Is this because tourists ruin culture and have no respect? Is it because of their “weird” clothes? And if so, what would a traveler do? With these questions in my head, I often asked the captain to land on the atolls we would find on the route. Although it may sound odd, it is not very common to disembark and visit the islands during these boat trips: even to replenish food stock, beverages and more, you handle it with other boats.
You live in a bubble. A marvelous bubble, don’t get me wrong. Still, you feel this kind of isolation with the environment. You can struggle and try to get deeper into things: talk to people, dress differently, being empathic and respectful. But this distance remains. It is not very easy to understand who is to blame, whether it is you that is unable to get rid of the image of somebody who is there just for his own leisure or if it is about the locals that can not go beyond the preconceived view of superficial wealthy people coming and invading their place.
The fragmentation of the Maldives resembles the feelings I had. The country is a stretch of 1192 tropical islands, stippled across a quite regular chain of twenty-six natural atolls, often divided by vast expanses of the deepest ocean. Down the surface of the water, the extreme beauty of the coral reefs discloses. Above its white beaches with dense shrubs of vegetation, a tropical and harsh sun gives off. Small local stores, fish sellers, robed woman and boat builders populate the little islands of “Flower of the Indies” — as Marco Polo depicted the country.
As we set out, the subtle feeling of living an incomplete experience is still there. And it grows as you realise the extreme peacefulness of the local communities and fill your eyes with the breathtaking natural beauty of these tiny little islands, floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Pictures. Raul Rúz
Words. Vincenzo Angileri