The Other Side of Paradise

Maldives is the face of paradise, it also is the face of climate change.

The Maldives are known for their pristine waters and islands, they are also facing large challenges with climate change; rising sea levels swallowing the islands and coral bleaching. Over Christmas 2017 I decided to head to the Maldives instead of heading home. I can’t deny the idea of relaxing on the beach beat out a freezing Christmas with family.

I specifically chose the Maldives because I wanted to swim with Whale Sharks. Whale Sharks can be seen in other parts of the world like the Philippines or Australia, but they are found in the Maldives all year round, and also I wanted to go to the Maldives. During my research, I found an amazing hotel at the bottom of the Maldives in the Southern Atoll, Dhigurah. Basically, the best place if you want to swim with Whale Sharks or the Manta Rays (a pic of some of the Manta, from my digital camera, sorry for the quality). It is also one of the longer islands at the base of the Maldives, it is a catch-all for a lot of trash and water pollution.

I chose this island for it’s access to marine life, but I got much more than I bargained for. The Maldives is a deeply Muslim nation, and off the resorts there is no alcohol available and you have to be covered up from shoulders to you knees. Staying on the local island was so much more interesting than staying in a bungalow. There were calls to prayer every few hours, and the friendliest locals. Off the resorts, you can glimpse more into the lives of the people that call paradise home.

Walking along the beaches there will trash lining the edges of the mangroves and the beach, a lot of it is water bottles. This trash is not from the island but from all the other islands and resorts and general pollution that is now in our oceans.

The Maldives poses an interesting question with all this litter, what can you do with it? Cleaning it up it is going to end up back in the ocean. There isn’t a great disposal procedure on the island, there is an open dump more for hard plastic waste.

While traveling home I was stranded at the airport for 2 days, and met an awesome family and spent a few days looking at the challenges Maldivians face and the opportunities that becoming more sustainable can open for the Maldives. While stuck I had the opportunity to explore the capital city, Male, including their fish and food markets. Not surprising on an island nation, they rely on fish and imports for their diet, they were importing pineapples from Uganda! Unable to grow food quantities like this themselves, it makes sense, but so expensive.

While chatting with my new family, the question of sustainability for the Maldivians also become almost a saving grace. The options for alternative waste disposal, let’s say burning, could fuel greenhouses and cropland. Opening new options for pollution, and food production for the Maldives.

The Maldives was an amazing holiday and an adventure I would recommend to any avid traveler, but maybe stay off the resorts, it is a fascinating and friendly country and much more interesting than just bungalows on the beach.