Tag Archives: Maldives

Maldives and the environment

Rubbish being burned off into the atmosphere

Rubbish being burned off into the atmosphere

Stunning white beaches, pristine sands, crystal clear water… this is the view that I am sure the Tourism board wants you to see, and for the most part is true. However how rubbish is dealt with in the Maldives has shocked me. I am not an expert in the field of environment or waste management, but I have eyes and I also think I have good common sense and it doesn’t take a scientist to realise that if you keep polluting and don’t have a proper plan for dealing with your rubbish and put it into practice you are going to fuck the world.

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Nappies and other rubbish on the beach

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Floating rubbish sharing the water with the fish we eat

Although the Maldives is not a first world country one would still think it would be prudent to take care of the ocean since it is where the majority of the food comes from. Being a chef this is something that concerns me and I think about often. Fishing makes up a very large percentage of the economy and the water is also the draw card for the tourism industry (which makes up over half of the economy). There seems to be a total disregard for littering and a lack of caring. The majority of rubbish gets sent to Thila Fushi (aka rubbish island) where rubbish is piled on rubbish upon more rubbish stacked dangerously close to the water’s edge, and that rubbish that isn’t stacked up is burned releasing huge plumes of smoke into the atmosphere. Not all of it goes straight up but drifts; something I realised as the pungent smell assaulted my senses and burned the back of my throat as we sailed past in a ferry one day.

I truly think a lot of it comes down to education. Nobody seems to care. Even the “out of sight, out of mind” approach doesn’t work if the problem has got so large that you can’t help but see it. I have seen a boat driver throw his rubbish out of the window into the sea without a care in the world and a woman in Male throw her empty drink container onto the ground after her small child had finished with it. Apparently ‘floating rubbish’ is an issue and with actions and attitudes like this it is not a surprise.

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Eventually some of the floating rubbish gets washed up

With most of the Maldives being under 3ft above sea level this country especially should be concerned about caring for the environment, global warming and rising sea levels. If for no other reason than self-preservation. I’m not sure what the answer is but if people aren’t educated and change their ways and start caring about their environment then maybe there won’t be too much left to care about sooner than we think.

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Rubbish dumped on the beach

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Maafushi Dining Guide

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Maafushi main street

 Having decided we needed a break from work and the little island we call home, we decided to take a trip for a few days and go stay at an inhabited island to also get a taste of the ‘real’ Maldives. About 90 minutes ferry ride from the capital Male, Maafushi is an inhabited island with a population of about 1,200. There are over 15 guest houses and boutique hotels on the island and seems to be a popular spot for a bit more of a ‘budget’ Maldives experience with average room prices from $25 to $150. IMG_0067Just for your information a normal price for a hotel room in a Maldives resort is in the 600-1,000$US a night range! Beaches are nice enough with the best spots on the left and far side of the island opposite the jetty (North East). The other side houses the prison and the beaches there are non existant and full of floating and beached rubbish. Quite shocking the amount of pollution and rubbish management in this country really, but that’s for another post…

IMG_1501I had a look on google for places to eat while on the island but couldn’t really find any decent information so decided to write this post. The island consists mostly of tourist shops selling wooden trinkets and souvenirs and guest houses or boutique hotels. There are also a couple of small stalls on the beach selling things like drinking coconuts for 3 times the price you pay in Male and a few mini mart type places selling basic groceries of the tinned IMG_1500variety and maybe a little bit of fruit. Self catering options don’t seem to really exist; the guest houses rely on the income from food revenue and even if you did have kitchen facilities the available food variety isn’t great and probably not to non-local tastes. I couldn’t find any take-away joints so dining at a guest house/hotel seems the only option. An average price for a main course should be between 45 and 75MVR which is between 3 and 5$US.

I have put together some information of all the places we went to during our stay so as to help any future visitors to the island avoid the tourist traps.

Day 1

Dinner: Kaani Beach Hotel (North West by the beach side main road)

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Kaani Beach Hotel, nice rooms bad restaurant

The hotel itself is quite nice. We had a beach view room and the rooms were clean with a decent balcony. Staff were friendly but are in desperate need to training unfortunately. Despite my reservations of using the hotel’s restaurant we were tired and thought why not, it won’t be too bad..? Yeah wrong. Drinks order took 25mins to deliver some of the drinks and 35mins to deliver the rest (a coke?!). Was an hour wait for some fried chicken and chips and a minute steak with chips and salad. Also ordered a Shepherds pie. After all, we thought yeah we’ll order something nice and simple looking forward to a homely simple meal. This special dish beat my already lowered expectations. Apparently Shepherds pie consists of some mixed vegetables in a mystery white sauce topped with some glue like bread. BIZZARE. So strange I checked to make sure this was actually the Shepherds pie, apparently it is. I really wished I had taken a picture of this dish as it is actually the worst thing I have ever been served in a restaurant in my life. This was right after they tried to bring us another dish we hadn’t ordered. All this and there was 3 tables in the place with maybe 8 diners in total. Shocking. And at the end it was about 40$US which is at the upper end and quite expensive (about half a week’s wages in this country).

Day 2

Breakfast: Kaani beach hotel

Being the sucker for punishment that I am and having been unable to google anywhere else for breakfast the night before, decided to have our included breakfast at the hotel. Yet again I had low expectations, considerably lowered since our experiences of the night before but were still a little surprised. Juice from a powder sachet, corn flakes, cold lentil curry, warm room temp milk, baby corn in ketchup, grated coconut, chapati, and the highlight: chopped papaya. To be fair the coffee was nice and hot even if it was instant and they offered to cook us eggs. Which took about half an hour (yet again only about 3 tables in the place) and they managed to break and over cook the yolk yet under cook the white, even sous vide this is quite hard. Now if this was a $15 buck a night hostel then well that’s what you might expect but our bill for our room was about $110US a night so it would normally be safe to assume something half decent.

Lunch: Rehendi Restaurant (Next to Kaani Beach Hotel)

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Viet Cong Punji Stick Burger

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Rehendi Restaurant

This place was right next door to our hotel and I had hopes of maybe a half decent burger of some description. The food here was pretty average and priced also about average. Not a bad place. Although it took an age. This seems to be the common theme with places here, it took half an hour for a bottle of water. Now I have lived and worked in islands before and thought I had realistic expectations. But half an hour for a bottle of water when we are the only people in the place?? Come on…! When I went to enquire I was told “coming”. Now it’s a bottle of water, what’s coming? The water bottle delivery? Really not sure what was going on there. This place is also the home of what I call the “Viet Cong Burger”. The food arrived and was ok, the burger was about what I expected and came with fries and about 1tbspn of coleslaw. I thought, hey lets put the slaw in my burger, I open it up and see a submerged toothpick inside ready to impale my lip or mouth much like a booby trap back in ‘Nam! I counted myself lucky… I had flash backs of Tom Berenger in Platoon yelling at me to “Take the PAIN!!!”

Dinner: Venturo Restaurant (about half way along the main inland road)

IMG_1496Having gone for a bit of a wander during the day we found this place on the main drag. When we first walked in there were three guys playing cards which gave the impression we had walked into somewhere we shouldn’t have! A little bit like the Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter… But yes it was the restaurant and we were sat upstairs. We ordered a couple of pastas; macaroni and a bolognaise. Which turned out to be farfelle and fusili, both coming in a canned vegetarian tomato sauce. Not what I ordered but the pasta was actually cooked perfectly el dente and it was hot and came out in about 25mins, so very acceptable especially in the scheme of things! Down side here was that the food was more than twice the price of the other places we had been to with the exception of Kaani Beach Hotel.

Day 3

Breakfast: Kaani Beach Hotel

Back here again for breakfast… dear oh dear. Moderately better than before. Pretty much the same except instead of lentil curry and baby corn in ketchup there was sliced processed frankfurters in ketchup and baked beans. I was grateful for baked beans. We ordered eggs again. A solitary boiled egg, cold in the middle and a fried egg, this time so raw that it was possible to see through the top half into the bottom half. I asked for it to be quickly flipped over please. 20mins of waiting later fuck this I’m outa here.

Lunch: Leisure Boutique Hotel (green building about half way between Kaani Beach and the Jetty)

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This was a place on the main beach side road. Really friendly staff and looked like it was a husband/wife running the place. Had a decent fried rice and fried noodle. They also do Shisha for 5$US. A bit on the pricey side being more than Venturo Restaurant but better quality and sitting outside in the garden eating was nice.IMG_0167

Dinner:White Shell Beach Inn (North side of the island, beach side)

IMG_1502Now I thought ok, there has to be somewhere half decent round here and spotted this place. For 100MVR (about 6.50$US) you could get a whole chicken and if we had of been staying longer I would have come back. We ordered the grilled chicken meal for two which came with a decent amount of coleslaw and rosshi (chapati) and at 150MVR was really good value and a very simple but really enjoyable meal. Was all out within about 25mins too which was great.  Yay!IMG_0173

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Male fish markets and sustainable fishing in the Maldives

IMG_1478Not being an early riser we arrived at the markets most likely after all the good stuff had since been sold. It was roughly lunchtime, the jetty being busy with local boats, tourists arriving and departing Male on day trips and the Coast Guard doing whatever it is the Coast Guard does.

The ferry crossing was rather pleasant if not a little hot but that is normal here. We had experienced some extreme weather the week before with some ferries cancelled due to the high seas. Being able to go from one place to another irrespective of the weather is something you take for granted not being from a sea faring nation.

IMG_0008“Smells like low tide…” ah yes, we must be nearing the fish markets! I always like visiting the local markets wherever I am working. It’s important to see what’s available and what the prices and quality is like. If you can get away with using local instead of imported and cutting down on the food miles then it is better do so for both the environment and the budget. I have to say that at first glance the fish markets were uninspiring at best. There was the inevitable smell, the sad looking dead octopus on the floor surrounded by flies and what I hope are the small sized rejects that didn’t get snapped up first thing in the morning. Mental note: get your arse out of bed earlier next time…!

IMG_0002Most of what was on offer was Tuna along with some smaller herring type fish, a couple of fish that I am more used to seeing in an aquarium or voiced by Ellen DeGeneres on a particular kid’s film and a type of anchovy like sprat. Tuna make up a significant proportion of the economy in the Maldives. Fish and coconuts are pretty much the only readily available resources here with fishing only being eclipsed in the economy by tourism about three decades ago. All the fishing in the Maldives is done by hand with either rods (modern or traditional) or hand lines; netting is forbidden. Which is really good news for the sustainability of the Tuna industry. At first I was shocked at the sizes of some of the Tuna on display having previously worked in the Cook Islands and seen the monsters hauled into the kitchen on wheel barrows. But it seems that a lot of what is caught are Skip Jack Tuna whose normal size is 1.5 to 5 kg, with an average 35cm fish coming in at about 3kg, although I am certain some of the fish I saw were suspect. IMG_0004Skipjack tuna are a smaller variety than the endangered Blue Fin tuna. The problem is that juvenile Yellow Fin and Big Eye tuna swim with adult Skip Jack. Much of the Skip Jack fishing around the world is done with purse seine vessels which use large nets and catch indiscriminately like those in finding Nemo. (I have a 3yr old daughter so know that film well…!) What this does means is that as much as 30% of a catch is of the less common Tuna variety caught and killed before they have reached breeding age thus creating a bit of a vicious cycle of diminishing numbers.

IMG_0034At the markets the quality of what was on offer was not the best. Although I’m sure it was fresh that day as there was no refrigeration it’s definitely not what I would exactly call sashimi grade. Tuna needs to be killed quickly and bled in order to produce a good quality product. This usually involves a spike to the brain. If death does not come quickly then the stress causes a build-up of lactic acid which results in a dull looking, greyish flesh instead of the nice bright colour we are used to. If the Tuna is not bled then you end up with an excessive blood line which is full of Mercury and not really fit to eat. That said, how Tuna is prepared locally here is very different from how you would serve it back home. Instead of sashimi, or lightly seared or grilled most of it ends up in a curry or a traditional Maldivan spicy Tuna soup whose name eludes me but is not really my cup of tea anyway. IMG_0006If you did so choose to take a fish home then you could do so cheaply for about $3US per kg and have it wet filleted on the spot by some very fast and talented filleters. Maybe they are looking for a job…?

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