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Where the sun always shines

A report on the Second SAF-Scout Friendship camp, Maldives by S. Qurat-ul-ain, Pakistan

I am sitting on the milky white sand and feel myself taking a journey into the realms of tranquility and uniqueness. I find myself fascinated by the breathtaking beauty of the blanch white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, bright colorful reefs, corals and the vast marine life. Suddenly, I hear a sharp voice; it's my friend telling me that the opening ceremony is about to take place. Was it a dream? No I say to myself. Its for real, I am here on one of the wonders of the world that is believed to be an artist's fantasy, a photographer's fancy, a diver's nirvana and a peace lover's utopia. Yes, it is Maldives.

Time flies by so quickly and one never realises what changes the time brings with it. Last year on February 21, 2002, the First SAF-Scout friendship camp was held in Bhutan. Participants from seven South Asian countries represented their country. Various resolutions were passed on the theme of the role of girls and boy scouts in promoting peace and cooperation among the South Asian nations and it was declared through voting that the next camp would be held in Maldives. It was a matter of great pride for me that I was reselected as the SAF Goodwill Ambassador of peace in 2003 for the Second SAF-Scouts camp in Maldives.

The first thing you'll notice as soon as you get off the plane at Male' International Airport is that the airport is on an island all by itself. From the air it looks like a giant aircraft carrier, the runway occupying most of the island. In fact to build the airport two islands have been connected through reclamation. However it is a full-fledged international airport that can cater to the largest of aircraft and is well equipped with modern facilities. Located just over a kilometer away from Male' the capital, the airport is connected to the rest of the country by boats and seaplanes. We were given an extremely warm welcome by the Maldives scouts association who were there to greet us at the airport. From there we were taken to a Big Dhoni(a ship) which was to drop us on the camp site on the uninhabited Island Feydhoo Finolhu .

Throughout the week we had various activities like Workshops, international night, exhibition and water activities. This time the camp was different. It was more than what we had expected, and the best part was that there were lots of activities, which kept us all busy through out the day. There was a three-day workshop, which revolved around the themes of "Protection of Environment to Foster Regional peace and Cooperation" and "Biodiversity". Many resolutions were made and I happen to be lucky to rephrase many of the resolutions and get them all passed by the participants.

Right after every workshop we were taken to different Islands and resorts for excursion. One such inhabited island was Harru, which is a haven for crabs of various sizes, shapes, and colours and they are believed to be friendly with the people who live there. At first I was scared to see so many crabs all over the island but then somehow I didn't care much or maybe I got friendly with the crabs. At Harru the people were very friendly and warm, they treated us with their special coconut water and performed various traditional dances.

The water activities such as snorkeling, rafting, paddling, banana boat riding, speedboat, water skiing, swimming etc were very exciting for all of us. Banana Boat riding was one such water sport, which made our day eventful as it threw us all into the sea, but thankfully we were saved by the life jackets. A trip to the Maldives will never be complete without donning a mask and a pair of fins and experiencing the beauty that sustains these tiny islands. I tried to do that but I just couldn't think of getting myself into the deep water.

I tried the unique Maldivian sport of night fishing which provides a quiet, relaxing time under the stars, out at sea, rocking gently to the waves, in addition to the excitement of fishing. In night fishing, the boat is anchored by a reef just before sunset. Lines are tethered with hooks and sinkers and dropped over board. The favourite catch is the red snapper and we were very lucky to catch two of them. Not bad eh!!!!

Resorts, the Main tourist attraction, was just what I wanted to see. The resort that I went to was just spectacular and beauteous. I could see the corals and the marine life clearly through the water and it looked as if the fishes were just gonna jump up and say 'hi' to me.

We got to see almost the whole of Male. It is not difficult to find your way around the Maldivian capital, especially if you carry a map with you. It is only two square kilometers. It is fun to hang around in Male, with its main street Majeedhee Magu, running right across the island from east to west. Chaandhanee Magu on the other hand runs from north to south.

I had made many friends at the camp from all the seven South Asian countries and we all had lots of fun together. My Maldivian friends made sure that we enjoyed our stay and participated in various activities and visited the Islands. Many of my friends were from those countries where there are only mountains or plains and this camp was a different kind of experience for them. We enjoyed our farewell dinner, which was at a very quite and a stunning resort near Male' called Bandos. An American Band called 'Dragonfly' entertained us and the food over there was simply delicious. This camp was a big success.

I, on behalf of PBSA would like to thank Shri Madanjeet Singh (Founder of SAF), SAF officials, Scout Association of Maldives, Ministry of Education, Maldives and officials from the WorldScout Bureau Asia Pacific Region for organising the camp in an excellent manner.

Keats says and I quote

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever..."

I say it is a place where the sun always shines.

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