Reset Your Soul: A Guide to the North Male Atoll
An unabridged island escape is the primary lure for lovers of the luxury yacht lifestyle to the empyrean islands of the North Male Atoll. An extraordinary highlight in serene hues of aquamarine and white, North Male is one of 26 coral atolls throughout the Maldives. Stunning blue lagoons, coral reefs, and white powder beaches are the norm throughout these naturally gifted islands. For a truly purposeful exhale and thoroughly relaxing experience, North Male has no comparison.
Remote though it may be, international flights easily come and go from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on the island of Hulhule, a stone’s throw and short ferry trip to the main island of Male. Delivering passengers to yachts, resorts, and villas that surround guests with exceptional luxury, the airport houses duty free shops offering souvenirs and duty free goods to guests upon departure.
As expected, this pristine, tropical, Indian Ocean destination is over-the-top for water sports. Diving, surfing, and sailing are all defined by dream conditions with perfect water temperature, generous winds, and abundant choices. Diving amid the reefs and wrecks, especially around Back Faru, and Rainbow Reef, show off nature’s handiwork in astounding colors, with exotic schools of fish, handsome rays, sharks, turtles, and dolphin.
Surfers can choose from internationally known breaks, both left and right frequently reaching over 100 meters, at Jailbreaks, Sultans, Chickens, Ninjas, and Cokes. Best in spring and summer, waves range from 2 to 10 meters depending on the day and location. Fishing, snorkeling, and sailing are additional pursuits with nearly unlimited options throughout the islands.
Influenced heavily by cultures traveling the passing trade routes, natives of the Maldives have burnished the patina of their own culture with that of India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and North Africa. Most of the Maldivian population is engaged in fishing, carpentry, and tourism. Water and beaches may be the most powerful draw, but cultural points offered around the islands prove engaging options.
The Maldives are an Islamic nation of Muslims, abstaining from alcohol and presenting an appearance of modesty. Respecting those traditions, guests will in turn receive the respect of the natives when exploring cities and villages. Alcohol and bikinis, however, are the word of the day at the resorts, catering to tourism in a most hospitable and luxurious manner.
“Toddy tapping, ” which was once a popular occupation second only to fishing, continues through demonstrations for education and entertainment, illustrating how these ingenious men climbed towering coconut palms to tap their sap. Used in palm wine and to sweeten desserts, it is no longer a flourishing career path but an interesting cultural artifact worthy of the watch.
Native Boduberu Maldivian music, made with big drums, singers, and dancers, sets hearts afire with rhythmic patterns. Traditional instruments made of coconut wood and ray or goat skin are played by drummers seated facing one another. Accompanied by a singer chanting native songs, crafted with lyrics reflecting heroism, romance, and satire, performances of the spirited folk music continue in both traditional and contemporary versions. An exciting performance, the songs build from a slow beginning as dancers come alive, to a frantic, trance-like conclusion.
Hukuru Miskiiy, the Old Friday Mosque, on Male transports visitors back to 17th century roots. The exterior facade is deceptively plain, leading to an interior displaying fine lacquer work, exquisite wood carvings, and delicately carved coral, embellished with lyrical Quaranic script. Nearby, the Muleeaage, built as a palace for the Sultan of Maldives in the early 20th century, awaits inspection. Deposed from his position prior to completion, the palace was never occupied but remains an example of early craftsmanship in the islands. Now housing government offices, it sits next to the Medhu Ziyaarth, the tomb of sultans, also an interesting excursion.
Seafood features prominently in most menus, and many Male chefs excel in flavor and technique, regularly delivering wonderful menu selections. Five star resorts are strung like jewels along the atoll, but most are privately reserved for guests staying at the resorts. There are lovely options, however, available to those on private yacht charters. One of the island favorites is Newport, near the ferry terminal in Male. Open 24 hours, and rather looking like a cafeteria, it serves good breakfasts, coffee, falafel, sandwiches, and seafood in a sleek atmosphere along the busy waterfront.
Local ingredients, curries, and seafood pack the menu at Sala Thai, delivering authentic cuisine with beautiful presentation. A variety of peppers range from mild to monstrous heat.
For an elegant palate, try the Jumeirah Vittaveli’s Samsara, serving sashimi, seafood, and an international menu in a beach casual setting. The resort also offers Indian cuisine at its exotic Swarna restaurant, and romantic overwater dining at Fenesse.
Exploring the islands independently on board a private yacht does require an Inter Atoll Travelling Permit and a passport, in addition to an invitation from a resident, but most yacht captains and travel agencies are well connected, easily obtaining required documents.
Cruising North Male is simplified from a language standpoint as well. While the native language, Dhivelhi, is something similar to Sri Lankan Sinhala, mixing up Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, and a few other languages, English is widely spoken. The interesting, artistic Thaana script, written from right to left, is thought to have originally derived from natives wishing to carry secret messages.
The native currency, the Maldivian Rufiyaa, is only necessary for shopping small, local merchants. Most modern establishments accept credit cards and U.S. dollars, among other prominent currencies.