First up on my travel wish list is the Maldives. We had a trip booked to the Maldives and Sri Lanka for January 2021 but Covid-19 had other plans for us. Our dreams of an exotic island getaway and safari are now on hold for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, we saw the writing on the wall months ago and booked a ‘back up’ holiday within Western Australia. We are looking forward to our visit to Esperance in a couple of months and I to the prospect of some real-life travel writing. It will even entail a few similar details with pristine beaches and clear waters, unfortunately no elephants or leopards though.
But…….. for now I am on a ‘virtual’ mission to learn more about the Maldives.
The picture says it all. Sun, sand and sea……… three of my absolute favourite things in the world. Throw in some coral, fish, a snorkel and some good food and I am truly in heaven. These are the reasons I have wanted for many years, to visit the Maldives. I imagine stepping off my own jetty and immersing myself into a world of colour, life and intrigue. One that is so far removed from normal life, I will be able to think of nothing but what is in front of me.
There will be lots of ‘oooos and ahhhs’ from the children and we will madly try to get each others attention to point out fish, wonderful coral and sea turtles. In the evening, we will shower and stroll along the board walk to indulge ourselves in a scrumptious dinner. We will chat about the amazing creatures we saw and plan for windsurfing lessons and snorkel tours. Then we will sleep like babies to the sound of water gently lapping beneath us.
Sounds amazing right??……
Until recently I hadn’t really thought about the logistics of how all that happens. Things like………………. how there is even electricity on an island in the middle of the ocean? how does the food come in? how do guests get their fresh water to drink? how do we even get to these remote places? is travelling here sustainable? This week I switched my bedtime reading to research on the Maldives and in particular how this tiny nation is coping amid our rapidly changing world.
The answer is not too well. If I could have picked any destination in the world to blog about the impacts of climate change, I could not have picked one that is more affected. Some predict, that if sea levels continue to rise at current rates, 75% of the Maldives will be under water by 2100.
Heaven ……. gone. Just like that.
As a nation that produces very little carbon emissions themselves, Maldivians must feel pretty miffed that they are going to be affected by the rest of the world’s choices in such a catastrophic way. To top it off, they are by no means a rich nation. In the past, other more affluent nations such as Japan, have helped build sea walls for the capital of Male. Today, the Maldives is still classified a ‘developing’ country. Although they do get funding from the United Nations ‘Green Climate Fund’ and their economy has greatly improved in the last couple of decades (with an increase in tourism) it still might not be enough to build the sea walls required to protect the islands from rising sea levels.
I should stop here and let you know some important figures. The Maldives are a collection of island in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of India. The country is made up of 26 atolls or groups of islands. In total there are around 1190 islands (yes you read that right!) of which, almost 200 are inhabited. Now you should have some idea of why it is so difficult to protect this place.
In 2008 the Maldivian president at the time sensationally looked into purchasing a new homeland, to move his citizens and basically just let the islands sink (apparently a piece of Australia was even considered!!) This idea has since been shelved, but it just illustrates how bad the situation is and how long we have known there is a major problem. Today’s ideas are focusing more on increasing revenue through tourism and selling off islands privately. The government is also looking at moving residents onto fewer islands, condensing the population and thereby reducing the number of islands that need protection.
From what I have read, it seems difficult to come up with a consensus on what should happen. There are ‘catch-22s’ with any of these solutions. Increased tourism means increased flights, bigger airport, more land clearance, more carbon emissions, more demand for water. The list goes on. But the question remains, where else can they generate the necessary revenue? In the end it will likely be a combination of tactics.
One thing is for sure, the tourism industry is mighty important to the Maldives’ economy and accounts for around 39% of the GDP with fishing coming in as the second largest industry. As you can imagine, the absolute last thing this country needed right now was a pandemic!! Just when the country’s economy was improving, Covid-19 is likely to again force this country back into some hard times. It is clear to me, that when we can, we should still go and support this little country that depends so much on tourist dollars. If we don’t………… well, they might literally sink (and I might cry).
In my next installment I will discuss how the resorts on these tiny remote islands are doing their part to reduce their carbon emissions, helping to regenerate the coral reefs and assist in protecting the fishing industry.
The Virtual Travel Bee