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Published: June 23rd 2017
Geo: 4.20013, 73.4128
When you've been traveling through exotic locales as long as we have, it takes a little extra to make us do a double-take but here we were standing in our hotel room looking at a pair of life-jackets on top of our wardrobe along with the instructions on usage! Granted our 'hotel' room was actually a very nice over-the-water-villa located on a remote island somewhere within the Maldives chain of islands (and the highest point above sea level in the entire Maldives is just a touch above 7 feet) but I still had trouble envisioning strapping on a life-jacket as the ocean rose up to swallow our room (although to be fair, the Maldives were devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Only nine islands were reported to have escaped any flooding, while fifty-seven islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, fourteen islands had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed).
And what were we doing in the Maldives? Granted, the Maldives are located on top of the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean, but make no mistake about it, the Maldives are a widely dispersed series of Gilligan's Islands with pristine beaches, surrounded
by coral, and packed with Palm Trees. And sitting on virtually every island is at least one high end, luxury resort with price tags that would create wallet spasms for even the big spenders of Western Australia. We don't normally do beach resorts and we certainly don't do luxury (I've invested a good deal of effort in trying to convince DH that a hot shower and air conditioning should always be considered non-essential luxury items) but the logistics of trying to find a way around India (we gave up trying to get a visa) to Bhutan, and the rave reviews of Jen N had us rubbing elbows with the nouveau riche for a brief but expensive few days.
The Maldives atolls encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, making the country one of the world's most geographically dispersed. Its population of 329,000 inhabits 192 of its 1,192 islands. That sounds big but the Maldives is actually the smallest Asian country in both population and land area. With an average ground level of 4ft 11 in above sea level, it is also the planet's lowest country. While traveling we've made significant efforts to see a number of endangered critters
in their natural environment but this has to be the first country we visited that is considered endangered as a result of climate change. Discussions have already taken place as to what to do with the populace if/when the country is submerged by rising water levels- India, Sri Lanka, and Australia are nominated host countries (Australia would be an interesting choice as the Maldives are currently a very strict Muslim country- open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution, and a non-Muslim may not become a citizen).
Since you could walk the entire island in about 30 minutes it's probably a stretch to say we visited the Maldives properly- our well-worn path took us from the villa to the restaurant, to the bar, to the beach, and back to the villa only to start the whole process again at the next meal time. The meals might not make our Top 10 Wow list but they certainly warranted consideration- we were starting to view Mac D's as haute cuisine so it was nice to give our taste buds a four day party.
I'm not sure I'd rush back to the Maldives, or any other beach only paradise,
but it was fun to get a brief peek at lifestyles of the rich and famous...now it's time to get back to work.
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