A Cruise through the Maldives
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Catch of the day
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)

There are more than a hundred resorts in the Maldives. Most of them are off limits to cruisers, including anchoring even without going ashore, which is a shame as there are very few protected anchorages around. It is simply either too deep or too exposed. Read more about this phenomenon in our earlier story: Cruiser's Paradise Lost?

A typical Maldivian resort. Bungalows on stilts are built on the reef.

From Uligan we sailed south towards the Capital Male where we had to apply for an extension to our cruising permit within 30 days. The distance, as the bird flies, is around 200 nm, which we covered day hopping. For anybody planning to sail in these waters we have mentioned all our anchorages in the Past Anchorages section, including waypoints and some local information.

The harbour at Thulusdhoo with the Coca-Cola factory's dock in the centre
Our favourite location was Thulusdhoo island. There is a real village and no resort. With only 1,400 inhabitants, 200 of which have been relocated there after the 2004 tsunami, it is actually the administrative centre of Kaafu (North and South Male Atolls), excluding the city of Male itself, which forms it's own district.
Rush hour at Thulusdhoo, but no cars.
There's plenty of wrecks around
Collecting sand by bags for making cement
Thulusdhoo is an industrious island, with a Coca Cola factory, a customs warehouse for dried fish for export and boat building yards. Apparently this is the only place in the world where they make Coke from desalinated water. In the two photos below to the left we are being shown the mold where they were building a 30 metre cargo ship. The fishing boat on the photo to the right is of a traditional, shallow wide stern, design, but made from fibre glass. Thulusdhoo is also one of the surf centres of the Maldives with two surf breaks, one of which is named Cola after the bottling factory, and nicknamed Coke, what else.
Just 12 nm south of Thulusdhoo lies the Capital Male with a population of around 200,000. We liked Male a lot, it has a vibrant atmosphere with lively markets and gives a chance to get a real feeling for the Maldivians. It is a densly crowded and extraordinary place, notably mainly because its stark contrast to the laid-back pace of island life elsewhere in the country, for instance Thulusdhoo, just 12 nm north. Visually it reminded us a lot of Valletta in Malta.

Downtown Male

Who's got the right of way?

Honey money.
Their dinghy is a Riva!
And there's a helicopter ..
Click on it!

Satellite view of Male and Hulumale
As Male is unable to extend any further, the government has been developing the nearby airport island of Hulumale. On the other side of the runway a completely manmade island of about 2 sq km has been built upon the reef. When the first-phase land is fully developed by 2020 it will accommodate 50,000 people and have waterfront esplanades, light industrial areas, government offices, shopping centres, boulevards of palm trees, a marina and a national stadium. Some of the earth masses were aquired by dredging the lagoon NE of the runway (see satellite photo above), which now serves as the main anchorage for dive boats and other crewed charter yachts. It is accessed through a pass that has been blasted through the fringing reef (just N of the north end of the runway).
Male markets
We anchored Scorpio in Hulumale harbour during our visit to the Capital. Ferries run between Male and Hulumale around the clock and it is only a 20 min trip. We also received guests from back home, old friends Bengt and Nina who wanted to escape the cold North. We celebrated Ninas Big Birthday at a restaurant of Hulhulé Island Hotel, the only place in the Maldives, outside of the resorts, where one can get alcoholic beverages. Last time Nina celebrated a Big one, 10 years ago, we also had the honour of having her and Bengt aboard Scorpio - at St Martin in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.
Celebrating Nina's birthday
Relaxing on Scorpio's terrace

During the third week of March we started to look for weather for our upcoming return to Thailand. Read more about the weather picture in: The Countdown has started.

Stay tuned for our next report, it will be about the trip from Male to Phuket.

View the photos of this report as a (manual) slide show HERE.