Travel

Blue crush

Picasa

BLUE. After a month discovering the wonders of the Maldives, this one word stuck in my mind more than any other.

Living and working aboard a surfing charter boat as the onboard photographer for Australia's leading surf adventure specialist, World Surfaris, I was literally thrown in the deep end of this Indian Ocean paradise, tasked with capturing the Kodak moments on behalf of the surf-hungry guests who had travelled from all corners of the globe to share in an adventure of a lifetime.

The Maldives is a fascinating place, both geographically and culturally.

The people are believed to have originated mostly from southern India and Sri Lanka, yet their language is unique.

Although Hinduism and later Buddhism were once practised, Islam has been their religion since the 12th century and it is actually illegal for a non-Muslim to become a citizen.

Coming from a culture where bikinis are the norm, I found unusual the sight of local women getting around in a tropical paradise dressed from head to toe and even swimming in their customary dress.

My home for the duration was the Handhu Falhi: a 24m (78ft) safari boat with six full-time local crew. She was rebuilt in 2005 and accommodates 10 guests in air-conditioned comfort.

Aside from the many exclusive resorts that are dotted throughout the 26 atolls of the island nation, safari boats are the most common and, certainly in my opinion, the best way to holiday in the Maldives.

The islands, though picturesque, are basically all the same - small, flat and covered in coconut palms. From the water, you can enjoy the view of many islands from your shaded deck and the view never gets boring.

Besides, the water is where all the action is.

Diving is a big tourist drawcard, but surfing is my thing and every surfer I have ever spoken to gets glassy-eyed and dreamy as soon as you mention the Maldives.

Most Aussie surfers who have travelled to get waves have been to Indonesia, but far fewer can claim to have experienced the beauty of the Maldives.

It is a little harder to get there, and as such, costs a bit more, but the reward is the lack of crowds and the natural, unspoilt beauty.

Our time was spent in the Gaafu Dhaalu atoll to the south, which picks up the southerly swells that travel the vast open expanse of the Indian Ocean.

The reef breaks that peel along the edge of the many island channels, although not of the quality of some of the famous Indonesian waves, are consistently good with a variety of breaks to test any level of surfer.

We lived as nomads of the sea, following the waves and berthing in a different location every night.

The crew would be up and on the move before dawn so that by first light, we were usually parked beside the break that would be our playground for the morning.

When hunger got the better of us, a chef-prepared feast would be on hand to refuel us before our next session in the waves.

At day's end, we would gather, red-eyed and weary, on the deck and sip on a couple of Tiger beers as the sun sank over the sea or behind a postcard-perfect island.

Occasionally, we visited a deserted island to pick coconuts or accompanied the crew to local islands.

It is quite peculiar that, although tourism is the biggest industry in the Maldives, outsiders are not catered for outside the resort islands and Male.

The plus is, you get to experience their culture as it is, minus the hawkers.

As a photographer, my eye was caught by the natural wonders, so the world beneath the insanely blue sea is where I kept returning to focus my lens.

With the waters being so clear, I discovered a new view of the waves and surfers that has never been available to me before.

From all reports, nowhere in Indonesia compares.

The Maldives is home to more than 2000 species of fish. Manta and eagle rays are common, as are hawksbill and green sea turtles.

Then there are the whale sharks.

The mystical giants are revered by the Maldivians, and our boat was lucky enough to be visited late one night by a 4.5 metre-long shark that decided to feed on krill under our spotlight. Shy at first, the gentle creature spent more than four hours in our company, unfazed by the gobsmacked guests who entered the water with snorkel gear to get a closer look.

It was without a doubt one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced and was the icing on the cake of the trip of a lifetime.

Most Aussie surfers who have travelled to get waves have been to Indonesia, but far fewer can claim to have experienced the beauty of the Maldives.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  maldives sri lanka travel travelling


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Woman charged for stealing charity money for personal gain

Wood and brass judges gavel on a law book

Woman charged for stealing funds from charity organisation.

'People should lock their dogs up so this does not happen'

GUTTED: Patrick Estate's Max Marti is calling for dog owners to lock up their animals at night.

After losing to sheep to suspected stray dogs, Max has a message.

Battle of the buns to raise funds

BUN BATTLE: The Fernvale Bakery aim to raise $20,000 for the Lady Cilento Childrens Hospital by donating $1 from every pack of hot cross buns sold. Pictured here are Lyn and Bill Rose, with ex-employee Gail McDonald volunteering with River 94.9 for the cause.

The Old Fernvale Bakery's Easter Appeal.

Local Partners

Living End, Grinspoon stars hit stage for American Idiot

GET a sneak peek at Green Day's American Idiot The Musical as we go behind the scenes to meet the stars at a QPAC rehearsal.

Samuel L Jackson dismisses La La Land ahead of Oscars

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a scene from the movie La La Land.

Hollywood actor and Oscars voter says Denzel should win top gong

Live performance of Sci-fi classic to open Science Festival

Qld Symphony Orchestra perform live to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Festival will host A Live Presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Former Family Matters stare accused of child abuse

Reginald VelJohnson, left, and Darius McCrary arrive at the TV Land Awards on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Universal City, Calif.

Darius McCrary has been accused of child abuse

Bindi Irwin's birthday tribute to her dad

Bindi Irwin

Bindi Irwin has paid tribute to her dad on his 55th birthday

Reality TV show gives Maryborough a boost

*WARNING EMBARGOED until 9.15pm Monday January 30* Sean Hollands and Susan Rawlings pictured after their wedding on the TV series Married At First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

Maryborough looks good on reality TV show.

Buderim dad rejects gay son's emotional plea for second time

LOVERS: Grant and Chris have been together for more than three years, and Chris' parents refuse to acknowledge their son's fiance.

Son’s emotional plea rejected again by unmoved father

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Popular island resort sells to loaded international investor

OUR PICK: Chris Foey's colourful shot of one of Gladstone's great tourism hot spots, Heron Island.

International investor snaps up piece of Gladstone paradise.

Ipswich facing housing shortage: Property expert

Matusik Property Insights director Michael Matusik.

What's next for the city's housing market

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!