Monday, April 13, 2015

Maarehaa, Maldives

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our minimal contact with locals (visiting local islands was prohibited by the Maldivian government in 1980 and only rescinded in 2008), we have experienced random acts of kindness that we’ll never forget.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.

Pakia Tea
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)

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