Dive In The Magic That Is The Maldives
By Aatika H Jain
If you are a Bollywood fan, you must have already seen the amazing pictures of Katrina Kaif and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the Maldives, that was plastered all over the social media. It is difficult to decide what is more beautiful—the B-town beauties or the Maldives. What better way to resolve the dilemma than to visit the place and experience its ethereal beauty for oneself? Popular for its long stretches of breathtaking, white, sandy beaches, Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, is an incredible archipelago of around 1,200 coral islands and a collection of 26 coral atolls, amongst which 200 are inhabited islands and 80 are island resorts. With glittering blue waters, clear azure skies, spellbinding coral reefs teeming with stunningly diverse marine life, glittering white beaches, and various water sports to indulge in, Maldives is the ideal tropical getaway.
l Imagine a quiet night on the beach with the cool, salty sea breeze caressing your cheeks and ruffling your hair. The ocean is glowing in the dark, stretching into eternity, looking like someone overturned the starry night sky. No, this is not a scene from some sci-fi movie. You can experience a magical glowing ocean shoreline right here on the Mudhdhoo Island, which is a part of the Baa Atoll. The glowing ocean is as a result of a natural phenomenon called bioluminescence, which occurs thanks to some bioluminescent plankton. Baa Atoll comprises three separate natural atolls. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which boasts a spectacular variety of marine life, consisting of around 250 species of stony and soft coral, more than a 1,000 kinds of reef fish including the endangered Hawkbill, manta rays, whale sharks, and green turtles. Scuba diving in these waters resplendent with biodiversity is definitely a once-in-alifetime experience.
The Bandaara Kilhi is one of the two freshwater lakes in Fuvahmulah. It is the biggest freshwater reserve in the Maldives and is a green haven surrounded by thick ferns, tropical almond, banana, mango, cheese fruit, screwpine and coconut palms, and fields of taro. Amongst the exotic fauna dwelling here is the common moorhen, which is found only in Fuvahmulah, and the white-breasted waterhen. Dhadimagi Kilhi is the other freshwater lake in the same region of the country. Take a walk in the dense foliage of rare plants and trees with the mellifluous sound of exotic bird calls in the backdrop. Bet those sights and sounds will stay with you for a long time to come. The two lakes have been declared as protected areas by the Maldives government and have been superbly restored and conserved.
You cannot possibly miss Banana Reef if you are an underwater aficionado. It is located at the amazing North Male Atoll inside Kuda Kalhi. Also known as Gaathugiri, the reef gets its name because of its banana-like shape. Banana Reef is a protected area and was the first Maldivian dive site to be discovered. It still retains its popularity as it has ideal diving conditions throughout the year. The dive ranges from 5m-30m and affords some of the most magnificent coral formations with stunning marine life forms such as squirrelfish, grouper fish, banner fish, soldier fish, grubfish, oriental sweetlips, black snapper fish, sharks, barracudas, wrasses and fusiliers fish, along with several other intriguing marine species that frequent the underwater caves and reef walls. eagle rays and grey reef sharks. Diving is possible round the year in this protected marine region but it has strong currents and a red flag on the quay means diving is temporarily prohibited. The umpteen beaches of Maldives are all picturesque, quintessential tropical ones, with shimmering blue ocean water lapping up on the powdered white sandy shores. The list of islands with such charming beaches is long, including Kudadoo Island, Huvahendhoo Island, Mirihi Island, Emboodhu Finolhu Island, Dhigu Island, Halaveli Islands, Baros Island and Lily beach.
Also called Dhivehi cuisine, Maldivian cuisine is primarily composed of three ingredients: fish, starches and coconut. The Maldives is a cluster of islands; consequently fish, mainly tuna, is part of its staple diet. Maldivian fare has influences from Indian, Arabian, Sri Lankan and Oriental cuisines. Café and tea-shops are the best places to sample the local dishes or snacks. If you wish to try the local dishes, be prepared for hot and spicy fish curries, soups and patties. One of the traditional dishes of the Maldives is Garudhiya, a fragrant fish soup. It is a surprisingly simple, but wonderfully fresh and clean, dish which is prepared by cooking fresh tuna in water with curry leaves, garlic, onion and chilli, and garnished with golden fried onion and a dash of lime. Another common local dish is Mas Huni, a popular breakfast. It is a tasty mix of shredded, smoked tuna, // travel 46 WECANSERVE \ may 2019 onion, chilli, lemon and grated coconut, eaten with chapati called Roshi. Masroshi is a simple but delicious chapati stuffed with coconut and smoked tuna, seasoned with spices and curry leaves.
A crossover between the samosa and the spring roll is the yummy Bis Keemiya, which is a pastry stuffed with thinly sliced, lightly sautéed cabbage, hardboiled egg/tuna and onions. Light and flaky, the melt-in-the-mouth pastry feels like heaven. If you are a salad lover, a must-try is Boshi Mashuni or banana flower salad. It is a light, crispy mixture of shredded banana flowers, fresh coconut, onions, Maldivian chilli, lime, curry leaves, cumin and turmeric. Then there is the fried yam with its delightfully crunchy crust and soft centre, which is served with some lip smacking sauces. The seafood connoisseur inside you would absolutely melt into a puddle when you sink your teeth into the cooked-to-perfection fresh Maldivian lobster. You just cannot have only a few of the reef fish cutlets spiced with tandoori masala and served with mint chutney, papaya or cucumber. Delectable, fresh and spicy, the Maldivian cuisine will leave both your stomach and soul satiated. Surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming or simply lounging on the gleaming white beaches, Maldives is like a tropical dream come true for the water baby in you. Come, the paradise beckons. Maruhabaa.