"Upon the silent shore of memory, images and precious thoughts, that cannot idle" Its not surprising that the many astonishing images that the author H.C.P Bell recorded in his memory during his short stay in Fuvahmulah, will not erode: no matter how big the waves of time may be.
Situated between 0degree 17’ and 0degree 20’ south, equator and on the longitude 73degree 22 1/2 and 73degree 25’, Fuavahmulah is politically an atoll, but geographically it is an island by itself. Completely isolated and seemingly in a world of its own, only the blue sea removes a great part of its loneliness. But from within, there is no emptiness and the kind of life, which goes on the island gives an instant feeling of welcome to the visitor. By all accounts, it is one of the most agriculturally successful island. Thick vegetation and and evenly distributed rainfall, has made the island’s soil fertile rich in humus. A variety of fruits like bananas, mangoes, lime, orange, pineapple are grown. Sweat potatoes, watermelon and maize are grown seasonally. Of these, lime, bananas and oranges are grown on a commercial basis and are marketed to the island - capital Male’.
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With about four miles in length and 1 1/2 miles in width, Fuvahmulah has enough land that still could be turned into arable farmlands. About half of the cultivable land is used for growing Yam, a kind of tuber, which is the staple crop. Nearly each household will have about 2 to 3 plots of yam farms. Fuavahmulaku’s population of over six thousand (pop. in 1921 was 2185), may have to cope with a shortage of arable land unless more land is groomed for cultivation.
A deep reef about two miles long extends from the southern tip of the island, an area that is well known to the islanders for its dangerous waves. Fishing boats have capsized while trying to cross this reef as the waves there from menacingly and unexpectedly. As there are no barrier reefs surrounding the island, it is prone to undulating swells, which can eventually turn into ferocious waves, the power of which is ideal for windsurfers. The waves however keep guard on the island coast and never discriminate the islander or intruder. To reach the shore of Fuavahmulah is a risky task.
In past a number of people have drowned when their vessels capsized during their journey to shore and in some instance, the victims have been known to have been vanished without a trace. The natural cuts in the reef through which boats (dhoni) put out to sea, have been deepened and today boats can put out to sea quite safety. But still, there is a possibility of people drowning if the “waves get angry”, as the islanders would say.
At northwestern side of the island lies the famous sandy beach (thundi) with its polished pebbles graded into different sizes. The whole beach glitters when the rays of the sun reach it: the illumination naturally keeps many people baffled. The pebbles and the fine grains of sand are highly polished due to the continuous action of the waves. The sandy beach, roughly about 5000feet long and a thousand feet in width, has yet another phenomenon. It is not stationary! During “Iruvai” (A Maldivian season) when the wind blow from southeast, the whole beach moves in a Northwesterly direction. During this process, deep and shallow lagoons are formed.
The coastal land is raised to about six to eight feet while towards the interior, land slopes down to below sea level forming two fresh water lakes. During heavy rains the surface run off is collected in the lakes and an overflow will flood the catchments area. This was one of the biggest problem people had to face some years ago. As the yam farms are in the lower land and not far from the lakes, a direct result of flooding during heavy rains is that the crops get destroyed unless the area is drained out of access water.
Continuous heavy rain endangers those living in the center. In the early 1960s such a natural calamity struck the island and some people had to be evacuated to higher ground. To overcome the problem of flooding, cannels were built at several points around the island. The presence of dead corals and shells in the two lakes clearly indicates that the lakes where once opened to the sea. Three kinds of fish inhabit the lakes if which “Chilapiya” which grows to about six inches, is the dominant. During “Iruvai”, birds migrate from other countries and live near the lakes.
There aren’t places of much historical interest except the Buddhist D’ogoba (Havitta) at the northeastern side of the island close to the beach. The D’ogseas” as Bell doba is virtually destroyed now as many archaeologists have excavated the place in search of relics and idols. The people of Fuvahmulah or “the lovely gem of Maldives escribes it, are friendly and are ever ready to spread out the red carpet for visitors