Tilafushi — The Other Maldives

It was one of those moments I wished for an even wider lens. 28mm were just too narrow. Trying to capture the scope of environmental disaster in the pristine Maldives would even ask for panorama format. Alas, the 28mm had to do to document the poisoning of the Maldives’ unique coral world. I’m talking about Tilafushi, an island a half an hour boat ride away from the capital Malé. Locals call it “garbage island.” Huge piles of smoke rise from the garbage deposits. That’s right. The Maldives, home to some of the world’s most unique and expensive hotels, know no proper waste management. Islanders burn plastic, rubbish and everything else near a beach on their islands, and the capital Malé and fancy resorts ship all their rubbish to Tilafushi where lead and many other toxins trickle into the soft sea ground or are dispersed all over the place by thick fumes carried away by wind.

Don’t get me wrong. Most if not all visitors never heard of Tilafushi and have no clue what happens to the rubbish they leave behind in their luxury refuges. Even though one can see the thick plumes of smoke from Malé, the Maldives are spread over a vast area and most tourists don’t even set foot in the capital. The international airport is located on an island just off Malé from where guests are transported by speed boat or connecting flight directly to their paradise resorts.

Here’s just a small selection of photos, some better, some worse, without the “worst” ones. Kind of shameful that high-end luxury resorts advertise environmentally friendly and conscious retreats while probably only a tiny little handful of them disposes properly of waste.

And yes, overall the Maldives are still a pristine paradise with crystal clear, turquoise seas and and abundance of marine life. Question is, for how much longer?

Malé | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz
Malé | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz

Malé harbor | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Malé harbor | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

Bangladeshi migrant worker -- Malé, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Bangladeshi migrant worker — Malé, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

Abandoned souvenir shop -- Huraa, Maldives | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz
Abandoned souvenir shop — Huraa, Maldives | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz

Sunset | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Sunset | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

Waste management -- Huraa, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Waste management — Huraa, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

All smiles women garbage collectors -- Huraa, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
All smiles women garbage collectors — Huraa, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

Women garbage collectors -- Huraa, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Women garbage collectors — Huraa, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

Tilafushi, Maldives | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz
Tilafushi, Maldives | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz

A window with a view -- smoldering rubbish island of Tilafushi in the background | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz
A window with a view — smoldering rubbish island of Tilafushi, Maldives, in the background | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz

Tilafushi harbor | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Tilafushi harbor, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz

Tilafushi, Maldives | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz
Tilafushi harbor, Maldives | Nokia Lumia 830 / Daniel Kestenholz

Tilafushi harbor | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz
Tilafushi harbor, Maldives | Nikon Df with Zeiss 28mm F2 / Daniel Kestenholz



  • Dave

    Nice Zeiss 28mm you are using here. Did you ever try the Voigtlander 28mm 2.8 Color Skopar SL II? It is a equally nice lens, 1/3 of the weight and very small. The reviews are in favor of the Zeiss of corse but in practice there is barely a difference apart from the maximum aperture. I had both for testing and decided to go with the Skopar for practical reasons and for better colors stopped down while the Zeiss still is running circles in my mind…

    • Flavio

      My God, this is a shocking documentation about something we all should know, and the only thing you can see is the lens he is using? I am appalled…

      • Dave

        You are right and I apologize. I was well aware of the content and have seen such things in person. My comment shows insensibility. I do not feel concerned about such things anymore since there is more involved than what we could discuss here. I for myself do not visit certain tourist spots anymore just for the circumstances described and I do not know whether my decision is for the better for the people living there.

        • No worries all, we don’t have to voice our anger each and every time we see something shocking. The shock in this case, however, is a bit different, the more so as we only know the postcard Maldives. As Dave says in his reply, what can one do. Change starts and ends with ourselves. As long as we’re aware of our actions and impact on the environment and take the appropriate measures, one can stay upbeat; this despite all the destruction and terror around us, because the only way to not make it all worse is to be positive forces ourselves.

          • thanks, Dan!!
            if everybody would behave and feel responsible for the hole world, it could be a paradise again.
            Don’t wait, till all the others do it.

            Don’t start tomorrow, start today!
            dierk

  • Omer

    Well done, and a great set. Will these be published somewhere else? Should be.

    • Will eventually, Omer, when I find the time to!!