Archiv der Kategorie: Asia

Diving the marvelous Maldives

I had never really planned to go to Sri Lanka, but it just so happened that there were cheap flights from Colombo to Male, and this is how this trip formed. I spent about 2 weeks travelling through Sri Lanka, seeing a lot of amazing landscapes and cultural sites. Now it was time to head to my next destination, the Maldives! 🙂

I had wanted to dive the Maldives for a long time, and finally booked the „Best of Maldives“ itinerary on the MY Emperor Voyager liveaboard. I had already dived with Emperor Divers in Egypt, and again had a really good time with them in the Maldives! The boat and cabins were more spacious this time, and the group more mixed, age- and country-wise. It was a good group with always someone around for a chat! I thoroughly enjoyed not having to plan anything, but just following the daily agenda which was written on the board each evening for the next day. Eat, sleep, dive, repeat! In between the dives, we relaxed on the sun deck or in the lounge, had a quick shower and got ready to go diving again. Food was buffet-style and amazing with lots of choice and eggs any style to order for breakfast. One evening, we went to a sand bank in the middle of nowhere for a sundowner and another evening we had an amazing BBQ on a little island with a huge buffet prepared for us.

 

The dives themselves of course were awesome!! In the course of the week we saw loads and loads of reef sharks (mainly white tips, and some greys), a hammerhead, many turtles and stingrays, about 15-20 or so manta rays at different cleaning stations aaaand a whale shark! 🙂 I think my highlights were definitely the hammerhead which I spotted and the whale shark which we were able to stay with for quite some time and was rather close. I had always wanted a better (longer/closer) whale shark encounter than the one I had back in Utila in 2012, and finally it was the time.

 

I generally enjoyed the dives – sometimes it was like diving in a fish soup! But as always some things were different than I had expected: Currents were very strong during the first part of the week. While I usually like currents when you can just let yourself go, this time we had to use reef hooks to stay in one place. I quite struggled with the usage and didn’t feel so comfortable with it. Also, corals were quite dead in some areas which was sad to see. In others, of course we saw very beautiful and healthy coral – so there is hope! Also, I kind of had hoped to see more „special stuff“, like more different sharks and not just reef sharks. Maybe some dolphins or if very lucky a mola mola. Etc. You get the picture. It was certainly amazing diving though, and I guess I am just getting a bit spoiled with all the great locations I have dived at already!

 

Apart from the boat and the underwater world, I did not see much of the Maldives. We drove past many little resort islands, which look beautiful but also a bit boring if I would spend more than a day there. I saw Male City a little bit when I spent one night there before getting on the boat: It’s nothing special, reminding me a little of choatic Sri Lankan cities like Kandy maybe. I would have expected it a bit posher what with all the tourist money that comes into the country. Same goes for Hulhulmale island next to the airport. It has certainly a beautiful beach, but you are only allowed to bathe fully clothed. Apart from that, there is nothing much to see and a lot of it looks like a construction site. So I guess on the boat and underwater is the place to be in the Maldives! 😉 Click here to see all my pictures of the Maldives.

 

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Sri Lanka – Summary & Pictures

People: I quite liked Sri Lankan people. They speak really good English, which makes it easy to communicate, and are mostly very helpful. Of course, you will get the annoying tuk tuk driver here and there, but even they helped me and showed me the way to the bus once it was clear I was not going with their tuk tuk. And I was happy guys didn’t stare at me like in India! The travellers I met were a colourful mix: Many only on a 2-3 week vacation from work, some on a visa-run from India, some yoga and meditation freaks etc.

Food: Spicyyyy! I liked the food in Sri Lanka, but there was not a lot of variety. Rice & curry was always more or less the same, and then there was Kottu Roti. Fried noodles and rice was not as good as in other Asian countries, so I sticked to these 2 menu options mostly. Cost was rather low – for about 1-2€ you would get a VERY big plate of food!

Weather: I am very happy to report that I have not had a single day of bad weather while in Sri Lanka!! 🙂 I was sooo happy about the permanent sunshine, after my weather struggle in Vietnam.

Costs: Everyone told me that Sri Lanka is more expensive than other countries in SEA. I guess they have been to a different Sri Lanka! 😉 My average daily spend was 26,40€ and that includes all the expensive tours and entrance fees like whale watching, the safari in Yala NP, Sigiriya etc.! I certainly could have lived much cheaper if I had not done so many tours and sightseeing. Also, beers are quite expensive. I didn’t drink much, but if you don’t at all, that’s another way to save money.

Accommodation: Dorm beds were about 3-8€/night and sometimes I shared a double/triple room for the same cost. Twice I stayed in my own room for 8€/11€ per night. The quality was mixed, often I would rather say „ok“ than exceptional. I guess I was spoiled from Vietnam!

Infrastructure: I ended up travelling mostly by bus, which reminded me a lot of Guatemala. Super old, rickety busses drive you through the whole country and it’s easy enough to just hop on and off again. Only often they were very full and I was cursing every minute of my ride when I did not get a seat and had to stand for hours! Trains were much better, but it only made sense for me twice to take them. Tuk tuks also often offer to take you longer distances, but I don’t really see the point since they are so loud and you breathe in all the fumes. Then rather bus, and pay only 1/10 or so! 😉 Oh, I forgot: busses were suuuuuper cheap, probably the cheapest I have ever experienced.

Illnesses: I spent the first few days still recovering a bit from my cold from Vietnam, and felt a bit sick again towards the end…but overall all was good!

Safety: No problems, and did not feel unsafe anywhere.

Itinerary: I travelled along the typical backpacker route, although in the contrary direction of pretty much everyone else. Most people wanna finish off with some beach time which is understandable. I did see an advantage of travelling counter-clockwise though: The train from Ella to Kandy was not very full and it was easy to get good seats. In the other direction, wagons were full and many people had to stand… I have one main travel regret when it comes to Sri Lanka, and that is staying in Mirissa instead of Tangalle area. Otherwise, everything worked out pretty well. I guess I could have squeezed in Polonnaruwa somehow, but it was also ok for me not to see it anymore. I would have been interested to see Trincomalee, Jaffna and some more places in the North, but it was not the best season to go there. So maybe, if I ever come back,…

Highlight: Ella and surroundings.

Lowlight: Mirissa and Kandy.

Click here to see all my pictures of Sri Lanka.

IMG_3117 (Kopie)

Stopover in Negombo

On my way back from the Maldives, I had planned a one day stopover in Sri Lanka before catching the flight back to Amsterdam. To be honest, this was complete nonsense planning on my side and I had been over-cautious (since I was going to connect to separate flight bookings). Also, after an amazing week on the boat in the Maldives, I did not feel like going back to all the hustle and bustle, honking and chaos of Sri Lanka. But… it was booked, so I made the best of it and headed to Negombo for a night.

Negombo is a beach place that is rather close to the airport – closer in fact than Colombo itself – so many tourists spend a night there after their arrival in Sri Lanka or before departing again. The area I stayed in was at the Northern end of Negombo though and did not feel too touristy for me. On contrary, when I went to the beach on Sunday it was full with locals and almost no other tourists! I had expected something different and although it is always nice to meet locals, it can get a bit exhausting at times – especially when you are a woman travelling on your own. The beach was quite nice, but I did not go swimming nor stay there for very long. The constant attention from too many locals, especially guys, was just a bit exhausting for me on that day. Also, I did not feel like tanning in my bikini next to all the fully clothed Sri Lankans! So I went for a walk down the beach, took some photos and then spent most of the day relaxing at my hostel…