It Is Worthwhile Wishing For Fins And A Mermaid Tail In Maldives.

I finished the beginners PADI course in Maldives, the experience of scuba diving especially is such pristine and rich waters was priceless. Before my scuba experience, I have gone snorkeling in Thailand, Peurto Rico and Maldives too and in terms of the underwater flora and fauna my vote goes for Maldives whether on the surface or below the surface. And I saw some amazing looking people.

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Wearing the wetsuit for the first time was a surreal experience, the first time I saw a wetsuit was, on a surfer at La Jolla at San Diego as he rushed head-on into the cold and freezing  Pacific Ocean. I shook my head and said gee people are mad! Now I find myself headed towards a similar madness. Once I had changed into the wetsuit and hung up my chiffon cover-up bought at the resort for an obscene amount of money which would have cost me a mere 100Rs just a few km across the seas in India.

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The wetsuit was the least of the problems when it came to attire, it was soon followed by an oxygen tank, glasses, fins, some heebeejeebees and a belt which I think had stones because I am not yet fat enough to just sink to the bottom presumably yet. My instructor was a lady who lead me into the aquamarine paradise. She started her training on how to breathe, how to clear my mask, how to adjust pressure, how to untangle the tubes and how to signal under water.

We went deeper into the ocean to find the treasures that are hidden beneath the blue. In Maldives case, the treasures are not completely hidden as the aquamarine waters give away a lot to anyone who is jobless and sitting near the beach with their eyes preened into the ocean as we usually were at the time. I could see multi-hued corals and schools of different fishes. She pointed out jack fish, swordfishes tiger finned sharks, clown fishes, and others. The clownfish peeped out of the sea anemone to see whose finger was disturbing his afternoon siesta and went back into his anemone to hide, it was an absolutely adorable sight. That’s when I saw the highlight of my scuba sojourn, yes I saw sharks but these sharks would come visiting us on the beach as well as sting rays so I was quite used to them by now.

 

The highlight was an octopus who had turned himself white and was resting on a white coral when he saw us two dark shadows approach. He quickly gathered his skirts and scooted off but as he scooted off he tried his hand at camouflaging on a rock, another coral in the hopes that he could merge into the background and back to safety. But I guess he held himself to high camouflaging standards as he was not happy with the results and swam away into the dark ocean beyond.

Video from YouTube which is similar to what I witnessed in Maldives. Credits to the original creators Raymond Howe and Tracy Mok.

He changed from white to blue to red to black and stripped as he tried on different dresses. He changed colors and shapes to match corals, rocks and the reef. He was absolutely brilliant. Schools of bright blue fishes swiped around in swift motions and changed direction as if of one mind. Big jack fishes came swimming by and did not have any qualms with us sharing their sacred space.

These were the same waters where we saw wild dolphins jumping up to say their farewell to the setting sun. We swam and sunbathed and turned our brown skin into an unwed Indian girl’s mother’s nightmare. We danced on the beach and learned to love the ocean and the sands. We parted with a lot of cash too, acting out our bohemian fantasy in Maldives where tourists / travelers do not see Maldivian rufiyaa as much as they handle US dollars. But was it worth it ? Hell yeah!

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When Buddha Was Detained In Maldives

A week of laying on the sand and counting waves started by one day of continuous itchy feet and an ad for a Spice Jet flight which promised flights to Maldives for Rs 8000 which got me all excited. That flight was the last cheap thing we had Maldives barring a free octopus magnet that a Maldivian shopkeeper gave my pre schooler.

We landed in Maldives after a short flight from Sri Lanka. We had gone berserk shopping in Sri Lanka because it is rare for Indians to feel rich while converting money. Along with beach ready clothes I also bought a Buddha statue in black stone. I also bought two small statues in brass. We took the flight out from Sri Lanka after an amazing time in Sigiriya, Kandy and Colombo.

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Coral reefs islands and

The descend to Male airport was amazing as I could see coral reefs and turquoise islands. At the airport a customs officer who saw me with a sleeping child called us on priority and helped us enter the country smoothly. After picking our bags and feeling grateful to the officer we made our way to customs, where we were pulled over. Our bags were checked and they asked us if we are carrying a Buddha statue, we said yes.

Well to my astonishment Buddha was held at customs and we were given a ticket to claim Buddha back when we left Maldives as Buddha was no longer welcome in Maldives. Maldives being a 100% Muslim country has a past entrenched in Buddhism which changed in the 12th century with the conquest of a Turkish Muslim ruler. Maldivians are quite proud of being a 100% muslim country right behind Saudi Arabia.

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I was immediately on guard as my swim suit was definitely not islamic. Customs in Male holds things like alcohol, porn, LGBT and other religions at bay from the Maldivian islands. We reached Maldives on the day of Eid and immediately had mixed feelings about this island paradise. Recently an islamic group had destroyed all remnants of Buddhist history of Maldives from the museum at Male.

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Male the smallest capital city in the world

Once outside the airport we were whisked out of the airport island in a speed boat that our resort had sent. At resort nothing reminded us that we were in an islamic country. The island could very well have been in the US as every transaction was in US dollars, I did not see Maldivian currency this entire trip. As a traveler I am used to merging with the culture of the country I am visiting, understanding their history, way of life. I felt a bit cheated in that sense as resort islands operate on a completely different way of life and are intentionally separate from the local islands.

After the first day of trepidations the sea came calling. The coral reefs, aquatic life, wild dolphins and the joy of shallow turquoise water and days of being beach bums are the memories I took back finally. I also did my beginners PADI scuba dive and had one of the highlights of my travels as the realization that I have only scratched the  surface when it comes to traveling became further apparent.

As we left Male after a week of some hard core tanning, Maldives looked quite different to me as I saw women in hijabs working in posts that were usually male dominated in India. Met locals at Male, made friends with a Maldivian kid who became bum chums with my 4 year old from the get go.