The Necklace Islands

From a beach holiday destination perspective, the Maldives has it all. Fine white sandy beaches and layers of blue sea that are too hard to describe and that only photos can depict. But once again this is not a yachting destination, unless you have a sailing boat with a very shallow draft (catamarans are perfect) or an “in” with the resort islands. It is heaven when you find an anchorage that you are permitted to use that is not too close to a resort or a private island (of which there are hundreds) and even then if you ask if you can go ashore and spend money in their restaurant the answer is normally a negative.

But….the atolls and islands of this Indian Ocean paradise are truly stunning!

In diving/snorkelling terms, the “vis” (visibility) is as good as it gets. The water is so clear that you don’t need to get into the water – you can view the coral and marine life just sitting in the tender. An early morning snorkelling session to see Manta Rays was best approached by one person standing in the dinghy (in our case the Queen Mary as our tender has been nicknamed or the Porsche belonging to Calliope) and pointing out their location to the swimmers. It still amazes that they, the Mantas, are so unconcerned by our presence; when in a feeding pattern they are reminiscent of a Boeing 747 in flight.

Alcohol is a big No No in this very Muslim country. The customs official that came onboard on arrival in Male was only interested in our dwindling amount of alcoholic beverages, for which he gave us a very clear warning they were not to be ashore and James’ shirts (we are very unclear as to why). No questions about pork or dogs or the multitude of other items on the list of items that are prohibited here. There is only one hotel on Male or connecting Hulhumale (population 150,000) that serves beer and wine and no restaurants!

Dress is also a consideration. Many of the public beaches disallow bikinis (not such an issue for me) and mingling with the locals in markets and shops calls for women to have covered shoulders and knees which can be incredibly hot and sweaty for onshore provisioning. Air conditioning inside the malls is such a welcomed relief on days like that! I am in awe when I see the local women (and some girls) dressed from head to foot in black, even in the water. Male is very male! Of course, out in the islands where tourism reigns supreme, there is none of this…it is another world! Many of the resorts employ Europeans and the restaurants are fully stocked with fine fare. The airport is full of Asian and Euro aircraft delivering holiday makers to waiting Sea planes and ferries, ready to whisk them away to paradise.

A big shop to prepare Miss Tiggy for her next long passage with just the boys on board; Kirsty, returning to the dreich weather in Scotland and me for a quick visit home to Tasmania to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. To sustain them on their journey, as much fruit and vegetables as possible had to be hung in the saloon cabin!

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