The Edition visits isles across the Maldives on a bi-monthly schedule, discovering the intricacies of island life and amazing islanders residing in different atolls, taking our readers through an 'virtual' tour of the country.
When I first found out that we were to visit Dhigurah for this segment, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it. First, I love this island. My earlier visits had been full of fun memories that I cherish. The second part of me was somewhat disappointed. I had hoped to explore a new island. To be honest, having already been there thrice, I didn't expect to find anything new - but I was in for quite a surprise.
That said, I was still considerably excited to capture the essence of this beauty of an island, all 3.175 Km of pristine white sand and lush emerald vegetation.
The speedboat departed from Male’ at 3:30 p.m. Make sure to be absolutely on time as these guys really stick to their schedule! After a journey of 1 hour 45 minutes, we reached our destination. Of course, travel time can vary depending on the weather though fortunately for us, the sun was shining in our favor.
Our butler from Bliss@Dhigurah, the guest house we'd booked our stay in, was waiting for us. Our luggage was taken and we were ushered to our ride. I was curious to know more about our accommodation as I couldn't remember seeing or hearing about it from any of my previous visits.
After a bumpy ride through the island, we reached our destination. The familiarity and comfort of the island scenery in all its blues and greens was already hacking away at the bundles of stress one naturally acquires when living in Male.
Bliss was an absolute dream. Nestled in a corner by the beach, with a quaint little garden all of its own, even at first glance, it seemed deserving of its name.
My expectation of “not being able to find anything new” was pretty much shattered after experiencing my first meal at Bliss. Never have I had the pleasure of experiencing such mouthwatering food at a local island that is not a resort. It was an added delight to see that this was the only guest house in the island where both genders work in serving.
Our lovely hosts Anna and Muchi spent dinner time chatting about the inner workings of their guest house. It was truly inspiring to see how much effort was put into bringing the best possible food to their guests.
I started my next morning bright and early with a rather exciting African-inspired breakfast, involving my very first taste of Shakshuka, abruptly followed by me falling in love with the dish. I couldn’t help but savour every single bit of it.
These days, a quietly serene Friday morning stroll through a Maldivian island is a luxury in itself. But Dhigurah is no stranger to such rarities. Even the community spirit demonstrated by its islanders is one of a kind. I stood in awe, watching as the women of Dhigurah armed with their eackle brooms and rakes, headed out in groups to clean the island.
"We do this every single Friday morning!" chucked one of the ladies, dressed in the traditional garb 'Dhiguhedhun'. She went on to describe the many different activities they do together like gathering coconuts and coconut palm leaves. All the collected goods are equally distributed among the participating folk.
Despite my multiple trips to Dhigurah, I had yet to venture under water. I have a great love for the ocean, and I couldn't wait to see what the coral gardens nearby had in store for me. Even before leaving for this trip, I had aimed to tick off two things from my bucket list. Spotting dolphins and whale sharks, none of which I had previously had any encounters with though I had travel by sea a countless times.
Since Dhigurah is almost always abundant with visitors, such trips are easily arranged. Most of the guest houses boast special packages and trips for guests. The boys at @Bliss were ready and geared up to leave by the time I reached the harbour. Just a few minutes on the boat and we were at our snorkeling spot for the day. I spent the entire journey with my eyes glued to the ocean, bit like a love sick teen hoping to sight at least one of these oceanic beauties.
Thalassophile though I am, admittedly not the most skilled of swimmers but our guides proved to be equally adept at keeping me afloat as they were at showing me beautiful fish and stunning parts of the reef. The sights were so breathtaking. I had spotted fish of nearly every single color in existence. The peaceful silence of being submerged only intensified the effect of everything around me and although the guides kept close by, I felt blissfully by myself in the endless ocean.
An hour into us being in the water, the boys in the boat were signalling us to come back. I was busy trying to warm myself with a towel when someone from the boat called out “dolphins”! I scrambled to the bow of the boat and I was greeted with the most spectacular sight. We were pleasantly ambushed by a pod of over 50 dolphins swimming and jumping around the boat, enthusiastically entertaining us before resuming their journey.
I had managed to shoot some pictures despite having shivers from being wet for longer than I was accustomed to, and had been busy showing them off when the captain called out from the other end of the boat, pointing to the ocean. Everyone rushed towards him and I followed suit, not really knowing what was happening. … and right there in the blue stretch of sea to our right, appeared a gigantic whale shark, flashing its definitive patterns briefly before its outline vanished back into the sea. As we tried to pursue it, the shy creature dived deeper into depths of the ocean. I was captivated by the beauty and the graceful movements of the shark, despite its enormity. Though we spotted it for just a few minutes, I could not believe that I was lucky enough to be able to check off both dolphin and whale shark spotting off my bucket list in one fortunate swoop!
The South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA) to which Dhigurah belongs, is famously known for the being one of the only locations in the world frequented by whale sharks throughout the year. The island is also the homebase for Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) who do everything from collecting research data, to conservation work and conducting awareness programmes in an effort to protect these gentle giants.
To complete a pretty adventurous day, I decided to check out the adventure watersports in the island. There was a good variety of activities on offer ranging from PaddleBoards, Jet Skiing, Water Sofa, Banana Rides and Kayaking - to name a few. The Water Sofa was my absolute favourite. As I retired from the excitement my vocal chords were still sore from all the gleeful screaming and laughing.
My plan for the next day was more of a lazy day strolling around the island and explore a bit. I started out with the retail area and came across six charming little shops that had a great variety of souvenirs, beach clothing and various other trinkets to choose from.
After visiting some guest houses and chatting with local islanders, I went on a mini expedition with my guide Ibbe from @Bliss to touring their community farms and sampling different types of fruits and vegetables including banana, papaya, cucumber, brinjal. By the end of the tour, I had heard many mentions of a specially grown ‘extra spicy’ Dhigurah Chilli”. Somehow, I managed to convince Ibbe to try one just to see how spicy it was, before I attempted to. I never did though, the tearing of his eyes and the glaring redness that spread across his face after just one bite was convincing enough. Mind you, he had only bitten off the tip of the chili!
It was from the friendly locals that I found out about the waste management and cleaning programmes that goes around in the island. It was quite inspiring to know that waste from each and every single household is collected, sorted and made into compost. This very compost is what fertilizes the farms run in the island. Not only that, but the locals often organize beach clean ups, some of it initiated by the guest houses.
When I say things such as the “Thundi” took my breath away or that it was absurdly beautiful, you’d probably think I am exaggerating, at least a little. You might think that I was describing just another Maldivian beach. Rest assured, once you’ve caught sight of this place, you cannot help but agree with me.
Endless white sand path extents up to the neighboring Lux*South Ari Resort. During low tides, you can simply walk from one island to the other while tiny waves lap at your feet and white shoreline birds swarm overhead.
The best place to see the sunset is at this beach while you are lazing in the water. It is the most tranquil sight to witness. The expanse of calm water and the sky being painted with colors ranging from crimson to orange and then more warm, dreamly shades of blue, purple and indigo.
As I was speeding back home after my weekend of complete "bliss" at Dhigurah, I realized that if you look closely enough, there is always something new to discover in something old.