The Hidden Fountains of Paradise
Maldives Promotion House – A southern most haven in the paradise of Maldives, completely secluded from the rest of the country composed of a geography that contrasts with the rest of the archipelago, Fuvahmulah is an atoll island with natives that speak their own dialect of the Dhivehi language of Maldives. Roughly five kilometers by one kilometer with a submerged reef that extends for about three kilometers south east, the island is surrounded by coral boulders and rough waves.
Perhaps the most intriguing features of the island are its two lakes formed from the ancient lagoon in the center of the island. According to the locals the southern end was open, providing a channel connecting the ancient lagoon with the ocean. Due to violent ocean swells and the lack of an outside lagoon the only way into the island was through this channel, providing protection against pirates. However the channel was closed by coral growth and collection of debris. Over the ages, the inner lagoon lost its salinity and all that remains today are two small fresh water lakes, wetlands and marshy taro fields.
Research into the lakes show that the bottoms of the lakes are filled with decayed corals that have turned into white clay. The forefathers of the locals used the clay to shape it into pots and other vessels. The protected lakes are still lined with a thick layer of clay covered by a pinkish layer of minerals known to the locals as “Rai Madu”. The lakes are now listed as protected areas under the law. The locals use the area to spend time with friends and to enjoy. The natives have always spoken of and believed in the heart of their hearts, of the healing abilities of the lake water. Further research into the lake water shows that the water is filled with minerals and perhaps more healthier than mineral water.
The smaller northern lake, known as “Dhandimagu Kilhi”, is preferred by locals who often use the area for recreational and enjoyment purposes during holidays. Picnics are common and local youth often use the lake for swimming. Since the lake is also home to an abundance of small fresh water fish, the lake was used for leisure fishing as well. While damaging the area or disrupting their natural beauty is prohibited by law, the lakes can be used for recreational purposes such as swimming. The tall reeds that grow around the marshy wet land and lake are used to weave mats among other uses.
One of the natives told us a tale, of how his son was healed by the water. “My son has a skin condition, his skin dries and cracks up very quickly. I couldn’t find a permanent cure. So I took him to the lake. We played and swam. We had fun and we were happy. After we returned I found out that his skin was beginning to get better. Within the following week, his skin had healed and he was perfectly healthy,” a native from “Fuvahmulah” told us his experience of the lake water.
The much deeper and bigger southern lake known as “Bandaara Kilhi” is usually left alone. During earlier times the lake was used for swimming and different areas of the lake were named after different houses of the island. While visitors and locals do visit the lake for its blissful scenery and natural beauty, locals usually don’t use the lake for swimming due to its depth. According to the natives, during ancient times the lake was used to store their harvest and gatherings to keep them safe from animals and pests. The local tales speak of a hut that was built at the center of the lake on stilts. The wooden stilts are still visible beneath the water surface. The fruits and vegetables that were harvested and gathered were then stored inside the hut for transportation to the capital Malé.
The locals also used the “Bandaara Kilhi” to culture fresh water fish. The lake fish was earlier used as food during low fisheries and rough seas. The two lakes of Fuvahmulah can also be used as a tourist attraction as the whole island is unique in its geography. While the island is full of natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage it is a wonder to be beheld. It is a community of people that lived for a long time depending only on the surrounding resources, and separate from the rest of the country. Being isolated they have developed a very different kind of unity, as rather than just islanders they are brothers and sisters.
The lakes are filled with tales of unimaginable romance and happiness. A native told us of his teenage romance tied to the lakes. He began his enthusiastic tale saying that “I was with my girlfriend when we met a friend of mine also with his girlfriend. They were sitting under one of the huge mango trees.”
“The fruits were ripe and they were enjoying the mangoes fresh from the tree. After we had some mangoes we decided to visit the lake. So I went home, changed my clothes and met them at the lake,” he paused as if lost in thought.
“We had fun as we moved through the wet lands spread out in all directions. We collected wood and barbecued while we cooked some soup. After we enjoyed our meal, we climbed one of the tall trees and made a flag out of a shirt.”
“Then we went into the forest and we would lose ourselves in its natural beauty. It is really difficult to find your way through the forest. But eventually we did, as the flag would show us the way,” I could see the glow in his eyes as he reminisced over his past.
“Afterwards we swam through the lake. I would make my way through the shallow water dragging my girlfriend along, as she floated on the water with her hands around my neck. It was pure bliss, swimming through the water is like a natural spa experience. There is nothing quite like it,” he spoke of those moments engraved in his memory.
“With the clear blue sky spread above, and the fresh lake water spread all around you, as you bask yourself in the warmth of the sun, those memories become etched in your mind. The lake is the heart of our community. It ties the bond between every romance, every family and every person. It is the glue that holds us together.”