W1702 – Magical Maldives

In my last post, W1702 – Colonial Colombo, I described my visit to the second of the ports visited in Sri Lanka, the capital Colombo, and the guided walking tour I made around the historic parts of the city.

We then had a day at sea sailing towards our next two ports of call, two islands in the iconic Maldives. Both of the islands we visited, Uligan (also known as Uligamu) on the first day, and Utheemu on the second day were anchor ports.

I was up on deck bright and early on the first day to watch us sail past other islands and approach Uligan at first light:

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At Uligan there were no shore tours on offer, so Carol and I just used the tender boat service to go ashore and explore the tiny island. As the tender boat approached the tiny harbour, the crystal clear water was fabulous shades of first blue then turquoise, and it was instantly clear that we were arriving in paradise:

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We could see a long white beach extending to one side of the harbour and we instinctively headed in that direction. To start with the beach was not as pristine as we thought, with a huge rubbish pile at the top of the beach and further bits of rubbish along the waterline:

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We pressed on and we were amply rewarded, the further we walked the cleaner, quieter and more idyllic the beach became. After a while we found a nice spot that had some shade a few feet away and settled there. Neither of us could wait to get into the sea for a swim. The water was wonderfully warm, and the soft white sand sloped gently into the water making the bathing perfect. We both swam for a long time, and I was glad to at last have the chance to try out my waterproof camera, having missed out on both the pre-booked snorkelling tours earlier in the cruise due to my then health problems:

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Eventually we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the water, and with the hot sun beating down we were glad of that shade nearby. However the sight of the warm crystal clear turquoise water soon lured us back for a second swim. All good things have to come to an end, and with the midday sun getting hotter and hotter we agreed it was time to make our way back to the cool of the ship, where we remained until it set sail late afternoon for the other island.

It was only a short distance to Utheemu, and we arrived there at sunset, just before dinner. As we sat at our dinner table we could see the island, and seeing a string of street lights come on came as a bit of a shock after the natural undeveloped beauty of Uligan.

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The following morning I was eating my breakfast outdoors at the poolside when I noticed people pointing over the port side. Then the Cruise Director came on the tannoy to announce that there was a large pod of dolphins swimming in the distance on the port side of the ship. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me (note to self: always carry a camera), but I enjoyed watching the dolphins swim and leap out of the water. It was very difficult to accurately count them, but I easily got past sixty, making it by far the largest pod of dolphins I have ever seen.

Later Carol and I went ashore using the ship’s tender boat service once more to explore Utheemu. From the basic map provided on the ship, I knew we had to cross the island to reach the beach, so this time we thought we would view what buildings the island had to offer on the way. Some of them looked very smart, but many were only half built. We were a little concerned by most of the shelves in the island pharmacy being empty:

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We walked down a side road to view the Sultan’s residence, but that was not quite what we were expecting:

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The mosque nearby was much more impressive, as was the memorial centre:

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We then walked down the opposite side road to reach the beach, passing buildings in various states of repair, and a fruit tree where empty plastic bottles were being used to protect the fruit from being eaten:

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The approach to the beach looked lovely, with plenty of shady trees all around…

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… but the beach itself shelved steeply into the sea, and that and the swell and current made bathing difficult and we didn’t stay in the water very long at all:

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Instead we walked along the beach for a while, and came across this ‘Noah’s Ark’-like boat:

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On the way back to the ship’s tender I noticed this little fellow:

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As the tender sailed out to our ship, I caught this view of her looking elegant in the lovely blue sea:

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Postscript: Just before dinner I went up on deck to sadly watch our ship set sail from these magical islands, just as the sun was setting:

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We were setting sail for Salalah in Oman, and the precautions necessary for sailing in such waters will be the subject of my next short post.

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