The Maldives is the 85th country I have travelled to :)
Arrived in the mostly Muslim Maldives to the usual arrival-bag-x-ray where they hunt for anyone who might be carrying any evil alcohol. Anything found is confiscated. Boy I’d like to be invited to their Xmas party :)
First step since I have arrived a day early is to find a hotel. The SL airline magazine gave the Male Holiday Inn a good write up so I looked into that. $380 a night. I think I might try somewhere else :/
Males seems to have only nine types of vehicles, scooters, taxis (which are all full all the time), parked scooters, small pickup trucks, scooters, boats, scooters, bicycles and of course scooters. Almost every spot along the side of every road is crammed with closely parked scooters. The roads themselves are full of a never ending procession of more scooters, probably looking for a tiny space to park in. I remember once being told that there are not enough spaces for all of the passenger airplanes in the world to be parked at one time so some will always have to be in the air. Male probably has a similar problem with scooters which makes me feel sorry for the last scooter drivers who miss out on a park at the end of the day and have to drive around all night.
The other weird thing is that Male is tiny. It couldn’t take you more that 30 minutes to walk between any two points on the island. So why does everyone need a motorised vehicle when even the longest journey could only last a few minutes – unless you are looking for a park.
Also even though the roads are clogged with scooters and the speed limit is only 25kms there is still a Ferrari on the island, You have to wonder why though as it could never get out of second gear and it would easily take up six scooter parks.
Once settled in my hotel I took a walk around the tiny island and ran into a good friend from my party days in London called Smitty. I had no idea Smitty was here so this is a freaky coincidence. It’s a small world and sometimes I think I am at the centre of it.
The last time I saw Smitty was on the 4th of February 2006. How do I know the exactly date nearly four years later? Well I took this photo of him throwing up into a rubbish bin at Gloucester Road on the Waitangi Day Circle Line Pub Crawl.
Smitty has just moved to Male to run food and beverages at the Male Holiday Inn (yes the hotel mentioned above). He is going to change everything here in a couple of months when they get the first licence to sell alcohol in Male in 28 years, To tourists only of course. Smitty has offered to hook me up with some diving etc with some contact he has at some resorts :)
Smitty also made the point that while he is working here he has to steer clear of the local girls. The punishment for a foreigner for sleeping with a local girl is a public flogging. Ouch.
Oh yeah and true to form, it’s raining
Over the next few days there wasn’t much to do. I tried several times to get my hotel to help me find some diving but everyone we spoke to could only help me dive from Male if I was four people. Sadly I am not four people. I even tried a couple of dive gear shops and at least one place that said they did dive tours and no one could/would help. Several said they would call or email but they never did. I also tried to book onto a scenic flight and a boat based island tour but neither was operating because the weather was so rubbish.
It seems to be that tourism here is all about the resorts and because Male is merely a stepping off point that there is no real tourist infrastructure on Male. Basically don’t ever come to the Maldives and try to do your own thing because you can’t.
On day three I managed to get out to the Sheraton Resort which is the nearest resort island to Male island. Smitty arranged for free transfers and a free stay on the island during the day. Normally resorts charge a fair amount of dollars to let people lounge around on their beaches all day. Even lunch which was a buffet was US$70. In the afternoon I went for a boat dive off one of the reefs here. This was probably the best dive I have ever been on with loads of eels, snapper, reef fish, a napoleon (a big ugly fish), lion fish and even a couple of curious turtles who came up to a meter or so to have a look at us. As usual my big body chewed through 180psi of air in a mere 50 minutes and I had to surface first. Huge thanks to Smitty without whom I might have come to this diver’s paradise and not been able to dive at all.
For NY Eve I ate pizza and watched movies in my hotel room by myself as Male is dry. This might be my first sober NYE in 18 years. Different.
There is a story about credit cards that I am meaning to to write here but haven’t gotten around to yet.