The Maldives on a budget: Going local at Himmafushi Island - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Maldives on a budget: Going local at Himmafushi Island

A typical street on Himmafushi island. The island is not that big so everything is within walking distance, but many of the locals use motorbikes to get around
Local Islands - An Introduction
The history of tourism in the Maldives is rather short; while the first Maldivian resort opened in 1972 it was only as recent as 2009 that the government opened up for the possibility of having guests staying at the local islands. Tourism has grown to become the largest economic industry in the country, and the increasing number of foreign tourists come as a big opportunity for economical revitalisation of the local communities.
The majority of foreign visitors chose to stay at the luxurious island resorts, far from an authentic experience of the real Maldives. My darling Yuma and I very much enjoyed our resort stay in Ellaidhoo, but at the same time we wouldn't have gotten the same unique experience as we did if it weren't for our short stay in Himmafushi at the local guest house Just Surf Villa & Lodge.
From the harbor close to Jetty Number 1 you find the ferry that takes you to Himmafushi Island

Getting to Himmafushi
Himmafushi island is situated approximately 45 minutes north of Male by boat, and you can get there by the daily ferry that departures from Male’s harbour by Jetty Number 1 (see the picture taken from the ferry above for reference) at 15:00 PM for the cost of around 2 dollars per person. The ferry going back to Male leaves from Himmafushi at 8:00 AM. One thing you should be aware of when you plan your trip is that there is no ferry on Fridays. Your hotel will help you arrange transport if you still want to go to/leave the island on a Friday but it will cost you ten times the price of the local ferry.
Colourful houses in Himmafushi
No Foreigners in Sight
There is not a lot of things going on around the streets of Himmafushi; it is a calm island with almost no foreigners at all. We saw two foreigners on the harbour when we arrived, but they were already off to their next destination, and then it was a Russian family staying at the same guest house as us, but that was all. The locals we talked to during our stay all seemed friendly towards foreigners, and we got to hear more about the local community by striking up a conversation with anyone from passengers on the ferry to Himmafushi to workers in the local stores. People seem to be living a pretty laid-back lifestyle, and apparently the locals now get some sort of financial support from the government. 
Local hangouts





Enforcement of Laws against Alcohol and its Consequences 
Alcohol is strictly forbidden in the Maldives, but from what we heard while on the island people still get their hands on drinks through the black market. Getting alcohol through the black market costs a fortune, especially considering the lack of opportunity to get that sort of money for the locals. The lack of entertainment makes people look for alternative ways to entertain themselves, and unfortunately many young people were said to use heroin, or "brown sugar" as it is called locally, as a cheaper alternative to alcoholic beverages. According to a UN report as many as 40 percent of people under 40 in Maldives are using the dangerous substance. Fortunately we didn't come into direct contact with this dark side of the Maldives during our stay. On Himmafushi we just noted a couple of old ladies sitting outside their houses smoking the more innocent shisha. 

"Big Shop Here" (ビッグ ショップ ヒア) under construction
"Big Shop" expecting Japanese tourists
Local Tourism and Economical Opportunities 
As a lot of the island resorts in the Maldives are run by international companies and often using foreign labor it means that unfortunately less of the economical gains of tourism goes back to the local communities. The legalisation of guest houses on local islands is opening up a lot of opportunities for the locals, which we clearly could feel during our short stay. The second restaurant on the island just opened up a couple of months before we came (no fancy cocktails available of course, but at least you can get a decent meal in nice surroundings). There is a couple of new shopping streets under construction on the island too, and it seems that they are expecting a booming tourist industry on the island perhaps even in the near future. So far most of the shops are standing there empty though. Which again means that if you want to experience the local environment before the boom you should head over to the local islands asap.
One of the few local tourist shops that was in operation.
You can find hand-painted souvenirs in the local souvenir shops
Local souvenirs

What to do
There is not much to do on the island itself unless you like water-related activities; the island itself is not that big, and you can easily get around the whole island by foot in around 40 minutes. The good thing is that you will practically have the beach more or less to yourself, but you have to make sure you are appropriately dressed. Sorry girls, no bikini! If you're looking to get a tan you better stay within the walls of your guesthouse or go out on a boat. The beach was nice though, we took a stroll on the beach and discovered a myriad of cute hermit crabs.



Jailbreak Surfing
The island is however most known as a great destination for surfers, and the island attract visitors from all over the globe for its idyllic surfing spots. The most famous surfing spot is known as Jailbreak, and it is situated right behind what used to be a prison, hence the name.
The surfing season lasts from April to late October with the best months being around June and July, and during this time you’re guaranteed to catch some good waves here.

Diving Opportunities
If you, like we did, travel to Himmafushi outside of the surfing season there is still some good diving opportunities in the area. There is a dive site called the Lankan Manta Point only 15 minutes or so from the island by boat. We went there with our guesthouse’s dive center Just Dive, who took us there in a traditional Maldivian Dhoni boat. Unfortunately we were not lucky when it came to mantas (the manta season is apparently from May to November) but we still saw two beautiful gigantic sea turtles swimming by and hundreds of colorful fish. I've included a couple of pictures of our encounter with one of the sea turtles below.
With a sea turtle in the background

Guesthouse staff carrying our luggage to the ferry
All in all we had a great stay at the island. A special thanks to the staff our guesthouse Just Surf Villa & Lodge!


Basic information

Name of Island Himmafushi (Kaafu Atoll)
Map
Access Ferry from Male’s harbour by Jetty Number 1 at 15:00 PM
(Every day except Friday)
Distance to Male 17.27 km (10.73 mi)
Population 855
Recommended
Accommodation
Just Surf Villa & Lodge


Recommended Hotels in the Maldives

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu
Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu
Constance Moofushi
Constance
Moofushi
Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort
Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort
Huvafen Fushi Maldives
Huvafen Fushi Maldives

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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