Swimming, Snorkelling, Sand and Scrapes

Woke up this morning to find the Boudicca at anchor off Malé, the capital of the Maldives.  We hadn’t been here before so we were excited about the snorkelling trip we’d booked for this morning.  We love snorkelling, and had done it extensively on our incomparable cruise around the Galápagos Islands in October 2017.

Had a light breakfast in the Secret Garden before assembling in the Neptune Lounge at nine o’clock as requested.  However, we had quite a while to wait as, apparently, the waters were a bit choppy so it was taking some time for our boat to get here.

It was nearly 10.00am before our group was called to disembark the Boudicca from the pontoon, directly into the snorkelling boat.  I was wearing my tankini underneath my clothes with a pair of quick-drying mesh shoes.  We had already provided our shoe sizes for our fins and, as the boat sped away to the first of our snorkelling locations, we were issued with the fins and the lifejackets, as well as tubes and masks.

We arrived at the first site and our boat dropped anchor.  Sure enough, the sea was quite choppy and I hoped it wouldn’t make the snorkelling and swimming difficult, or stir up the seabed so that the view was murky.

The fins I had on my feet were huge, and it was difficult to walk to the side of the boat from which we were to jump into the water.  Once in place, I secured my mask and tube and launched myself the short drop into the sea.  The first problem I had was that my lifejacket, despite the straps being pulled as tight as possible, was far too big, and it rode up around my ears almost immediately.  I was trying to swim with one arm, the other arm holding the lifejacket down, the result of which was that I was going round in circles.  Also, as I feared, the view through my mask was quite murky; I could see some fish swimming around quite way below me, but I certainly didn’t enjoy the crystal clear view of colourful fish and coral I’d seen on snorkelling trips in the past.  ☹

I got so fed up with my HUGE lifejacket that Trevor and I decided to go ashore at a small beach we saw nearby.  We swam towards it as the water became really shallow and the ground underfoot was stony and rocky, some of the small stones getting into my fins.  As I tried to flap my way ashore, impeded by the fins, a large wave swept me over and I was pulled first one way over a jutting rock, then the other way, banging and scraping the back of my right thigh quite painfully.  It’s such a shame, but I can’t say I was enjoying my snorkelling experience so far.  ☹

One of the guys from the boat came over to see what the matter was, and I showed him that my lifejacket was way too big.  I don’t know how fat they thought I was, but they’d issued Trevor with a jacket in a size “L”, and given me the size “XXXL”.  What on earth…?!

I swapped my jacket with Trevor, and we pulled the straps as tight as they’d go.  It made a huge difference; all of a sudden I could swim around without having to struggle to keep my lifejacket below my ears.  By now it was time to return to the boat to go to our next snorkelling site.

Back on board, Trevor swapped the XXXL lifejacket for a more appropriate size, and after about 10 minutes our boat dropped anchor once again and we all jumped overboard.

What a difference!  Here, the water was beautifully clear and the shafts of sunlight shone and rippled through the depths as we looked around at an amazing array of colourful fish and corals, along with a massive starfish about a foot in diameter.  Wow!  This was more like it. 😊

We spent about 40 minutes swimming and snorkelling and marvelling at the beautiful underwater wonders.  It was then time to go back to the boat and, once aboard, we divested ourselves of our fins and lifejackets and got dried off a little; I sat with my large striped towel wrapped around myself and enjoyed some snacks of coconut, fruit and dried tuna, washed down with fresh cold water.

Just before one o’clock we arrived back in Malé at the place where the liberty boats dock.  We’d contemplated having a look ashore, but I didn’t want to walk around in a tankini and towel in this predominantly-Muslim country, so we decided to go back to the Boudicca and get showered, dried and changed before we came ashore again.

Back on board I went into the bathroom to use the loo; when I lowered the bottom half of my tankini, I couldn’t believe the amount of sand it contained – there must have been a cupful!  It was also inside the top half and had managed to find its way into every nook and cranny!  I therefore decided to have a bath instead of a shower, to ensure that I got all the sand off!

Later on, in fresh dry clothes, we enjoyed a light lunch at the Poolside Grill before getting the liberty boat back across to the town.  We found that Malé was quite a commercial, built-up area, very crowded and with more scooters/motorcycles I had ever seen in my life!  They were everywhere and, like a lot of places in Asia, there seemed to be a distinctive lack of traffic rules.

The currency in the Maldives is the rufiyaa and we went to find an ATM so we could get some postcards and go and have a beer while writing them out.

We found a little place selling postcards and fridge magnets (a couple of which I bought as small souvenirs) but the lady didn’t sell the stamps.  She did, however, tell us where to find the post office, so we went to get a cold drink.

One thing we did discover was that we couldn’t buy a beer anywhere!  There were plenty of coffee shops and places selling soft drinks, but no bars or wine or beer!  ☹

We therefore just went to the post office, wrote the card out there, then bought a stamp and posted it.  Then we decided to go back to the Boudicca and enjoy a freezing cold beer up on deck in the 32˚C heat.

We spent the afternoon pottering around the ship, sitting out on our balcony and whiling away the time.  I was trying hard not to think about the fact that we only had another three nights to spend on board the Boudicca before flying home again on Thursday night.  ☹

It was then time to start getting ready for dinner once again, and we made our way to table #31 in the Tintagel Restaurant to enjoy the usual delicious meal in convivial company.

Later on, in the Neptune Lounge, we got up and did some of the ballroom dances we knew, that is, the cha cha, rumba, social foxtrot and, on this occasion, the Gay Gordons.  Then it was time for the evening’s entertainment to begin.

Tonight it was the comedian Lloyd Davies once again, and he had everyone rolling in the aisles with his daft humour and singing; he would take a well-known song and put his own parodied words in.  As ever, we really enjoyed the show.  😊

We finished the evening, as we do every night, doing the quiz in the Lido Lounge with Joe, Gary and Angela, and once again we didn’t win.  Then we just listened to the music, watched the dancers and enjoyed a few drinks and cocktails, until we were pleasantly tired. Back on our balcony we sat out in the balmy night-time air with our feet up, lingering over a nightcap and sitting in a companionable silence, just enjoying the sounds of the sea as the Boudicca glided onward to our next destination.  We had now visited a total of 88 countries.  😊

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