Significant changes have been made since the Chaaya group took over the resort. There has been a thoroughgoing renovation throughout.
The most obvious parts of which are the 24 new water bungalows, the swimming pool and new à la carte restaurant. Whatever happens, however, the island's strengths will always be its excellent snorkelling and diving.
The house reef has a consistent drop-off, good corals and wonderful fish life. You can snorkel all the way around the island - or come in at any one of the 6 cut throughs. Mantas, sharks and even whale sharks have been seen here. With an intermittent stream of snorkellers heading out near the jetty on the south side (where the best snorkelling is to be found) and other guests idling in the water and sunbathing on the main beach nearby, this is the centre of the daytime action, the place with the buzz.
Just 15 metres from the jetty is a wreck, which at 30 metres down is inaccessible for snorkellers but certainly adds something extra to the fine house reef diving. As the visiting big fish would indicate, there are occasional strong currents here which guests need to be aware of. Drop a handful of sand in the water first or consult the dive school.
The dive school is a remarkably busy and enthusiastic place. Italian divers prefer a morning dive, perhaps a double tank, and then relax in the afternoon. They are serviced by Italian instructors, who also offer a free introductory dive for each of their guests. The German and English divers tend to be more single-minded, many of them on limitless diving packages, with 400 or 500 dives logged. It says a great deal that wherever else they go, they always come back to Ellaidhoo (and it’s probably not just for the free tea, chocolate, coconut and water on the boats). The 3 nearby Protected Marine Areas are just the start of what the region has to offer.
The dive base is at pains to explain, though, that they are not all about experienced diving. They are equally keen to help beginners with the next step. The neighbouring island of Maaga has a fine lagoon for lessons and beginner dives. And sheltered dives are not hard to find, even for full day trips. It is a surprise to see such a busy and important place hidden inside the island in a dark, low building with suits and equipment outside. There is talk of a new centre being built on the beach.
The main beach is on the west side (sunset facing), it is wide and wonderful, definitely A-grade. The problem is, it’s the only beach on the island of any significance. As a general rule, that’s okay for Italians but not for others. This oval island with its small lagoon has seen its beaches reduced by the currents of the channel (and the tsunami) to the remnant, though a fine one, on the lee side. This is despite the lagoon walls that encircle the island (actually the first in the country to do so).
A saving grace is the next-door island of Maaga, which belongs to the resort and has been set up as the water sports island, base for diving lessons and general afternoon fun and sun spot. The resort runs a free ferry over every morning and afternoon. And once a week organises the Maaga Beach Party with a barbecue dinner on the beach.
It’s a good thing that the water sports are on another island as they can get on with lots of motorised sports without being heard on the resort: fun tubes, jet skis, water skis and knee boards. Other activities and excursions are as expected (fishing, island hopping and visiting Male), though there is only one snorkelling trip a week. If the dive school takes over that will increase to daily.
There is a massive sports centre in the middle of the island. On the second floor are separate rooms for a gleaming, modern gym, for stepping and spinning classes (group cycling) and for two pool tables.
Outside are jacuzzis, a tennis court, a squash court and a children’s play area. Inside on the ground floor is a big satellite TV, a well-stocked bar, a karaoke lounge and a massage room. Frankly it’s all a bit over the top and, well, not much used (it’s not cheap).
The rooms are all large with decent bathrooms. There are no real differences between them except their location. The family rooms are in a row behind the others and only a relative few of them face the west beach. The new water bungalows are in the west lagoon, which doesn't disturb the beach or the view. It has meant reducing an equivalent number of rooms on the island, which is good, though the overall number is still high in relation to the island size.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville