Time is Running Out for the Maldives, a Country That Might Not Be Around for Much Longer

Timo Newto-Syms, Flickr

You may have heard of the Maldives. It’s a tropical travel paradise, with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. An island nation in the Indian Ocean, it is composed of 26 atolls that are home to some of the world’s best diving. The Maldives is a place that’s beautiful, exotic and remote.

It’s also a place that might not be around for much longer.

This week marks the release of the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, which by Friday should give a prediction of how much, and when, sea levels will rise. For the island nation of the Maldives that isn’t just a warning, it’s an expiration date.Mohamed Nasheed, the former freely elected president who was expected to be re-elected until accusations of poll fraud suspended the vote, has long been a voice for the threats of climate change to his nation (he’s the guy that held an underwater cabinet meeting), warning that if the world stands by and does nothing, the Maldives will exist no more.

Tourism is one of the Maldives’ main industries, and many of the small islands are set up as luxury resort destinations. While today you can calmly walk, dipping your toes in the calm waters, the risk that these islands will become submerged is on a not so distant horizon.

The effects of climate change are already being felt here, and in an economy that depends on tourism, storms and freak weather can have a significant impact. From erosion to coral reef degradation, the islands are changing, and in big ways.

What’s the future of the Maldives? Only time will tell, but for now, the future does not look bright.

Photo Of The Day: Bahamian Perfection

aarongilson, Flickr

The view above, captured by Aaron Gilson, is an incredibly common Bahamian sight: perfect crystal blue water distinctly visibly from space, sand just the right shade of white and a little bit of an unpolished edge. The island chain just off the Atlantic coast of Florida has become famous as a cruise line, gambling and resort destination. However, this photo was taken on Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas. A region famous for its blue holes, Andros is just far enough away from all of that commotion. It’s an ideal place to disconnect.

If you have a great travel photo, share it with us on our Gadling Flickr Pool and it could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Photo Of The Day: Le Mont Saint-Michel

annegbt, Flickr

Across the Cherbourg Peninsula from the infamous Omaha Beach in Normandy is one of France‘s most striking landmarks, as well as one of the most popular outside of Paris, Mont Saint-Michel. Dominating the the landscape of this tidal island turned commune is the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, a place so beautiful Victor Hugo lobbied to preserve it. Over the millennia and a half that the island has been inhabited, it has seen quite a lot of history, from being in British hands to being a prison for over 70 years.

This shot of the Le Mont Saint-Michel, which shows off its beautiful symmetry against a perfectly blue sky, was captured by Flickr user annegbt. If you have a great travel photo, submit it to our Gadling Flickr pool and it may also be featured on as our Photo of the Day.

Photo Of The Day: Early Morning On The Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are a bit too remote to be on many people’s bucket list and that’s a shame. Halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the windy north Atlantic, they offer a rugged beauty equal to any adventure travel destination.

This shot from user kanelstrand from Gadling’s Flickr pool was taken early one morning after some rain. The mixture of light and shadow, the deep color of the sea and of course the rainbow give you an idea of the allure of these distant islands.

That lonely little lighthouse shows that, indeed, some people really live here. In fact, about 50,000 people do in an autonomous nation under the Danish Realm. Amazingly, the islands were first settled by Irish and Scottish Christian hermits way back in the sixth century. St. Brendan may have visited on his fabled trip to America, followed by the Vikings. The modern Faroese are a tough people of mixed Scandinavian and Scottish descent who are proud of the life they’ve carved out of a harsh yet alluring corner of the world.

Want to see more? Check out this Faroe Islands photo set!

Shapinsay: Visiting A Wee Scottish Island


No trip to Orkney is complete without seeing some of the smaller islands. They offer plenty of natural and historic sights as well as peaceful solitude.

Little Shapinsay can be seen from the main harbor at Kirkwall, but visitors often overlook it. Even though it only measures six miles long at its longest and has only about 300 residents, it’s served by a regular car ferry from Kirkwall. My family and I noticed that the locals getting on board at Kirkwall harbor were loaded down with groceries. Apparently there aren’t many shopping opportunities on Shapinsay.

The boat pulled out of Kirkwall and passed some old gun emplacements on the Point of Carness. Orkney was a major base during the two World Wars and there are plenty of remains from that time. We also saw a tiny island called Thieves Holm. Local folklore says thieves and witches were banished here. It’s not too far from the Mainland, but with the water so chilly I doubt anyone could have made the swim. Then we pulled out into The String, the exit from Kirkwall Bay, and felt like we were in the open sea, with clean air blowing on our faces and seagulls wheeling overhead.

%Gallery-161148%Twenty-five minutes later we pulled into Shapinsay harbor. Like most of the islands up here, it’s been inhabited since prehistoric times. There are a couple of megalithic standing stones, including one called the Odin Stone, like the one that used to be near the Standing Stones of Stenness. There’s also an Iron Age broch built by the Picts.

It seems, though, that Shapinsay was mostly a sleepy place inhabited by farmers and fishermen. That all changed in the late 1700s when the Balfour family decided to build an elegant estate on the island. The first step was to build Balfour village for all the workmen, and then work began in earnest on a grand home that looks like a castle. Balfour Castle is now a hotel and a good spot if you want to splash out on a quiet retreat.

And quiet it is. Even in the center of town all we heard is the wind, birdsong and the distant drone of a tractor. After a minute even the tractor cut off. We had a quick coffee at The Smithy, a little cafe/restaurant/pub (you have to multitask when you’re one of the only businesses on the island) and headed out for a coastal hike.

For me, the biggest attraction of Scotland is the countryside, and Shapinsay certainly didn’t disappoint. After a gloomy northern morning, the weather had turned gloriously clear and warm. We chose a five-mile loop hike along the shoreline and through some woods behind Balfour Castle. My 6-year-old son is an experienced hiker and can manage five miles over easy terrain. Of course, when hiking with children make sure you give them a steady supply of water and snacks!

We started out by passing Balfour Village’s little pier and a crumbling old tower called The Douche, which used to be a salt water shower for the local residents. Then we tramped along the stony beach. Orkney is rich in bird life and we saw terns, seagulls, and several other types of birds I couldn’t identify. Every now and then a curious seal would pop its head out of the water and examine us. In the distance we saw a few sailboats and fishing vessels. Otherwise we saw nobody and heard nothing. That was exactly what I wanted.

After climbing a steep slope, our path cut inland and we tramped over lush fields carpeted with yellow, white and purple wildflowers. My son picked a couple for my wife to put in her hair and we headed through a little forest and ended up in the lush garden of Balfour Castle. It wasn’t long before we were back in the village, where we relaxed in the garden of the Smithy looking out over the water and doing nothing for a while except admiring a beautiful day in northern Scotland.

Orkney has plenty of islands to choose from. Do a bit of research ahead of time online and with the local tourism office and head on out. Pay careful attention to the ferry schedule, though, because on many islands the last ferry for the day leaves pretty early.

Don’t miss the rest of my series “Exploring Orkney: Scotland’s Rugged Northern Isles.”

Coming up next: “Eynhallow: Visiting Orkney’s Haunted Isle!”