Day 73

We met at 8:15 to tender into Male, Maldives for our walking tour. We had our bathing suits under our clothes because we would be snorkeling right afterward. It took a while to clear the ship by Maldivian authorities and then 3 other boats came to pick up guests for private island tours. By the time we got onto our tender, we were already an hour behind schedule.

The Maldives is a totally Muslim country. No other religions are found here. One of the first places on our walk was the Islamic center with the oldest mosque on the island, dating about 1000 years old and made and carved out of coral. Five times a day there is a call to prayer and worshippers wash their faces, hands, and feet with water from the old well. There was also an old cemetery here, with graves of ancient royal family members. The women had rounded stones and the men had pointed stones. There was even a section dedicated to the men who built the mosque. We walked by the President’s residence, parliament, and Sultan Park before arriving at the Grand Friday Mosque, built in the 1980’s and holding up to 6000 worshippers. Surprisingly, we were able to go inside and even take photos. It was a very large space, but only men are allowed to pray downstairs. The women must stay in the balcony areas. There were some fans around, but I would not like to be there with thousands of other people. It was extremely hot and humid. We were already drenched from perspiration and nothing is air conditioned, because it is open to the outside.

From here we went through the fruit and vegetable market, where our guide let us sample tiny bananas, papaya, and coconut. This was a very busy place, with folks shopping, and containers of product being shuffled around. Then we went across the street to the fish market where 5 kinds of tuna and other fish were displayed. People buy a fish and take it to the area where some men cut, slice and dice and otherwise filet it for you. Everything is in the open, but it is the daily catch just unloaded from the boats across the street. Traffic is congested in these two areas from deliveries and movement of boxes and crates of products.

Our group started heading for the National Museum, but it was already 11 o’clock and we needed to be at the pier by 11:10, so we excused ourselves and began walking quickly to the pier. We made it on time and boarded our old classic, but beautiful wooden boat with about 30 others and headed to a coral atoll surrounding a small island. Masks, snorkels, fins, and life jackets were provided. When we arrived after about a half hour to the spot, we jumped or slipped gently into the warm, clear ocean waters. I think this was the best variety and quantity of fish we have seen so far. I wish I knew fish names, but every color was represented and many were multicolored- all shapes and sizes. I heard there were even sharks in the area, but I didn’t see them and they were probably the black tip variety we had seen on other tours and were not interested in us. The hour went by quickly. Sometimes I just stayed in one place and watched these beautiful fish feed off the corals. We had an additional surprise at the end, when our snorkel vessel dropped us off right at our ship instead of in town where we would have to tender back. A busy, but good couple of excursions for us.

It was about 1:30, so we changed and went to lunch. Mac went to the 2:30 game of bounce ball and won, while I showered and freshened up. We both went to the 3:15 bowling game and did well, then just relaxed a bit until trivia time. (No points here today)

We set sail a little after 5 and watched from the deck as we departed Male. We weren’t very hungry for dinner, so we went to Sette Mare, our Italian restaurant, and just had salad and pasta.

The headliner show tonight was “The Piano Man” with Brett Cave. This was a high energy performance with many familiar songs. We later went out on deck to check the stars, because most of our exterior lights were off as we travel through the high-risk zone. The stars were more visible tonight than normal. I think we have some extra security onboard for a few days as well. Who else would be young and buff on this ship?

We turn our clocks back another hour tonight and will be only eight hours ahead of east coast time. The next two days are sea days on our way to the Seychelles.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac