According to ISAF, since 1580 there has been just one confirmed, nonfatal shark attack in The Maldives. But that reassuring statistic is not foremost in my mind when I spy, through my misty snorkelling mask, a distinctive torpedo-shaped fish with broad, round snout and large eyes, rising from the deep azure waters just beyond the coral reef drop-off of Ellaidhoo Island.
There is a primal instinct shared by every human being, and that is to fear any animal that could eat us or tear off one of our limbs at the very least. Most likely this grey reef shark is not the slightest bit interested in me or anyone else marvelling at the underwater world of kaleidoscopic beauty. However, I’m certainly not hanging about to re-enact any of the bloodier scenes from an infamous series of films with soundtracks dominated by cello music. Thanking my lucky stars for the added propulsion of fins on my feet, I power back to the safety of the shallow lagoon at a speed that would give Michael Phelps a good run – or rather swim – for his money. The snorkel has dropped from my mouth and I’m swallowing salt water, but I don’t stop until I’ve flopped onto the white sandy beach in front of the Dive and Sail School.
One of the dive instructors is out on the beach and watching me with some amusement. “Good snorkel?” he asks, squinting his eyes against the blindingly bright sunshine.
“Shark! Big one! Out there!” I barely manage to get the words out between coughing up the briny water I’ve inhaled.
“Ha! They’re just babies, those reef sharks. You should come diving sometime to see their Daddies.”
I gaze back at the ocean, noting the distinct line where the shallow turquoise waters end and the deep, dark blue begins. What really lurks out there? I shudder as it dawns on me that my husband is currently out diving, deep in that abyss.
The dive instructor grins. “Catch you later!” he says. “Peace, love and happiness.”
Peace, love and happiness?
I later learn that this is his life mantra, a sentiment that echoes throughout this tiny, chilled out island. Ellaidhoo is a “no news, no shoes” type of place, so typical of The Maldives. Think classic tropical island paradise… gorgeous white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, crystal clear waters, coral reefs teeming with marine life. Ellaidhoo claim they house “the best diving reef in the world”. I’m not 100% sure about that but it is pretty special, and it’s not long before the lure of swimming amongst thousands of fish of every conceivable colour, shape and pattern proves far stronger than my fear of coming face to face with sharks, again!
The Blurb on Ellaidhoo Resort
Located on the eastern fringe of the North Ari Atoll, approximately 85 minutes by speed boat (or 25 minutes by seaplane) from Male airport, and occupying the whole island, Ellaidhoo resort (formerly Chaaya Reef) is part of the Cinnamon hotel group.
The only proper sandy beach on the island lies in front of the Dive school, with just a few thin strips of beach elsewhere on the island. There are plenty of sunbeds for the sun worshippers on this beach, the pool and elsewhere on the island, while those seeking shady respite can easily find it.
Guests can choose between four different types of rooms and suites:
Standard rooms – located in the middle of the island and aimed at divers or anyone else intending to spend minimal time in their room.
Superior rooms – aimed at family groups and offering more spacious accommodation than the standard rooms.
Beach bungalows – suites located on the edge of the lagoon, with ocean views.
Water bungalows – set in the lagoon and providing the premium accommodation, with a price tag to match.
Bars and Restaurants
Madi’s restaurant is the largest dining venue on the island, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in relaxed, sandy-floored surroundings. Guests are allocated to a table for the duration of their stay on the island and have two dedicated waiters to serve drinks and clear away plates between courses. The cuisine is buffet style, with additional chefs’ stations providing made-to-order omelettes, scrambled eggs, bacon, waffles, French toast and pancakes at breakfast, and dressed salads, pasta, grilled fish and meat at lunch and dinner. There is also a selection of traditional Maldivian curries and accompaniments available at each meal, and a separate, refrigerated room for freshly prepared fruit and a large selection of desserts. The pastry chefs at Ellaidhoo deserve a special mention as they produce the most incredible sweet treats daily – each one a little work of art!
Malamathi Restaurant and Bar is located close to the water bungalows and the infinity swimming pool and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset each evening. Only guests staying in the water bungalows can take their main meals here (a scaled down version of the food served in Madi’s restaurant), although all guests can enjoy snacks and drinks here at other times of the day.
Iruohsnee Bar is a great place to just chill with a drink at any time of the day but is particularly appealing at night, when it’s lit by hundreds of fairy lights.
If pampering is your thing, the Chavana Spa offers a range of Balinese treatments in tranquil surroundings. I indulged myself with a Balinese massage and purity facial, and was rewarded with a complimentary foot massage… absolute bliss!
Gym and Other Sporting Activities
For the active types, there’s a reasonably well-equipped gym and badminton, squash and tennis courts. Indoor pool tables, table tennis and a football table provide entertainment for rainy days.
Flora and Fauna of Ellaidhoo
There are beautiful orchids on the island, with abundant wildlife, including herons, fruit bats and lizards…
The focus of Ellaidhoo is their house reef, so if you’re not into diving or snorkelling, this is probably not the place for you. In addition to snorkelling, my husband dived on the house reef 10 times and twice from the dive boats. He rates the diving on Ellaidhoo highly, and was impressed with the instructors at the Dive and Sail school. It’s worth mentioning that Ellaidhoo is surrounded by a sea wall which, while not the most attractive, is very necessary (and increasingly common in The Maldives) to spare the coral reefs and the island itself from erosion.
As with all holidays to The Maldives, there is a price tag attached, although Ellaidhoo is one of the least expensive resorts. The island is very friendly, the staff try their best to make your stay as pleasant as possible, and the accommodation and food is generally of a high standard. I did find it slightly annoying that despite being on the All Inclusive package, Management tried to upsell extra drinks (spirits and champagne) as well as private dining and excursions. We politely but firmly declined any such offers the first day and were left in peace after that.
Overall, I give Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon 9/10.
- We travelled to Ellaidhoo in January 2017 and stayed in a beach bungalow.
- Flights: Qatar Airways from London Heathrow to Male via Doha.
- Our resort package included speedboat transfers from Male to the island, although we were luckily upgraded (at no extra cost) to a seaplane for the return journey – a wonderful experience, providing great aerial views of some of the other islands.
With grateful thanks to my husband for the underwater photos, taken while we snorkelled together. All other photos are my own.