This morning the anchorage was still rolly and miserable, but we bit the bullet and finished getting the boat ready to go. There was no way in hell we would spend another day in such rough conditions. We headed to shore at 1100. We are sad to report that Kosmopolitan’s front tip got caught under the dock just as a wave was smashing into us and the front tip cracked pretty badly. As you may recall, it cracked in similar weather in Kupang, and Eric repaired it. This time, the crack is significantly worse.
Once we arrived in Male, we went to see the agent to process our paperwork. Much to our chagrin, the check out fees had the extra $500 cruising permit fee that had not been disclosed, making the total fees a little over $1,000 between agent fees and government fees. We were furious that the agent had not told us about the fees up front. They said the fee is very new and when they quoted fees they didn’t know how the permit fees worked. It sounds like pretty much every boat needs one. Of course, they bought us the permit the day we arrived, and we feel we should have been informed then about it. We did see a receipt for the cruising permit and they didn’t tack on any charges beyond what the government charged them.
We also found out that in order to claim our spear gun, we’d have to take Kosmos back to the 100+ foot anchorage, anchor, get the dinghy down, and take the dinghy to the government office, go straight back to Kosmos, and leave the country right then. We told them to keep spear gun.
We went to Jade for lunch and calmed down while we waited for our paperwork to be processed. At 1430, we picked it up and were on our way. As mad as we are about the cruising permit fee, we have to give the agent credit for doing a very good job overall. They were always incredibly responsive to all of our questions and everything with check in, check out, and fueling went very smooth thanks to their help.
Underway it was actually calmer than it was in the anchorage. Winds are on our nose, but seas are not too big, and so far all is going smooth.
We are going to share our opinion of yachting in the Maldives now. When we were doing research on destinations to stop at along our route, the consensus seemed to be that Cochin, India (southwest tip) was a better stopping off point than the Maldives because the Maldives are expensive and not cruiser friendly. We often find that our assessment of a destination does not match most of the cruisers, primarily because we are a different demographic than most cruisers. So, while we carefully weigh the input of fellow cruisers, we do take it with a grain of salt. We opted for the Maldives over Cochin for a couple of reasons. One, the point of this trip is to go to exotic islands that are hard to get to by plane and, two, we wanted to go diving in the illustrious waters.
We have to say that we agree with the assessment that the Maldives is not a good cruiser destination. Tourism in this country has been carefully set up for high end package tours, and if you are not a part of one of these packages, you are basically out of luck.
As we have already said, the Maldives is made us of 1190 islands. 192 are inhabited by locals. The government strictly forbids private yachts from going to any inhabited island other than Male and Hulhumale. Resorts occupy roughly 100 islands, with more going in constantly. We have read about, been told by fellow cruisers, and personally experienced that the resorts do not welcome yachties. The resorts also control the water around their islands, so not only do they forbid you from stepping foot on their property; they also forbid you from dropping anchor in their waters. They even forbid swimming in their waters, which rules out a lot of potential dive and snorkel spots.
OK, so there aren’t many places you are allowed to take the yacht. You are relegated to either isolated sand bars or the city. There isn’t much to do in the city. The resorts control all the tourist activities in the whole country (except for 2 dive shops) and you aren’t allowed to participate in any of these activities if you are not a hotel guest. OK, so you can forget about going horse back riding or to the spa or any other fun activity you may want to do. And, for the honor of being made to feel unwelcome and restricted like crazy on what you can see and do, you have to pay literally a small fortune. $1,000 is four times what we paid in the second most expensive country we visited, Indonesia. Most of the other countries have only had nominal fees.
We would recommend that cruisers by pass the Maldives, at least Male. We have heard the other ports of entry might be easier. We want to make it clear that we are not slamming the destination as a whole. We do think the Maldives are probably a very nice destination to visit via plane on a tour package, but it is definitely not a good place to bring a private yacht.
Some more FYI’s that could affect your decision to visit the Maldives:
“¢ The diving is good, but we have been to better spots in the world.
“¢ Alcohol is hard to come by. Non-resort restaurants do not serve it at all (and cruisers can’t go to the resorts), and as a tourist you can only purchase a small quantity from the store (locals are not allowed to purchase alcohol at all). We are not sure how it works to buy alcohol as we did not get any while there.
“¢ While government fees are expensive, the non-tourist places are not. Items such as food and general supplies sell for the same or just a little less than in the US.