A short bus ride north from the airport took me to the new town of Hulhumalé. Apartment blocks appear to have been just finished, and are still empty. They do have large numbers painted on the pastel colours of the walls. In an effort to find a solution for overpopulated Malé island, the authorities decided to create land from the sea, and Hulhumalé was started in 2001. Here, you don't find the narrow alleys, the chaos, the variety of buildings, the noise of Malé: every square centimetre seems to have been planned. Wide streets with new buildings, neatly arranged in rows, painted purple, light green, yellow, or other bright colours, plenty of space to park cars or motorbikes. The inn I am staying in, has opened doors only recently.
Right now, only the northeastern side of the island has been developed into living area, but surely, the future will see the town of Hulhumalé expand towards the south - towards the airport. Even in this side of town, you can hear every plane taking off, and especially the seaplanes are very active, serving the entire country. On the eastern side of the island, a long, white public beach has been created, lined by palm and pine trees; here, you can easily imagine you are in the Maldives: it fits the classical image of the country pretty well. Hulhumalé turns out to be pretty well stocked; it has shops, supermarkets, banks, schools, mosques, and many people I talked to, had moved from Malé, and were happy to live in a more tranquil environment.
And yet, when the need arises, it is only a short hop to the busy town on the most populous island of the country. During the entire day, you can find a shuttle boat, or dhoni, every 10-15 minutes, taking around 20 minutes to arrive at the other side. Hulhumalé is a satellite island of Malé, and the frequent connection makes it easy to commute between the two. For the visitor, Hulhumalé makes for a good base: there are plenty of places to stay, the capital is within easy reach (I sometimes went for an afternoon stroll and dinner), and it is a convenient starting point for excursions further north in North Malé atoll. I went for several dives, in search of the manta rays that were supposed to be around - and found many other fish, but not the elusive mantas.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Hulhumalé (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Hulhumalé.
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