On an early morning walk through Feydhoo village,Addoo Atoll, Maldives Archipelago we met Ibrahim. We were observing a small, lazy white bird with a sharp, black beak and a notable forked tail, in a tree. Ibrahim explained that the bird is only found on Addoo Attoll and that if we wanted to see one close up, we needed to walk to the village of Gan ( next village, but only 300 metres away!?) and then continue past the fuel station, after which “You go on and then the second tree on the right you will find nest”. The bird is called a Dandalo?! (Spel). Ibrahim explained further that if we wanted bread, we must go to the bakery (of course!), “down that road over there and turn left, it is called The Gluten”.
The Gluten?! Anywhere else we would call the bakery “The Gluten Free!”
Addoo Atoll is interesting. It is the only Atoll of the Maldives Archipelago which lies in the Southern Hemisphere, it has a population of 35 000 people spread over a few small islands connected by causeways. It is the most populated of the Atolls of the archipelago. The Maldivians are educated in English but speak their mother tongue amongst each other. As a Muslim country, Arabic is also spoken. We have learnt that the island has subterranean water which is accessed by wells. I speculate that it must be seawater which is filtrated through the lime layers under the island as the islands are only 3 meters above sea level. They do catch rain water, “During rainy season which is July and August” reports Massood, our “Agent” . All visitors must have an appointed agent who takes care of every possible thing you might need. ” You need air tickets? Laundry? Fuel? Food?” Offers Masood, who is clearly the man about town in his slick black car. Massood appears to have some Portuguese heritage somewhere, which he confirms on my asking. We listen to the latest Bollywood “James Bond” type music as he gives us a tour around the islands by car. Addoo Atoll also boasts the longest road . . . 16kms of Cornish.
Electricity is provided to the villages by generator and rubbish is taken care of by each householder by digging a hole below the high water marks, throwing the plastic rubbish in and then burning it. The next tide takes the remains out to sea. This practice is an unsatisfactory solution to waste, but I am not sure what the alternatives could possibly be? It felt simply wrong to give our plastic rubbish (1 bag full) to Masood, making it the islands problem?
The Seafront, amongst the villagers, is something that is found in the “backyard” as opposed to the western ideal of orientating it as part of the front yard view. The Seafront is where you work (Fishing, obviously is a big part of the islands income) and where one deals with plastic waste.
Gan, the first island of the Atoll was an RAF base until 1976. The airstrip which from the sea, on Jerrican, cannot be seen since it appears to sink below the waves (making it appear as though each flight is a disaster) is busy with 5 flights a day from the capital Male. The flights bring very wealthy tourists to the outer islands of the atoll where there are very expensive resorts. Many of the tourists are Italian leisure seekers. We are asked, often, by the locals if we are Italian. The super yacht anchored near us is Italian owned with Italian crew.
The locals are conservative and alcohol is not allowed to be consumed on the island. Bikinis are also not welcome so a space is maintained between the local villagers and the resorts, which are reached by ferry from the airport. We are anchored off the village of Gan, which I personally find very interesting as we can take the ARK duck over to the wharf and walk through the villages of Gan and Feydhoo to find an iced coffee at local prices. The locals all know who we are, before we meet them! We are, apparently, only the second yacht to arrive here this year! As Masood says “The whole Atoll knows you are here”.
The Maldivian currency, the Rufiyaa is slightly weaker than the Rand so food is affordable for us South Africans and we find the area much cheaper than Mauritius.
So here we are, in this beautiful area after sailing 4600 nautical miles from Cape Town, virtually non stop (apart from the busy repair stop in Port Louis) to meet our charter group. We were only one day late! Our charter group, however, with all the sophisticated means of travel available to them and their busy schedules, have been delayed and it looks as though they will only arrive in a day or two which suits us perfectly!