The sunny side of life – Maldives day II

Natz and I woke up early to have a glimpse of the sunrise in Hulhumale from the Inn’s roof deck. We had to be ready for scuba diving before 8am so we got ready before going to breakfast. Breakfast in Newtown Inn is a simple meal of the semi-spicy sausage, fried egg, a loaf of bread with jam and butter on the side and coffee. We wanted to load up for a long day in the ocean but there was no menu other than what they served so we just brought water and a snack.

Sunrise view from Newtown Inn

view from the room veranda

We reached ProScuba before 8am. The Taiwanese owner brought us to a bigger dive centre where all other scuba diving centres rent equipment for their clients. We waited for our turn to get the equipment we needed then headed to the bay to wait for our ferry. It was scorching hot already when we left for the ocean.

ferry finally came

On the ferry, it seemed like we were the only newbies in that trip. A girl dive instructor came to us and introduced herself but we ended up being handled by a Sri Lankan guy dive instructor named Sarath. He is a man of few words, he smiled when he introduced himself but I could feel that he was somewhat strict. I spend the travel time telling Natz of the fantastic experiences I had in Scuba Diving to make her feel good about trying it.

We got ready as soon as we approached the first Dive spot which is called the ‘Coral Reef.’ I was starting to get nervous and excited at the same time and I knew Natz felt the same though she was more nervous than excited. It was time to jump, Sarath went first and showed us how to do the Giant Stride. I followed, struggling a bit with the weight of the gear I was wearing. When it was Natz’s turn, she panicked and almost quit.

Bannerfish at Coral Reef

I was surprised, because I thought that the person who could swim well would be more confident in Scuba Diving but it really depends the person. I know Natz was thinking way forward like what if we die. Anyway, jumping into the ocean is the hardest part of Scuba Diving. Sarath tried to calm her when she floated on the water and I think she was just not used to breathing in and out of the regulator. Sarath instructed us to swim towards the shallow part of the sea to do the basic test.

Scuba Diving in Maldives

In Scuba Diving, a diver who is not PADI or SSI certified is restricted to do the Discover Scuba diving course, which is the entry level one. This meant that I always have to do the basic test which includes ‘Regulator Retrieval’ and ‘Mask Clearing’ underwater. Sarath had a hard time – others were already exploring the reef when he decided to stop the test because Natz and I had a hard time sinking. He said it might be because we were not breathing properly. We finally started moving and I tried to take a lot of photos to divert Natz’s attention from being scared.

Coral Reef Maldives

Eel in Coral Reef

What I love about scuba diving is that I find peace under the sea while being amazed with God’s wonderful creations. I saw some lobster, barracudas, sea cucumbers, anemones, parrot fish, etc. We girls got a few scratches from corals as the diving suits we were wearing were the short type. I didn’t find the dive site very interesting though, maybe because we didn’t go deeper than 10 meters. Sarath said the turtles are 15 meters ocean deep. Anyway, I was so proud of Natz for finishing the course alive, hehe.

Lion Fish in Coral Reef

Lobster in Coral Reef

Moving to the next destination, we sunbathed on the deck of the ferry while chatting with Sarath. I still wanted to dive but sadly they only brought enough tanks for what we registered. Sarath told me that he could accompany me in snorkeling on the next dive site instead. I can’t swim and I thought snorkelling with a life vest is boring, so good for me. We stopped at Kurumba Island and I was so amazed with the power of fins to make me float plus Sarath’s help. That site was way better than the first one.

Sarath and I

Sarath and Natz

Heading to Kurumba Island

There was a tank-like thing standing in the sea and below that was a school of fish. How I wish I dived in Kurumba instead. Aside from a lot of fishes, ever cute clown fishes, I saw a manta ray and a baby shark in Kurumba. It really made my day. Natz at the same time enjoyed snorkelling with just her goggles. She is a good swimmer and we were able to maximize our time underwater.

Fishes at Kurumba

Fishes at Kurumba Island

Kurumba Island

Kurumba Reef

The day was really tiring. Diving was like effortless workout and we didn’t even feel hungry after. The girls were not yet back from Island hopping when we came back to the inn so we went for an early dinner first. They arrived when we are about to go out to cycle. The bicycle seats were too high for us and they were really uncomfortable, so we ended up returning them in the Inn and took a stroll instead.

with a Sea Star

Before bedtime, we spent half an hour with the girls discussing what to do the next day. It was really hard to book for a sea plane and submarine ride so we all agreed to visit and stay in a resort for a day. It was a long day as expected, but it was another good diving experience to cherish.

The sunny side of life – Maldives day I

Summer feel all year round, majestic villas on coral islands, alluring beaches with ocean water that go from light blue to royal blue, heaven underwater, and food that range from all over Asia to western cuisine. Oh yes, it’s Maldives.

Newtown Inn
Newtown Inn – a newly built inn where we stayed.

North of the equator of Indian Ocean lies Maldives; a country composed of 1900 coral islands formed around 26 atolls. It is the lowest country in the world, as it is just 5 meters above sea level. It was in the 1970s when tourism started in Maldives. It began with just two resorts that transformed their economy. Now the country has more than a hundred and tourism became the country’s main industry. And now, Maldives is one of the must-visit countries on most travellers’ bucket lists, including me.

fine trees everywhere
fine trees everywhere

Tiger Airways now offers the Singapore to Male route as their newest flight destination, making them the only budget airline to cater this flight. We happened to have the coolest pilot who woke us up in the middle of the five-hour trip with an announcement that we are passing Sumatra and that we can see an active volcano outside our right window.

an active volcano in Sumatra
An active volcano in Sumatra, captured using Nokia Lumia 920.

During landing, we saw the aerial view of Hulhule and some islands near the island, and they looked as appealing as the ones I saw over the Internet. We went for a late lunch right after checking in. Food won’t be a problem for any traveller in Maldives as most of the restaurants serve both western and Asian cuisines. You name it and they got it. You can have a decent meal for $15.

in the ferry going to Male
even motor bikes ride the ferry going to Male
the ferry port in Male
the ferry port in Male

We didn’t waste time. Afterwards, we headed for a Male tour that cost us $10. Our tour guide, Rauf, took us around the city capital of Madives named Male. We went to The National Museum, Sultan Park, and The Friday Mosque, but we didn’t go inside because of our summer attire. There are no shopping malls or food chains in the city. I didn’t even see a movie house, but Rauf said there is one. Instead, there are souvenir shops and a wet and dry market.

the group, roaming around the city
the group, roaming around the city
we passed by this place
we passed by this place
a cementery
a cementery in Male
the old president's house
the old president’s house

Most establishments accept USD and some even accept SGD. Things are pricey – they import commodities from other countries except for seafood. I had a hard time looking for local products for pasalubong. I ended up buying a box of Pineapple Tea from Sri Lanka for $4 and some refrigerator magnets for $2.50 each.

the girls are busy taking photos
the girls are busy taking photos
me posing in Male
me posing in Male
the local market
the local market in Male

At night time, Rauf brought us to the beach side for a BBQ dinner. BBQ dinner seaside in Maldives means tables and chairs right on the beach, sand art with candlelight, fish and hotdog cooked over charcoal, friend chicken and rice, fruits for dessert, and no lights on the table. We really thought the BBQ will be cooked on the spot, hehe. Their dishes were a bit spicy and it was my first time to eat a semi-spicy hotdog and it’s yummy. The beach ambiance was nice even though the wind felt cold on the skin. The requested BBQ dinner cost us $26 each for a party of 6.

So, we hung out in the beach after eating and played with the rather playful Phyto planktons. These creatures are one of the things I was dying to see in Maldives. They’re so small and fine like the sand, and they glow on the beach like they are sea stars. I didn’t have any luck taking photos of them however. How I wish I brought my tripod with me that night. Everything went well and it was just the start of our three-day stay in the country.