Monday, March 20, 2017

Maldives: Exploring the Local Island of Maamigili


An air of melancholy hangs over as Ahmed, our wonderful host, brought us to the ferry that will bring us back to Male. The gloomy weather at six in the morning wasn't helping at all. I waved back at him as he ran towards us with a takeaway pack with him. He was bringing us our favorite Maldivian breakfast of Mashuni and Roshi. Seeing Ahmed and his friends at the port, I fought my tears back as the ferry started its voyage. Leaving Maamigili Island and its people felt like leaving my hometown and my folks. The island and the people who took care of us for a week and showed us nothing but the warmest welcome was too hard to leave behind. This is the real Maldives, not the ones you see on postcards. 

We are nearing the last part of our two-month Beach Hop Asia 2016 summer backpacking trip and after exploring the beaches of Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, we came to the most awaited beach paradise of the trip, the Maldives. Yey! 

I don't really like making (or following) a rigid hardcore trip itinerary, but for this particular leg of our trip, I informed my buddy that I will be taking charge of the planning process which totally surprised him. So he let me do the nitty gritty part of analyzing each and every detail of the trip. I did so much research but then everything turned out differently from the way I envisioned it, in a very positive way. 

Maamigili Island Maldives
Quiet neighborhood in the local island of Maamigili
Maamigili Island is one of the 1,109 coral islands of Maldives located in Alif Dhaal Atoll (South Ari). Geographically speaking, it is hard to imagine how a country would be built on coral islands, but the thriving republic is definitely one of the most visited holiday destinations in the world because of its outstanding beaches and natural marine life. You might wanna check out my DIY Maldives Backpacking Travel Guide on how I managed to prepare the itinerary.

Maamigili Island Maldives
Local mosque
I specifically wanted to stay on a local island because of the cheaper options in accommodation and to actually experience the locals' way of life. We could've just stayed on a nearby island of Maafushi which is one-hour away from Male to save us from the seven-hour journey, but no, of all the local islands to choose from, I fell in love with the island of Maamigili because of its perfect seclusion, beautiful sceneries and outstanding marine life for all-day snorkeling, wild whale sharks sighting and nice sand bars for lounging. Plus, three of my friends raided this leg of our trip, it would be so much fun to explore the beauty of the island with them.

Maamigili Island Maldives
Play time
Okay, so Maamigili Island is seven hours away from Male via the MTCC public ferry (MVR53 | US$3.54), or 25 minutes by domestic flight (US$105 one way). I ain't easily bored with boat rides as compared to train rides so the half day journey wasn't much of a problem. You could also book a charter 35-minute seaplane (US$4,200 one way for up to 12 pax) or via a 2-hour private speed boat (US$1,000 one way for up to 10 pax).

Maamigili Island Maldives
Late afternoon siesta
I found a great deal on one of the few guest houses on the island, Whale Shark Inn, for a five-day stay which is inclusive of private AC room, breakfast, four sea excursions, and ferry tickets. After exchanging few emails with the manager, I sealed the deal with our soon-to-be home in Maldives.

After spending our very first night at Clear Sky Inn in Hulhumale Island (where the airport is), we took a fifteen-minute local ferry from Hulhumale to North Harbour in Male (MVR5.50 | US$0.36) then took a cab (MVR25 | US$1.62) that brought us to Petrol Jetty in Male. A representative from Whale Shark Inn was there to assist us.

Ariadhoo Maamigili Island Maldives
Ariadhoo - an uninhabited island near Maamigili Island
The MTCC public ferry from Male to Maamigili was filled with locals who were comfortably seated on benches. There were also some imported produce (even salt is imported in Maldives) that were neatly stacked at the end of the boat. Public ferry transportation in Maldives is quite complicated, but compared to land transportation, it is definitely easier. Sometimes, you need to transfer from one atoll to the other to get to the local island that you wanted to visit, like transferring from a train to a bus to get to your final destination, only, it is done in the great Indian Ocean.

Maldives Fishing
Getting ready for our sunset fishing
The boat ride was an adventure in itself. I finished one chapter of a book, transferred files from my camera to my laptop, made friends with some local kids on board, contemplated a few times at the back part of the ferry while in motion, tried out some local snacks from the store inside and snoozed a hundred times. It was one full day of anticipation and excitement altogether.

It was drizzling when we arrived at Maamigili Island. By the looks of it, it seemed like it has been raining for a while. Ahmed, our host, picked us up at the port and brought us to one of the two taxi cabs on the island. A minute of driving and then we arrived at the comforts of Whale Shark Inn.

Whale Shark Inn Maldives
Our usual chill spot at Whale Shark Inn
The whole layout and set up can be compared to that of a regular house; there's a wraparound yard with trees and shrubs, lounge areas with white sandy ground (beach feels), a common area where it is impossible to not see your fellow guests, and the four rooms that surround the common area.

Whale Shark Inn Maldives
White sandy ground on our backyard
All five of us plus two other guests from Malaysia gathered on the common area for the processing of our booking and a quick briefing followed afterwards about the island itself. After which, we were given time to rest on our respective rooms.

Our room was big enough for me and my buddy. It has a queen-sized bed with comfy bed linens and fluffy pillows, TV, wardrobe closet, vanity dresser, coffee and tea-making facilities, in-room safety deposit box, complimentary drinking water (1 liter per person per day) and AC.


Whale Shark Inn Maldives
Room for four nights
We have our own toilet and bath equipped with hot and cold shower, hair dryer, and bathroom amenities. Other services of Whale Shark Inn includes; laundry service (which we availed of twice), tour assistance, complimentary WiFi connection, and more.

Whale Shark Inn Maldives
Whale Shark Inn really feels like home
We had an uber late lunch first (there were three restaurants on the island that also have delivery services) before we started our inland tour. It wasn't compulsory but Ahmed wanted to show us around which helped all of us to grasp the Maldivian way of life. 

Maamigili Island measures 1.350 km. in length and 0.775 km. in width with 3,000 inhabitants. The island is a regular community with a school, infirmary, soccer field, private beach, mini groceries, restaurants and shops. There's also an international airport with daily domestic flights that caters to tourists who are staying on nearby island resorts. I haven't noticed if there's a police station, or maybe there is none. Crime rate in the country is low so it's generally safe 'coz where would an offender possibly go when he commits a crime on the islands of Maldives? Also, women should be aware of the acceptable attire such as covered shoulders and legs. Good thing I brought with me some harem pants from an online apparel store.

Maldives Non-Alcoholic Beer
Our gracious host, Ahmed, surprised us with Holsten Non-alcoholic Beer on our last night! :)
After the quick immersion, we all had dinner on a restaurant overlooking the port. We were sharing the whole space with locals who were also having some lull time with their friends. It was still drizzling and my friends (who are not into backpacking) were all tired from the boat ride so we retired early that night.

Maldives Local Food
Mashuni, Roshi and Fried Egg. My favorite Maldivian breakie! :)
(MVR75 | US$4.22)
Maldives Local Food
Chicken Fried Rice with boiled egg
(MVR60 | US$3.90)
Maldives Local Food
Nasi Goreng
(MVR80 | US$5.20)
For the next four days, we played hide n' seek with the sun with a lot of activities and sea excursions included on the package we availed at Whale Shark Inn. 

Ariadhoo Maamigili Island Maldives
Sea excursions every day! :)
Onboard a traditional dhoni, we went to several snorkeling sites and had fun discovering the vast pristine coral gardens with different schools of fishes. Ahmed provided some snorkeling gear for free and we really had fun, especially me, on those days of exploring the underwater world. 

Maldives Underwater
Exploring Maldives' underwater world
Maldives Underwater
Well, hello there!
We also went to a nearby island wherein we wasted an afternoon on just lounging and enjoying the sun, sea and sand - the Maldivian way. Ahmed also brought some packed meals for our lunch picnic. My friends dozed off under the shade while me and my buddy explored the island itself.

Ariadhoo Maldives
Ariadhoo, Maldives 
A post shared by blissfulguro (@blissfulguro) on

We spent three days as well in search for that elusive wild whale sharks which are common in Alif Dhaal Atoll. What I love about the local community in Maamigili Island is that they do not feed any sea creature for tourists or even go close to the whale sharks (especially not touching them). They are very well-educated on how to preserve and maintain the natural order of things in marine life.

Whale Shark Maldives
The search for those gentle giants is on!
Moving on, the water was rough on our first day for the whale shark encounter. The sun was out on the second day but we had no luck in searching for them. On the third day, we went to different areas around Maamigili Island and searched for the gentle giants. After going to three different spots, Ahmed shouted to the gang that he spotted them. I quickly grabbed my snorkel gear and underwater camera then jumped into the water.

And there they were, three of them happily swimming. I watched them from a distance and was in pure awe as the whale sharks seemed to be enjoying their morning play. And it was just a lucky day. After failing for two days, we found them which made everyone cheer as we emerged from the water. I did a high five with our boatman who did a great job with the search. It was totally one of the highlights of our Maldives trip.

Whale Shark Maldives
And yes, we found them after three days!
Whale Shark Maldives
Surreal experience to be meters away from the whale sharks
We also did sunset fishing on our fourth day. With the help of our boat captain and his assistant, we were given hooks, rods and baits then showed us how to, well, fish properly. Everyone's very competitive and rooting to get the first catch ever and then Iza shouted that she caught one. 

Sunset Fishing Maldives
Our boatman teaching us how to fish properly
We were all in shock as she started to pull the strings for her catch after just dropping the bait for about two minutes. And then after ten minutes, she caught another, and then another. Her rod went crazy as she started catching fish one after the other. We were teasing her to be a fish magnet in Maldives.

Sunset Fishing Maldives
This is not my catch though, haha.
The moon shone at its best over us as we cruised back to shore. Everyone had their own tales to share about their catch while I almost didn't make it to the tally sheet as I only had two not-so-big fishes to come home with.

During the entire time, my twin friends were enjoying so much that seeing them fulfilling one of their biggest dreams (to go to Maldives) made me happier, really. 


Whale Shark Inn Maldives
Our last night on Whale Shark Inn with our great host, Ahmed, and the rest of the gang
We went back home and noticed that Ahmed was whipping up something. Tables and chairs filled the front yard as a heated grill was slowly filled up with charcoals. We're having a barbecue party, Ahmed mentioned, And we're grilling your catch!, we all got thrilled.

All of the rooms at Whale Shark Inn were occupied at that time and all of us converged at the yard and exchanged wonderful stories during the course of our stay at Maamigili Island. Together with our boatman for four days and the attendant at the inn, we were all laughing as we talked about even the most trivial details of the excursions. It was fun, as we shared laughter and food that was prepared by Ahmed and his wife. 

Whale Shark Inn Maldives
Barbecue party after our sunset fishing
We feasted on curry, salad, and the freshest catch of the day from the fishing trip. It was our last night and the barbecue party was the perfect way to end it; that evening was a tearjerker and memorable at the same time. 

My friends who are not acquainted to backpacking chose to fly back to Male instead of taking the ferry; me and my buddy, with our meager means to survive our backpacking trip, chose to take the ferry.

Ahmed brought us to the port, for the last time, and bid his goodbye. I returned the gesture with a promise of coming back. I sat on my chosen bench, opened up the window and took one last look of the island. He was still at the port when the boat started its voyage. I was waving goodbye not only to him but to Maamigili Island who welcomed us wholeheartedly. It was one of the saddest departures for me abroad.

Maamigili Island Maldives
Goodbye, neighbors :)
It is not the beautiful scenery and nice landscapes/seascapes that makes up the Maldives. Those postcard-like images are just a beautiful setting to the real core of the islands. The essence of Maldives is the wonderful people that inhabit it. It is their kind heart and loving arms that warmly welcome guests to their homes and lives that constitutes this great nation. And I will come back. I promise I will explore more and to experience more of Maldives.


Aafathis, Adh. Maamigili,
South Ari Atoll, Republic of Maldives
Contact Number: (+960) 779.6188
Email Address: sales@whalesharkinn.com

2 comments:

  1. Lovely article .. very helpful for those who haven't been there.. I miss the fun we had there..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Ruchi. Missing Maldives too. And the local island of Maamigili :(

      Delete

chalkboard