Mar 12-20, 2017
Part 2: Maafushi
The only way we could make it to our public ferry to Maafushi was to take a speed boat from Mahibadhoo to Malé and as luck would have it, the sun was shining brightly and the sea was still and calm.
Maafushi is an inhabited island used to tourism, with up to 60 guesthouses and a “bikini beach”, meaning that although the island is still Sharia law, there is a designated area where foreigners could don their skimpies and get their tan on.
We first noticed that this would be different than Mahibadhoo when the majority of people on our ferry with us were whities.
We passed a lot of nice resorts and after an hour-and-a-half we pulled up to Maafushi’s harbour.
Pretty much everyone had a staff member of their hotel or guesthouse awaiting them except for us, of course. I had called them the night before and they assured me they would be there, but they weren’t.
Luckily the island is quite small and we walked there in less than 10 minutes. Tracy was peeved about this, as walking with heavy packs in 40 degree heat isn’t exactly pleasant, but it turns out that the guy I spoke to had never informed the staff.
We were led to our room at the lovely and clean Seven Corals Resort (www.7corals.com) and for the first time we actually had an ocean view! Granted it wasn’t facing Bikini Beach, but it was still facing the ocean and it was glorious!
We immediately got into our bathing suits and made our way to the beach. Granted it was called Bikini Beach but the Europeans there were given an inch and took a mile: bikini-bottoms that barely covered half the ass, women sunbathing top-less and men in speedos leaving not much to the imagination. This was still a conservative Muslim nation and we felt like the tourists were being rather insensitive. Not to mention there was a construction team working on a hotel just above the beach and they were probably loving the view.
Despite the “bikini beach”, there still is no alcohol on the island, but to get around this, Kaani Beach Hotel had purchased a yacht and parked it a short boat ride away from Maafushi.
Since it was Tracy and my one-and-a-half year anniversary, we decided to have a few celebratory drinks on a yacht while watching the sunset.
This felt like the complete opposite of Mahibadhoo and it was rather nice to feel like a jet setter, sipping drinks on a private yacht while electronic music blasted in the background with a spectacular sunset as our backdrop. Not a bad way to celebrate our love.
Not bad at all.
We ended the evening with a sheisha pipe on the rooftop of a hotel, which we had to ourselves, and gazed at the expansive night’s sky and countless shooting stars as well as a few flying foxes!
The following morning we signed up for a snorkelling trip offered by pretty much every guest house on the island. We used Shadow Palm (www.shadowpalm.com) and would highly recommend them.
We were joined by a group from Lithuania, a few Czechs and an angry looking guy from Turkey.
Our first stop was Biyaadhoo reef, located at the island resort sharing the same name.
While the coral was rather damaged, the fish life was really plentiful, colourful, and far exceeded our expectations.
From there, we were brought to another point where the reef was in much better shape and the fish life just as colourful. The major draw there were the sea turtles that hid under the coral.
Our next stop was a point where dolphins were known to congregate. We had seen dolphins from our boat before so we thought we knew what to expect.
But, to our surprise, our guide actually told us to jump in the water and as soon as we did, we heard the high pitched squeals coming from these clever animals.
The water was murky but we will never forget the sight of a group of around twenty dolphins swimming right under us almost immediately. It was almost as if they were going to jump up out of the water and hit us.
We spent a good few minutes in the water trying to track them, only to have even more large groups appear before our eyes and swim playfully around us. There were literally hundreds of dolphins around us in the middle of the ocean.
It was truly a magical experience.
Our final stop of the day was to a sandbar. This is a large mass of sand that protrudes out of the ocean.
This sandbar had the fine white sand and turquoise waters surrounding it that everyone dreams of when speaking about the Maldives. This sandbar was the Maldives.
After a picnic lunch on the sand, some picture taking and enjoying some cuddles in the warm waters, we took our speedboat back to Maafushi.
That afternoon, we decided to take a stroll around the island. We walked along the water closest to our guesthouse and were once again surprised by the amount of garbage and little regard locals seemed to care for the condition of their country.
Besides burning garbage and a few mosques, Maafushi has one distinguishing feature, the country’s largest prison!
Said to contain over 800 prisoners when built to hold 300, this seemed like an odd addition to an island hosting tourist guesthouses and a “bikini beach”.
After dinner we had another rooftop sheisha session (not forbidden in the Maldives) and made our way back to Shadow Palm to check out the day’s photos and videos, which our guide took with his underwater GoPro.
We started talking to the owner about resort excursions, as our time in the Maldives was slipping away, and I wondered if you could really feel the difference between an inhabited island’s “bikini beach” and a 5-star resort. Tracy was 100% certain you could.
As luck would have it, a couple from Quebec City of all places had just been that day and raved about the experience to us. We were sold, we were going to a 5-star resort the next day!
The resort was called Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort and the rooms are rumoured to go for around 1000USD/night minimum. The fact that we could do a day trip from Maafushi with a buffet lunch, tea time and open bar for 8-hours for 90USD per person, it seemed like the only way to get the 5-star treatment without the 5-star price tag.
We arrived at the resort at around 8:30am and found a lounge chair on the beach underneath a palm tree.
We had our first alcoholic beverage at 9am and toasted to the wonderful day ahead.
We spent the rest of the morning alternating between snorkelling in the house reef with a plethora of beautiful fish to taking a dip in the resort’s wonderful fresh-water pool.
After lunch we snorkelled near the fancy villas and this area boasted baby black-tip reef sharks and giant sting rays!
With all this snorkelling, beaching, and eating, we barely touched the open bar, but still managed to get a few bevies in.
At 5:30pm one of the resort staff came out with a bucket of fish guts over a bridge and like clockwork, huge tuna (I’m talking bigger than Tracy), black tip reef sharks (the parents of the babies we had seen earlier) and giant sting rays all came out to feast.
The size and number of these aquatic creatures was really quite impressive. If only I could have seen this while diving in Mahibadhoo…
Our drop-off time was 8:30am and pick-up time was 6:45pm. We originally thought that we would be bored by the end of it, but the day just flew by. We were definitely glad we opted for the 5-star resort.
We didn’t get to see any of the villas up close but could imagine their extravagance based on the facilities in the rest of the resort (someone told us the bathroom floor is made of glass to enable fish watching).
This was truly a complete Maldivian experience: we stayed on an inhabited island free from tourist crowds, an inhabited island with a “bikini beach”, and a resort island with the finer things in life that couldn’t be less Maldivian except for its geographic location. Our final stop in this island nation was its bustling capital city, Malé.