Read: The Silent World by Jacques Cousteau
Listen: Island Pulse by Zero Degree Atoll
Watch: The Island President
Local Eat: Gullah (fried tuna ball yumminess)
Coming from a small Island nation myself, I know how easy it is for people to assume that there’s nothing more to your country then white sand beaches and coconut trees swaying in the breeze. But every paradise has a rich history and fascinating culture to discover beyond the cliché postcard picture. So, let me begin with an interesting fact about the Maldives for you.
It is said that the first colonizers of these 1,192 islands came from India around or before 269 BC. When they arrived they found no forms of government, only a peace-loving community of people who worshiped the sun and the sea.
Dusty and I were flown to this paradise in December to play music on Kandolhu Island for 21 days. In the evening, on the beach and under the stars, we serenaded the guests of this lovely boutique establishment while our days were blissfully lazy. We mostly spent the sunlight hours swimming around the small Island in the company of sea turtles and baby sharks.
We were young forever floating endlessly along the reef in that clear blue. The fish, in their elaborate beauty and pattern, made me yearn to adorn myself like nature. Just below us, in the abyss, lived our wild and savage imaginations, waiting to jump us while the sun burned crescent shaped moons on my ass.
Ya. It was a dreamy gig.
After a while we grew curious for something beyond the breathtaking topography and five star tourism; we wanted to experience the local side of things. So we ventured beyond the reef and visited the small Island of Thoddoo, the watermelon growing capital of the Maldives. They also grow beautiful large crops of papaya, passion fruit, banana, and different varieties of greens and veggies. It was lush and peaceful with a population below 1,500 and only a mile long. Political graffiti lined the colorful walls of the village and the people, like most tropical places, were welcoming and friendly. Before we left we stopped in one of the teashops next to the mosque, across from the school and down the street from the harbour. We drank tea, ate a plate filled with gullah and attempted to chew the leaf wrapped nuts and spices that they serve with every bill.
One our last day we spent the night in the capital, Malé. It was chaotic and crowded and it seemed like there were more people on motorbikes than square feet. All I could think was, “Why don’t they use bicycles here?” It seemed only natural with how tiny their Island was and all the efforts they’ve made to become the first carbon neutral country. But then I remembered that the Maldives is an infant democracy and the current political drama might have put their environmental goals and dreams on hold for now. I just hope that paradise doesn’t stop trying to change the world because their dream is a beautiful one. A little Island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean CAN make a difference and so can we.
I think it’s time to return to those peace-loving days when we worshipped the sun instead of fame and the sea instead of money.
Who’s with me?
Photos and words by Natasha Kozaily