Maafushi

Graffiti on a boundary wall warns of things that lie ahead on Maafushi's northern end.
Graffiti on a boundary wall warns of things that lie ahead on Maafushi’s northern end.
Tourists enjoy the famed Maldivian waters off Maafushi's northern beach, the only part of the island where bikinis are allowed, and hence a beach that has been fenced out of the locals' view.
Tourists enjoy the famed Maldivian waters off Maafushi’s northern beach, the only part of the island where bikinis are allowed, and hence a beach that has been fenced out of the locals’ view.
The rest of the island, though increasingly littered with guest houses and hotels, remains under the ever-so-slowly eroding laws of the land.
The rest of the island, though increasingly littered with guest houses and hotels, remains under the slowly eroding laws of the land.
Elderly women lounge outside on traditional jolis on a residential alleyway.
Elderly women lounge outside on traditional jolis on a residential alleyway.
A young Maafushi resident in shades strikes a quick pose for the camera.
A young Maafushi resident in sunglasses strikes a quick pose for the camera.
With the northern white sand beach cordoned off for tourists, local Maafushi boys use the waters by the harbour for swimming.
With the northern white sand beach cordoned off for tourists, local Maafushi boys use the waters by the harbour for swimming.
Tourists prepare to snorkel under Ahmed's watch. Ahmed grew up in Maafushi and now works as a snorkelling guide with a local family-run tour company.
Tourists prepare to snorkel under Ahmed’s watch. Ahmed grew up in Maafushi and now works as a snorkelling guide with a local family-run tour company.
Two tourists walk past a wall behind which a mound of garbage has been set on fire. Garbage is traditionally burnt all over the Maldives due to the lack of landfill space on the little islands, and with the growth of tourism in Maafushi, trash is now as ubiquitous as foreign visitors.
Two tourists walk past a wall behind which a mound of garbage has been set on fire. Garbage is traditionally burnt all over the Maldives due to the lack of landfill space on the little islands, and with the growth of tourism in Maafushi, trash management is becoming increasingly difficult and a threat to the environment.
A Maafushi tourist rises high on his jet pack at sunset. Water sports are now a common sight in the island's north, an area dominated by tourists.
A Maafushi tourist rises high on his jet pack at sunset. Water sports are now a common sight in the island’s north, an area dominated by tourists since the government allowed foreigners to visit local islands in 2009.
Maldivian women walk out of the water after a customary half-immersed rendezvous.
Maldivian women walk out of the water after a customary half-immersed rendezvous.
Two boys in a residential alleyway. With the higher income generated from small-business tourism, ACs and cars are becoming a common sight.
Two boys in a residential alleyway. With the higher income generated from small-business tourism, ACs and cars are becoming a common sight in Maafushi. (Year-round temperatures hover around 28° C, and the island can be traversed on foot in twenty minutes.)
A local boy returns home after picking out discarded plastic bottles from the burning trash pile behind him. He intends to use them as fishing reels, a practice that developed as plastic became widespread with the rise of tourism.
A local boy returns home after picking out discarded plastic bottles from the burning trash pile behind him. He intends to use them as fishing reels, a practice that developed as plastic became widespread with the rise of tourism.
A schoolgirl waits in front of one of the island's two mosques. Many girls in Maafushi nowadays work in the hospitality industry as receptionists.
A schoolgirl waits in front of one of the island’s two mosques. Many girls in Maafushi nowadays work in the hospitality industry as receptionists.
Most of the dirty work on the island is done by migrant Bangladeshis--the same is the case on most other touristy islands in the country, as well as Thilafushi, the country's dedicated garbage island, also home to about 150 Bangladeshis who manage the country's trash. Pictured here is a man from Bangladesh pushing a cart, the garbage from which he has just emptied and set on fire.
Most of the dirty work on the island is done by migrant Bangladeshis–the same is the case on most other touristy islands in the country, as well as Thilafushi, the country’s dedicated garbage island, also home to about 150 Bangladeshis who manage the country’s trash.
Pictured here is a Bangladeshi man pushing a cart, the garbage from which he has just emptied and set on fire.
Three Maafushi women have an afternoon chat in the customary island style. While navigating sea water is a way of life for Maldivians, climate change poses a grave threat to these islanders, whose country is expected to disappear under water by the end of the century. Several islands, including Maafushi, are already shrinking due to erosion caused by excessive development, much of which is tourism-related.
Three Maafushi women have an afternoon chat in the customary island style. While navigating sea water is a way of life for Maldivians, climate change poses a grave threat to these islanders, whose country is expected to disappear under water by the end of the century. Several islands, including Maafushi, are already shrinking due to erosion caused by excessive development, much of which is tourism-related.
A boat lies anchored metres from a patch of garbage-filled shore on Maafushi's western side. Garbage spills into the ocean and affects marine life and reefs around several Maldivian islands.
A boat lies anchored metres from a patch of garbage-filled shore on Maafushi’s western side. Garbage spills into the ocean and affects marine life and reefs around several Maldivian islands.
Tourists and locals on the top deck of the Maafushi-Malé ferry. Thanks to a more inclusive tourism, ordinary Maldivians can now partake of the country's stronger economy. One hopes they will also be wise enough to prepare well for troubled waters.
Tourists and locals on the top deck of the Maafushi-Malé ferry.
Thanks to a more inclusive tourism, ordinary Maldivians can now partake of the country’s stronger economy. One hopes they will also be wise enough to prepare well for troubled waters.

Long-form narrative to be found here for visitors who prefer a more textual experience.

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