Swimming through the Gardens of Coral & Fish – The Maldives

The Maldives - Cyan Blue Paradise

The Maldives – Cyan Blue Paradise

A country with 1100 islands, ring reefs with its own sandy lagoon and the abundance of beautiful fish makes Maldives an infinite paradise. When I say it is a paradise it means this country is naturally supported and is lucky to have excellent weather conditions to be able to sustain its beauty. It  is located outside the normal cyclonic zones and thus violent storms are rarely been experienced. Not only that, since there is any absence of rivers on these islands sediments from inland sources are almost nil and hence the waters around Maldives are very clear and exhibit ideal conditions for coral growth. Hence I call it a wonderland of colours and textures!

The Maldives with its stunning White Beaches

The Maldives with its stunning White Beaches

Atolls of the Maldives

Atolls of the Maldives

 

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While flying over these islands, we noticed circular stretches of lagoons still submerged under the sea leaving behind an azure colour to them. I was a bit confused because they didn’t seem like islands yet they were shallower then the rest of the sea. I wondered what that was. It seems that they are atolls. They form borders along the shoreline and surrounding islands even though they may be submerged under water. When a fringing reef continues to grow upward from a volcanic island that has sunk entirely below sea level, an atoll is formed. Atolls are usually circular or oval in shape, with an open lagoon in the center. They looked so enigmatic and alluring and it was unbelievable because they are a pile of dead coral.

Descending in to the deep sea to swim between the fish & corals

Descending in to the deep sea to swim between the fish & corals

We visited the Maldives dreaming about water activities we would do, our preference for scuba over all the others. The idea of the dive thrilled us more than what we were going to see because it was beyond our imagination. These islands in the Indian Ocean are not only coral-fringed with their cyan waters but have a  rainbow-coloured coral reefs below its surface.

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Since we had snorkeled in the Hawai’i islands, we were equipped with a simple yet a very handy water camera. We tried capturing most of what we saw though the pictures still don’t do justice to its beauty.

The Reef & its life

The Reef & its life

So started our scuba dive in the shallow sea and we were further going to be taken into the Banana reef to be able to witness what gardens of the sea are. In our minds we worried about being able to handle breathing through our mouth and handling the equipment and the depths of the sea over what we would actually witness. Slowly we swam further towards the reef… slowly forgetting that breathing became less relevant than the forthcoming beauty of the sea bed. Unawares came a steep valley…the reef with the azure blue of the sea changing to the  shades of cerulean and thats when it dawned upon us that we will be going deeper and beholding an unimaginable reality.

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As we descended slowly into the deep sea,  we saw bewildering array of fish of course, with imaginable colours, shapes and sizes darting in and out of the corals.  We also saw various corals with breathtaking designs over them… some like a brain, some more like spike noses and some like ferns with pinks, magentas and oranges. It was so incredible, nothing mattered at that time. Just looking at every being under these waters and conceiving how magnificent this is, made us want to live there our whole lives!

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The Purple Pocillopora Coral

The Purple Pocillopora Coral

Snorkeling in the shallow seas

Snorkeling in the shallow seas

A day after we scuba dived we shifted our room from the beach villa to the water villa. Basically a room with a private deck constructed in the sea. So when you looked down, you saw corals, dainty fish, small reef sharks and the rays fly and glide through the sea. Our deck had a private staircase which lead us in to the sea and the whole two days we swam, snorkeled and covered every coral around that area. There wasn’t a single undersea garden we wanted to miss. It was a vacation which promised never-ending romance, infinite horizons of kaleidoscopic blues, hundreds pristine corals, a beautiful reef which teemed with life. This place is indeed a  real stunner.

View from our Water Villa

View from our Water Villa

 

Sting Ray gliding from below our Deck

Sting Ray gliding from below our Deck

 

The Staircase from the Deck of our Water Villa that dipped in to the Sea

The Staircase from the Deck of our Water Villa that dipped in to the Sea

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The Isles of Zanzibar

Pristine Blue Indian Ocean

I loved this place the minute I stepped on it! Just like its name, its exotic, historical and a bit mystical! When I talk about isles of Zanzibar, I mean its numerous islands like Pemba, Prison Island, and several others which are still untouched! Each island is rich in its spices, wildlife, history and inexplicable beauty!

View of the Stone Town from House of Wonders

Zanzibar is an island with narrow alleys, breezy rooftops, majestic Indian & Arabic doors and private courtyards and pristine blue ocean. We decided to stay amidst of a place called Stone Town which is some what the city centre. Its full of historical places, curio shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and of course the beach. We loved the place instantly. It quite reminded me of the old narrow alleys of India.

Island of Zanzibar

Alleys of Stone Town, Zanzibar

After arriving on this island, we decided to hunt for a nice hotel since we were going to stay there for 2 nights. We hopped around checking out a few hotels and decided to stay in this cosy and inviting place called Archipelago. There, we were greeted by this wonderful hostess called Ana who made the place even more inviting. These people had 5 rooms and hardly advertised them. They also had a pretty cafe with one of the best ‘masala tea’ and pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Thereafter, being our little home and diner for not the next 2 but 4 days!
Archipelago is definitely high on my list…here’s their contact –
Archipelago Café Restaurant
Box 4156 Zanzibar, East Africa
baraka@zanlink.com
+255 24 22 668/ +255 777 462311

Spiced Tea @ the Archipelago Cafe Restaurant

The next highlight of our stay were the ‘Doors of Zanzibar’! The most enchanting feature of this island! Zanzibar had a huge Indian & Arab settlement from the 13th century. After talking with people, we learned that the fashion for carved doors was brought in by the Indian & the Islamic people and were designed uniquely to portray the status of the family. Wow! I was impressed! The architecture of this place also had some additional attractions like the balconies, verandas or porches and rooftops, apparently made to give women a view of the streets. Walking through these alleys gave me a glimpse of the old times integrated in to today. The experience was strange yet so rich and unique.

Arabic door in the alleys of Stone Town

Balconies of Stone Town

Trinkets in Curio Shops

While walking through the Stone Town, we met this very interesting Bhori guy with Indian origin named Rashid. This guy had an antique store with numerous trinkets like masks, jewelry, drums and some African games. Since he was quite well versed with Hindi, and had his origins in India, we got talking. Our conversation ended up with he teaching us a very popular game played in Zanzibar called “Bao”. Bao (means wood in Swahili) is a wooden board game with 8 holes aesthetically carved and is played by sowing dried seeds tactfully in the holes. The game is complicated yet very interesting. Time just flew, he taught and we played and finally just bought the game because we liked Rashid and the game!

Popular Board Game - Bao

Forodhani Gardens - a place with roadside food stalls....

Spending 4 days on this island may sound a bit too much, isn’t it? Well I think these 4 days were heaven and so much fun! Besides the beautiful Stone Town, there are some more little attractions like snorkeling, scuba diving, the Jozani forest, and the one and only Forodhani Garden full of food stalls of grilled fish, octopus, sugarcane juices, some odd yet tasty pizzas, soups and the list is endless! Hence this is Zanzibar, the island of blue oceans, white sand, rich heritage and the architecture, all so pleasing to the eye!