In the morning, the clouds finally broke up and we could see (and feel) the sun. It was hot, but the ocean breeze was magical and made everything better. We had a big (well, Eth and Em did) breakfast of eggs, “sausage” aka hot dogs, smoothies, some weird tuna stuff and toast. I just ate toast per the usual. We made it to the dive shop just in time for Ethan to get a wet suit and we all hopped on the boat. They were letting Emily and I come along for free and when we asked if that was OK, they said “ya! Why not?!!”
I made sure to take some Dramamine this time and we headed out towards some even smaller islands in the South Male atoll, which is the group of islands and sand bars in which Maafushi is located. Looking out into the vast expanse of blue was breathtaking and we were really glad we came along. We passed some seemingly deserted islands and hidden beaches and it made me think of the Blue Lagoon movies and getting stranded on some lonely island in the middle of the big sea. They took Ethan and about 11 other people to two dives sites where they saw some sting rays and lots of fishes. While they dove, we swam around and the driver of the boat joined us with his snorkel gear showing us different fishes and coral. It was kinda scary because the reef itself was a pretty deep and there as a steep drop off that just kept going into darkness. It really freaks me out being on top of the water like that not knowing what is lurking below me. Gives me the heebeegeebees! The guy had to drag Emily and I back to the boat when we were done since we were so tired from swimming around.
At the second dive site Emily snorkeled more while I floated in the water hanging onto the boat. It wasn’t that deep, but the current was pretty strong and the driver had to drag Emily back to the boat again. By the time we got back to the island we were exhausted and hungry. As we ate lunch, I decided I would go on the one afternoon dive with Emily. It appeared that she was going alone, so I knew it would be nice if I went, plus I knew we would probably each have our own guide. I wanted to give diving one more try before I threw in the towel and figured having my own guide would make it easier.
First, Emily had to watch a video since she isn’t dive certified and it turns out there were two other people going as well. Ethan and I checked out the beach in the meantime. Maafushi has a couple beaches, but since it’s a local island under Muslim law, you normally have to have your body covered from shoulders to knees. Fortunately, the government realized they’d get more business if they sectioned off a portion of the beach for tourists. We had ready about these”biking beaches” and made sure to visit an island that had one (not all of them do even though there are hotels). I had heard that they block the beach from the road with a tall fence and I assumed it would be an eyesore, but it was really only about 6 feet high and made out of palm leaves. It kind of looked like it belonged there and didn’t detract from the beach feel at all. The 4 story hotel being built on the other side did detract, but not the fence.
After swimming for a few minutes, we met back up with Em, I got my wetsuit and we headed to the boat. They took us out to a sand bar where they showed Em a few things like how to clear her mask and put her regulator back in case it came out. That only took a few minutes and I kneeled in the sand and watched. We were to swim to the edge of the sand bar then descend along the wall of it and swim along at about 10-12 meters. As soon as we started going down I saw the second guide make the hand signal for shark. I immediately looked to wear he was pointing but didn’t see anything. I kind of thought he was messing with us, but then he took off after the thing. Emily was trying to get her ears to equalize while this was all going down, but she did see the shark’s tail. I’m kinda glad I didn’t see it! Probably would have bolted for the surface and got back in the boat!
We swam along and they adjusted Emily’s weight a couple times and kept reminding us both to swim more horizontally. At some point I think they decided we were going too slow because one them grabbed my hand and the other grabbed Em’s tank and they swam us along the reef. They made us go through a tunnel which I tried to protest again, but it was only a few feet and was really big so I made it thru without freaking out. I count the dive as a success and will possibly try again in Thailand. Emily loved it and will get certified in Thailand, while Ethan gets his advanced certification. We spent the rest of the evening eating, relaxing and getting rained on.
The rain cleared up again the next day and Ethan went on two more dives. He saw lots of sharks, more rays and a sea turtle! Em and I joined in the boat again and she got seriously sun burned. It doesn’t take much when you’re that close to the equator! The rest of the day Ethan and I spent at the beach, trying not to get him sunburned too. I celebrated Independence Day by ordering bbq chicken kababs and French fries and treating myself to a fizzy drink. It was the most delicious meal I’d had the whole trip! Sad, but true! It was so delicious that I ate it for lunch and dinner. As we ate, we discussed leaving Maafushi the next day and tried to figure out how we could stay one more day. In the end, we decided we’d take a speed boat in the evening so we would at least get to sleep in and have most of the day to relax.
Ethan and I blogged for most of the morning until we had to check out, then we spent the day at the beach in and out of the water applying copious amounts of sunscreen. Our speed boat left at 5 and we waved good bye as the paradise island faded into the distance. We were headed to Hulhumale, which is an island connected by a bridge to the airport island. Our flight was pretty early and we couldn’t stay at the airport so staying on Hulhumale was our best option. The speed boat dropped us at the airport, then we had to take a bus to the other island.
Hulhumale, we were told, is a man made island and they built it in the hopes of decongesting Male, the main island. Everything is relatively new, but we were still shocked by the high prices of the rooms. We found a place that seemed reasonable then Ethan and I headed back out to walk along the beach. It was already dark, but the beach seemed really nice and we watched tons of crabs scurry from their holes to the water and back again. We also visited a big grocery store to get snacks for the next day and were delighted to find some Oreo-like cookies we had loved in Thailand.
We went to bed sad to be leaving the Maldives, but excited to be headed to the mountains of Sri Lanka!