In Dhivehi, we call forests ‘valuthere’, which means “in the wilds'.
The humble wilds of the Maldives are home to diverse life, the inspiration for many a folktale, and mystifying mysteries. The wilds are home to 166 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of this, 0.6% are endemic, meaning that the Maldives is their only home and they cannot be found elsewhere in the world. These animals co-exist with 583 species of gorgeous vascular plants.
A meditative walk in the Maldivian wilds is healing. It is a chance for one to tune into the natural environment, free ourselves from the burdens of everyday life, and become part of the grand orchestra of the natural environment.
The islands of Maldives are incredibly small. Yet, when you are surrounded by towering palms, entangled mangroves, fragrant red sandalwood, and morning glories, the islands feel anything but small. Often, hidden openings in shrubs of sea lettuce trees (magoo) provide glimpses of the blinding crystalline waters. A stark contrast against the forest green.
Feel the salt. Listen to the koel calls. Humble yourself with the cacophony of life that is far older than you are.
Taking Wellness to Its Core
The Maldives is at the forefront of exquisite and innovative wellness techniques. However, wellness at its core, is simply the practice of being in peace. And the Maldives’ wilds are the best places to be. A walk in the wilds asks for nothing but respect and gives so much in return.
Walking in nature strengthens our immune system, increases energy, boosts our mood and helps us regain and maintain focus and mental clarity. The very act of being in a forest yields all these benefits, even for as short a duration as 20 minutes. After all, forests contain a significantly higher concentration of oxygen than urban spaces. Plants themselves produce chemicals called phytoncides: natural oils that plants use to defend themselves against insects, bacteria, and fungi. Phytoncides, in return, improve the human immune system by improving natural cell activity.
Connecting with the “more than human world” reminds us of where we come from. Not long ago, the Maldivian lifestyle was one in near-perfect harmony with nature. For a civilisation as isolated as the Maldivians, it was a necessity to learn to coexist sustainably with the natural environment. A mindful walk in the wilds provide a glimpse into a life many once knew.
Finding the Wilds
If you seek to spend time in nature, both in the wilds and the beach, it is important you select a resort or local island with visible wooded areas. Kuramathi Maldives offers tourists nature walks and botanical walks. These aren’t ‘hikes’ in the conventional sense. Except for a few larger islands, it is not possible to hike for long in the Maldives. However, these are the perfect islands for a slow and mindful walk with nature.
If you’re up for a challenge, request your property if they can guide you to an uninhabited island. Uninhabited islands in the Maldives are the closest one can get to experiencing complete seclusion and pristine nature in the Maldives.
How do I walk in the wilds?
Truly, there is no correct or wrong way. It is entirely up to you to walk however you please. If you feel a little lost, here are a few tips for you!
1. Have fun with it. Often, we start such practices with goals in mind and we feel disappointed when we aren’t able to achieve them. You may think to yourself, “ I will be mindful today!”, yet your thoughts are occupied. Don’t worry. That’s all okay. Just have fun with it.
2. Focus on your surroundings and try to look at the world through the eyes of your inner child. Let go of your notion of what a “tree” is, only then can you see it as it truly is. Tune into your senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Observe the uncanny symmetry of the coconut palms, listen to the majestic roar of the waves breaking against the reef in the distance, gently feel the bark of ancient banyan trees, and taste the salty tang in the air.
3. Try to slow down as much as you can. Maybe make it a game? How slow can you possibly walk? Try it. You can only see the natural world for what it is when you slow down to its tranquil level.
4. Once again, have fun. Don’t take it too seriously. After all, it’s just a walk!