All kinds of Creatures…

One of the most memorable things about the Maldives, was the incredible opportunity to spot all kinds of interesting creatures.

Funny little guy
Is it a pebble, no it’s a crab?!

Shark Feeding

Every evening, at 10 o’clock, was Shark Feeding time!  Hotel guests were invited to gather on the jetty, to witness this fascinating spectacle. What amazed me was that about 10 minutes before the shark feeders emerged, dozens of Black Tipped Reef Shark and Manta Ray had already began to gather, circling the jetty in slightly menacing anticipation. Who told them it was almost 10 o’clock?  Amazing creatures!

black tipped shark
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Bats

Fruit bats were a common sight, flying about the hotel grounds, and you could occasionally get quite close to them if you were lucky enough to spot one hanging upside down in a tree.

Sunset Dolphin Cruise

The Kuda Huura offered the opportunity to go out on a boat, on a Sunset Dolphin Cruise.  Apart from being a very relaxing way to spend the late afternoon, it was wonderful to witness a pod of Spinner Dolphins, performing their incredible acrobatic flips and spins!  A real joy to watch.  And sailing back to the hotel just as the sun was beginning to set  was the icing on the cake.

spinner dolphinsfuturity.com

sunset cruise 4

Swimming With Manta Ray

If you’d have told me ten years ago that one day I’d be swimming in the Indian Ocean with Manta Ray, I would never have believed you!  But every once in a while, life offers you a golden opportunity!  The Landa Giravaaru issued us with a beeper, that would only go off once a Manta sighting had been confirmed.  Some days, reportedly, it didn’t happen.  Luckily, for us, it did!   When that beeper went off, it was a case of literally abandoning your Pina Colada and making your way to the Marine Centre!  Here, we were kitted out with flippers, snorkels and goggles, and off we went on a boat to the middle of the open sea. After plucking up the courage to dive in, it was an incredible thrill!  There were so many of these mysterious creatures, which can reach up to 7m in width, swimming beneath us. They are named Manta Ray, after the Spanish/Portugese word for cloak or mantle –  When you’re swimming above them, it’s easy to see why, as they glide about gracefully in the water.

Turtle Sanctuary

As previously posted, the Kuda Huura have a Turtle Sanctuary on site, where guests can find out all about the work of the Marine Biologists, and help feed the injured turtles. Many of the turtles are amputees, with flippers missing, due to getting them tangled in ghost nets. Now and again, lucky guests will get to witness a turtle, after a period of successful rehabilitation, being reintroduced into the ocean.

turtle 3

The Maldives really is a dream destination – it’s got something for everyone.  Whether you fancy lounging in utter paradise, reading a book, or enjoying an amazing spa treatment, or whether you’re up for an adventure:  snorkelling, kayaking, or swimming with a whole host of marine creatures, it’s all here.

The Maldives really was the trip of a lifetime for me – It broadened my horizons, and gave me the opportunity to do things I would NEVER have imagined myself doing.  And isn’t that what travelling is all about?

So, when life offers you an unexpected opportunity …grab it with both hands!  You never know how much fun it might turn out to be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turtle Sanctuary

One of the best things about the Maldives is the opportunity to get up close and personal with all sorts of sea creatures.

The Four Seasons, Kuda Huura Hotel, a joint participant of an initiative called Marine Savers, houses its very own Turtle Sanctuary, which offers guests of all ages a chance to help feed the turtles, as well as an enthralling glimpse into the job of a Marine Biologist.

turtle sanctuary
The Turtle Rehabilitation Sanctuary

The Turtle, is one of the National Emblems of the Maldives.  These graceful creatures can live for up to 60 years.

turtle carving

Five types of Turtle can be found in the Indian Ocean:

  • Green Turtle
  • Hawksbill Turtle
  • Olive Ridley Turtle
  • Loggerhead Turtle
  • Leatherback Turtle

Sadly, many of these turtles are on the endangered species list – the Hawksbill, hunted for the beautiful markings on its shell, is on the critically endangered list (last category before extinction).

Although fishing with nets is not permitted in the Maldives, sometimes discarded nets, known as “ghost nets” can drift on ocean currents from neighbouring countries.  These ghost nets attract turtles, (and other marine creatures) who end up entangled in them.

ghost net
Ghost Net

Most of the turtles that are housed at the Kuda Huura Sanctuary have been found by locals or visitors, caught up in ghost nets, which do irrepairable damage to their flippers.

The rescue centre work hard to carefully remove the netting, often having to amputate one or more flippers.  The turtles are weighed, fed and cared for on a daily basis until, hopefully, they are strong enough to be re-released back into the wild.

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You can watch a turtle being released, and find out more about the interesting work of the Marine Conservationists at http://www.marinesavers.com & www.oliveridleyproject.org

 

 

 

 

Early Birds

 WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare? 

W.H. Davis

After twenty-four hours of being stuck in our room, we awoke early and left before sunrise, anxious not to miss another moment of our short stay on this extraordinary island.  There were no signs of life, apart from some rather noisy birds, chirping endlessly in the lush greenery around us.  Flowers bloomed in all their brilliance, bidding us good morning.  My senses were on overdrive.  Everything looked so fresh, so perfect.

Our grumbling empty tummies soon led us to Café Huura, the impressive pool-side restaurant where breakfast would soon be served.

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An inviting entrance, adorned with large urns, welcomed us into a Maldivian style Pavilion.  Ornate pillars and archways fashioned from wooden lattice-work added depth and character.  This place was stunning.  But there was more to come.  Beyond all of this, we were met with quite a sight…

What a sight!

 

silhouettes
Early morning Silhouettes

 

Too early for breakfast, we wandered onto the empty beach.  We sat there for a moment, drinking everything in.  The powdery white sand, the ever changing hue of the sky and sea in the silvery morning light, the constant drawing in and out of the ocean – like breathing.

Golden moments like these are all too rare.  They are a gift.

Time to gaze at the horizon.  To notice how the sand feels on the soles of your feet.  To watch a funny little crab, that you thought was just a pebble, suddenly sprout legs and skuttle off across the beach.

The chance to step outside of your life and really see it. To take stock of your priorities and gain fresh perspective.

Moments like these can strike any place, any time – So be on the lookout today!  A beautiful sunrise.  An unexpected rainbow.  A cup of coffee with a friend.  A spontaneous walk in the woods.

And when they come (often, once they have been and gone), you know that they have done you good.

Serenity

 

 

Maldivian Welcome

 

The island Spa
The Island Spa, accessible by a traditional Maldivian boat called a ‘Dhoni’

You know you’re on a special kind of trip when you walk out of the airport and jump straight into a speedboat.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen sea that colour.  Not really blue…turquoise.  Startling.  I couldn’t stop smiling, despite all the worry of leaving the kids, despite it being six o’clock in the morning.Speedboat

The Maldives is made up of  a long, narrow chain of 26 natural Atolls, which are a bit like islands of Coral.  The Four Seasons Kuda Huura Hotel is all that can be found on the North Male Atoll.  No cars.  No roads.  No neon lights.  No hustle or bustle.  Just staggering beauty and serenity all aound.  As the speed boat approached the jetty where we would disembark, a group of people stood and serenaded us – a traditional Maldivian welcome.  We climbed up onto the jetty and a beautiful smiling lady, with a flower in her hair greeted us:

 

“Welcome Mr and Mrs Jelf.”

The Jetty

We had no name tags on and we weren’t the only guests to arrive.  How on earth did she know who was who?  It seemed every single member of staff, from the Manager, who mingled with guests practically incognito, to the omlette chef, knew us by name, and everywhere we went, we were always greeted hospitably whenever we walked past.

Our suitcases were whisked away while we were greeted by our smartly dressed Concierge, who gave us a refreshing spiced drink.  She told us about the various restaurants we could eat in and informed us that we’d been given two complimentary excursions of our choice, plus a massage!  Nathan and I kept looking at one another in disbelief.  This was crazy!

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When we were shown to our room I was overwhelmed. Surely this was not just random chance. This was a blessing from heaven!  The rooms were not so much rooms… Each one based on a traditional Maldivian style house, complete with garden and private pool.

 

 

 

20161031_113242At the end of the garden, a winding path, hedged on either side with lush greenery, led out to a secluded beach.

at the end of the garden path (2)
At the end of our garden path…

 

Emotions began to surface as I drank in the beauty of the room, the garden, the views.  This place was completely out of this world!  Paradise. I had been so reluctant to leave the children. But it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, this was meant to be!  I knew in that moment, a choice lay before me. I could  spend the week worrying about the kids. Or I could let go and entrust them into the hands of the One who made the turquoise sea that lay before me…