Why does this happen though? Is it because tourists ruin culture and have no respect? Is it because of their “weird” clothes? And if so, what should a traveler do? With these questions in my head, I often asked the captain to land on the atolls we found on the route. Although that may sound normal, it’s 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. Still, you feel this kind of isolation with the environment. You struggle and try to get deeper into things: you talk to people, dress differently, being empathic and respectful. But this distance remains. It’s not very easy to understand who is to blame, whether it’s you unable to get rid of the image of someone who’s here just for leisure or if it’s the locals who can’t see beyond the preconceived view of the superficial and the wealthy coming and invading their place.
The fragmentation of the Maldives resembled my feeling. 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 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 the “Flower of the Indies” —as Marco Polo depicted this country.
As we set out, the subtle feeling of living an incomplete experience is still lingering. It grows as you feel the peacefulness of the local communities and fill your eyes with the breathtaking natural beauty of these islands, floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Pictures. Raul Rúz
Words. Vincenzo Angileri