In summer 2018 I said this blog had come to an end. That was a lie.
Really funny to see people’s reactions when you tell them you’ve just been to the Maldives. They give you that „she-must-be-rich-look“ (in contrast to telling them you travelled through Pakistan … that’s usually more the „she-must-be-nuts-look“). Well … I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the Maldives are not anymore this crazily expensive travel destination it used to be. Actually, I was also surprised. It’s definitely not as cheap as other Asian countries, but it’s, let’s say, more affordable than before.
The Muslim Maldivian government changed the law, which, until 2010, said that only posh resorts (on privately owned islands) were allowed to host tourists – and allow alcohol. Normal islands with a local community were not allowed to open guesthouses and restaurants. The government feared that tourism without alcohol wouldn’t work and, thus, had to be allowed sooner or later – and that, at some point, the Muslim locals would also start to drink and commit a sin and go to hell right away. So for decades they prohibited the development of tourism on ‚local islands‘ – and the locals themselves could only sit and watch millions of dollars go to private resorts. Not happy about it. Quite pissed, in fact. But these times are over.
For eight years now ‚local tourism‘ in accordance with some Muslim rules has been allowed, and – guess what – it works. Some people in this world are really able to live one week or two without drinking. Can you believe this??? I must admit, though, that I was one of the few Germans on the island and I also couldn’t see any red-faced English blokes hanging around. Some species is probably put off. But the rest enjoys … just like me.
For the first time in my life I booked a flight and boarded the plane only 36 hours later. I was really struggling with Christmas Eve this year. The fuss about it, this incredible misunderstanding, and all these Facebook posts of ugly Christmas trees and good wishes left me jaded. I’m off. The only option.
Arriving at Malé Airport and getting on a boat to the island was easy and well-organized. You basically step out of the airport building and into the harbour area. And no one, I repeat, NO ONE bothers you or pushes you into their Tuk Tuk or boat or whatever fancy form of transport they own. You can simply arrive. Calm down. See where you’ve landed, enjoy 30°C and the sweet smell of Asia.
The poor mobile phone pictures don’t do justice to the real colours of the sea. They are mind-blowing, really. Even in the harbour, where I got my boat to Rasdhoo Island (one hour, some 60 km away from Malé). I was welcomed personally by the manager of Rasdhoo Dive Lodge and taken to my room (58 Euro for a double room / private huge bathroom / yummy breakfast). As the island is very tiny, we only walked 2 minutes.
You can walk 500 m in one direction and another 500 m in the other. That’s it. Within 20 minutes, you’ve seen it all: „Coffee Ole“, „The Lemondrop Restaurant“, a handful of shops, dive centres and mini markets – and „Bikini Beach“. What I really appreciated was the fact that not a single shop or restaurant owner was pulling me into their place. No „looki looki“ and all that shit. The locals are totally laidback, friendly and polite. It was one of the most hassle-free vacations in Asia I’ve been on. Food and drinks were absolutely affordable, a bit below European standard, I would say (3 – 8 Euro for a main dish).
So how was the diving? Rough! Strong currents, in all directions. Visibility was affected. I even experienced my first underwater sandstorm. Me and my Swedish buddy got separated from the group, so we had to cling on to the reef and wait until the others would eventually drift by … which they did. February and March are supposed to be way smoother. Now I know. Lesson learned.
I was very impressed by the variety and size of rays I saw: fantail rays, stingrays, white-spotted eagle rays and devil rays. My favourites – the mantas – didn’t show up that day we were at the spot, but yeah … next time maybe. Sharks were also there. Plenty! I think there was not a single dive when I did not see them, that’s in general a really good sign of healthy water. The small stuff was also nice. For the first time I saw a Spanish Dancer (that insane black thing in the video that looks like it wants to hump the camera).
On the whole, it was worth the money (10 dives / 600$). Yes, that is NOT a budget price. But if you consider the Maldives‘ remote location, it’s understandable. They have to bring all the equipment here. And I would definitely recommend going diving with „Rasdhoo Dive Centre“. They were the first on the island and have super knowledgeable staff, plus extremely well-maintained equipment. And they carry that heavy diving gear for you to the boat and back. Pretty convenient.
All in all, it was a good experience. A detox vacation somewhere in the south of India, about 700 km away from the mainland. If you can do without beer for a while and don’t mind going to a designated bikini beach for swimming, give it a try.
Happy New Year. May it be better than the last one.