Archive for January, 2012


Friday, January 27th, 2012

TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 29 January.


Sunny greetings from Sri Lanka and from the Maldives where I spent the last week on a cruise through the islands on board the 20-cabin cruiser, Atoll Explorer.


Sri Lanka has some great breakfast dishes giving the “Full English” a robust challenge but I think I met my match with this buffet breakfast that was offered every morning of the cruise.

Prepared by buffet chef Chaminda who hails (as do the other three cooks and the barman on board) from Sri Lanka, it is adapted from the huge buffet offered to guests at Kurumba, the 40-year old resort under whose aegis the Atoll Explorer operates.

Tired of omelette every morning, I asked Chaminda for a variation and that’s what he is doing here, by frying bacon in the pan first and then adding two eggs and some chopped onions and mushrooms to the fry-up. I helped myself to baked beans and tomato and cheese as well; then I slept it off on the sun deck.


Exploring The Atolls

“Divers should avoid swimming in the shark’s mouth or getting hit by the fish’s tail, which could indeed cause some damage to the person,” warned the compendium in my cabin on Atoll Explorer. Quite.

Since I don’t snorkel or dive I denied myself the pleasure of plunging into the water off the dive boat to frolic with whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) even though the compendium assures that these huge fish (they can grow to 40 feet long and to a weight of 47,000 pounds) “pose no threat to swimmers, snorkellers or scuba divers” and that “whale sharks are quite playful.”

The encounter with whale sharks was the highlight of the cruise and happened when the boat was anchored off the farming village island of Ariadhoo, where we had a BBQ one evening and a picnic lunch on the beach. Other highlights were the Night Fishing Expedition (we caught three fish) and simply lazing on and swimming from beaches on uninhabited, desert islands.

On the second evening there was a special Welcome Back dinner and I was alarmed to discover when I stumbled back to my cabin that night, that it had been turned into a miniature botanical garden. The bed was decorated with leaves and flowers wishing me “Welcome Back.” (I previously cruised on the boat in 2005.)

The vessel’s cabins could politely be described as cosy. They are small but shipshape, with everything in its place. Incredibly, the beds are dreamily comfortable with lots of plump pillows and, since the ship anchors off different islands at night instead of sailing, the gentle swaying and splashing acts like a lullaby, and is extraordinarily soporific.

We visited the village island of Maamigili which has some 3,000 inhabitants and a row of desperate gift shops trying to sell imported souvenirs to visitors who want something Maldivian (I bought some locally produced tins of tuna fish). At the village school (education is in English medium) I was astonished to see a lesson on the black board about the Kinetic Theory of Matter, such a contrast to the simplicity of island life I expected.

One evening the officers and Maldivian crew treated us to a performance of the rather turgid drumming and chanting known as Bodu Beru and some meglomaniacal dancing.

Fellow passengers were Britons nearing retirement age, a lone Yorkshireman in his 70s who’d been holidaying on the ship for three months, a Pole with an automatic fishing rod and an underwater movie camera the size of a mini submarine, a German couple who kept to themselves, and a group of enthusiastic Swedes.

 As could be expected, I made the boat’s bar my headquarters (well, it has free Wifi as well as complimentary classy cocktails served by Samith from Sri Lanka [seen here]) and thoroughly enjoyed being footloose. (

New Immigration Form

On the flight back from Male’ back to Colombo I was given this new immigration form. It is captioned “Only for Foreigners/Dual Citizens” and refreshingly requires a minimum amount of information. The small print, however, says: “Strictly adhere to the purpose of visit indicated. This is a legal document. False declaration can lead to penalties including confiscation of goods, fines, prosecution, imprisonment and removal from Sri Lanka.”


New Option to Jaffna

Jaffna, that formerly beleaguered town and peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka, has become even easier to visit now. Instead of the hard slog of a 12 hour-drive from Colombo or being cramped in a Russian aircraft operated by the commercial arm of the Sri Lankan Airforce, there’s a new option.

Expo Aviation, which runs the superb Expo Aviation Margosa guest house (see Newsletters 82 & 84) in Jaffna, has begun to operate a brand new Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft between Colombo’s suburban airport of Ratmalana and Palaly, Jaffna, twice a day. The aircraft has 12 leather-upholstered seats, individual reading lights, air-vents, and is also equipped with a drop down monitor that screens silent movies.


Taking just over one hour, the flight, is promised as “invigorating and comfortable” with the added bonus of two flight crew members to take care of passenger safety and comfort. (


The Maldives Avenger

The heroism of the young Maldivian who led a seaborne guerrilla campaign against the occupying Portuguese in the 16th century is the theme of my swashbuckling novel, The Maldives Avenger, now available to download as an eBook at £2.99 from

Beat regards,

Royston Ellis.