How Two Italians Saved Me From Losing Hundreds of Dollars in Fulidhoo

This guy was posing for his friend. I think he knew he was posing for me, too 😀

I first learned about Fulidhoo on Never Ending Footsteps, the travel blog I perused extensively before I visited Maldives. I was impressed with what I read but slept on it, as I wanted to have some flexibility in my schedule. When I double-checked with the staff at Summer Villa Guesthouse which local island I should go next and the unanimous agreement was Fulidhoo because “it’s even more beautiful than Maafushi”, I immediately booked two nights at Thundi Guesthouse, one of the only two guesthouses there.

The ferry from Maafushi to Fulidhoo and back only runs 3 times per week (here is the schedule), so at noon on a Monday I packed up my bags and said goodbye to Maafushi. Scanning fellow passengers on the ferry who were mostly locals, I knew the destination I was heading towards would be different from what I had experienced so far. After two mostly uneventful hours on the wide Indian Ocean, the ferry pulled up to the dock and I literally went bonkers when I saw this:

confused dasher, How to Travel Maldives on Limited Budget, breath-taking photos of maldives, where to stay in the maldives, where to stay in fulidhoo the most beautiful local island in maldivesYOU GUYS, I HAD NEVER SEEN OCEAN IN THIS SUBLIME COLOR!!!

In the span of 5 minutes, I snapped 50 photos on both my DSLR and iPhone and was the last one to disembark the boat. As I got off the boat, I was greeted by the guy who works at the guesthouse (I forgot to write his name down and now I can’t remember it).

It was a 5-minute walk from the dock. Upon arriving, I was a little taken aback by its smallness and austerity. It has only three rooms, each of which is exceptionally basic for a price of $80 per night. During check-in, the guy offered dinners and day tours, all of which were about 20% more expensive than in Maafushi. I politely declined and headed out to explore after putting my belongings in the room.

Fulidhoo is a tiny inhabited island of Vaavu Atoll, about 58km away from Malé. To put tiny and remote into perspective for you, its length and width are only 0.675 and 0.2 km respectively, meaning it probably takes you 10 minutes to walk from one end to another. Its population in 2011 was 490 people. I tried to find a more updated number to no avail. Which only goes to emphasize the paucity of information about the island.

But then, if tiny and extremely quiet are exactly what you want, Fulidhoo is the place to be. I don’t know how crowded it gets in high season, but when I was there, there were a total of 9 visitors and we all knew each other by face.

I believe people living in Fulidhoo don’t lock their doors.

When it comes to painting their houses, though, inhabitants don’t hold back. Which I greatly appreciate.

The rest of my first afternoon was spent hanging out on the beach with a Norwegian couple…

and watching local kids playing football on the beach. It was such a feel-good scene because they get to spend their free time exactly like how they’re supposed to, you know. I didn’t see any iPhone or iPad even on their parents.

One of my most favorite sunset photos I have ever taken. It wasn’t a dramatic, leaving-you-breathless kind of sunset, but I love the warm golden light as well as how this Muslim lady was very engrossed in her no-frills Nokia phone. It’s rare to see a basic mobile phone these days.

Afterward we went to have dinner at- I believe -the only restaurant on the whole island. I ordered some kind of pasta, which was so abysmal that I stopped eating after a few bites.

Remote and non-touristy do come at a price.

*****

The next morning, during breakfast, I received the most unexpected, unpleasant news of my entire trip: The ferry back to Maafushi the next day had been cancelled for maintenance purposes. I couldn’t process the information at first, so I went to the dock and asked all the locals I saw. They all confirmed it, to my absolute horror.

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These 10 Photos of the Maldives Will Make Your Jaw Drop

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We were greeted by this boat and this water when we approached Fulidhoo, one of the inhabited islands. I literally went out of control, snapping about 50 photos on both my DSLR and iPhone in the span of, like, 7 minutes.

It’s funny that just three months ago I was adamant that I wasn’t a beach person at all. Whenever I was asked whether I preferred to go the beaches, the answer was always a resounding NO. Growing up, my family rarely went on a beach vacation, so I didn’t develop an affinity for it. I also said I needed constant visual and auditory stimulation when traveling, and while beaches are beautiful, they wouldn’t be able to assault my all senses the way cities do.

I didn’t lie to people, but it wasn’t the real reason.

Back in September, I received a promotional email from Tigerair about special deals from Singapore to the Maldives. The round-trip fare was $250. I didn’t really know anything about the Maldives then other than they have beautiful beaches and are a dream honeymoon destination. However, the fare was too good to pass, so I booked my ticket and went on with my life. I even thought that if I had to cancel the trip because of work, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

And it almost became a self-fulfilling wish when a week before the departure date, I had a motorbike accident.

Fortunately, it wasn’t serious and I recovered in time. This view healed my body and soul completely and is currently my iPhone wallpaper.

Anyway, the real reason I was beach-averse for practically most of my life is that I didn’t know how to swim. For me, it was an awfully embarrassing thing to admit to. All the more so when it was entirely my fault. I didn’t have any traumatizing experience with water when I was a child and thus wasn’t naturally jumpy in the swimming pools like many people. And I already took two swimming courses in the past.

YET at the age of 25, I was still swimming-illiterate. And goodness knows swimming is an IMPORTANT life skill to have!

So, a month before my trip, I registered for a swimming course. Thanks to the combination of a competent instructor and me really wanting to overcome my past failures, I was able to swim (the breaststroke) in less than a week. I’m not a good swimmer yet, but now swimming has now become a part of my exercise routine.

It’s unquestionably one of the best things I did for myself in 2015.

Here is the truth: Knowing how to swim made a world of difference to my time in the Maldives. My experience was so, so much better because what I could do was no longer confined to sunbathing and watching sunsets, even though I did a hell lot of both. I was able to partake in fun, beach-exclusive activities like snorkeling, something I had never ever done before.

(Technically, you can go snorkeling without knowing how to swim. But if you know how to, you’ll be more relaxed and able to snorkel in deep water, which is where all the out-of-this-world amazing-ness is.)

Bottom line is it’s fine if you swim well but genuinely dislike the beaches. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to; we all have our preferences. But if you don’t enjoy the beaches because you don’t know how to swim or are not very good at it, just be honest with yourself and fix that issue. There’s no reason to let it hold you back 😉

I’m in the process of finishing up my epic post about things you need to know if you visit the Maldives independently and on budget. Before it goes live, I want to share with you 10 of the best photos I took during my time there. I guess we can call this post a teaser, but I hope you find it a visually pleasing teaser nonetheless.

The water really, really looks like this in real life. CRAZY!!!

With this photo, I want you to know that you could still potentially look tan and chill AF when you get old, just like these two Europeans 😀

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