lobster sump Maldives | slow travel | travel stories

The Highly Questionable Dhiffushi Lobster Expedition

It does not often happen that way, but occasionally experiences happen when you’re lying around doing absolutely bugger all. This one involved lobsters and a canoe, on the Maldivian island of Dhiffushi.

Maldives canoeing | Maldives local island | Dhiffushi travel stories | slow travel | solo travel | travel adventureThat day I was tucked under a massive beach umbrella on a sun lounger during a most enviable layover on the Maldivian island of Dhiffushi. I had decided to take the guest house dive master’s recommendation to relax on the quieter (formerly local) beach, rather than the more established tourist beach near the jetty.

Aside from baby reef sharks skimming the shore, and a pair of eagle rays who did not seem to have a sense of personal space, I was completely alone with my Kindle before a bright blue lagoon. Several times I contemplated going back to the guest house. The Maldivian sun was punishing at midday, and the unwieldy umbrella constantly needed adjusting. I propped it against a weedy-looking shrub.

But the prospect of hauling the umbrella all the way back in the heat was less palatable than simply acquiescing to the situation.

That was when the children found me. Two thirsty boys at first, in a canoe they were manning like a raft, drawn to my water bottle. Then a group of them, playing ball on the beach. Before long I was absorbed into their posse by the eldest girl, a teenager called N–a. (I promptly discovered that swimming after whale sharks day after day did not mean I had the cardio for running after a ball on the beach on a hot day.)

The lobster sump

It all began because of rays. As it was sighted, the children scampered out of the water (by this time the ball game had transitioned to an aquatic sport). The play momentum faded.

lobster sump Dhiffushi | holiday in Maldives
Here be lobsters!

However, leadership thrives in moments like these, and the intrepid N–a gazed upon an unassuming concrete sump out on the water and announced, “We shall look at the lobsters.”

I pointed out that we would need a vessel of some kind, to which she replied a canoe would be commandeered momentarily. She promptly conscripted her siblings R–a and N–u, dismissed the remaining children, and in short order returned with a serviceable fibreglass canoe.

Without paddles.

Unfazed, the teenagers began rummaging in the flotsam and undergrowth, and produced for our seafaring needs, push poles in the form of sturdy branches and the spine of a palm frond. I paused for only half a breath. Obviously there was only one thing to do: defy the odds and attempt that sump using nothing but branches!

An hour later.

We made a final push and tried to drift to the sump when the water column grew too deep for the branches. I lost count of the attempts.

The current kept trying to push us back to shore. We were constantly either running aground, or lost contact with the bottom. Seamanship is definitely a thing. Which we did not have, save for possibly R–a, who could at least use a push pole with any kind of predictable outcome.

lobster sump Dhiffushi Maldives
The lobster in question

But the canoe finally drifted and collided against the sump. And we held her steady. As the visitor, I had dibs on rising up gingerly to observe the prize. There it was lurking in the corner, doubtless confused over the sudden clamour.

And then we slowly drifted back to shore well-pleased. Well-pleased.

I thought then, of a friend who is far from me now, who once told me of how he ended up hauling the day’s catch from the sea with local fishermen, just by happening to be there. He was right. I wished very much then to tell him this story. But not all wishes can come true.

The second Dhiffushi lobster expedition

In a past life N–a must have been a conquering empress. For upon that shore, fresh from victory, the indomitable girl cast her eyes on the other end of the beach where there was not one, but two sumps. And she said, “We will now go there.”

And so the second lobster expedition, even more questionable, began.

The younger siblings were despatched to replenish pole supplies, the palm spine and one of the branches having broken in the previous voyage. She stood contemplating her target. I mentioned a matter of some importance: unlike the first expedition, the current is flowing away from these, and so we would need to push off much further along the beach.

canoe lobster expedition Dhiffushi | Maldives holiday
The indefatigable R–a

But between her English and my (lack of) Dhivehi, the implications of this were set aside in the more convenient spirit of the moment.

And so once more we pushed and pulled the canoe, from a position deeply unlikely to be predictive of success. The indefatigable R–a often disembarked to drag it bodily, otherwise seemingly determined to move it forward by force of will alone. N–a and N–u alternately bickered and poled in the background, the boy cheerily chanting “Yes we can do it!” and as for me, I resigned myself to my quixotic fate and put in all I could.

“Yes, we … can’t”

However, the sun continued on down. The sumps were no nearer than when we began. N–u, in the water and pushing from behind, was still grinning cheekily, but now his chants were “No… we cannot do it..”.

lobster sump Dhiffushi | Maldives vacation
The forbidden lobster-land

N–a proved herself a gracious commander. Noting her exhausted team, she acknowledged that the current prevailed over her that day. But another day?

Who knows. For that day, ice cream salved all wounds.

Sometimes the attempt means more than the outcome.

*Addendum: I had meant to ask the guest house owner what these sumps were actually for, but never did. To this day I am left wondering as to its purpose.

25 thoughts on “The Highly Questionable Dhiffushi Lobster Expedition

  1. Wow… what an experience!!! The best there is …. when you spend it with the locals:) If you find out what are those sumps for; let me know:) hehehe I love your writing by the way… keep it coming:)

    1. 🙂 thanks! i’m going back to the Maldives to visit a friend who’s gone to work there as a field co-ordinator for the whale shark program. I’ll make a point of finding out this time!

    1. Nah, the kids weren’t intending to catch any, just wanted to show them to me 🙂 It was their way of showing me their treasures.

  2. Nice of you for being such a good sport. I know myself, and I don’t know if I would have stayed until they gave up. I probably would have said “but I don’t even like lobsters!” and walked away hahaha

    1. LOL I guess I was curious that day! And, I remembered the story my friend had told me. It was something he would have done. So I gave it a try. And now it’s become something I would do, too.

  3. I really love your style of writing, you have a very unique take on things that reminds me a bit of archaic literature; but in a good way of course! It reminds me of an author I’m very fond of, but the name currently escapes me!

    1. It was, even though it was only a small, innocent adventure! 🙂 They were so sweet, and confident. When I said we should get ice cream, they did not assume I was buying. They said they couldn’t, because they hadn’t the money – but smiling. I bought everyone ice cream, of course, but I love that spontaneous dignity.

    1. LOL I’m not sure it’s researchable… just let it happen Angelica. Or something else might happen that’ll be your story 🙂 it’s the teja philosophy 😉

    1. LOL share it! I know people like stories, but don’t have time to find them in the massive internet. I haven’t figured out yet how to solve that problem.

  4. Haha this sounds like you had fun even though it was a rather unusual experience. You just never know when you find yourself on an adventure! Love your post 🙂

    Jacky

    1. 🙂 I do enjoy innocent daft things. They don’t seem to happen as often anymore in our very adult world. I worry we may forget the value of children’s play when they are free to do it, like they were on Dhiffushi.

  5. Loved your story! It is so great to read the occasional blog that isn’t all tips and guides. I have found that all my best adventures come unexpected. 🙂

    1. Right? 🙂

      It’s hard for me to be redundant – there’s already so many good guide blogs, I feel like there’s no point adding to it unless there isn’t one for the place, like my ‘walkthrough’ for the Melaka megaliths. I just want to tell stories that help people think about travel in a personalised sense – after they go through the tips.

  6. Definitely a fresh perspective and a fresh post. Travel should always be an immersive experience. An opportunity to take in new experiences, and beyond just ticking places of a list. Loved reading about your experiences.

  7. You had such a unique experience. I always find interaction with the locals so very interesting. They truly make the core of the new travel experience that we get.

  8. I absolutely love this and the way you have told your story. I live in the Maldives part time on the closest inhabited island to Dhiffushi, Thulusdhoo. I was right with you reading your adventure, just imagining the canoe in the current! What a memorable travel experience. Connecting with Maldivian locals is just the best. Ps. Thank god for ice-cream!
    Kristie – you.theworld.wandering

    1. It is – I came back within 3 months (to Dhigurah, though, not Dhiffushi). I don’t think I’ve ever done that for any other destination! It was embarrassing how winded I was playing beach football, so quickly, and the kids were still going strong!

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