Equator Village has one big difference from all the other resorts in Maldives. This one is not an island on its own but a small part of a large island, Gan, which is itself connected to six other islands, inhabited and uninhabited.
This means it is the only resort where you can go off and freely mix with 'real life'. Not for an hour or two on the day you are expected, but at any time. The real pleasure of this resort is cycling off to explore the other islands, to discover for yourself lovely beaches in quiet coconut groves and to casually meet the locals. The level of spoken English here is good, so there is an opportunity not just to look but to interact. The hotel also rents a minibus for half day trips up the causeway to Hithadu, the country's second largest population after Male.
Germans make up around two-thirds of the guests here, with Russians almost all the remainder, and everybody comes on all-inclusive deals. It should be said that the food is basic and the included drinks are far from premium brands. But the atmosphere is usually very good, perhaps because the unique situation of the resort throws people together.
Guests get one Island Hopping and one Night Fishing excursion included in the holiday. They happen just once a week, as does the disco. The other entertainments are a fine full-size snooker table and a good hard court tennis court. There are also two free snorkeling trips a day. The house reef itself is just okay.
Diving is the real reason to come here for many of the German guests. By some fluke of channels and currents, Addu Atoll was not affected by the coral bleaching event, so it has kept its outstanding coral gardens. It also boasts year-round mantas and most of the big fish, such as grey reef sharks, tiger sharks, barracudas, yellow fin tunas and Napoleon wrasse.
Inside the enclosed atoll the visibility is generally quite poor and the dives are mostly 40 to 50 minutes away, so there are no more than 2 dives a day plus a weekly night dive. One regular site is the 'British Loyalty', at 140 metres, the biggest wreck in the country.
The other key highlight for many guests is the large, free-form swimming pool with its swim-up bar. A good part of each day is spent on the surrounding sun loungers, reading, chatting and drinking beer or tea. And when the moment takes you, there is a new Indian inspired spa also at the poolside, offering a good mix of massages and body treatments.
The 78 standard rooms are in smart rows behind gardens of clipped grass and tropical flowers. Inside, they are not luxurious but always neat and clean. An Internet spot is planned but at my last visit the only means of communication was still the public phone booth near the reception.
The grounds of the hotel, like the whole island of Gan, are wonderfully green, with a variety of indigenous and introduced trees and flowers (and bird life) not found on other islands. Unfortunately, the hotel's beach is not much to write home about, but guests find sufficient room on the sandy path above the narrow beach to relax on loungers and sunbathe.
Over the coming years Addu Atoll will be developing new resorts and Equator Village will surely benefit from this and improve. At the moment, one gets the feeling of being on the adventurous edge of Maldives tourism. Holidays are very well priced here but they are also unique for the opportunity to see real Maldives life.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville