Laamu Atol, Maldives
09.06.2016 - 12.06.2016 80 °F
In my second year at Sacramento City college, I casually mentioned to my Organic Chemistry professor (and now dear friend) that I wanted to stay in school for as long as I could. She pensively looked at me as she always does, squinted, and said, "Well, you have to eventually go out there and contribute to society." Ever the naive 19 year-old, I fell silent and started to ponder her remarks.
After ten years and three degrees, I decided to finally take her advice and start contributing. Although I completed my PhD in November, the pomp of circumstance of graduation was scheduled for June 10th. This event would give me the opportunity to rent an overly expensive robe, have my name announced to an audience that mostly doesn't care, listen to an uninspired speech, and bask in an aura of self-importance while I answered inane questions about what my future holds.
"I've done this before," I thought to myself, "how can I possibly get out of it?"
I've always found graduations silly, but I partook in my college graduation because it seemed like something that was important to other people. The day was hot and the commencement speaker mused about her office-hour conversations with students about their clitoris (seriously). Now this is something you would expect from a commencement speaker whose day job is a human sexuality professor, but it was probably not the best topic for an audience of all ages (especially my young cousins who were in attendance). While I am not exactly the most socially appropriate creature, that experience had permanently turned me off to the whole concept. Well, that and the gripes mentioned above.
So how to get out of this round of ridiculousness? Well, this trip provided a nice excuse. We were originally supposed to get back in early June, but I just extended the trip a couple of days by planning an excursion to the Maldives. I celebrated my graduation in the way I wanted: SCUBA diving on what may be the most beautiful island chain on the planet.
The Maldives is a country off the Southern Coast of India. The highest point in the Maldives is only 12 feet above sea level, and I had seen a spectacular documentary about the first democratically-elected president to combat climate change and subsequently try to save his country. Ever since watching "The Island President," I felt the need to visit the island chain and see what could end up being the first nation to disappear from the imminent sea level rise.
Danielle, Wendy, and I arrived in the capitol of Male and were swiftly met by our hotel representative. We were shown to an airport lounge to wait for transfer to the tiny Laamu atol, and it was obvious by my dozen visits to the buffet that it was my first time in any type of airport lounge.
Knowing that it's probably my first and last time in an airport lounge
I ate so much bacon pizza
After eating my fill of mini Pepsis and bacon pizza, we boarded a propeller plane for Kaadedhdhoo and subsequently were shuttled via a private boat from that island to Six Senses Laamu in the Laamu Atol.
"I'm going to Ka.., Ko..., the first one!"
Highway to the relaxation zone
The staff waiting to greet us
That bed was a welcome sight
I usually view hotels as basically a place to rest my head. I often appreciate the architecture of hotels, but I don't really rave about amenities or anything like that on my blog because it's just not something that matters all that much to me. I found that Six Senses Laamu changed my opinion completely on that. Everything at this place from the over-water rooms to the amazing restaurants to the beautiful dive-boats was incredible. I am issuing a warning that there are probably way too many photos of the hotel and our room, but I felt compelled to post it because it is honestly the nicest hotel I have ever been to on any continent.
After enjoying some french toast in the morning, we were given bikes to get around the island. I took a video of the bike ride since it's hard to explain, but fast-forward to about 2 minutes and you can start to see why I thought this place was amazing.
Delicious mango french toast
Bike ride from the beach to our over-water hut
Our three-day home
My only personalized license plate
From the inside of our hut
The over-water bathtub
...And the over-water toilet!
From the top deck
Our private water entrance
Balcony shower?! I call it...Shalcony!
The view from our deck
Our over-water hammocks
And hey, I'll even give you the snorkel tour
After we took an extensive tour of our room, we went to the main area and got to see all the other amenities on display. We booked this particular resort due to its amazing dive sites and wonderful reviews, so the dive shop was already front and center on my radar. The resort also has five restaurants (one Japanese, one organic, two bar restaurants, and one with continental cuisine), and it has an ice cream bar where you can get as much ice cream as you want at no extra charge. There was even a resident fruit bat who was fun to watch as he moved from tree to tree eating nuts and fruit.
Pointing us where to go
The dive boat dock, the place I always spend the most time on these types of trips
Three words: ICE CREAM BAR
"Lieutenant Dan, ice cream!"
The main restaurant
The main activity area
The resident fruit bat
Over the course of two days, I had four dives planned. I went with other divers for the first day and Danielle joined me for the second day. The visibility was great, but the wildlife was very hit and miss. We would see eagle rays, clown fish, manta shrimp on one dive and then it seemed like a lot of dead coral on the next dive. The best dive was probably the one that had a lot of turtles come up and inspect us as we swam past. I got some good photos of them, and as I was trying to take a video, you'll actually see one of my red lens filters pop off. I thankfully caught it before it hit the seafloor, but it makes for a funny video and really shows the difference between having a red-filtered video versus one where the blue is not filtered out.
Ready to dive
Keep the robe, I'll take the wetsuit
The turtle investigating me
And then deciding he's not interested
...And there goes the lens
A lionfish trying to blend in
First 60 minute dive!!!
After our dives on the second day, we met back up with Wendy and ventured out to the surf shop. Danielle and Wendy learned how to surf and both stood up a few times. I got to watch their awesome rides from a distance, but I unfortunately didn't get any pictures. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset on the second night as our room faced towards the West. We mostly just sat in silence as we watched the world turn towards a new day and appreciated the majesty of the event.
"Danielle was here"
Sunset from the villa
I made some room
Watching the world turn
On our second night, we had dinner at the beautiful Leaf restaurant. The food was absolutely incredible, and I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
"Very sturdy bridge, Dr. Jones"
And good ol' apple pie
The last day we just relaxed and recovered from the diving and surfing. We all snorkeled in the morning and took some pictures and then the ladies went off for a massage in the afternoon.
Stairway to the snorkel area
The lady in the water
Wendy in solo snorkel mode
Watching them exercise was exhausting for me
So exhausting that I needed jalapeno poppers to get my energy back
Okay, I finally joined
Fish can be curious too
My snorkel buddy
There were a few hiccups along the way as there always are. Wendy got some pretty good reef burn on her knee while surfing, Danielle opted for a reddish hue in place of a tan deciding she only wanted to use SPF 30, and we donated a fitbit to the Indian Ocean (to join my first GoPro that I lost four years ago in Thailand).
I was just happy that none of us went off the side of the dock on those bicycles. Given my mixed history with bicycles, I definitely viewed not crashing once as a significant personal milestone.
Other than that, the resort, food, service, and everything else were nothing short of perfect. I want to reiterate that Six Senses Laamu is by far the nicest resort I have ever been to across six continents. Should you want an unforgettable experience, look no further than the amazing Laamu atol.
As we boarded the boat, I felt a sadness come over me as I was ushered out of paradise. The boat slowly made its way across the channel towards the airstrip, and I looked on as the resort became smaller and smaller in the distance. Once it disappeared over the horizon, I wondered for a fleeting moment if it had all been a dream. I guess I'll leave that to you to decide and explore for yourself to make your own dream come true.