My previous rides were a constellation away – they were smooth sails, like being ushered into paradise. This, on the other hand, was akin to the horror genre, and I don’t scare easily. This made the rowdy Chinese clam up. As if that wasn't enough, 1 ½ hours into the ride, the boat recklessly bumped against the Gulhi port, the only stopover for this trip before reaching Maafushi.
|Ticket booth that serves Villingili, Maafushi, Thilafushi (the garbage disposal island), Gulhifalhu, cargo shipping, Guraidhoo and parking tickets.|
|Jetty waiting area. Entry requires a ticket.|
Twenty minutes later, we were sailing southwestward once again. But midway to our destination, the boat conked out again. We were at a tempestuous area, and rocking sideways. They had to secure the anchor while they tried fixing the machine. That didn't take long, but that was more than enough trouble to last me a week.
|Gulhi is a local island, a stopover for rides to Maafushi.|
|From Gulhi, you can see some of the islands of Anantara resort island.|
Meanwhile, I started arranging for my daily excursions for the next two days. I went outside and just enjoyed the cool breeze blowing all my cares away. The wind was a magical panacea that temporarily dissipated all hints of stress.
In a snap, I rolled with the waves and my spirit was set free. There are perks of a holiday that’s hard to describe. This was one of it.
|Like other hotels, Kaani Beach Hotel representatives will meet their guests at the harbour. Baggage trolleys wait with them, then it's a 10-15 minute walk to the hotel.|
|Buffet breakfast is served here from 7AM to 10 AM at the restaurant of Kaani Beach Hotel.|
|Room 201 is a family room with a "sea view" and a balcony. Our other room 204 is a standard with "sea view" as wall and is smaller. Most standard rooms have "city view", i.e. a view of the roofs.|
|The view from my glass window at room 201.|
|Kaani Beach Hotel has an enviable location - beach front.|
Maafushi is the biggest island of the South Male Atoll, with a population of 1,200. It is the atoll country's most popular "local island" visited by tourists. While it's home to the national penitentiary, it is also fast developing as an independent tourism island, with so many guest houses and hotels sprouting every tourist season. This, of course, is different from Maafilaafushi which is part of the northern atolls.
|Bikini Beach at dusk.|
This much is true. No one comes to Maldives scrimping. It just isn't the place for keeping moolah in your pocket. Staying in Maafushi, a "local island", is a conscious decision to splurge your dollar by eventually visiting the luxurious "resort islands" in the vicinity. Maafushi, until recently, has been closed to foreign visitors. Opening it to the world is a peek into real Maldivian life. Resorts don't show authentic Maldivian living otherwise; but are mere laps of luxury not exactly shared by its population. Having said this, there are rules, conventions,if you will, that have to be followed. Nudity and public display of affection are not allowed, as are alcohol, etc. The beach strip in front of Kaani is called "Bikini Beach". It is the only place in Maafushi where bikinis are allowed. I've even seen ladies going topless. The locals are pretty much tolerant, but foreigners should not test their limit.
Public ferry leaves the Male pier ones daily at 3PM (boarding time is 2:35PM), except Fridays, and costs $2 per person. This is the same port that serves commuters to Villingili and Guraidhoo. Travel time to Maafushi is approximately 2 hours, with one short stop at the island of Gulhi, which is barely 20 minutes to the final destination. The boat's name is Ranthari but this isn't written anywhere on the boat so tourists bound for Maafushi should repeatedly ask the guys at the pier for updates, just to be sure you won't get left behind. Return trips to Male run daily, and leaves Maafushi pier at 7:30AM, except Fridays (a holy day for the Maldivians).