Sunrise at Kurumba. Maldives. Photograph© Chulie de Silva
Wake up early in Kurumba island, walk the few paces to the beach, sink your feet into the cool cool pristine white sand, look East and there you have it — all the joy of a magnificent sunrise. The Kurumba atoll in Maldives was a picture postcard sight. Tiny waves lapping softly, the water crystal clear inside a man made reef. Ahh, Once long long long ago, we played at Hikkaduwa on a beach like this behind our house.
This now is the playground of the rich — the honeymoon paradise.
Photograph© Chulie de Silva
Maldives was a poignant reminder what Hikkaduwa was before unregulated tourism destroyed the corals. Then we would try to catch the little fish we called Batayas in rocky pools behind our house. We’d take bread to throw at the multi-hued reef fish and watch spell bound as they clustered around the pieces of bread, just as they did off the pier at Kurumba. But here too were the signs of climate warming — more dead corals and only a couple of new brain coral were alive. Maldivian atolls are renowned for these exotic luxury holiday resorts, with the tourists laying the golden $$$ eggs. Threatened by rising sea levels, impacted by the global financial crisis Maldives’ newly elected democratic government is struggling to give a better deal for its citizens. It is however not an easy task. Life for the people in the little atolls is a far cry from the luxury enjoyed by the tourists. The delivery of services such as health, education and welfare to these scattered islands presents a different set of problems. To really see Maldives and its people and understand these issues you need to leave the luxury of the resorts and visit an atoll where there are no hotels . Life here in the small atoll Felidhe atoll Fulidhoo is relaxed. You can just watch the sea or rock gently in a hammock as life flows on. No problems are visible and you yourself begin to hunger for the smell of the sea, feel of the sand, a hammock to lie in, and a good book to read.
Photograph© Chulie de Silva
The sea would have provided everything for the islanders including the coral to build the houses. Coral is not allowed to be used now, but there are still houses and a few remaining coral walls.
Streets were generally empty and people were more shy at being photographed and disappeared quickly into the houses.
Leftover election graffiti. Photograph© Chulie de Silva
Breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Photograph© Chulie de Silva
Maldives had a peaceful transfer of power after a first ever multi-party elections in October of 2008. Out here this little peaceful island has many mega issues to solve. It has a population of 421, living in 61 houses, one school with 84 students and 16 teachers and one health post. There is a Community Health Officer manning the post but there is no doctor and to consult a doctor the islanders need to travel to another island that can take about 2 hrs by boat.
Solid waste disposal systems are not there and the aged old system of disposing human excreta into the ground has polluted the fresh water of the island. The one and only school in the island has a principal “imported” from India who is enthusiastic to give the kids in the island a good education. He yearns to upgrade the computer labs and have Internet facilities.
We had a lot to reflect on as we walked through the village. Fishing still remains the main livelihood. One could also see two huge partly built boats in sheds. Maldivian seafarers regularly traded with Sri Lanka brining the much priced Maldive fish (sun dried tuna) and the smaller smelly sort of salt water pickled fish called “jadi” to Sri Lanka. Down in Dodanduwa
where the dhoani’s came, there were a string of small shops that sold these in huge earthenware jars.
On the beach children were busy building sandcastles as all children (and adults) do all over the world. No bathing suits for the girls but they were having fun fully dressed.
No sign of my cap. Photograph© Chulie de Silva
One last look at the island, many of the problems still ringing in our ears it was time for us to start our return journey in our very fast boat back to Kurumba. My one and only cap had gone flying over the boat as the wind whipped it off my head. One more item polluting the sea. Victor sitting next to me had gallantly quipped “no worries, we’ll pick it up on our way back:-))”
Back in Kurumba, it was time for a swim and there I was on the beach with a lonely bird at sunset . And a little private chat time for me with my old friend the sea.
Sunset at Kurumba. Photograph© Chulie de Silva
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