Our trip had just the perfect ending with a sail trip to Ari Atoll, a trip arranged by Rasdhoo Dive Center. Ari is one of the biggests of the twenty Maldivian atolls, laying just a couple og hours South West of Rasdhoo. Sailing from the Northern part of the atoll to the Southern part of the atoll with the boat we were on would take ten hours, which is quite a lot more than each of the legs that we covered last week on the Dhoni cruise.
The first place visited was a coral reef where we saw sharks and rays at just a five to fifteen meters depth. Afterwards we sailed over to a beutiful spot in the middle of the ocean where it was a really shallow sandy bottom, so that we would have the light turquise color all around us while eating lunch.
The rest of the day was spent snorkelling around and visiting one of the other local islands called Ukulhas. While the crew prepared a barbeque meal on the boat we were let off to have an hour of exploring and watching the sunset from the tourist beach on the island.
On the way back we were just laying silently on deck watching the stars brightly lit up on the sky above us. Looking down at the side of the boat we could also see the bioluminecent plankton sparking up around the boat as the water splashed off the boat, also leaving a trail of light behind us. The sound of the water splashing and the pitch dark, with only some light of the stars and the plankton made it feel like we could easily have fallen to sleep. At the same time it felt like we were already in a dream. A dream that we would first really wake up from when getting on the plane home.
On day two of our boat trip started with a two and a half hour drive from Bodu Veli (Veli meaning sand) to Kudi Boli (Boli meaning shell). This was the first time I got to join the crew for spear fishing. Together we caught lots of fish, all making fine dinners for us in the evenings. We also caught a big octopus that was used in a delicious curry dish prepared for us at Bongo Beli, where we spent the night by the sand bank.
The crew had prepared a surprise for us at the next stop at Bodumohoraa just an hours drive away. While we had been relaxing on the boat, the crew had dug out a seating section in the sand, laid a table cloth woven out of palm leaves in the middle and put up lots of lanterns made out of coconuts around. With some romantic music in the background and a good meal on our sand table it was quite a good athmostphere.
The next morning we had just another drive to Hulidhoo reef, right next to the atoll capital, Felidhoo Island. Spending the night there was quite a different experience than the night before. The plan was to see what the local life was like on the island with 615 inhabitants. At first we were shown the school, mosque, police station and hospital by our guide Nanuu. People passing by greeted us friendly and one old random guy also invited us in for coffee and crackers in his home. He explained that since he had worked all his life as a teacher, the government provided him with 5000 Rufiyah, roughly 350USD a month. Even though The Maldives was a bit expensive for us as tourists, he seemed to get along fine with that money. After all, there was not much for the locals to do on the islands.
One thing the locals do to pass time in the evening was to put up a traditional party called “Boduberu” (meaning big drum) where there were five people were playing drums and around ten people standing behind and singing. The rest of the people were dancing some of the weirdest dances I have ever seen; some people did Gollum-like dancemoves, where others were doing monkey moves and when we joined in with Macarena moves and disco moves it was all quite suitable as everyone were dancing differently to the drum beats. It was all quite interesting to be part of.
On the way back towards Malé we also passed by some resort offering activities for those interested in that. Alimatha Resort had a daily launch for diving, but I found the price of 120USD for a single dive way too expensive. I had been more looking forward to going surfing, but when we header over to Kommando the waves were much too small to do so.
For the first leg of our journey, the crew had prepared some coconuts and snacks for us, so that we could sit and get to know each other on our two hour journey from Malé to “Bodu Veli”, the first of many sand bank islands we would visit on our trip.
When getting there we jumped straight into the water, and were surprised to see that everything was just as beautiful underwater as it was above. When swimming in deep waters, the blue color was just so consistent all around us and the water so “unpolluted” by algea an other organic micro things that otherwise would have made their water more unclear.
Like most of the other sand banks visited on the trip we had them all to ourselves and with delicious food taken care of by our chef, VJ, we could spend the whole day snorkelling around coral reefs, relaxing on the beach or doing “wake surfing”- wakeboarding with a regular surfboard dragged by the “Dinghy”.
6am I woke up by myself, having slept almost twelve hours. I got the sunrise all to myself since most of the others did not wake up before breakfast an hour later.
The plan of the day was to start off with a bit of snorkeling around a shipwreck just a few minutes away from where we had been anchoring. Just like yesterday we saw quite a lot of fish and a few turtles and stingrays, but the best thing about Cayo Rico was the sandy bottom making the sea turquoise blue.
We then had to sail quite a bit to get to Cayo Rico Beach, a place where huatis and iguanas where walking around hoping to get some fruit from the tourists sipping pina coladas at the beach bar. Most of the group went ashore with the dinghy boat, while the captain took the rest for some wake boarding as the waters were calm as a millpond. Afterwards I swam the 6-700 meters to the shore to also get to experience the island. We also sailed over to the neighbor island to relax at the natural pools, formed by moving sand banks.
The rest of the evening was spent consuming big amounts of rum and cigars aboard the sailboat before heading ashore to an outdoor party happening every Wednesday as the shift workers from the resorts celebrate that they get to go home after their week shifts. The party was good fun, and for most of the group it was good to have a day to stay up late and sleep in late in the morning. For me I had to get up as early as always as I would spend the free day in Cayo Largo going diving and visit a turtle hatchery.