“If there is paradise on Earth, it is here.”
This was what I said to myself over and over again during my five-day visit to the land of atolls, the Maldives.
December is usually a slow period at my workplace so, last year, I decided to take some time off and head to this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean. I like to travel solo and also properly plan my trips, although I prefer to choose itineraries that are flexible enough to allow me to cherry-pick activities I want to do.
I spent a couple of days in Male, the capital of Maldives, and the remainder of my holiday in a very small island called Maalhos in the Baa Atoll. Logistically, Baa Atoll is probably not the easiest place to get to but since it is a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve (so named because of the significant biodiversity found in its waters), I figured it would be worth a visit.
Since I planned the trip many months back, I was able to get my hands on cheap flights to the Maldives from Kuala Lumpur. We landed in Male on a Saturday night. My next flight out to the Dharavandhoo island in Baa Atoll was in the morning so I stayed the night in Male.
The airport in Dharavandhoo is possibly the smallest airport I have ever seen in my life. When we landed, our plane was the only aircraft at the airport. From Dharavandhoo, I paid for a boat (yes, I had to get one whole boat for myself as there were no other passengers or tourists who were going my way) to take me to Maalhos island.
Maalhos island is a “thin” island – its length measures about 7.5km, while its width is only 0.5km. I circled the whole place on foot on the first day itself! It was a nice experience as the colour of the sea was a pristine turquoise, and the sand was very fine and white.
While walking, I realised that the rising sea level had encroached the wooded areas of the island, leaving almost no path for me to walk on. I even found myself having to wade a little through the water, just to get to another side.
Global warming is not just a talking point here in the Maldives, it is a harsh reality. This is probably one of the reasons why Maldives was the first country to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
After dinner, I decided to take another stroll on the beach. It was very dark but something bright caught my eye – bioluminescent plankton. I have heard of them before but have never actually seen them. And boy, was I happy to have experienced it. It was as if blue droplets were moving up and down the shore, following the waves.
There were some quick movements of light too ... they were crabs and fish that got caught in the plankton, and were simply drifting along together. As I went into the water, amazingly my feet turned blue too.
The next morning, I explored the sea. There were no guides available but the hotel did provide snorkelling equipment. It took me a while before I managed to find a good reef area which had so many colourful fishes and other sea creatures swimming around. It was overwhelming to see such beauty; I praised God for creating such paradise on Earth.
I suddenly felt a little emotional and started thinking about my parents and how I was grateful for all they’ve done for me, especially to my father who had taught me how to swim. If I didn’t know how to swim, I wouldn’t have been able to witness this underwater beauty.
I made my way back to Male the next day. “Maldives” actually means “the islands of Male” (although some people also claim that “Maldives” came from the Sanskrit word, mala/garland and dwipa/island). Many tourists skip Male but the capital city has some interesting places to check out, and most of them are within walking distance of one another.
I visited the Old Friday mosque which is at least 350 years old, as well as the president’s residence which used to be a palace during the sultanate era. Next, I explored the Islamic Centre and National Museum of Maldives.
I also went to the Tsunami Monument, which was built in remembrance of the victims of the devastating 2004 tsunami.
Some people wait for the afterlife to visit paradise, but where we live in now is actually a kind of paradise too. We just have to do our best to protect the environment, so that the world can remain a paradise for our future generations.
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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