Yesterday (Tues), we signed up for one of the excursions sponsored by the hotel … an Island Hopping trip. At 9:30 AM, we boarded a nice speedboat (the Manta 1), and headed out with about 12 other passengers and a crew of 4 local guys. First, they took us to a nearby village, Mamingili (about 30 minutes by boat), and gave us a short tour. We saw the area where they make the wooden boats, then visited a small mosque (and graveyard), and then toured the island school. The school housed grades 1 through 9, and had approximately 200 students (boys and girls), all in nice uniforms. After grade 9, they must go to school on a different island, if they wish to (and qualify to) continue their education. There were a few stores and shops, so Steve and I stopped to have a Coca-Cola break, which I was pleased to know was available. We made a few purchases at the souvenir store next door, and headed back to the boat. Stop number two was on a deserted island, Huruelhi, where we were given time to swim, snorkel and basically hang out. The crew unpacked a delicious lunch consisting of rolls and bread, lunchmeat, cheese, potato salad, slaw, and even cake and fruit for dessert (sounds like standard picnic fare, but it just wasn’t the same). After another hour to nap, tour, swim or whatever we wanted to do, we boarded the boat for the final stop, Angaga, another Maldivian resort. I’ve decided that this resort must somehow be related to the Hilton resort, or else they wouldn’t even show it to you. It seemed much more laid-back than the Hilton, the type of place that Jimmy Buffett might write a song about. One of our tour guides mentioned that this resort has a great house reef (what Maldive island doesn’t?), and proceeded to show us where we needed to go to view the fish. Even though it was a good swim to the other side of the reef, once there we could see why they take snorkelers out there! There was a huge reef, and a deep drop off, and every fish that you could imagine! Big ones, small ones, friendly ones, nosy ones … I think you get the picture. Steve thought he saw a barracuda (wasn’t), and of course I got a little nervous. I began looking for a way to get a little closer to the shore, but there wasn’t an easy way (or a close way). I made him swim close to me and help me look for an area where I could “escape,” but there was nothing but reef. And that’s when we discovered the long skinny fish that found us interesting! These weird fish were about 3 feet long (max), and strange looking! And we were surrounded! (After looking at a fish card, we decided they were cornet fish or a type of needlenose. Wonder if these are the smaller brothers of the trumpet fish? Ha!) All I really wanted to do was get away from these weird characters, and Steve claimed that he had a hard time keeping up with me swimming. Eventually, there was a break in the reef, and we headed through the break so I could take a rest. That’s when Steve raised his head and said “there went a shark,” and I looked down and saw the rear end of it. I started swimming even faster! Luckily, the shark wasn’t interested in us, and might I add that mostly concluded my snorkeling for the day. Tired and sunburned, we all headed back to Rangali Island, but I must admit that I now have many more fun memories to add to my Maldive trip.
I must note that the islands here are very remote from the rest of the world (as remote as a major tourist spot can really be). The services are fairly modern, but there are a few glaring clashes between traditional life and what we foreigners are used to. A notable example…the island village we visited on the Island Hopping tour showed us that most residents actually live in open thatch-roofed buildings (some with walls of concrete blocks, some of scrap metal, some of lashed thatch); no glass windows or doors for the most part (some did have a locking door of some type, but it would only keep the honest people out). However, many of the people had cellular telephones. This is just very strange to me. The telephone service to the rest of the world is by satellite and is generally expensive. Calls from the hotel to the outside world are between $ 5- 7.50 USD per minute, depending on location called. Consequently, with the closest Internet server that I can call up in Mumbai, India, at $5 per minute, you’ll have to excuse the lack of notes sent or responded to for a few days.
There are virtually no cars or trucks in the country. This is good since there are also virtually no roads. Almost all transport is by boat or seaplane and once something is on land, a person is generally carrying it.
Last night, we attended the Maldivian Delight buffet held here at the hotel. They had mats and crates (for tables) set up around the pool area, with a lantern on each table. The seats were cushions on the ground. I was wearing a sundress and Steve was wearing his sarong, and you can imagine the grace that was required to get up and down without showing everyone the seat of your pants (but Steve was cheating …he had shorts on under his sarong!) The food was really good! We really didn’t know what to expect Maldivian food to be, other than fish. Actually, it was very similar to Indian food … lots of rice, curries, grilled fish and chicken (and I have yet to see any chickens around here!), salads, bread, fruit, and a few desserts (I’m not too sure how authentic those were, but I imagine the coconut candy may have been). The food had a little spice to it, and if you wanted it even hotter, there were spicy condiments that you could add. We thoroughly enjoyed this buffet and the whole atmosphere that it created. Tonight, we have signed up to go night fishing and we are looking forward to that!