Naturally Maldives: No Resort, No Problem

Roofs open up to show the starry sky. Glass panel windows and doors give you a spectacular view of the vast playful blue sea. Your own, exclusive swimming pool awaits with a drink for your majesty.

The thousands of photos and videos promoting Maldives, some we even add on our vision board or pin on Pinterest as bucket list, give people from all parts of the world the impression that the country is paradise because of its luxurious resorts. "Take me to Maldives" is the common caption when aspiring tourists share clips of water slides going directly to the sea from the villa, their significant others tagged. We come to this place to experience this famed grandeur. Live like royalties. That was how I thought, too.

With Palm Shade Maldives, I saw that Maldives is more than its re$ort$. The one-day excursion I had with them reminded me that I was in the middle of an unfamiliar ocean. Underneath the country's sinking islands is a thriving territory of strange but interesting creatures.

Palm Shade's Adventure Trip involves a snorkeling activity including gears, a sand bank trip, a dolphin chase, and lunch all for around 85 USD. I know it was too good to pass. Yaan of Palm Shade arranged everything for me and all I had to do was show up. Talk about convenience.

The minimum mixed group was 8 pax so I expected 7 other people in the trip. To my surprise, I shared the speedboat with only 3-- a couple on their honeymoon, and a solo traveler. Even our ride was more than what I hoped.

Cool ride
Boatmates for the day

We were seated on the luxe seats at the rear. It felt a little detached to the charm of a legit ocean drive so I moved to the front where the splash zone is happening. The sea spray and the rocking of the boat made me feel I was on the longest amusement ride of my life.

Somebody decided to join me! :)

After about 1.5 hours, a white patch started to appear on the blue horizon. Is that the sand bank? Why is it too white and glittery?

But it was!

Our boat can't dock close so we had to swim to it.

How can this strip of sand survive the strong waves and basically the whole wild Indian Ocean surrounding it? I went for a dip but, dang, the current was so strong. It easily got deep within just a few meters. Just look at the swell in the photos.

The sand itself was its own marvel. It was so fine, I wished I was the sand. Haha, kidding! Sugar Beach in Bantayan was a close comparison but this one was still to the next level. Imagine an island made of super refined iodized salt.

Some migratory birds

A crisp tan coming through!

A flourishing reef surrounds the sand bank so we did some snorkeling. It was a totally different world below the surface-- complete with houses (corals), citizens (fish), roads (undertow), and cliffs (an actual underwater cliff that you can't see the bottom).

Snor-killing it!

Palm Shade arranged that we have lunch on the sand bank. Although it was not a boodle fight, our lunch packs filled with grilled tuna, fried noodles, and fruits were more than enough. However, it was high noon and there was no single shade there. I started to feel dizzy and immensely dehydrated so I asked to go back to the boat and finish my meal there.

Lunch time!

I assumed that was already the snorkeling activity in the package. Apparently, it's not. After lunch, they brought us to a site famous for sting ray sightings. I was not feeling well due to heat and dehydration from the sand bank but heck, I will not miss this for the world! They were kind enough to offer me a life vest so I can still watch without exerting too much effort.

Seeing those sting rays up close, two were even wider than my wingspan, was so humbling. Here, they own the space and I am just a mere spectator. Have you ever stayed by the window of a roadside cafe, a cup of tea at hand, and just watch people go on with their lives? It bores you at first, but the longer you stay there, waves of empathy and a grounded sense of humanity hit you. It felt like that but towards different types of creatures we don't see on a daily basis.

It's a stiiiing!

Sorry to disturb, Mr. Moray Eel

The final activity for the day is dolphin watching but due to the external factors, we didn't see one. Yaan, accommodating as ever, told me I can join his next dolphin excursion.

We arrived in Hulhumale' almost 6 o'clock, tired but satisfied of the whole tour. There's really so much more in this country than the luxury of 7-star resorts and water villas. Aside from the beautiful photos and videos, I had a fiery sunburn (worst one ever!) to remind me of the fun I had that day. This is why I'm closing this with one word: SUNSCREEN!

💗 File that vacation leave now and let's go snorkeling again! 💗


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