|At anchor off Maarehaa Island with Arigaththaa Island in the background|
As our stay in the Maldives draws to a close, we once again
are amazed at how quickly the time has gone.
We’ve had our cruising permit extended once and even though we’d like to
stay longer, weather patterns in the Indian Ocean are starting to change and in
order to maximize our comfort and safety, we must move on. Despite our minimal contact with locals
(visiting local islands was prohibited by the Maldivian government in 1980 and
only rescinded in 2008), we have experienced random acts of kindness that we’ll
never forget. Like the one time we were
coming back from a snorkel and men on a fishing boat that was anchored not too
far from Rutea were waving wildly at
us. Not sure if we had done something
wrong or if they wanted something from us, we pulled our dinghy along
side. They handed us a very nice, fresh
snapper. “Wait,” I protested, “I have no money.” No, no, they gestured, it’s a gift.
We have been traveling with a delightful group of other
boats and we have become very close friends.
Two of the boats are from Austria, one from Germany, one from Canada and
one from the UK. There’s one 3-year old
who has stolen everyone’s heart and he has taken quite a fancy to Ruthie. He prefers to speak German but patiently
speaks English with Ruthie and has the understanding of the difference. I ask him from time to time how to say things
in German and offers translations without begrudging me. His parents are both marine biologists and it
couldn’t be better than to have experts in these islands and atolls with such
rich marine life.
Our little fleet gathers frequently for ‘sundowners’ or a
game of Mexican dominoes. For evening
libations, we’ll often gather on Rutea’s
foredeck which has been renamed The Bow Bar.
Sometimes we play Mexican Dominoes on board but everyone’s favorite
place to play is aboard Pakia Tea, as
they have a large dining room table in between the two hulls of their catamaran. While there’s never much of a breeze here, it’s
by far the most comfortable place to play in this merciless heat.
|Moorish Idol Zanclus cornutus|
One way to escape the heat is to get in the water, even
though it hits 95˚F at times. The
snorkeling and diving are some of the best anywhere in the world. I am not an avid diver but most of the people
in our ‘fleet’ are very active divers and I’m often invited. The water is still warm at depths of up to 90
feet so no wet suit is necessary. As
with many places we’ve visited, much of the coral is dead but at least there
are many places where the coral is showing signs of regrowth. The lack of sharks is worrisome as they’re
one of the best indicators of a healthy reef and their absence is a sign that
there’s a long way to go until reefs have fully recovered.
|White Tipped Reef Shark Triaenodon obesus|
|Rainbow Runners Elagatis bipinnulata|
Tonight we’ll make our final passage in the Maldives and we’ll
probably cross the equator at around midnight.
Silly, but we’re all hoping that once we get south of the equator, it
will start getting cooler.
|Spotted Eagle Ray Aetobatus narinari (Ruthie took this photo from the deck in about 20' of water)|