Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Maldives...Paradise!

I am made for island life…there’s something about landing in a warm, tropical sunlit beach, with palm trees, flowers, sparkling waters…ah, the life. Lively drumming greeted us as we stepped from our sea plane and onto our island paradise…no shoes, no cares, nothing to do…Here's a picture of the island from the pier as we walked onto our island paradise...
So…a bit about the Maldives. The Maldives is the lowest country in the world – its average ground level is only about 4 feet above sea level…obviously a concern if global warming really is going melt the icecaps and cause the ocean to rise. It is composed of coral island made of coral debris and living coral. The coral forms a natural barrier, a protective fringe of reef, creating lagoons around the various islands. These lagoons are generally a beautiful turquoise color and crystal clear. The reefs also protect the islands from storms and high waves of the Indian Ocean. The inner part of the island has a thick layer of rich humus, allowing numerous tropical plants including coconut palms, mangroves, banyans, hydrangeas, hibiscus and other beautiful, lush green plants.
The view from our room...
Our room – its own little hut - overlooked shimmering turquoise blue waters. A quick walk across the pristine sand (a team of men and women rake the beach daily) delivered us to the warm, crystal clear waters where we could swim, snorkel, or just cool off. The big decision for the day was which beach to sit on, which area to snorkel in…tough life. The room was nice, nothing too exotic…but the shower area…out back…an outdoor shower with a private view of greenery, palm trees, and exotic flowers…a real pleasure to stand and enjoy the water cascading over your body. Good thing it was so nice…the salt water was pretty “sticky” so we ended up taking 3 or 4 showers a day to rinse off the salt…ah, like I said, a tough life.
Creative carvings...
I have to take a moment here to talk about the food. Usually I’m not too impressed with buffet food – it’s often overcooked since it’s sitting around staying hot for hours and it’s generally not really all that tasty. Not so here – the chefs were fabulous! We had a few foods that were prepared ahead of time, but primarily things that wouldn’t overcook themselves – the rices, the curries, potatoes, stews, but anything that would lose texture…they fixed for you short order. You could get the various pasta dishes prepared on the spot, stir fries were put together to match your tastes and cooked in front of you. Of course various meat dishes were available, again, prepared to order. The curries were wonderful – you could smell the spices across the room when anyone took off the lid…heavenly. Then there was the desert table – every meal had 5 or 6 tantalizing choices available. Fortunately, they also had fruit, fresh papaya, that melted on your tongue. It was really tough to not leave feeling very full.
We spent our first morning, and almost every morning, exploring around the island. (Actually, we walked around the island most days just to make sure we burned up some calories – they also had a gym that I frequented…out of self-defense!)The strip of beach extends around the entire island, though there are parts where the trees meet the sea, requiring real foraging through the brush or wading through the crystal waters…uh huh…like I said, tough life. We were able to see fish following us as we walked, including a number of small sharks. As we walked along the water villas, we found a ray skirting along the corals and finally burying itself in the sand.
Our second day there was Earth Hour, the night that around the world communities turned off their electric lights for an hour. To celebrate, they put on a buffet dinner by candlelight on the beach for everyone on the entire island. To put this in perspective, there are 383 villas/cabins/bungalows on the island with 2 or more people in each one (they were full). Usually people are fed in one of the 4 major buffet restaurants strategically placed around the island. For this night, however, they moved out the tables and chairs and spread them out on the beach – a major job all by itself. The various restaurants spent the day cooking the food for the evening’s feast, and what a feast it was. We were served a fruity champagne (even had a non-alcoholic version) as we entered, tiki torches lit the paths, candles flickered on the tables, live drumming filled the air, and tables and tables of food! After we ate we walked out on the jetty, looking back at the beach. Despite the lack of lights, the candles lit up the night.
Now…the most important discovery we made that night was… the bats. As we, and many others, walked towards the beach, we passed through an area where the trees were tall and formed a bit of a covered walkway. With so many people coming down at one time, at dusk, we apparently disturbed the bats. Fruit bats. LARGE fruit bats. They were about the size of the bats at the zoo, though some probably had a 3-4 foot wingspan. Most flew into the air but some flew down, along the corridor we were walking through. They flew overhead, but close enough that you probably could have reached out and touched them as they flew by. So totally cool – and so frustrating because, of course, I didn’t have the camera with me to take pictures!!! Of course not everyone was as enamored with them as I was but there were quite a few of us with our iphones out, attempting to take pictures of them – they didn’t come out, sadly. For the next four nights we haunted the walkways, the paths, the same locations, searching for bats, waiting for one to swoop down on us, waiting for the perfect picture of the bat flying towards us but…it never happened again. Did see a lot of bats in the trees and flying overhead and did get a few pictures of bats but still, nothing like that night. I really think it was the presence of so many people coming down at the same time that did it. 

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