Cruising the Maldives by cargo-boat: Travelmag

While most visitors to the Maldives seek the pampered comfort of the resorts, travel writer Donna Richardson became one of the few independent travelers to island-hop to Gan via cargo vessel. She wrote about the experience for independent travel publication Travelmag.

“The blazing sun moves eastwards we enter Laamu atoll. This is going to be the government’s newest ‘zone’ developments. I am struck by the beauty of the islands, all uninhabited save the Six Senses resort Laamu which is due to open its doors this month. However, there is to be much change in this atoll over the coming years with the government’s new plans to extend transportation networks and extend into mid-market tourism. In fact there is talk of a three star ‘Costa Del Maldives’ of guest houses, restaurants and bars happening here to bring in hordes of backpackers and mid marketers, making the Maldives much more accessible in the near future.

“I made my way back to the cabin and slept through until we moored into Dhaandoo in the Huvadhoo atoll – our first port drop. The pink sky above the island illuminates the gleaming presidential yacht which is moored right next to us, flanked by two MNDF Coast Guard boats.

“Evidence of reclamation is evident on the sea front in this island which is in desperate need of housing. The interior betrays a curious mix of coral houses glimpsed through the jutting palm trees. It is clear that this island is quite poor in comparison with its neighbours. Women rise early to collect rain and sea water to boil and condensate so they can wash and cook during the day, while their men prepare for their days work on the fishing boats. Small dhonis lap in the waves and in the distance is an uninhabited picnic island in the distance.

“Fishing is the main income of the island, yet there are only three fishing vessels – so not everyone can be a fisherman. With limited agriculture and infrastructure there are only a few key jobs in the public sector for teachers and doctors and island councillors. There is a small school, a satellite hospital, which is more like a general practice and an island council office.

“Despite it being a Wednesday men are hanging around and doing nothing (known as holhuashi) swinging in undolis (giant handwoven swings) beneath the shady trees lining the island. Surprisingly these are not layabouts but a mix of learned men including teachers and politicians as they sit in silent protest to the presidential visit on the nearby islands, this being an opposition island.”

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