Everyone needs a Secret Escape now and again and I seem to have found mine. But getting there after I left you last was actually incredibly uneventful if not slightly more expensive than expected.
So after my friend Ibrahim tried to pursuade me to …. well who knows what… I paid off my bill at the coffee show and decided to find a place to grab a light snack as I still had two hours to go until my ferry boat ride. Oh and I should say that I still didn’t know how I was going to get from the end of that speed ferry ride to my final destination. Looking at the map it couldn’t be more than a 10 minute boat ride but there is no scheduled service from local islands to resort islands.. should be interesting
Well, I use my trusty Google Bot Map App Thingymadoodle and find a resturant with great reviews and a great location and descriptions of a great view right on the Male main waterfront. The Sea House Cafe.
I saddle up my backpack, and head out in the swealtering heat (about 92) and walk down the street one street off the main drag on the water. I have two purposes. One the buildings are WAY closer together here and there is lots of shade to walk in where it is about 15 degrees cooler. And two, I want to see a little more of the local Male life.
Color me impressed that in eight hours of wandering Male with a backpack on my shoulders looking very caucasian and touristy, I was only accosted once on the street (and of course once by my buddy Ibrahim) by someone trying to sell me something.
Observations of Male
What strikes me is the density of motorbikes. They are parked soooo densely along the street that you cannot even find a space between them to walk to cross the street. It also turns out that I’m walking down government row. The Ministry of Defense, The Anti-Terrorisim Directorate, The Presidents Palace (from the back) and more I couldn’t identify.
Finally I make the turn towards the water and I find the Maldives Coast Guard. Just interspersed and moored with the luxury yachts and such. Rows and rows of ferrys ply the waterfront coming from who knows where and going to all points Maldivian. (excpet of course to my end destination).
Downtime Before The Boat
Finally I find my destination resturant (next to Burger King of all places… boy was I jonesin’ for a burger right then). I plop my pack down and order a Thai Chicken sandwich in peanut sauce. Who wants to guess what happens? Yup.. it comes with the evil, dreaded, hated and feared mayonaise. DAMN. It wasn’t listed on the menu as an ingredient so I call the waiter over and he wants to argue with me but eventually I win, they bring me a new sandwich and I chill.
An awesome breeze on the second floor above the fray of the street. Wide open room. Spectacular views of the harbor. I just ate slowly and read my book and enjoyed a real Diet Coke for the first time in DAYS.
Then its time to stroll down to my ferry at Jetty #1, I need to find the Endheri Express. Turns out to be simple. Then I meet the coolest and most helpful cat in Male… Snoop Dogg!! No not really but dang if he didn’t bear a striking resemblence (see below)! He confirms I’m in the right place, confirms my price and then helps me connect with a local speedboat captain at my end ferry destination who will take me to my resort island…
Of course theres a catch, albeit a small catch of costing about four times as much as it should. I spent $35 from Fulidhoo to Male and I was spending $35 to get from Male to Digurah. Both about hour long rides. This local boat captain wants to charge me $40 for a 10 minute ride across a very short channel. As I am arriving at the end of the day and likely not to find another option I’m kind of over a barrel so I agree.
And then I am there. Vakarufahli Paradise. Milton had it all wrong, paradise is not lost, its just hidden down south of India in the South Ari Atoll.
I’m greeted by my hostess who is a sweet chineese lady who speaks in rapid fire, super heavily accented English. But as I always say I can never get upset with anyone speaking in a heavy accent or broken English when I don’t speak any other language. Thank God for my Calc III TA as they sounded exactly alike. So we struggle through. (P.S. It turns out the rest of the staff is absolutely fluent in English so there is no problems with language)
The lobby of the hotel has very classy lighting and furniture and most notably a raked sand floor. It makes for a very exotic and amazing combination. I’m checked in and taken to my water villa which is absolutely amazing! I can talk about it but I really think that letting photos below do the talking is all that is needed.
And Then We Went Diving
Of course my main attraction is the diving. I have come to South Ari Atoll in hopes of seeing my Great White Whale…. ok, not really a White Whale but a Whale Shark. If you were with me on the Phillipines Adventure, you’ll know that aside from the main goal of meeting my sponsored child, was to find the Whale Sharks and snorkel with them. It was a bust. So here I am 6 months later still searching but I’ve been told they have seen them here pretty much every week and almost every day the week before I got here.
The Local Dives
But before we do the Whale Shark excursion we do a two tank dive to a couple of Thilla’s (coral pinnacles) very near by the island. They are actually quite lovely with lots of sea life, amazing coral and the occasional turtle. I dive with a really cool Israeli guy named Asif. It turns out he is there visiting our dive master on the island. They worked together in Australia.
Well this gives me a bit of an instant in with the team. There is also a German couple who are in the Maldives for the tenth time and a Kiwi couple (Rachael and Michael). I’m not going to lie… Michael is a bit imposing physically and it turns out for good reason, he’s a professional rugby player in New Zealand.
But it helps that both of them are just really cool. We end up having beers together that evening and I have new people to talk to… Voila! Diving the great connector of people. I do end up eating dinner by myself however… why not with my friends you ask? Well, they all have the buffet included in thier room price, I don’t. How much is the buffet.. a whoping $52!!!!! I can get a burger in the bar for $15 and a beer for $4.50.. burger and a beer for $20, I can guarantee that y’all know where I ended up.
But everyone came back to the bar after their meal and we chatted the evening away. Our divemaster David (from Italy even though I kept saying France.. Sorry) kept telling us how cool the whale sharks are and how they saw two today for an hour on the surface.
Problems From Home and Time Challenges
So that night… well.. I didn’t sleep much. Lets just say that some of the beauracracy from home caused me to have to call in some favors from Mom and Dad and be on the phone at 4am. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!
Oh, have I mentioned the time. Yeah.. so the Vakarufhali island has decided that they are randomly an hour ahead of Male. Why? Because they feel like it.. crazy. So I have to set my phone time manually. EXCEPT! yeah, I had to put my Verizon US SIM card back in my phone which reset the time to network time.
So you guessed it, the next thing I know I’m getting a phone call telling me that they are waiting for me at the boat…. ARGH! I am groggy and cannot figure out why my time is wrong. Then it hits me about the Verizon SIM card resetting my time. It turns out to not be a problem.
In Search Of Whale Sharks
Problem comes when we go diving. You know it. Dive one, no whale sharks. We surface, the boat captain says they saw them down by Digurah. So we race down there hoping to snorkel with them. Nope.. we don’t find them.
So Dive Two. No whale sharks. Now don’t get me wrong both dives were nice but the sites are not the most interesting without whale sharks. So we surface… OMG, boat captain says that a whale shark surfaced 5 minutes after we jumped in. ARGH… Queequeg, where is that damned white whale!
It’s Always The People
Well as with most of my experiences, I find that the best part of the adventure is the people you meet along the way. Asif from Israel, David our divemaster, Rachel and Michael, the Germans and today a new couple from Brooklyn.
Oh by the way.. the couple from Brooklyn gave me my second “Go Blue” of the trip. I never related the story from Marrekech where I was strolling the crowded souk and over the din of the hawkers I hear a loud “GO BLUE!” Yup, its true, Michigan people are everywhere. This couple while not Michigan, were big ten from Rutgers and Maryland.
So tonight it will be dnner at the bar again and half off beers (maybe I’ll even have a cocktail tonight) during happy hour. Speaking of which.. it 6:15 and happy hour is at 7:00.. assuming of course I have the right time on this here technology device 🙂
Sprits are high. The sky is blue. The sun is HOT. The water is clear and warm and the final leg of my adventure awaits in Sri Lanka.