Vilu Reef is wonderfully endowed by nature. A good reef is close by on one side for snorkelling; a sandy lagoon on the other side is perfect for water sports.
A wide, white beach goes all the way around. Furthermore, unusually good soil supports dense vegetation, with many flowers and tall coconut palms.
That there are just too many rooms for the island's size is the one thing that detracts from this ideal picture. More than a few of the 62 Beach Villas have hindered views to the beach. Inside the island are 20 Garden Villas and outside lie 41 water bungalows.
The rooms themselves are attractive and well put together. The Beach Villas are a good size, thatched, shell-shaped, with a walk-in wardrobe and extra bed/sofa. Outside is an extended wooden deck, with cushioned loungers and thatched umbrella, that creates a pleasant and private space.
Of the water bungalows 35 are Jacuzzi Water Villas, 5 are Honeymoon Water Villas and one is a Presidential Water Suite. The jacuzzi bath is on the large outside deck, which also has a useful shaded area. Privacy is total, which is excellent, though it does mean there is somewhat less light inside the rooms. The Honeymoon Water Villas, on the other hand, have a separate living room with glass walls on 3 sides, though privacy is still maintained.
At the top of the island, at the base of the water bungalow jetty, is a smart new facility combining swimming pool, bar and à la carte sunset restaurant, which also hosts the special dinners such as 'The Romantic Menu' and the ‘Lobster Dinner’. All options, including the sports and excursions, are well advertised with laminated pictures on a board outside the reception.
The beach is wide, fine and lovely where it exists, which is most of the way around. The southern tip is particularly good and, facing the sun during the day, these are the rooms to go for. Other rooms facing west to the setting sun also have a fine beach, but the shoreline narrows around the northern tip so a short but high-ish lagoon wall has been built here.
The bar and lounge has a fine, swirling thatched roof, cowrie shell decoration and muted turquoise shell textiles over low-slung wicker chairs on a white sandy floor. The mix of the grand and the easygoing is just right. The wooden deck outside faces west for the perfect sundowner. The restaurant is segmented so one isn't so aware of the number of people all together and the food is good.
A further factor that reduces the sense of crowding is the gardening. A particular interest of the former general manager, the growth of trees, bushes and flowers is as good here as any other resort and better than most. The path around the interior is green, shady and calming. Tucked in the middle of this greenery is the excellent spa. Unsurprisingly, it is very popular. The therapists, many of the treatments and the decorative touches are all from India. It's a quiet, open, airy place of natural materials, with lovely smells and relaxing sounds.
Snorkelling is another strong point of the resort, with plenty of coral inside the lagoon and good access through to the always reachable reef drop-off. However, as it is at the edge of a fast-flowing channel care must be taken to check the prevailing conditions. With just one other resort in this atoll and one in the atoll above (as of 2007), the dive sites are still pristine and fully stocked. Like many centres now, nitrox dives and courses are offered.
German speakers and British are the majority guests around the year, though Italians and Japanese are numerous in the high season months. Almost everyone is all-inclusive, which is the ordinary package – except Italians get a little less and no one gets a free sunset fishing.
The resort is particularly good for children, with lots of shade, babysitting, the extra bed, a little park and, above all, a good attitude throughout. The resort also offers wedding vow renewal packages and honeymoon extras so Vilu Reef really is a place for everyone.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville