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Six weeks in the Maldives - a couple of weeks too long

By Neville Howarth — last modified Aug 25, 2017 10:47 PM
Alba has just spent six weeks in the Maldives. If we had our time again, we'd still visit the Maldives, but only plan to stay for 3 or 4 weeks. In our opinion, it would be better to spend more time in the Andamans, North Sumatra, Sri Lanka or even India.

Published: 2017-08-24 23:00:00
Topics: Indian Ocean
Countries: Maldives

Six weeks in the Maldives - a couple of weeks too long

Fulangi Reef, North Huvadhoo Atoll

Most of the anchorages and deserted islands are stunning – imagine crystal clear turquoise waters and tiny islands with white sand beaches and coconut trees swaying in the breeze.

However, following a major bleaching event in 2016, a huge proportion of the coral reefs are bleached and dead, especially the shallow reefs (< 15 metres) where there is almost 100% mortality. This means that the snorkelling is not very good. Despite that, we've been snorkelling or diving almost every day - there's always something new to see if you search for it. I hope that the coral will soon grow back to its former glory, but I fear it will take many years.

Ashore, the villages and small towns are uninteresting - the streets are hard packed sand and the single story buildings are dreary. The villages all have the same rectangular layout - there's no variety and no observable culture or history. The islanders are very reserved, but they are friendly and helpful once you start talking to them.

To add to this rather mixed picture, it's very expensive to clear in and out. It cost us just over $1,000 USD for six weeks. You have to appoint an agent and we used Real Sea Hawks - who were very professional and helpful.

The rules for cruising are confusing. Each boat is issued with a Cruising Permit that "officially" only allows you to stop in four inhabited islands (Uligan, Kulhudhuffushi, Hulhumale and Gan). The Cruising Permit specifically states that "This permit allows visiting only permitted islands and places. Not allowed to anchor in local harbours & visit the listed islands only." This means that you are not supposed to stop at any "inhabited island". We were told by our agent that this is enforced by the Customs and a maximum fine of $2000US could be imposed for breaking the rules.

In practice, cruisers visit many of the small villages and towns, seeking out provisions, fuel and hardware. As far as I'm aware, no cruiser has being fined, although there are reports of Customs being very annoyed by one cruising boat selling alcohol to locals and another who took a dog ashore. (Stupid acts like this cause problems for those following.)

We met up with the Sail Maldives Rally fleet half way through their 2 months and the rally sort of fizzled out two weeks later, so I don't feel that I'm the right person to give a critique about the Rally other than to say that it doesn't cost any more than cruising by yourself and it's a good opportunity to meet other cruisers.

So in summary, we think that the Maldives is an expensive proposition, given the poor state of the reef and the lack of anything to do or see ashore. However, it's a convenient stop on the way across the Indian Ocean and the anchorages are stunning. So if we had our time again, we'd still visit the Maldives, but only plan to stay for 3 or 4 weeks. In our opinion, it would be better to spend more time in the Andamans, North Sumatra, Sri Lanka or even India.

More detail on our blog:

http://www.thehowarths.net/alba-chronicles/2017-indian-ocean

Neville Howarth
Yacht Alba

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