Cycling along the jetty, I spot a dark flash in the water just outside my villa. A pectoral fin breaks the surface. It’s a black tip reef shark. Not too huge; about a metre long. I park the bike by the front door and fumble for the keys in the depths of my tote, still keeping track of the shark. It disappears under the villa.
I can’t get the door open quick enough. Once I’m in, I dump my bag on the day bed, grab my fins and mask and make a beeline for the deck at the front of the villa. I haven’t been swimming with sharks for ages and don’t want to miss the opportunity. But I’m too late. I realise I’m never going to catch this fish and watch it lazily swim away through the sea grass in the bay. “Next time,” I say to myself.
And I’m pretty certain there will be a next time. Tomorrow I have an appointment with Clare Baranowski, the resident marine biologist here on Gili Lankanfushi, who is taking me on a snorkelling trip along the reef wall. I’m hoping for more than one shark sighting.
Gili Lankanfushi is a luxury sustainable resort on North Male Atoll in the Maldives. It was recently named the world’s most ‘Eco-friendly Hotel’ at the Haute Grandeur Global Hotel Awards 2017 and the ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Resort 2017’ at the World Travel Awards. And it’s my home for the next four days.
The Overwater Villa
Back on the deck of my overwater villa, after I watch sharky swim off without me, I slide into the sea, leaving my fins behind. I don’t need them to reach the closest reef. It’s right at my feet. I float on the surface with just my mask on, and hang on to the stairs so the current doesn’t drag me away. Under the bottom step is a little purple and green spotted puffer fish; its tiny fins oscillating at speed to keep it hovering. Mini blue-streaked cleaner wrasse nibble on the wooden steps, and about 60 centimetres to the left of the steps is my own private coral reef. Black and white humbugs and chocolate dip damsel fish weave in and around the coral, and a Picasso triggerfish proudly defends its territory.
The tide is coming in, bringing with it more fish. Before the water rises too high, I swim around to an enclosed section of the villa and duck under the lowest beam into what they call the private bathing area. I saw another puffer fish here earlier hiding under the steps, and a few crabs hanging out on the beams so I go to check them out.
Stairs from here lead up into the bathroom area, which has an open walkway across to the shower. I grab a towel from its bamboo holder and head back into the main living area through beautifully carved double wooden doors. The bedroom is through another set of double doors on the other side of the living room, which is completely open to the elements.
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