Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Not marooned really, more stranded… but even that’s a bit harsh. Probably holing up in the Maldives would be a more accurate if less headline grabbing title.
I have LONG wanted to visit and suggest it every time a holiday discussion comes up. We have twice considered it but changed the plans, particularly once Kevin has researched prices!
It was definitely on my bucket list as a dream location, especially the houses on stilts, but that accommodation comes in at silly, astronomical prices. Several friends have visited and stayed in more normal accommodation and recommended it. Kevin remained unconvinced.
What has changed? Well the Wuhan virus has caused severe disruption world-wide including our travel plans.
We set off on our Chinese New Year break knowing that Wuhan was in lockdown but not really appreciating that the virus would be so virulent or that it was contagious during the 14 day incubation period. We went, as planned to our friend Gillian in Brunei. (See previous blog). While there we heard the news that the school would be closed until 17th Feb to allow for children who had traveled to go through the incubation period and not bring any infection to school.
Then we were told that we weren’t expected back until 16th Feb. Woo Hoo – an extra 2 weeks. We knew that we were to support home-based learning but the beauty of online working is that with good WiFi you can do it from anywhere. Absolutely ANYWHERE!
Several colleagues chose to return to their homes in the US but we were reluctant to do that, partly because of the cold weather in the U.K. (& we had a suitcase of shorts & Tshirts) but mainly because we didn’t want to risk bringing it back and infecting my mother who is not only elderly but has underlying health conditions. It was too big a risk.
So where to go? On the Friday Kevin (in true Toner Tours fashion) got us a very last minute affordable deal in beach-side accommodation in the Kuredu Island Resort where we could hole up in peace and relative seclusion while waiting out the last days of the incubation period.
We were a little concerned about whether they would let us in particularly as countries were ramping up restrictions on a daily basis. But we checked in ok, despite having Chinese exit stamps in our new passports and residence permits (& very little else). They weren’t bothered.
At the departure gate, minutes before boarding all the Chinese nationals in the queue were taken aside. There was much talk in mandarin which we couldn’t understand. As far as I know they didn’t board the plane, which is very xenophobic as the virus doesn’t restrict itself only to Chinese nationals!!! We weren’t included despite having been in China…
When we landed everyone was required to complete a health form and we were totally honest about where we had been. We were half expecting to be hauled off and placed in quarantine for the next 5 days with a bag of groceries and a stack of dvds!!! But the immigration officer didn’t even look at the form. He just slapped it on a pile and stamped our passports. We were in.
Next was a trip on a sea plane (which again required people examining our passports). Neither of us had ever flown in one so that was pretty exciting.
The views from the window were stunning as we flew over the aquamarine seas and the green atolls fringed with frilly white beaches.
Our room is perfect. Right on the beach with the most amazing views across brilliant white sands to the crystal blues of the Indian Ocean. Bliss.
We even have an outside bathroom, which worried us at first but we have not seen any bees this time. (See Gili islands blog from July 2018)
It is idyllic here and I can not recommend it highly enough. Mind you I think other folks are paying WAY more than we did!!! We are on a basic room & food package so any alcohol is extra. We could have had a drinks package like pretty much everyone else here and worn a wristband but at $80 per person per day we felt we’d need to be serious alcoholics to get our money’s worth… besides I am working.
Once upon a time I wanted to stay in the houses on stilts but actually now I think that they are overrated. They just look over the sea whereas we in the cheap seats look at the white sand then the sea. Much better.
Naturally I have been working hard and work was much easier once we had paid an extra $50 for unlimited WiFi during the 5 days.
The home-based learning for both students and staff is a steep learning curve for all. Initially there were access issue as everyone became familiar with all the various logins. I have spent time tracking down specific titles in online formats for teachers and posting instructions on how to use the online resources. If only I had known to bring my work lap-top on holiday!!! It’s a challenge using a phone. We invested in a cheap laptop in Bangkok but it doesn’t have any of my links or passwords so I am slowed down by having to recreate everything.
The school have been great and it is a very supportive community. I really appreciate how much the management are keeping us informed.
It would be easy to spend the entire time online but we have been advised to make sure we get a balance each day. So in the evening yesterday we walked the cumference of the island. It is 3.5km and took us an hour. It probably took us that long because we kept stopping to look in wonder at the beauty of the natural environment.
Opposite our room is a man-made lagoon. Very shallow and ideal for a sit in the luscious warm water. Right there with us are lots of fish. I hope that you can see a few in this video.
Further round the headland we also saw this chap:
Quite possibly a shark! A small one but a shark nevertheless! And then this elegant specimen waiting for the smaller fish to swim by. I’m not good on birds so I’m not 100% sure what it was. A heron or crane perhaps? Maybe someone can tell me.
We also spotted multiple hermit crabs, some stingray and these enormous fruit bats circling overhead. Kevin’s shot here has also captured its shadow.
The walk was LOVEly.
It has been a great place to work and relax. The white sand feels so soft and delicious between your toes. It’s not like the sand in the Caribbean which can burn the soles of your feet in the heat of the day. It doesn’t get THAT hot here fortunately. All the paths are just sand on the whole island so we haven’t worn shoes at all for days. That alone makes you relax.
We leave on Saturday as the prices go up considerably next week probably because it is half term in the rest of the world. So we will push off and find our next location to work from. Watch this space as the journey continues …
This island has left us with many happy memories as we leave only our footprints behind. In the end even ‘sun-shy’ Kevin enjoyed himself.