( june 2001)
June 24 Colombo - Male - Vilu Reef
After an impressive week we slept again at the Browns Beach hotel in Negombo for a stop on the way to the Maldives. The previous day we arrived around 18.30 PM and this night we were waked at 3.30 AM because we had to be at the airport at 4.45. When we arrived around 5.30 there all luggage had to be checked twice through an x-ray machine and one time inspection by hand. After a huge row before the desk where you have to pay airport tax (thanks to Globe for not pointing this out before on the travel documents) and another line before customs we passed everything around 5.45.
From Sri Lanka you fly in about 70 minutes to Male, the capital of the Maldives. This country only exists from islands and the whole territory is about 820 by 120 kilometers. It's located in the Indian Ocean near India and Sri Lanka. The Malidives were occupied by the Portugese for a short term and by the English but most of the time they were and are independent. Also the islands played a role as a stop to and from Asia. About 200 of the 1200 islands are inhabited by about 260.000 people and about 90 islands are exclusively reserved for tourism. Tourism makes about 25% of the economy. The existence of the Malidives is threatened by the rise of the sea level and if the predications become the truth the country will vanish into the sea.
When we arrived all luggage had to be scanned again because customs was looking for religious statues and of course porn and drugs. Our fellow travellers also went to the Malidives and they bought two large buddha statues on Sri Lanka and those were detected. This meant that they had to leave them in the luggage depot on the airport and could collect them on the way back. I only bought a small hindu statue and that wasn't found. Outside the terminal there are several counters from all local travelagents and we missed ours. He was paying attention and found us at the airport so that was not a problem and very helpful from his side. Scary was that he insisted on having our tickets in order for him to confirm them and keeping them until our return flight. This wasn't announced by Globas and I still feel this is not the way to handle your tickets by not keeping them yourself.
From the airport we went with a small bus to the other side of the airport / island, because there was nothing more than the airport on this island. Male the capital is on the neigbouring island. Around 9.10 AM local time we left with a waterplane. This was really an interesting experience. Pilots in bermuda without shoes flying their plane, a cabine with just 12 chairs, a short runway on the water and when the plane went through the clouds small drops of humidity came along the windows on the inside. The landing was about 40 minutes later and was a few 100 meters from the island next to a small pontoon. A boat was waiting for us to bring us to the island.
Vilu Reef is part of the Dhaalu atol also called the South-Nilandhoo atol. On the island there is only the resort so you'll find only bungalows and provisions for tourists. They have around 80 bungalows on the island. The island is about 300 meters in length and 150 meter of width (this is a perosnal estimation).
We could immediately occupy our bungalow. It as a magnificent bungalow, very close to the beach (20 meters), nice big bed, excellent air-conditioning and also a fan. Together with the bungalow you get your own servant who is reponsible for your bungalow and all corresponding things to it. The same afternoon we had our first tropical rain but fortunately it rained immense but for a short time and this was the only rain we had during the trip.
Vilu Reef 115
At night we went to diner in 1 of the 2 common provisions on the island namely the bar and the restaurant. Food was excellent and was by buffet. We booked half-board so at lunch we could decide what we liked to do at that moment and big advantage is that you will not gain that much weight. At dinner you have your own servant that pours your glasses the whole week and cleans your table. These guys (no female to be seen except western foreigners because of their language capabilities) come from another island and work about 2 months before they are off for a week or 10 days.
Fantastic weather. Ofcourse we went to the beach. The same day I was sunburned already. Around the island there is a reef such that you have a part to the reef for about 30 meters that goes to a depth of 1.3 meter, then the rocks and coral of the reef and next the bottom of the ocean is going down very steep. The same day we saw a group of little sharks swimming inside the reef and outside a groupm of dolphins were passing. As you can see on the picture below the water was very clear and it is indeed very beautiful like the brochures indicate.
Beach right in front of the bungalow
The bungalow is right behind the bush. The beach was not very big on our side.
In the morning it was cloudy so an excellent day for snorkeling. On the island there was a diving centre where you can hire a pair of snorkels and webs for 5$ per day. We went snorkeling three times that day and saw beautiful fish that swim mainly on the outside of the reef and very close to the reef. On the outside of the reef we noticed a pipe going into the reef. Its purpose was not clear.
When we went snorkeling I remebered a previous experience and we put on a t-shirt. We were glad we did so because around the shirts we were burned again by the sun. Amusing was that we saw a group of German pass us on the beach who went snorkeling in bathing suits. The second time they went snorkeling they wear shirts and the thirth time they even had put on trousers.
In the mean tiem it was clear that the prices in the bar were quite expensive, such as 2,5$ for a soda and 3,5$ for half a liter of beer and very strange also 3,5$ for a liter of water. We then had the prices of Sri Lanka in our head as I read my notes now because a few months I'm used again to Dutch prices and then those prices were reasonable if you note that everything is delivered by boat or plane. I was glad that there was happy hour and that was the time to try some cocktails. For 5.5$, which is as much as you will pay here, you get quite a nice cocktail and that is and should be part of this surrounding.
The diner was great that night also because of a special dish with all kinds of fish. Ofcourse fish was on the menu regularly because you're in the middle of a sea surrounding you. Because of the proximity to India they regularly have different kinds of curry dishes. Unfortunately my stomach problems were still there and each time I ate something spicy my stomach was reporting new problems.
Before we were returning the snorkeling stuff, we sparing Dutch men we went snorkeling at 9.00 AM for half an hour. Because it was still very quiet we saw lot's of fish. The weather was great again that day such that I burned again. It was starting to hurt me now. I was almost in the middle of my remaing book so I slowed down reading because I forgot two books to bring with me. That day we ate some Dutch waffels with syrup that we found by accident in our luggage but that didn't matter because they were delicious.
View from the beach
The happy hour of the previous day was a success so another cocktail today. This one was called "sex on the beach" and because of the price of 10$ I enjoyed it even more.
I woke up with a headache feeling, was it the cocktails or was it dehydration? I finally took some pictures. There was not much to do and see so I didn't have the urge to take a lot of pictures. after all we still had some days left and time enough to take pictures. This day wasn't spectacular because it was partly cloudy and we filled the day with sleeping and eeting.
This is the day when we starting to get bored. Again partly cloudy and this time a nice wind. I keep on using suncream factor 12 but I seem to be past the stadium of getting burned by the sun. Louise is already trying to use oil instead of cream. To her own suprise she's getting bored of the sun as well.
Life on the beach
Today I finished my book. Fortunately there is a small library on the island. It isn't much, mostly books in English and German but also Japanese which I can't read. I found a book with several small detective-stories and started on that one. Besides that I read all the magazines Louise brought with her so my knowledge about modern women hypes and pregnancies were updated.
We thought about doing excursions but a boat trip for 25$ per person to the neighboring island is nothing more than a way to spend your time and money. Diving was not an option because Louise isn't allowed to dive because of her eardrums. When we returned from diner the whole bed was decorated with leaves of flowers which was very romantic.
Another beautiful day. We had rain for about 5 minutes but then the sky cleared immediately and before you realize it it just line it never rained. We were invited for dinner at the beach that night. This is done especially for honeymooners. Your table is decorated in a special and beautiful way but you can get your own dinner from the buffet because you dine right in front of the restaurant on the beach.
After rain you always get sunshine at the Maldives. That night the weather was quite rough and the next day it was beautiful again and quite hot again. Despite all previous sessions in the sun we burned again. In the afternoon I went to watch Formula 1 in the bar where they have a sattelite receiver. That day also our flight time was announced for the next day. It turned out to be 16.45 PM. We were glad because of our departure time at Male was late and because of this our last day was almost a complete one. Next problem was determining the height of the tips. The bar was a problem because several people helped us and all tipping them nicely was too much for us.
Our last night was not the best. Because of the bed that was too short and very hard, the noice of the fan or the airco I had troubles sleeping. In the morning we went to the beach for the last time and could stay until around 12.00. We then went to pay the bill which was like we expected but there was made a small mistake in calculating the prices of the cocktails for 10% discount during happy hour instead of 20%. The mistake was immedaitely corrected so that wasn't a problem at all. We solved the tipping problem by giving the guys for taking care of us the most a tip, so the room boy, restaurant guy and our favourite waiter in the bar.
At 17.00 the plane finally arrived so we had plenty of time. On the other hand the plan couldn't be much later because these waterplanes are not allowed to fly at night and around 18.00 P.M. it gets dark pretty quick. A fellow passenger had a television as luggage and he had to leave it behind because of weight restrictions. The waterplanes are due to a strict maximum weight limit. We first had to make a stop at another islandand around 17.00 P.M. again we arrived at Male. Male is on an hour time difference with Vilu Reef.
Our travelagent was already waiting for us with the tickets which he already confirmed for us. It was nice he did this already because it is necesaary to confirm your flight and phoning is very expensive at the island. He also knew somebody who could bring us to Male and show us something of the town. We left our luggage at the depot at the airport for 3$ per piece. At 18.30 we already finished the tour because it's very small. In a square kilometer you'll find almost everything. We ended ofcourse in a shop, this time the "uncle" of the guide". Uncle gave it a lot of trouble in selling something to us so we gave in and bought something. Also in these places you can try to bargain, we bought a t-shirt and a picture frame for 21$ and if I remember correctly he started around 26$.
We walked a bit by ourselves but stopped that quite fast because of the heat and most shops were closed because of evening prayers. The guide showed us restaurant Seagull and promised to meet us there again. He also wanted to go the parayers at the mosque. We ate somethin there and it was quite good. Strange thing was that the menu showed all prices in local curreny, rufiya and when we asked the bill and the exchange rate it turned out that it they only accepted dollars. We didn't have any local currency but the total amount wasn't that much in dollars so we payed without making any problem.
The guide brought us to the harbor to a boat to bring us back to the airport and there we retuned around 21.30 P.M. In the beginning he already indicated that we shoud decide for ourselves what we wanted to tip him. I gave him 5$ which I thought was quite enough for about one hour work. It looked like he wasn't disappointed.
At the airport we had to wait for the travelagent again. Why wasn't clear because we had our tickets already and just said he would meet us at 23.00 P.M. In the mean time we solved the riddle of the Coca Cola. This doesn't taste at all at the Maldives and think this is the same taste as they tried to change Coca Cola in about 10 to 15 years ago and which was redone after lots of protest. Buying something at the airport is also quite expensive because you'll pay 3$ for a Fanta for example. Changing money at the airport is impossible because there is no bank so I couldn't figure out the exchange rate there as well. You can pay everything with dollars or credit card. In the mean time I found at the internet that you get about 12 RF for 1$.
At 23.15 the agent was still not there and another agent approached us and asked if he could help us. We then entered the hall for checkin with help of this agent who showed us the way and helped with the luggae. His help was a bit strange because everything is indicated very clearly but he probably wanted to be just friendly. He didn't ask or indicate anything about a tip so not everything is suspicious. Generally my impression is that the people of the Malidives are very friendly and helpful..
At 1.30 our plane left and around 2.30 we landed on Colombo again. The next flight was at 4.30 AM for London but unfortunately we departed an hour later. We spent the time in the bar at the airport where we met a couple from England and time past quickly due to the conversation we had. The return trip was long and boring and fortunately we were on time for our connecting flight to the Netherlands. We arrived around 18.00 P.M. at home which brought our return time to 24 hours.
The Maldives are a wonderful country and Vilu Reef is a beautiful island. Only if you don't bring several books and you're not going to diver you'll find about 5 days for a stay enough. Assume it's expensive and do count on it so you don't have to take care of your budget when you're there. It was absolutely worth the trip. The combination with Sri Lanka is fantastic and I can recommend it. One tip try to get a direct flight to the Maldives and possibly go from there to Sri Lanka or the other way around because when you also have to change planes like we did in London it makes it a very long trip.
Last changed: 22-03- 2002
© 2002: Jeroen
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