Maayafushi, once a German and British dive island, is now predominantly an Italian resort run in a very soft club style. It would be similar in approach to Athuruga, somewhere between the all-together-fun of Alimatha and the quiet of Dhiggiri.
Although there are daily and weekly scheduled events, guests are never pushed to join in, merely kept informed. Some weeks the activities take off and everyone on the island seems to take part and get into it. The Maldivian Night might be a big hit, with many guests wearing sarongs; the guests might do their own 'Review' and a special dance on the beach might be organised. Other weeks, an air of 'not for us' settles on the island and the days and evenings pass by quietly, with few activities taken up. The senior staff in the management and animation teams are experienced and good at their job and so pick up quickly on the collective spirit at any one time and respond to it.
Everyone is on all-inclusive. This entails all meals in the restaurant and snacks in the coffee shop and all drinks except certain premium brands, bottles of wine (rather than by the glass), espressos and ice creams. Up to midnight. Windsurfs and canoes are free, catamarans are charged. Snorkeling gear is for hire at the dive base. No excursions are included.
Individual internet packages are expensive and the connection fairly slow. The resort may well go for wifi in the coffee shop and bar in the future but it will still be charged. The resort is really more 'no news, no shoes' than most resorts that use that tag line. Come here wanting and willing to leave your usual daily life behind in Europe. There is just one small television on the island. There is sand almost everywhere except in the rooms and the restaurant. So no shoes and no news.
The small, oblong island lies almost perfectly north-south. Off the southern tip is Maayafushi's distinctive tongue of sand, now rather shorter and broader than before but still wonderful. Off the northern tip are the waterbungalows. An extensive island wall retains the sand around this northern end, groynes then intersperse the fine sandy beach down the remainder of the island, ending with the tongue stretching out into the lagoon, shadeless and inviting.
The west side of the island obviously has the afternoon sun and the sunset but the east side has the snorkeling just off the beach. And this is an excellent island for snorkeling. Thecoral is abundant a good seven metres before reaching the drop-off. Turtles, black-tip reefsharks, morays and schools of fish are abundant; mantas are occasionally seen.
Diving is not as popular with these guests as it once was but the local dive sites are still just as good. This is one of the most famous places for diving in the country, boasting world famous names such as Maaya Thila, Fish Head, Maalhoss Thila and Hafusa Thila where grey reef sharks, white tips, sting rays, eagle rays, snappers, groupers, jack fish and so much more of the great fish are seen around the thilas, heaving with healthy big fancorals, table corals and so on.
The 60 beach rooms on the resort come in blocks of four, with a few in pairs. All but ten are large enough to also have a third bed or day bed. In keeping with the simplicity of the island and its philosophy, there is everything you need in the rooms but nothing extra. So there is no telephone, tv or bath but there is a good shower, a hair-dryer and safe. The style is straightforward, neither rich nor rustic.
The 8 waterbungalows are popular with honeymooners and others but they are not very pretty from the outside though the interiors are a good size. Large, sliding glass doors open out to the deck, but these are open on all sides so the neighbours are very visible. Furthermore,the decks face North, more or less, and so do not get much direct sun. On the other hand, they are just a few steps and a swim away from one of the three cuts through to the reef, so for snorkeling they are first rate.
With the coming of the new Italian owners came a thorough upgrading of furniture and interiors and a commitment to the highest industry standards, of which guests are not usually aware. Behind the scenes, the management and staff have worked to secure ISO certification. This is still extremely rare in the Maldives. Essentially it means that guests can be assured of rigorous standards of cleanliness, quality control and maintenance across the whole range of resort operations.
Maayafushi, then, is an Italian-led, modestly-price, straightforward resort with high standards and an old-style Maldives philosophy and great snorkelling.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville