Goidhoo Atoll or Goifulhafehendhu or Horsburgh Atoll
Goidhoo Atoll (Goifulhafehendhu or Horsburgh Atoll) administratively belongs to Baa Atoll (Baa Atoll or Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi), which is protected. The entire Baa Atoll, including the Goidhoo Atoll, is a biosphere reserve and since 2011 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Baa Atoll and Goidhoo Atoll are separated by a 9.7 km (6 miles) wide canal, which is quite wild in the rain season.
Goidhoo Atoll is 95.69 km (59 miles) from the capital Male. The atoll is oval in shape and is 17.5 km long and 8.5 km wide. The deepest place in the inner lagoon is just over 30 meters. The lagoon has a sandy bottom mixed with mud and clay. Unlike the lagoons of most small and large atolls in the Maldives, corals can be found in the middle of this lagoon. Our little Goidhoo Atoll has only one sea channel Doru Kandu, where can be found many sharks and big fish and where we come to the lagoon mantas, dolphins and many other sea creatures. Earlier, during the northeast monsoon, the atoll served as a safe haven for ships and boats.
Horsburgh Atoll or the Atoll of James Horsburg
In the old nautical charts, Goidhoo Atoll is named as Horsburgh Atoll after James Horsburgh, hydrograph of the “East India Company”, author of the sailing instruction manual "Directions for Sailing to the East Indies, China, New Holland, and interjacent Ports, compiled chiefly from original Journals and Observations made during 21 years experience in navigating those Seas”. The Horsburgh Handbook was used in the first half of the 19th century until Robert Moresby conducted a survey of the entire Maldives, when accurate maps of the Maldives were first published in history. Unfortunately, maps will have to be redrawn in the future. And why? Because the former government of the Maldives decided to make heavy money on nonsensical projects and artificial islands, not just with resorts. "Why ?!", I ask when we have over 1,200 natural islands in the Maldives. (I have an article on the topic of artificial islands.)
Population of Goidhoo Atoll
The entire Goidhoo Atoll has only 3 populated islands with about 880 inhabitants (Census 2015), of which about 550 live on Goidhoo, about 100 people on Fehendhoo, but there are only about 70 and about 220 at Fulhadhoo. The original source of income for islanders was weaving and fishing. Today, the main income is fishing, farming, palm leaf mats, housework and slow-growing tourism.
Goidhoo Atoll - The Lost Paradise
Goidhoo Atoll is one of the least populated and tourist atolls in the Maldives ever. Nature is virgin for now, and I dare say that it will remain so on the inhabited islands of Goidhoo and Fehendhoo in the future. The atoll is home to the mantas, the whale sharks (many of them are sometimes visible), many other species of sharks, rays, dolphins, turtles, and sometimes whales and other sea creatures. One possible minus could be the sea grass carpets that surround the island of Goidhoo and partly the island of Fehendhoo. Sea grass was brought here in 2004 by the tsunami. Until then, the lagoon was clean without any green carpet. But we do not mind this carpet. It oxygenates the sea and thanks to it we have many living corals at Goidhoo Atoll, which is not to say about many atolls in the Maldives. Everything wrong is always good for something! The sea grass disappears in places, so that new corals began to grow in it, which is slowly destroying it. Goidhoo Atoll belongs to the northern Maldives and the weather here is better all year round than in the south.
Islands of Goidhoo Atoll
Goidhoo Atoll comprises a total of 4 islands, namely the already mentioned Goidhoo, Fehendhoo and Fulhadhoo, as well as the uninhabited island of Innafushi and a few other small islands that are gradually naturally formed. One of them is located directly in front of our island Fehendhoo and is called Kahti Huraa. The other two are formed at the sea channel Doru Kandu, Mathifaruhuraa (Mafuri) and Dhashufaruhuraa. Dhashufaruhuraa is more liek a sand bank. This site is on the list of protected sites. The island of InnaFushi is now owned by a private company and is designed to build a resort. So far, however, it is used as a picnic island. The Goidhoo Atoll also has many sand banks. The large sand bank between Fehendhoo and Fulhadhoo, which changes in shape and size according to the season, is called Fareedhaafinolhu. The largest sand bank that is gradually forming into an uninhabited island is Rahkairifinolhu or BodaFushi and is located next to the uninhabited island InnaFushi. In high season, when the sea has the lowest level, there can be found up to 100.
Hanifalhu Bay at Goidhoo Atoll
Another point of interest at Goidhoo Atoll is the coral reef of Hanifalhu Bay, which is home of mantas. Mantas have several homes at Goidhoo Atoll. Don't confuse Hanifalhu Bay at Goidhoo Atoll ant Hanifaru Bay at Baa Atoll. There are two different locations. Hanifalhu Bay is just a 10 to 15-minute speed boat ride from Fehendhoo Island.
Goidhoo (Goidhu) is the capital city island of Goidhoo Atoll and it is a relatively large farming and fishing island. Goidhoo is perfect for excursions, for walk or bike ride (bicycle). Goidhoo is surrounded by a large lagoon, which is covered with sea grass. At the very and uninhabited end of the island you can find only a very small piece of lagoon and beach without this green carpet.
Fehendhoo (Fehendhu) is a narrow but long island with a minimum number of residents and guest houses, a lost paradise. Part of the island is lined with sea grass and part is surrounded by a large turquoise blue lagoon. Between Fehendhoo Island and Fulhadhoo there are many sand banks or sand shallows that can be reached on foot. More about island Fehendhoo.
Fulhadhoo is a medium-sized island surrounded by a beautiful beach on one side and a coral reef on the other side. The island of Fulhadhoo is considered by the locals to be the most beautiful island of Goidhoo Atoll, but it it’s more populated and tourism has been developed quite a lot. Usually it is possible to meet Russian speaking guests.
Interesting facts and history of Goifulhafehendhu or Horsburgh Atoll or Goidhoo Atoll
Goidhoo Atoll and the islands of Goidhoo, Fehendhoo and Fulhadhoo served as "prison without bars" from 1602 to the 1990’s. So far I have not found anyone who remembers the exact year of ending. Goidhoo Atoll is small and separated from large atolls by two sea channels, which are quite wild in the rainy season and cannot be crossed on small boats or swim. This means that it would be very difficult to escape from the islands, and so the government decided to use these three islands on Goidhoo Atoll as a prison without bars and send local and foreigners into exile. Previously, transport to the islands was not centralized and developed as it is today.
One of the first “prisoners” was the French reconnaissance François Pyrard, who in 1602 wrecked his wooden ship called Corbin, whose shipwreck was located near Fulhadhoo, with only a few wooden debris left today. I will discuss this wreck and its original journey in the future. Pyrard spent 5 years on the island of Fulhadhoo, learning Dhivehi (Maldivian language) to become the author of the first vast writings on Maldivian culture.
In the 19th century, a former slave woman, Salaamaa, an African slave, who was purchased by the then King of the Maldives on her Hajj journey to Mecca, lived on Goidhoo. Before his death, the King released his slave from his service to be taken "to heaven". The liberation of slaves before the owner's death was a common practice among the high Maldivian nobility. The descendants of this African woman still live on Goidhoo.
Men were sent to Goidhoo Island for punishment for minor offenses, such as theft or politically motivated crimes. The revolutionary who was behind the revolution and the birth of the Suvadiv Republic was also imprisoned. Women who had premarital sex (I am right here), cheated on their men or gave birth to an illegitimate child were sent to our Fehendhoo. Killers of any gender were sent to Fulhadhoo Island.
From a narrative from a very old Maldive, whom I met by accident, who at Fehendhoo at the time of exile or "prison without bars" acted as a guard I know that it was not such a prison. Around the islands of Goidhoo, Fehendhoo and Fulhadhoo is relatively shallow and in certain seasons it is possible to walk from one island to another. The guard told me different stories. One of them is that women from Fehendhoo Island were visiting men from Goidhoo Island, so new and new children were born and the island population began to grow. The islanders liked the Goidhoo Atoll so much that after the abolition of the exiles the islands remained alive.
There is a Maldivian named Shabeer on our island of Fehendhoo (September 2019), who was sent here many years ago as a punishment for growing and smoking marijuana. Sometimes we feel in the jungle, and not only here, but also in other inhabited islands. A very old German Joachim lives today in Fulhadhoo (September 2019), today called "Ismail Be". He is over 80 years old and was sent here in the 1970’s as a punishment for killing his own wife while on holiday in the Maldives. The man liked him so much after his sentence at Fulhadhoo and the Maldives that he had never returned to Germany. He converted to Islam, married Maldivian and conceived with her a child who is today (September 2019) a little over 45 years old and who is already a father today.
And what does all this mean? That many of the inhabitants of these three islands are actually descendants of “criminals”. :-D Do not worry, nothing terrible can happened to you while you will stay at Goidhoo Atoll and our islands. Compare to south Maldives (Former British Colony) are Islanders less educated and experienced but they are very nice. Especially at Fehendhoo! Our island of Fehendhoo is said to have a very rich history even before the "prison without bars". Reportedly, one of the Maldivian kings, who had lived here with his family for many years, was reportedly coming from the island. On the island of Fehendhoo is said to have always lived a few residents.
The source of this information is the aforementioned elderly Maldivian man who served at Fehendhoo as security guardian and judge Hathif Hilma from Male, who tried some cases. I met both men personally.
The Goidhoo Atoll is perfect for lovers of nature, relax, yoga, snorkeling, fishing and kitesurfing
Goidhoo Atoll has unspoiled nature, as only a few people live here and tourism is not as developed here as on other atolls. There are many coral reefs with intact and live corals. Year-round there is better weather than in the south at the equator.
Goidhoo Atoll is suitable for lovers of peace, empty beaches, unspoiled nature, snorkeling, freediving, diving (beginners and advanced), fishing and kitesurfers.
As already mentioned, Goidhoo Atoll is home to mantas that can be found all year round. There are also whale shark, hammerheads, blackheaded, gray-pointed and white-headed sharks, nurse shark sharks, stingrays, eagle rays, dolphins, turtles, pilot whale, and occasionally whales can be seen in low season. In 1963, over a thousand flying fish were recorded.