Mantas of the Maldives

A massive shadow falls over us where we’re kneeling on the sandy ocean bottom. The creatures above us come out of nowhere. Their size and numbers overhead blank out the sun. It is the most intense ocean experience I’ve ever encountered. Their grace, beauty, size and utter silence take my breath away. I see something in their large saucer shaped eyes equivalent to kindness. Something opens up inside of me and reaches toward the ocean. The mantas were everywhere. After 90 minutes a diver ran low on air. It was time to go. The minute he lifted off the sand, the mantas were gone. Like ghosts they arrived out of nowhere and like ghosts, they disappeared into nowhere.

These islands are slowly busy sinking into the ocean and is one of those spectacular places that no words can do justice. I feel blessed to say I have seen its beauty before its demise. It was 1998 and the first time I ever flew across an ocean. In this case, the Indian Ocean. I was clueless about everything, including culture. The Maldives is a Muslim society that requires women to cover their shoulders. Blissfully ignorant, I arrived in the Maldives in a strappy sundress. I was on my way to the beach, right? Wrong. Throughout our trip I was constantly in trouble for not covering my shoulders in the appropriate public places. Here I learned the value of respect for other cultures for the first time. When we reached the island of Meeru, something struck me as odd. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then suddenly it struck me. No movement and a silence so strong it was loud. There was absolutely no wind. The ocean remained still. Not a ripple. Not a leaf in the palm trees moved, not a person on the beach. It was too hot to be outside and the only place to be was in the water.

In the days to come, we settled into an easy routine. Get up early. Get onto a boat to go do two dives. Get back to the open air restaurant on the beach for lunch and go and do the third dive for the day. Get back at sunset. Bang heads over cocktails. Eat dinner. Go sleep & start the next day the same way.

Traveling to this beautiful place also introduced us to different flavors of food and for more about Maldivian food take a look in the Recipes and in the Foreign Lands section of the Home Page. Breakfasts at the resort were westernized and mostly consisted of a continental pastry buffet. It was this buffet that nearly got my husband into some serious trouble.

One morning we were sitting at the breakfast table, staring at the beautiful ocean. As usual, I was away in my own little dream world. The majority of the tourists that were there at the time were Danish and some long legged blond beauties strolled past us. Right as these beauties are strolling past, my husband decides to say something along the lines of: “I’m going to go get myself a Danish tart,” and he leaps up. I threw my napkin at him, yelling: “How do you know they’re Danish!!!” Turns out he was talking about the pastry, not the beauties!

It was on these islands that a dream was born and my life’s journey changed direction. I tasted foreign travel, my wanderlust was fueled, I wanted to leave Africa, become a beach bum and own a sail/scuba business in the Bahamas. Little did I know this journey will change direction many, many more times.

Photos by me

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