FROM THE LOG #75

Return to the Maldives
Our Second Visit to the Atoll Country

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bananas
Banana boat
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)

On the 450 nautical mile trip from Sri Lanka to Uligan we had, again, very little wind, but better than on the previous leg.

sunset
check-in
friends
End of an other shitty day in Paradise
Clearence procedures at Uligan
Immigration officer Niyad with Imad, President
of the Island Council (Island Chief)

On the morning of the 4th day, having drifted the previous day on a calm sea with the engine turned off for 9 hours, not to make landfall in the dark, we dropped the anchor at Uligan, where we spent two memorable weeks not much more than a year ago. This is the place where dozens of yacht crews had to make new cruising decisions in February 2011, see our story: Dilemma in the Arabian Sea.

It didn't take many minutes before we were boarded by half a dozen smiling Maldivian government officials and our agent Assad. Most of the guys were familiar from before and the youngest was Niyaz's 4 year old son. Niyaz is the immigration officer, with whom we spent some fishing time last year.

uligan_harbour
The harbour front at Uligan

I had a strange feeling looking over the beautiful empty anchorage. We were the only yacht in a place were we were in company with almost 40 other boats last year. Just a few years ago more than a hundred yachts used to stop at Uligan every year on their way from Asia to the Mediterranean via the Red Sea. This year we were yacht number 9, and as it was already late in the season, we may well be the last one this time. We feel sorry for the islanders (450 souls), as there obviously are many vasted opportunities for earning a few extra dollars.

We spent a couple of wonderful days swimming with big Manta rays (distance between wing tips was probably 3 metres) and dolphins. After the muddy waters of Malaysia and Thailand it was almost a sensation to be in crystal clear water again, looking at all details of the anchor 10 metres below the boat. However, we were already late on our voyage and, having picked up our Inter Atoll Cruising Permit and said farewell to our island friends, we pulled up the anchor and started our trip day-hopping through the atolls towards the Capital Male, roughly 150 nm and maybe 5 days further south.

manta
fishermen

Manta approaching
Friendly encounter with fishing boat
The highest point in The Maldives

We spent the first night out of Uligan anchored on the reef of Dhonakulhi, just outside of the Hideaway Resort. From there we motored towards the harbour of Khulhuddhufushi, passing Faridhoo, the highest natural point of the Maldives, at slightly less than 3 metres above sea level (photo above, right).

Last year I wrote some very critical opinions about Khulhuddhuffusi (a town with about 8,000 inhabitants), and I certainly had no plans to revisit. But this time I wanted to sort out some mobile broadband problems at the Dhiraagu-company's office. I am glad we came back, because it was a pleasant surprise. The very clean harbour (half of which is a protected beach) has been extended and is actually a very nice anchorage (at least when there is no cargoship loading). But the thing that really got me mad last time had changed also; they no longer charge you for an extra day - maybe my critical writing had not been in vain. I guess I have to modify my Kulhuddhufushi-accounts of 2011.

kulhuddufushi_panorama
Above, the new harbour at Kulhuddhufushi had been extended. Below, street views at Kulhuddhufushi.
kulhuddufusi
Scorpio is the only yacht in Kulhuddufushi also
Local ladies swimming clothes on
A typical residence, walls are made of coral bricks

We are posting this report (20th March 2012) under way from Kulhuddhufusi to our next anchorage at Dholhiyadhoo. Last year there was a resort under construction, and it will be interesting to find out if they have started to restrict anchoring at this crescent shaped island.

Update: Nothing new since last year at Dholhiyadhoo. The interrupted construction work has not been continued and all 100 (or so) bungalows are still without walls! Like a ghost atoll, but at least nobody objected to our anchoring.

Related reading:

The reports from our first visit to the Maldives start HERE.
Article 2011: Cruiser's Paradise Lost

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