Back in the early nineties, I visited the island of Fua Mulaku in the Maldives as part of my big trip around the equator.

Strictly speaking, foreigners weren’t supposed to visit the island.

The Maldives government were determined to keep outsiders away from the populated parts of their archipelago and pushed visitors towards the resorts on uninhabited islands instead.

I got around that by forging a letter on my old University’s letterhead saying I was studying ‘The Equatorial Phenomenon’.

It was signed by my imaginary thesis supervisor, Professor Terry Heathcote.

It must have been a pretty convincing forgery.

I was given special permission from the Atoll Administration Board to stay on Fua Mulaku for a whole two weeks.

View through ruins on Fua Mulaku (Peter Moore)
Banana boat casting off from Fua Mulaku (Peter Moore)

Back then, Fua Mulaku didn’t have a dock.

Wooden cargo ships called vedis sailed down from Male carrying supplies and a handful of passengers and anchored just offshore.

Smaller rowboats then cast off, negotiated tricky set of waves and began ferrying people and produce back and forth between the island.

The vedis would only come once or twice a month, so the arrival of one was cause for celebration.

Row boat casting off towards the vedi to Male (Peter Moore)

People came from all over Fua Mulaku to stand on the shore and watch the rowboats ferry to and fro.

Men helped unload, for a small price of course.

Women cast their eyes over what was coming ashore.

And children ran riot, ducking in and out of everyone’s legs.

Things didn’t always go as planned. One of the rowboats ferrying stuff out to the vedi I was catching back to Male was swamped by a wave and sank.

No one was hurt, thankfully, but the vedi’s departure was delayed for another day.

I had to spend an extra 24 hours on a remote tropical atoll I wasn’t really supposed to be on.

It was not exactly a hardship.