Maldives, all the charms of the bubble islands of the Indian Ocean

The seaplane that takes you from Velana Airport on Hulhule Island to Baa Atoll gives you a first view of the particular set of coral reefs that make up the destination we know as from the Maldives, a country made up of more than 1,200 islands, where each plays its part. One is the capital; another, the president’s residence, and around 400 others are exclusive hotels, veritable holiday bubbles far from everything and everyone.

The word “maldives” is of Sanskrit origin and could be translated as “necklace of flowers”, although it would seem more accurate to speak of corals instead of plants, since what we see from the sky is a string of flowers. islets of volcanic origin. which, eroded and half sunk into the sea, left enough dry land for a ring of coral to form around the ancient crater. The naturalist Charles Darwin already expounded this theory in 1842, when he traveled around the world during which he devised his theory of evolution. To name the phenomenon, he used the local word “atoll”.

Relax on holiday The facilities at Seaside Finolhu Hotel, Baa Atoll

Josep Maria Palau

It is in the atoll of Baa or Maalhosmadulu Sud that one of the few hotels in this Maldivian region is located, the Seaside Finolhu, our final destination. The fact that the area has not been overexploited for tourism stems from its rich underwater life and mangrove vegetation, a circumstance that led to its recognition as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2011. In fact, one of the things that attracts the most attention as soon as you set foot in Finolhu is the abundant vegetation of the island, composed mainly of leafy banyan trees or banyan trees, and also of a significant number of palm and coconut trees, something unusual. because in the Middle Ages they were often shot down to carry out repairs on merchant ships.

tropical vegetation

Finolhu is distinguished by its abundant vegetation: leafy banyan trees or banyan trees and forests of palm and coconut trees.

Aware of its value, the hotel complex has preserved the original flora, intervening as little as possible and avoiding replanting with imported species. For this reason, part of the 125 villas that make up the complex are hidden in the middle of a tropical forest – much appreciated by Muslim customers for the privacy they provide -, while others are aligned along a man-made jetty that borders a section of the coral reef. These rooms are supported by pillars submerged in the sea and are the closest thing to sleeping on board a ship that one can imagine, but without swaying, because the pleasant murmur of the waves is constantly heard passing below.

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As also happens in other hotels in the Maldives, although the distances are not too long, a small fleet of electric cars takes care of transporting guests, suitcases or other personal belongings around the island. Electricity and water are produced with respect for the environment and in the same place, without depending on external resources. For example, Finolhu has its own wastewater treatment plant. As general manager Marc Reader says, running an establishment like this in a place like the Maldives is like taking over the management of a small, self-contained town: here, it’s not the baker who arrives with the little ones freshly baked breads every morning, but you have to knead your own bread.

Hence the strict but simple health protocol that governs the arrival of tourists to these private paradises, the only way to guarantee that everyone on the island is in perfect health, starting with the service, partly from places like Malaysia or neighboring Sri Lanka. On the other hand, the property of the German capital took advantage of the forced shutdown caused last year by the pandemic to renovate the complex, entrusting the design to the Muza Lab studio in London.

The land of water and planes Crossing the sky, it takes 45 minutes to go from one end of the archipelago to the other

The land of water and planes Crossing the sky, it takes 45 minutes to go from one end of the archipelago to the other

Josep M. Palau Riberaygua

In Dhivehi, the local language, finolhu means sandbar, and that is exactly what is found in the northern part of the complex, a vast sandbar of a color so white that it dazzles and which unites a total of four islets in a natural way, forming a two and a half kilometer long beach. As usual in the Maldives, the waters inside the coral ring are calmer as they are protected by the natural barrier, although it is advisable to be aware of the arrival of seaplanes at different times of the day except at dusk, as these planes fly old-time style, guided by sight.

underwater show

Baa Atoll is made up of pink hydrozoan corals; divers point out with fascination that they are alive

However, as beautiful as the landscape is on the surface, the real spectacle lies beneath the turquoise ocean. Baa Atoll is largely composed of pink hydrozoan corals; divers are fascinated by the fact that they are alive, unlike other places on the planet where these polyps have long since died, leaving only their calcareous skeletons. This is why the diversity of marine fauna is particularly varied there, especially in places where thilas or small underwater islands form, drawing underwater cliffs that can be seen with the naked eye from the surface. due to the change in color of the waters. All you need is a simple pair of goggles and fins to enjoy this simple experience: as soon as you put your head underwater, angel and picasso fish, moray eels and, with a little luck, a harmless whale shark. It’s like watching a sequel to Finding Nemo, but in real time.

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Undoubtedly, the queen of this ocean is the manta ray, since the world’s largest concentration of this species occurs here. Particularly between May and September, and even more so when the full moon shines in the sky, dozens of these creatures roam the seas. One of the meeting points is Hanifaru Bay, a short distance from Finolhu.

Idyllic region The landscape of sand and vegetation of Baa Atoll is one of the least frequented in the Maldives

Idyllic region The landscape of sand and vegetation of Baa Atoll is one of the least frequented in the Maldives

Josep Maria Palau

The fact that the seabed is protected does not prevent certain species from ending up on the table. Along with tourism, fishing has always been big business in the Maldives, so much so that the art. XVI shells was used as currency. At that time, the archipelago was a supply point on the route from Africa to China for Portuguese, Dutch and British sailors. It is now one of the safest tourist destinations, a meeting place for tourists from the United Arab Emirates, Germany or Spain, and without masks.

authentic the more one travels towards the end of the atolls like Ari, which spreads its eighteen islands to the west. It is the largest in the country and has one of the best sea beds, with sinkholes like Roca Rota, with a huge submerged rock covered with various types of corals, as beautiful or even more beautiful than Randali Madivaru, famous for the number of stripes which concentrates from November.

practical data

A fairly safe destination

Confine yourself with pleasure. Traveling to the Maldives involves taking a PCR to enter the country and filling out a simple online form. Upon arrival, the traveler is transferred to their destination island, where all personnel are vaccinated. To guarantee everyone’s health, it is forbidden to travel between the islands during the stay.
Intimacy bubble. At the farthest point of the sandbar on Kanufushi Island, Seaside Finollu offers you to spend a special night with your partner, inside a transparent plastic bubble that allows you to observe the sky from your bed. A special butler service takes care of the logistics.
With awareness. Various conservation NGOs operate in Baa, such as the Olive Ridley Project and Manta Trust, which protect turtles and manta rays respectively. Seaside Finolhu also joins Parley for the Oceans against plastic pollution.

Warm currents play a bigger role in Kudarah Thila, where gray sharks and turtles abound thanks to their influence. Already on the surface, the island of Mahibadhoo is the most interesting to visit, because in addition to the unmissable 17th century mosque, it keeps the unusual ruins of a Buddhist temple. Divehi, the language of the island, is pronounced differently here. Their alphabet also has one more letter, a detail that demonstrates the isolation of local communities. Because even the most remote islands can be reached in forty minutes of scenic flight, but a dhoni takes up to six days to go from one end of the country to the other. It is in these details that the enduring charm of the Maldives lies.

The walkway connecting the water villas of Baa Atoll

The walkway connecting the water villas of Baa Atoll

Josep Maria Palau

connected islands

Turkish Airlines and other air routes

The image of a safe destination in the face of the pandemic has made the Maldives the fashionable destination, with the consequent increase in airlines offering flights to the destination. By far the cheapest option is with Turkish Airlines, the airline that helped produce this report.

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