This trip was already the fourth one-month stay in the Maldives. In January/February 2019 I discovered the North and South Ari Atolls, in March/April 2019 I toured the Northern Atolls and in February/March 2020 I was in Baa Atoll. Of all the islands visited, I liked two islands in Noonu Atoll the best as a snorkeler: Velidhoo and another island, which I do not mention here by name, so that it hopefully remains an insider tip for longer. I wanted to visit these two islands again. I therefore contacted Adam, in whose guesthouse ‘Island Host’ I stayed in April 2019. When I met him last time, he had many ideas for the touristic development of Velidhoo. He showed me the bay near his guesthouse where the Bikini Beach was to be built. A Bikini Beach is a shielded section of a beach in the Maldives where female tourists are allowed to be in bikinis or bathing suits. Outside of the Bikini Beach, this is not allowed for religious reasons. Adam also wanted to buy a boat so he could take his guests to nearby reefs and uninhabited islands.
I therefore asked Adam how far he was with his plans. He said that they were now implemented. This was also the reason why he now had to charge double the price compared to 2019. I agreed, as I had stayed cheaply with him in 2019 and his price was now in the usual range. He also offered me accommodation on the second island I wanted to visit, as his brother Mohamed had just opened a guesthouse there where I could stay for the same price.
I was at the Dubai World Expo 2020 when Adam contacted me about a week before I arrived in the Maldives and told me that there was construction going on in front of his guesthouse. He therefore suggested that I stay with his brother on the second island first and then stay with him two weeks later after the construction was completed. I was surprised that he did not mention the construction work earlier, but I could not change the destination on such short notice. Besides, the construction work should be finished soon.
I was all the more disappointed when I arrived. In 2019, his guesthouse was directly on the beach. Now a huge construction site stretched there, because land filling was taken place in front of his guesthouse. Construction machines and trucks were operating non-stop. It seemed to me that this construction site had been planned long before and the work lasted longer than two weeks. Adam, as a member of the island’s tourist commission, was certainly informed beforehand, but did not call my attention to it.
The construction site in front of Adam’s guesthouse
A part of a snorkeling area disappeared with the filling. In the remaining part of this area, visibility was severely impaired because sand got into the water due to the construction site.
In addition, the Bikini Beach will not be built at the nearby bay mentioned by Adam, but in about 1 km walking distance on the opposite side of the island right next to the garbage dump. Because of the smells and noise pollution, this is certainly not an ideal location.
This is where the Bikini Beach will be built.
I was shocked. In general, the island looked more unkempt than it did in 2019, with construction material lying around everywhere on the island. It seemed that no one except Adam wants to market this island as a tourist destination. Therefore, it was incomprehensible to me that I should pay double the price compared to 2019.
Kate, whom I had met on Maalhos in February 2020 just before the outbreak of the pandemic, wanted to know Velidhoo and the second island. She organizes yoga retreats in the Maldives and helped with the dive shop of her life partner on Maalhos. He had tragically died in the meantime after an accident with a Sail fish and she was planning to leave Maalhos. She was therefore looking for a new place where she could continue to offer yoga retreats.
Being so disappointed with Velidhoo, I traveled earlier than planned by local ferry to the second island, where I stayed at the guesthouse of Mohamed, Adam’s brother. Kate arrived with two colleagues from Maalhos a day later.
Snorkeling island in Noonu Atoll
In April 2019 I already came to this island, which has the best reef of all the islands I visited in the Maldives. The biodiversity is great and I hoped to see wild dolphins during snorkeling again this time as I did last time.
In the last three years there have been some negative developments on this island. I already feared the worst, because on this beautiful beach just outside the picture a red jet ski was floating in the water. It belonged to the only resort on the island where I stayed in 2019. During the first week, it was briskly operating. In addition to the annoying noise, as a snorkeler I always had to keep an eye on the jet ski’s position so I didn’t get run over. Fortunately, this device was not used by any customers after that. During this quiet time the dolphins came to the reef. But more about that later.
The sunsets were still gorgeous, but this time there were many more ships anchored off the beach.
These crabs can be found by the hundreds on any beach.
The sunrises were also an amazing spectacle every time.
One morning there was a group of dolphins on the reef at sunrise time. Fantastic!
Mohamed prepared a Maldivian breakfast every morning. The middle dish in the back contains dried tuna mixed with onions, a specialty of the Maldives.
A typical dinner, of course without alcohol, because it is forbidden on the local islands in this Islamic country.
A house wall, made according to traditional construction methods
Kate with her two colleagues from Maalhos
Also on this island there was a strange occurrence with my guesthouse, where I was the only guest besides the group of Kate, who came to this guesthouse thanks to me. The Austrian Sarah, who lived on this island, drew my attention to the fact that on Booking.com a second guesthouse was listed with a different name with pictures that exactly matched my room and my guesthouse, but offered at half price. So a customer could book a room at half price and end up in the same guesthouse, especially since the guesthouse was not labeled. I approached my host Mohamed about this. He said that someone else had posted this guesthouse a second time against his will. Of course, the higher price applies to me. Very strange!
But the snorkeling was great like three years ago. So I often went snorkeling three times a day: Once before breakfast, once in the morning and another time in the afternoon.
The first week Kate and her two colleagues were also on the island, so we often snorkeled as a foursome. Otherwise, I was mostly snorkeling alone because the people from the resort were not aware of how extraordinary this reef was.
Unfortunately, my underwater camera soon did not work any more. Thus, I had to switch to the more than 8 years old backup camera. Therefore the pictures have partly a less good quality.
Indian coral rabbitfish
A female Bicolor Parrotfish
… and a male
I always found these lobsters in the same cave.
The Maldivian clownfish lives in the coral reefs around the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The resort has intentionally sunk this motorcycle into the reef to make snorkeling even more interesting.
Spotted eagle ray
For one week we saw these animals every day on the reef, then they moved on.
We were lucky to see three rays at once, spinning around as if in a dance.
I met these three hunting Dogtooth Tuna.
Sharpnose puffer fish
With a length of up to 60 cm, the Orange-spotted emperor is one of the largest fish in the reef.
Since these animals are nocturnal, an encounter with an octopus during the day is very rare.
Here another octopus is looking out of a cave.
Grey Reef Shark
I encountered this whitetip reef shark every day.
Scribbled leatherjacket filefish or Scrawled filefish
Humpback Unicorn Fish
Hawksbill sea turtle
Crocodile Needlefish or Hound needlefish
Blotched Fantail Ray
I could not identify this Surgeonfish.
A sand perch species
After Kate had already briefly seen dolphins while snorkeling one day before, I encountered these animals on the following two days. I was snorkeling alone on the reef when suddenly three dolphins appeared in the water just a few meters in front of me.
Two of these unique animals swam in front of me to the seabed, which was only about 5 meters deep, where they searched for something in the sand. After that they swam back to the water surface and disappeared. My encounter with the dolphins lasted about 30 seconds, but it was the highlight of my Maldives trip.
The next day I saw the dolphins swim by again briefly.
Giant moray eel
I have always encountered these Indian mackerels in schools.
They ingest plankton with their wide open mouths.
A Napoleon Wrasse (Hump-headed Wrasse or Giant Maori Wrasse)
Bluefin Trevally or Bluefin Jack
I could not identify this snapper species.
The Midnight Snapper swam towards me at high speed from time to time, only to turn away just before me.
A Midnight Snapper is watching me.
Blackeye thicklip wrasse
The last days before my departure I spent again on Velidhoo with Adam, because I needed a PCR test for my trip to Thailand. Adam told me that the official price for the test was USD 80, also because the swab would have to be taken by speedboat to another island. Unfortunately, Adam lied to me about this yet another time. The Italian Bruna, who runs the restaurant MOKA on Velidhoo and has lived on Velidhoo for 17 years, told me that the PCR test only cost USD 35 and that the swab would be taken to the lab by the slow atoll ferry.
With that, Adam had finally disappointed me. Too bad. In any case, I will not return to Velidhoo.
Snorkeling on Velidhoo
At the end of my one-month stay in the Maldives, I boarded the speedboat to the main island of Male and then flew to Thailand.