Kamey’s life revolves amid the waters of the Indian Ocean that surrounds the Maldives islands.
He studied marine science and engineering, but today he prefers the technical challenges of being a ‘Dive Master’, a lifeguard and a paramedic. He coaches people swimming in open waters, but he is also a local swim guide for the boat’s guests.
For five months of the year he lives on a boat, and when he returns to the land, his place is at the Secret Paradise office, helping Ruth to create experiential tours to the local communities of the archipelagos.
He comes from a family of fishermen, and he grew up with two fishing boats parked outside the house.
During the lockdown he took the opportunity to abandon all the headaches and troubles of a life without tourism, to go back to the sea and live from fishing full-time again, proudly holding yellowfin tuna or massive sailfish in his arms every day, in the weeks spent in the open sea.
His decision gave him deep satisfaction, but also spared another of Secret Paradise’s tour guides from redundancy.
During our conversation he was sipping his coffee, facing the open ocean in the breeze of a calm dark night, on board a boat he was sharing with researchers who were there to study whale sharks.
Kamey became the first tour guide at Secret Paradise, ten years ago.
His passion for the ocean is undeniable, and I can feel the joy whenever he talks about the sea and its lifestyle.
The other ingredient in his life, though, is being a tour guide.
I wonder how his marine activities can be replaced, even for a day, by the act of accompanying tourists around the Maldives islands. What aspect of being a tour guide might attract and ?
It is the other half of his identity that he enjoys unveiling: to be a Maldivian and – in particular – a bridge between cultures, as I had discovered as well with Kokko.
For this small tour operator, in fact, the local interaction is the experience, and this is not only facilitated, but actually made possible by the simple presence of the local guides. Genuine cultural encounters instead of uncomfortable misunderstanding, face-to-face exchanges at the dinner table with the elders of the house, as well as broken dialogues completed by body-language gestures in the street with the young ladies or the local shop owners, can only happen because the shy and reserved locals see the familiar friendly smile of Kamey and know that the visitors he escorts are the open-minded ones, curious and not judgmental. They have been fully informed by Ruth during the preparation stage of the trip, so that they can enjoy more deeply the reality that lies in front of their wide-open senses once there in person.
He is aware of the stereotyped images associated with his islands and he is impatient to show the real Maldives to the unknowing tourists. He loves adding his own twists to each tour, which are the result of his life experience, his unique taste and likes, and, of course, his personality.
And he ends up always enjoying the experience as much as (if not more than) his guests, especially because he knows that a surprise is always around the corner, and that an unplanned 24-hour party and community feast could happen that very same day, at the end of a 16km bike ride through the islands.