Eventually the ship does arrive though, and our first few stops were along the lines of sun sand and snorkel... and we suffered through. The first "landing" was barely that... a wee uplift of sand and coral and a few shrubs, but totally sufficient for a beach snorkel base! The Maldives claims the lowest high spot of any nation... something like 2.5 meters is essentially the highest "peak" to climb in this island nation!
See how the ship is anchored off shore, then we launch the zodiacs and ferry folks in to shore, usually maybe a 10 minute affair, depending on depths and weather. I have to say weather over here was lovely... calm seas, no williwas or spontaneous fohn winds to deal with, just tides and currents and a brief rain shower was all we really had to contend with... and not even much of that after hearing stories from folks experienced in the area... pretty uneventful driving really. (surely I've just jinxed myself though for the UK season!)
Our next landing on the atoll of Fuldihoo was a true experience... I don't know about you but I've always heard of the Maldives as a posh beach getaway hideaway for fancy people... but lo and behold there are locals that live there too! Haha. The little I learned has piqued my interest even further regarding the long history of seafaring and trading in the Indian Ocean. Maldives was an important source of dried fish in the history of trading... boats would come up the coast from Sri Lanka and India, and trade goods for the fish.
Being a nation made of 100s of specks of coral atolls, there's not much else of an export. These days the country is importing a lot, and looking to buy land in order to relocate its entire population as the threat of becoming slowly submerged with rising sea levels is turning into a reality. There was a tsunami a few years ago and not much warning so the people on Fuldihoo climbed up on a bandstand platform that was set up for a festival... that raised platform raised a couple meters off the sand was the HIGHEST SPOT ON THE ISLAND. Talk about different realities.
We had a really lovely visit at Fuldihoo, the people were gracious, happy to have us there and share a bit of their world, and put on quite a welcome with traditional dancing, town tour, and demonstration of how life works with traditional tools and making just about anything you might need from some part of a coconut tree/fruit. This was after passing through the village with its immaculate and well constructed school, pharmacy and health clinic... not at all any sort of primitive living. At the same time I was chatting with one of the local guides about the social scene and he was saying that there are just a few hundred folks on the small island, two families really but finding someone to marry isn't too hard because its ok for cousins to marry. But also now more people are meeting each other via Facebook so it's even better. I wasn't too surprised at this, seeing as all the local guides and other villagers taking pictures of the tourist spectacle that had come to town-- they all had nicer smartphones than we did!
A stingray skim-by as we wait for the zodiacs
Local men watching the tourist spectacle
My gorgeous guide, and her cousin (they're not married!)
Kids watching the spectacle
Maldives pride at a local shop
Food demo, fish paste and tuna with chilies or some other amazingness slathered on a sort of wheat tortilla chapatti thing... I ate as many as they would give me and my fingers were dripping with goodness!