Sunday, February 05, 2017

Paradise again

As we approached our new anchorage in the Maldives at Uligan Island on February 4th, we could tell we were once again in a paradise setting! Palm laden tropical islands ringed with white sand beaches. The clear waters were a beautiful light turquoise colour displaying a carpet of coral that seemed to be begging us to come for a snorkel.

But first we had to do the official check in. A neighbouring boat that we had been with in Galle Sri Lanka was also here and they hailed Customs for us on the VHF. We were not allowed to leave the boat until the officials had come to Sea Turtle to do the due process.

Apparently we were supposed to contact an Agent but we had not yet done so by the time the Coast Guard boat with the entourage of Security, Immigration, Health, and 2 Customs officials came out to Sea Turtle. These officials went ahead and filled out all the forms for both of us and Chanty that the Agent would normally have done at a cost of $50 US for his facilitating services. In any event, we were still required to pay a government check-in fee of $65 US. However, we were informed that we would have to hire the Agent for the check-out procedure.

With the check in done, we settled in for a peaceful dinner and cocktail in the cockpit, invaded by the lazy serenity of our setting. And no mosquitoes!! Chanty, after being relegated to the cockpit or below for so long, now strolled continually around the decks of Sea Turtle, taking everything in. Do cats also appreciate the natural solitude? We think so.

The next morning we went ashore to meet the Agent and made arrangements for fuel, obtained a SIM card for cell and internet coverage, and got suggestions of what we could do during our time at Uligan.

We accepted the Agent's suggestion of dinner at a very tiny resident's veranda cafe. A very basic affair requiring prior notice. The meal was excellent and enjoyed by both us and 2 from SV Jubilee.

Part of our day was spent strolling through the tidy, white sand streets of the village accepting pleasant nods from the shy natives. This small Island (2.5 x 0.8 km/1.6 x 0.5 mi) is very basic with 2 mosques and a couple of very small 1-room grocery stores offering the bare essentials. There are no banks, no malls, no bars (alcohol is forbidden for Muslims), no stores, and no cars (only a few scooters). Out of place were the smart phones in everyone's hands.

Sand street with Sea Turtle at end

Houses in the past were built from coral, as a building block, extracted from the sea (but is now prohibited) which was a contributor to a decline in the health of their reefs.

House built from coral

There was also the bleaching of the coral from fishermen and from sea temperature rises. There seems to be somewhat of a redemption with these recent restorative efforts.

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