As I found out the hard way, a trip to the Maldives can almost buy you a car. Well, a cheap one, anyway. (My bill was fairly reasonable compared to Katy and Russell’s, but the resorts get you on things like bottled water and taxes. There’s the room cost and then a bed tax. A bed tax?)
Tourism here, like in many other places, is its lifeblood. Maybe more than most. Because the Maldivian president’s been worried his country is going to be swallowed up someday by the Indian Ocean, and he’s been hunting for places to move it, just in case. Maybe somewhere in India, Sri Lanka and Australia. And that would take a lot of tourist dough.
Others — including scientific types — say that’s all global warming mumbo jumbo, and he’s nuts. Though the islands are only four feet high in many spots, they see no evidence of looming catastrophe.
If anything, says Uwe, the diving pro at the Helengeli Island Resort where I stayed, the sea level is going down, not up. Of course he’s got to make a living, but he doesn’t seem especially worried.
He’d rather talk about how much the country has going for it right now.
As mentioned, the Maldives is a collection of islands known as atolls. Uwe explains they’re big slabs of coral, left over from former volcanoes. The coral’s where the fish hang out, and the Maldives is a pretty popular place. It’s home to more than 1,200 types. There are so many, Uwe says, the Maldives ranks right up there with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Egypt’s Red Sea as being the best diving spots in the world.
The resort is known for its house reef, which he says attracts even more fish than usual in the Maldives. Including sharks. Not to worry, he says. These guys are friendly sharks.
I’ve been warned not to even try to snorkel because I’m not a swimmer and the currents are unpredictable. So why do I love the beach so much? Because I grew up with it Nu Joisey. (I used to go to the beach in Asbury Park even in the winter just to gaze at the water. In those days, I didn’t know that was called meditation.)
So the plan is to walk around the island and see what I can see. The water feels like bathwater. I see a few shells scurrying along on the sand — hermit crabs — and some other critters like this guy. Since I’m missing my dachshund Ginger, I try to make friends.
But mostly what I see is sweat. Even with sunblock, I don’t dare walk on the beach for very long in the afternoon. At 5pm, it’s still like a furnace. And it’s so sticky, I feel drier in the shower than out of it.
Please water every 10 minutes.
Ah, so much better wading in the water by the light of a full moon — the only light. Another lesson in what the iPhone3 camera can and can’t do.