the sand and, above all, diving.
The morning we took off, we arrived at the airport bundled up and with the dry, bone-deep cold that characterizes the winter of short days and few hours of light in Madrid.
When we got off the plane it seemed like we had traveled to another planet. The sun was already beginning to set in Malé, the country's capital, and far from finding an island paradise, empty and surrounded by nothingness, we could see from the airport, in the distance, a complex of tall buildings piled up next to each other. from the others in a kind of city of 6 square kilometers in which more than one hundred thousand people live. We didn't spend too much time visiting Malé because our objective was clear: we wanted to get away from everything familiar and focus on the sea, the palm trees and the tranquility that we were sure, breathed in paradise.
We decided to enjoy the islands observed from the water and focus on what was below the surface, but we were also curious to learn about life in the country, so we spent the first few days visiting some islands in the Maldives and then We spent a week on a boat that became our home during those days and took us from atoll to atoll to see the best places to dive in the Maldives.
TOUR ON MAINLAND
The conglomerate of islands that make up the Maldives is made up of 26 atolls that together house more than a thousand smaller islands inside, of which only 200 are inhabited.
The “mainland” tour, as we call it, consisted of visiting several islands and cities independently for a few days.
We stayed in small, but cozy hotels in each place we went and we stayed a day or two, at most, in each place. We tried to soak up the culture, the food, the routines of the locals, their culinary tastes, their schedules... we wanted to know their way of living and understanding life. And we loved it.
Our first stop was on an island (of the inhabited ones) belonging to the Kaafu Atoll, called Maafushi, where we were able to do our first dive in the famous waters of the Indian Ocean that so much curiosity they were causing us. We were able to see in first person and not in photos or in our imagination, the colors and shapes that coral beds make underwater and the tranquility with which sharks and dolphins move when we pass by.
From Maafushi we headed by ferry to Guraidhoo, an island known for being one of the best diving spots in the Maldives.
In addition to enjoying an unbeatable diving experience, another thing we loved about this small town is that it still remains somewhat unknown to tourists and largely retains its Maldivian authenticity. The main source of income for the area comes from fishing, so, attracted by the tranquility and the essence of local life, we went to see what we could find in Guraidhoo.
After our dive, with an empty stomach and very happy and grateful, we shared anecdotes of the morning in Guraidhoo and talked about what we would do next, sitting at the tables of a restaurant with a view (The Wall Café). As the sun began to set, and the water reflected the orange light of the afternoon, we went to the beach to watch the sunset.
Our next stop was the island Huraa, one of the least touristy of Kaafu. To get there, we had to go from Guraidhoo to Male, and in Male take a ferry to Huraa. What did we do on this island? We rested all day at Bikini Beach and snorkelled at sunset. While we rested on the sun loungers on the beach, a group of local children began to play soccer on the shore and we spent several hours entertained taking the role of match referees.
We did the star plan when it was already night and we dared to dive without light. If sharks and marine species already impress a bit during the day... when you don't see anything, the feeling of uncertainty and insecurity is greater, but it was well worth it! Little by little, the eyes and the body get used to the darkness and focus on observing what is in front of them.
After the night experience we tried a restaurant called Kandu Grill. We ate seafood almost on the sand of the beach at tables with straw umbrellas and hanging lights that illuminated the night.
The next destination we visited during our tour of the mainland was the island of Dhiffushi. The biggest attraction of this island are its beaches, which seem to have been taken from the cover of a reggae record. White sand, turquoise blue water, umbrellas in the middle of the beach and palm trees and plants all around. The perfect place to spend a day or two reading, sunbathing and watching the sunset.
We spent the night in a small but very cozy hotel (Crown Beach Hotel) that was very close to the beach and it was very comfortable for us to continue with our task for the day: enjoy doing absolutely nothing.
Our experience on land could not come to an end without having gone through an all-inclusive resort in the Maldives, so our last destination was the hotel Milaidhoo Island a resort that is within walking distance from Malé and had unbeatable views and dream facilities in which we wanted to stay and live. When we arrived at the establishment, the hotel staff received us with great affection and kindness, the team made us feel at home.
When we entered our respective rooms, we couldn't believe where we were. The room overlooked the sea, transparent and empty, and only huge windows separated us from the outside, which we decided to open to let in the sea breeze and the wind that came directly from the ocean.
The walls were white and contrasted with the carved wood furniture. The design could not be more beautiful. When we left the room, we had before us a small wooden platform with hammocks and chairs and tables to have breakfast or read quietly in front of the sea, and then a moon-shaped pool that merged with the sea.
That afternoon we went for a massage, also outdoors and with the sound of the waves around us, and then we went to dinner at the resort restaurant. We were very lucky because there weren't too many people and we enjoyed an almost personalized gourmet experience. What we liked most of all was that, the next morning, they brought breakfast to our room. Many types of fruit, scrambled eggs, bread of all kinds, natural juices and exquisite chocolate and coffee. We were starting the day in the best way possible, and best of all: no rush, no set plans. During that day and the next we dedicated ourselves to visiting all the areas of the hotel, sunbathing, resting and eating a lot and very well!
LIVE ON BOARD
The time to embark on our accommodation for the next few days had arrived. Our adventure began completely focused on diving in the Maldives. We hired a boat that took us through the best areas to dive. We decided to do the Sharktastic route, which runs through the Ari, Male, Vaavu and Meemu atolls. At the time of the year in which we traveled, the ocean waters brought currents from the east of the Maldives, born in Sumatra and Indonesia and brought with them oceanic species that approached the reefs at high speed and cleaned the marine environment, for what visibility from the depths was incredible.
The tour lasted 7 days, and the first place we headed to dive was South Male Atoll. Our dive sites were Kandooma Thila, one of the few places in the Maldives where the direction of the currents does not affect the quality of the dive, which is always impressive. We saw whitetip sharks, manta rays and coral reefs with soft and delicate colors that we couldn't get out of our minds for the whole day.
The other dive site in this area was Cocoa Corner, where we found the largest number of sharks so far. We submerged almost 29 meters and the pressure of the water, the nerves and the spectacle of marine species that we saw before us made our adrenaline soar and there was no room for fear. We lived that experience as if it were the last. The most special moment of that dive was when a family of blacktip sharks crossed the channel that runs from Cocoa to Kandooma with the apparent tranquility and calm with which these animals move.
Our next destination was Vaavu Atoll, an untapped paradise that is home to several islands, Felishoo Atoll and Vattaru Reef. We did a dive at Fotteyo Kandu, which is considered one of the most iconic dive sites in the Maldives. Along the way, we were accompanied by barracudas, manta rays, schools of tuna and a sunny day that we could no longer see as we headed towards the bottom of the sea.
The South Ari Atoll was our last dive site. This natural atoll is located in the west of the archipelago. The places where we dived were Maamigili Beyru, where we could see whale sharks up close, which have made this atoll their home, for some reason that we did not discover.
The last dive of our spectacular trip was at Broken Rock, an area that gets its name from the large split rock that is located in the center of this dive site. On this dive we saw large areas of coral reefs with many combinations of colors and shapes that seemed to dance to the rhythm of the movement of the water currents, which are very strong in this area and on some occasions we had to pay special attention not to hit ourselves against the coral.
The ecosystem of the Maldives is beautiful, but very delicate, since it is the country with the lowest altitude, so the increase in the level of evil affects it greatly. We have to respect and care for it, observe it from a distance without altering it. We made a list with photos of all the marine species that we could see during our trip and this was the result:
We saw Whale sharks, Manta rays, turtles, white and black tip sharks, barracudas and moray eels, clown fish, crabs running around the sand on the beach and of course, we enjoyed the colors of the coral reefs! who are also full of life!
Our experience in the Maldives, although it was born as a trip focused on diving, ended up marking a before and after in our way of seeing life, since the calm we felt on each island we visited, how long they were the days and the feeling that we had all the time in the world at any time of the day, made us want to change many things in our routine in the city, and of course many short-term goals were changed to be replaced by this one: “We have to return”. We will fulfill it soon and we will tell you everything.
We hope that our trip has motivated you to do a similar one, or the same one! And it has encouraged you to travel for free, even if the destination is a bit far away. It is well worth walking, eating and living, as the native people of each country do.