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LatestPhoto
Local women on Feydoo relax in the shade while sitting on the 'joli' seats hanging from the trees.
Photo: Chris Johnson

January 19, 2003
Addu Atoll
  Real Audio Report
  28k


Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in the Maldives.

Due to high winds, the crew sailed into and dropped anchor at Addu atoll this afternoon, a tiny circular string of 27 islands, most of which are uninhabited. Addu is the southern most atoll in the Maldives and is a long way outside of the tourist zone, allowing those fortunate enough to visit, unparalleled access to some of the most interesting, unspoiled and traditional Maldivian villages in the country.

Established as a strategic British military outpost in 1956, Addu was abandoned in 1976. Fortunately only one of the Islands, Gan Island, retains barracks and war relics leaving the rest of the islands to the traditional inhabitants. The British did erect a causeway that remains in use today linking the four largest islands together via a 16-kilometer stretch of drivable road. This allows easy and convenient access between several small villages.

LatestPhoto
Chris helps Madivian Customs officers with computer trouble.
Photo: Genevieve Johnson

The crew spent today on Feydoo Island, an absolute delight. An immediate and obvious character trait of the local people is that they are very welcoming. We were also looked upon favorably and afforded extra special treatment after Chris was able to fix some computers at the Customs office.

The village on Feydoo Island is laid out in a rectangular grid, wide sandy streets stretch from the lagoon to the pounding surf of the open ocean. With plenty of space, the atmosphere here feels far more open and relaxed after the crowds of Male, the Maldives capital. The vehicles on the streets - most of which are motorcycles, are few and far between. Instead, the roads seem to serve as walkways, bicycle paths and football pitches for the children. Those who are not on the move are sitting outside their houses, leaning against a fence in the shade of large overhanging trees, laughing and relaxing with family.

We spent some time talking with one family, and in particular a young boy named Hasaan, about our travels and the research work we are conducting in their country. We promised to come back later with some pictures and posters of whales and the Odyssey. Upon our return, we were greeted by even more family members, invited inside and given a gift of grated coconut and sugar, a homemade sweet called 'taro'.

LatestPhoto
Some of the young girls of Feydoo talk with Genevieve.
Photo: Chris Johnson

We spent a few hours exploring the village, meeting school children playing or chatting together, as well as families and groups of friends relaxing in spacious courtyards in an effort to escape the blazing sun, and no doubt to catch up on the local news. What is really charming about these gatherings is that everyone is swinging in their own 'joli'- a net seat suspended from a rectangular frame. Several hang together beneath large old trees.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the village is the style of the traditional houses. It is evident that most are very old, the rusty red corrugated iron roofs adding to the character of the neighborhood, but it is the building material that is most striking. Nearly all houses are made out of coral stone, a traditional practice of these outer villages. Everything was made of coral, the walls, the footpaths and the fences. One can only imaging how many tons of coral had to be mined to build these villages. However, the locals have realized the damage this causes to their reefs and the practice has ceased. Any new houses are now built from concrete bricks. Yet the majority of houses in the village are made of coral stone, and knowing that mining has ended, allows you to appreciate the unique effect of a past tradition. It really is quite a spectacular place.

We left early this afternoon and are traveling back out to sea in search of sperm whales. Passing through the channel between two small islands to the north, we were greeted by deep blue water and a squadron of manta rays feeding along the drop-off. We turned off Odyssey's engine and watched from the bow and rigging as they glided around us on swift, graceful underwater wings. What a beautiful place this is! The crew all agreed we would like to return here someday, but for now we are keen to turn the bow toward the deep ocean, the habitat of the sperm whale.

LatestPhoto
A house, street and fence made of coral stone.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Links:

  • What did the crew of the Odyssey report on one year ago in Australia? Two years ago in Kiribati?

    Written by Genevieve Johnson

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