Working on the principle 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', Embudu Village is a continuing success story. That success is based on proximity to Malé, value for money, a homely atmosphere, a great house reef and top diving.
That's a great formula for success but in Maldives tourism you can't stand still. People's expectations are always rising. Embudu's stock of rooms looks a bit tired now and the landscape a bit scuffed, but then the high occupancy makes it difficult to find time to do thoroughgoing renovations.
Somewhat like Maayafushi, the key to this resort is not the built environment but the unhurried, easygoing, feel-at-home atmosphere. This is, of course, aided and abetted by great staff, half of whom have been around for 10 years or more, while the redoubtable general manager, Ramsey Pereira, has put in nearly 20 years. You know you're going to get many a "welcome back".
One change has been the building of a new main jetty on the opposite side of the island to the original (for the boats at low tide). Now you don't walk by the ornate bar and through the flowered garden to the reception but skirt alongside the open service area.
The reception/office, coffee shop/lounge and restaurant building, with its metal roof, is dim and hot during the day but comes to life in the evenings when the lighting and conversation work wonders.
The main bar with its wooden platform over the water comes alive at sunset and once a week there's a disco but, essentially, this is a quiet place for recharging the batteries - for the long run back in Europe, and for the short run between snorkelling and diving trips.
Snorkelling is a constant source of pleasure here. Easily accessible through 5 cuts through, the regrowing coral, the many schools of fish (including barracuda) and the big ones such as eagle rays and reef sharks are always on show. And for the truly big ones, the resort puts on manta ray snorkelling trips almost daily when they show up between April and November.
Diving remains popular and enjoyable here. Popular because of the variety of great dives nearby, and enjoyable because the dive base leaders and staff are particularly friendly and accommodating, as well as efficient. The Protected Marine Area of Embudu Channel is a couple of minutes away and encompasses the thrilling drift dive of Embudu Express, the coral gardens of Embudu Thila and a shark point (grey reef sharks).
Nearly three quarters of the guests are German speakers and a quarter are French. The remainder are a few British, Italian and Japanese. Everyone is on full board and all 3 meals are worth looking forward to - there has been no budget squeeze here. The separate buffet tables and a live cooking station outside have done away with the long queue. The smiling food and beverage manager and his waiters, the excitable chatter among the low lit tables and, most of all, the really good food, make dining one of the day's highlights.
If you've had good food and drink and a busy day diving or snorkelling, then a simple bed might be all you want. Embudu can give you that. Its 36 Standard Rooms are perhaps the only 'old style Maldives' rooms remaining. They do not have air conditioning, the only hot water is in the shower and - how nostalgic! - there is salt water in the sink taps. The rooms do still have their die-hard fans.
The 72 Superior Rooms add air conditioning, fresh water, hair dryer and fridge. The furniture is simple but adequate. The 16 Deluxe Rooms are the water bungalows. Brown rectangular boxes from outside, they are relatively luxurious inside and boast a satellite TV, a safe, a glass panel in the wood floor and a narrow but private balcony.
In line with its 'natural as possible' ideal, there has not been any sand pumping to create artificial beaches and no groynes have been built, although a couple of low walls have been deemed necessary. Bushes are allowed to grow down at the shoreline, which stabilises it but does mean a sometimes intermittent beach. The sand, unadulterated by pumped stuff, is of the highest quality.
Overall, whatever disappointments there might be are forgotten in a short day or two as the great easygoing atmosphere takes you over. This place will long remain a success.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville