South Ari Atoll is located at the core of Maldives’ largest marine protected areas and is a residential ground for the gentle and graceful Whale Shark. The Whale Shark is the largest fish on the planet and can weigh up to 60 tons. While they can grow upto the size of a school bus, unlike sharks, these gentle giants are not predatory. A juvenile male population of whale sharks proved to reside in the warm waters surrounding the resort and can be spotted year-round; humans, it seems, are not the only ones that come to Maldives to get some sun.
The resort’s marine biology center conducts daily guided boat trips along the southern reef of the atoll to search and swim with the whale sharks, manta rays, sea turtles and we had booked one of tours today tour today. It was a perfectly sunny day with shimmering silver seas. Eager and anxious we hopped on to a dhoni and began our quest to see the whale shark. Ten minutes into our trip and we could spot sea turtles and dolphins. It was magical to watch pods of dolphins jump, flip and play in their natural habitat. Pure happiness!
We made our way top deck where the marine biologist gave us a very informative briefing on the whale shark. He patiently answered to the brigade of questions that followed form the curious kids.
After the presentation, we sat by the side of the upper deck, with our eager eyes hunting for a glimpse of the whale shark across the seas. It was beautifully calm when suddenly something broke off the surface of the water. A Flying Fish! shrieked the child, muddled in amusement. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a school of flying fish sailed past us. We were awe struck. It was amazing to see the fishes with highly specialised wings in action. Unbelievable!
As our boat sailed deeper in the ocean, the calls for spotting the whale shark started and we were told to get ready with the snorkelling gear. By the time, we got to the area where the giant fish was last spotted; it had already dived. These creatures are very shy and unlike whales they do not need to get to the surface for air, making them extremely elusive. We circled the water around the spot for a while but couldn’t get a glimpse of it; the biologist conceded that it was unlikely that the whale shark would resurface and led us to a snorkelling site with plenty colorful fishes and sea turtles. We spent sometime snorkelling and marvelled at extraordinary life under the water.
Although we could find what we were looking for but the snorkelling in the ocean at the end of our expedition was really special. Triumphantly, we made our way back to the resort.
More often, while at the sea, we get so focused at the horizon that we forget about the world that lay beneath the waters. We got to see it today and it was one of the best things that we did in Maldives. The vivid colors, the synchronised movement of the fish, the swaying of the seaweed, the corals, the energy; it is incredible
When we got to the hotel lobby, they invited to a Disney themed Christmas party that was scheduled at the western end of the island in the evening. We were greeted by Mickey and Minnie when we reached the party.
There were carol singers, music, drinks, cotton candy, pop corn. Basically everything a kid could ask for. This was followed by a spectacular show performed by fire jugglers . Set against a backdrop of pristine seas with of hues of orange, purple and pink lingering in the evening sky, it was stunning to its core.
After the evening celebrations, we went to the jetty point to get a view of the skies. With close to no light pollution and its equatorial location, Maldives offers some of the most spectacular skyscapes visible from Earth. The had set up a telescope for the star gazing. It was also a full moon and the entire area glow in soft silver light.
We, now made our way went to Allegria. Allegria, in our opinion is the gem of the restaurants here. It is set in an incredible spot on the island. There is a huge tree that sits in the middle of the restaurant and outdoor seating is laid all around it. They serve an authentic Italian fare and have an impressive wine list. The lights, the live music and the sound of the sea elevated the magnificent ambience.
From Allegria, there is a corridor that leads to a chocolate room. As the name suggests, it is exactly that – a room made of chocolate and candy with a toy train that passes through chocolate structures. It is extremely tempting and the kids, well, try keeping them from tearing the walls down of this one!
The next day we were up bright and early and out on our cycles to get some early morning pictures.
The rest of the day was by the sea. Chest bumps and cheers, jet skiing, parasailing and paddle boating – it was funday in the sun.
After a quick lunch we went to our room, en route, we stopped at the wishing tree to put in our wishes and then grabbed an ice pop from the ici shop candyman. We grabbed our bags from the room and waited at the lobby for our departure as the time to bid adieu had arrived.
Maldives is definitely one of prettiest places that we have visited and South Ari Atoll was absolutely gorgeous; as most would agree Maldives is definitely a bucket list destination and a once in a lifetime experience; but I reckon it was so much more, TRAVEL is so much more. It’s not only about visiting a destination or ticking it off a list; it is in emotions and enlightenment that the smallest of the shared moments reward us with. It is in the chance to feel your best and to celebrate life.
“TRAVEL CHANGES YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL, NOT NECESSARILY BECAUSE OF THE EXPERIENCE, BUT BECAUSE EACH NEW PLACE YOU VISIT BECOMES A PART OF YOU” as said by Gareth Pon.
Thank you Maldives for the memories