Last year we were lucky enough to go to the Maldives for our honeymoon. It was absolutely idyllic and we had an amazing time snorkelling in the Indian Ocean and drinking pina coladas watching the sunset. I could show you all our holiday snaps but you can go to the Komandoo website for photos of the fabulous beaches and views…Whilst we had a fantastic time and enjoyed resort life, as usual when we go away, we really wanted to see the culture of the Maldives and so a member of staff took us across to Hinnavaru, a neighbouring inhabited island with a population of 4000 people in less than 500 houses all on a sandy 600 metres.
We both found it rather hard that we couldn’t just wander around Hinnavaru alone but there are strict rules to keep tourists off inhabited islands: tourists cannot get a visa to stay on an inhabited island unless they will be staying with Maldivians that they personally know (not just a guest house) and all tourists have to be inside or back on their resort island by sunset. It’s a shame for people like us who want to see how Maldivians live but obviously is good for Maldivians to be able to carry on their lives and not have to deal with the growing tourist population taking over their home. The preservation of Maldivian life in this way was done by the government with much care although one could question whether it is a way to stop Maldivian citizens being able to make an income from the increasing number of tourists and just letting the resorts make the money – most resorts are owned in part by overseas companies. This made me think what sort of attitudes Maldivians really have towards tourists – at resorts, inevitably, Maldivian staff are extremely friendly and, I’m told, are known for being quite reserved but very hospitable. However, I can’t help but think that there must be some resistance towards tourism.
Despite feeling fairly uncomfortable about the potential dislike towards us, Himself and I got a boat across to Hinnavaru and walked through the streets as our guide described the way life worked for Maldivians. Whilst we were on the receiving end of some stares (I don’t think it’s common for guests from the resort to visit Hinnavaru), people were friendly and smiley. I was so pleased to have a glimpse at life in the Maldives and seeing the way Maldivians really lived. Even though people had been friendly to us on Hinnavaru, I felt even more uncomfortable back on the resort as it felt a bit like a pantomime. Paradise is still abundant on the resort but I don’t think it stretches as far as Hinnavaru (or probably any other inhabited Maldivian island) but then where does paradise fit into reality anyway?