This month started with a chilly 10 days in my home city of Melbourne. After my Western Australia trip, seeing friends and family before leaving again was something I was excited to do. Picking up a few shifts at my old job was also essential! The date to leave for the Maldives crept up fast, and I was beyond ecstatic to have the opportunity to dive such a magical place.
Once arriving and settling into our live aboard boat, that myself and our group would call home for a week, we started our dive briefings. The next day we got in the water for our first SCUBA dive.
I WAS BLOWN AWAY
It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, I never wanted to ascend to the boat because the ecosystem was simply too amazing. Sharks were always on the agenda. There were so many, some seemingly shy, and others not giving a single damn about us and weaving in between myself and fellow divers. We had hoped to see hammerheads and whale sharks on this trip, however we had no luck. Although this went nearly unnoticed as the marine life was otherwise out of this world. There were dives consisting of manta rays gliding centimeters above our faces. Then others including hundreds of sting rays feeding at an artificial reef site (one literally tried to swim through my camera at one point!). Then there were the countless eels, octopus, schools of fish, sea stars, sea slugs, urchins, turtles, coral drop offs, and even a mammal (we were lucky enough to have a dolphin check us out)! The water visibility was always more than spectacular, and the coral diversity below overhanging underwater cliffs was like something out of the little mermaid.
Time in between dives usually involved standing on the deck checking out the atolls we were passing, and imagining what my life might be like if I lived on one! Our spare time also involved a LOT of food, diving sure builds an appetite (especially 3 dives a day!).
Leaving this place was difficult. However, my second travel location for this month also had me jittery with anticipation and excitement. It involved seeing Sri Lanka with my dad- and catching up with the Akua Oceanwear team at the same time!
We started out trip near the luscious green town of Dambulla. We ate only amazing local dishes, and explored ancient ruins during the day. Amazing wildlife was not unusual in this area, and we were lucky enough to see elephants, wild boar, monkeys and colourful peacocks. All this without a safari if I may add! There were surprises around every corner. Sadly, we did see some (seemingly ignorant, or uncaring) tourists riding elephants which had chains from their necks to feet, and were being prodded with spears to walk. I never involve myself in any tourism which involves the captivity of animals, it is cruel and I hope it will come to an end soon .There are many ways to support locals overseas without the captivity of animals, such as through safaris, guided hikes, diving and more.
Our next stop brought us to the dive town of Trincomalee, where we met with Akua’s founder, Zoe.
With the name often shortened to Trinco, it was a relaxed town on the north southern side of Sri Lanka. We did 4 dives here, and the smaller marine life was astounding! Nudibranches (nudis) was the word of the day after our last dive in Trinco. We saw dozens in all different sizes, shapes, and colours. Nudis are a type of (awesome) sea slug which in the past had a protective shell, but over the course of time and evolution have lost it. 'Nudi-branch' literally means 'naked Gilles sea slug'. Their shells used to provide coverage and protection to their gills however over time, nudis have been able to utilize toxins consumed from food sources (such as sponge) and incorporate it into their bodies as a form of defence. Besides from nudis, we saw countless eels including the beautiful honeycomb eel, the amazing mantis shrimp and harlequin shrimp, octopus, porcupine fish- and of course, much more but it would take forever to list. I WAS STOKED!
Next, we moved down to the surf town of Arugam Bay, a small town mostly dominated by Australian and Israeli tourists. People were barefoot, surfboards were in abundance, the rotti bread combinations were out of this world, and the ocean provided swell. To be honest- I am not much or a surfer, but I gave it a crack and had an absolute blast! I would highly recommend Zoe as a skilled instructor- she gave great tips and always killed it in the water!
Saying goodbye to Arugam was sad, but the tuk tuk drive into the mountainous region of Ella made for a fantastic distraction! The hills rolled into each other with different shades of greens. Locals waved, waterfalls were abundant, and the area fell to a slightly cooler and less humid climate. The treks around Ella are incredible, they involved walking along train tracks, through tea plantations, up rocky terrain, through eucalyptus forests (which smelt a lot like home!) all to reach breathtaking views of the mountains. A few extra days here would have been amazing! However, we had to head back to Colombo (Sri Lankas capital city) for our departure back home to Australia.
This trip has felt like a dream, the Maldives seem like a real-life postcard, and Sri Lanka housed so much diversity and such beautiful locals. I hope to return again some day! Now for a few short days at home in Australia before I visit my family in Denmark
HELPFUL NO PLASTIC TRAVEL TIPS
I always try to keep my environmental impact as low as possible whilst travelling Asia. Plastic is a bigger challenge to avoid, but isn't impossible. However I find that sticking to fruits and street foods without plastic bags helps heaps in terms of travel snacks. And for water- many hotels and even restaurants offer free drinkable water from refillable 20L water stations. I always use these as much as I can, and when water must be bought- 5L bottles are easy to transport and you can refill smaller water bottles with them. It's not always possible to avoid, but we should always try. Environmental sustainability should never take a holiday, even when we travel