Hangnaameedhoo, a small local island in the Alifu Dhaalu Atoll (Southern Ari Atoll) in Maldives was on our list of islands to visit. A comfortable 1 hour 15 minute chartered speedboat ride from Male arranged by our lodge, Local Island Inn, had us in the arms of untouched Maldives. There were about 30 tourists on the island, including us. Rewarding our curiosity of experiencing life in Maldives, like a Maldivian, was perhaps the best decision we made in our plan to explore what many know as paradise on earth.
Arriving Handnaameedhoo, we had to walk for about 2 minutes to our lodge. The walk took me back to a time in my life that I may not experience anymore as a result of living in a city where technology has taken over. A group of ladies, relaxing by the beach over good conversation, whilst their children and grandchildren run around the beach and play area. There was a calm breeze accompanying them and no devices in hand.
I remember growing up with my grandma and looking forward to when we would head out to meet her friends by the playground and I would run around with all the other kids. Tea-time playtime and community gatherings is a big thing in Maldives and not just in Hangnaameedhoo, 5p.m is still a favourite time, even when I was growing up in Singapore! We were falling in love with the island and appreciating every minute being virtually disconnected.
We settled in and decided to grab a bite at the only restaurant on the small island, with thankfully, the only slowest Wifi connection – getting connected was not a part of our plan therefore we appreciate little to no wifi. The local inns and the only restaurant is owned by one big happy family on the island. We were under the care of Santana, Hangnaameedhoo’s finest Sport Fishing Angler and Diver, the man to look for if you’re staying in Local Island Inn. Our task for the day was to head out after dinner to catch Big Eye Trevally for the restaurant. We were excited, especially seeing our boat for the day, a traditional Dhoni.
Fishing rods and jigs of 20-30 grams ready, we board the Dhoni at 9p.m and were preparing for the ride ahead when we suddenly stopped. It had only been three minutes and we have begun drifting to fish. Puzzled, I looked at Santana, “That’s it? We’ve arrived?”
We could not only see the restaurant but even the 28 tourists still in it! Santana, grinning like a Cheshire cat responded, “Yes, the Big Eye Trevally is here!” That statement sent excitement to a whole new level for us. Fishing for such an amazing species just off the island is something I had trouble grasping even as I dropped my micro jig to the bottom. Coming from the seas surrounding Malaysia and Singapore, finding a decent fish could mean taking a boat out for two hours before arriving at some of the best spots. Two minutes to the best spot was unbelievable.
I closed my reel bail and readied myself for the first jig, pulled my rod up and SLAM! The first bite of a Big Eye Trevally. What a battle it sent me on, and we were aware they would be of sizes between 1 to 3 kilograms only, perfect for the restaurant. On a medium rated rod and size 2000 Penn Fierce Reel, it was some of the best time we had fishing. Getting a bite from the species was easy, almost every drop of the jig was a bite. Naweshad and I were on a Big Eye High!
The most rewarding part of the experience was knowing that there was an abundance of Big Eye however once the bucket was full, we stopped fishing. It is exactly what we advocate in The Milkfish Lady, Catch & Release, and if you must, take only what you need and leave the rest to grow. Locals in the Maldives use rod and line to catch their fish, each trip is only for as long as the target is met. The Indian Ocean is filled with some of the best tasting fish and to see that the locals appreciate and understand the importance of conservation gives us hope that it is not too late for us to make a change and set a good example here too. Maldives for us was the best example we know when it came down to rod and line fishing and providing for ones family and community without disrupting the flow in the ocean.
The Southern Ari atoll is also famous for Whale Sharks and Manta Rays which can be seen and experienced year round. It gives insight on just how healthy the ocean is around Maldives, perhaps, the love, respect and care shown by the locals for the sea and species plays a part too. Not just white sand and crystal beaches or even luxurious over-water bungalows but the simple life of the locals, the simple food like Mas Huni for breakfast (locally prepared Skipjack Tuna), the tea-time gathering, play time without devices, being a community and supporting one another by being present, not via Facebook or Instagram, those are the factors that I feel makes Maldives a Paradise.
The Big Eye Trevally of Hangnaamedhoo holds a special place in my heart. Whilst many anglers travel to Maldives chasing after Game Fish like the Giant Trevally, we spent the night with locals fishing for food, a species that was exciting and adrenaline pumping despite its size. Nothing pretentious, nothing extravagant, just living life.
If you’re travelling to Maldives and over water bungalows are not your thing, we highly recommend the Local Island Inn, in Hangnaamedhoo.
We would like to thank the amazing brothers of Local Island Inn, Salaam & Santana for taking great care of us and introducing us to everything local both in Hangnaameedhoo and Male.