Madoogali is a gem of a resort and, in many ways, a model for other islands.
It is as natural looking and as 'green' as a resort can be, yet still as smart and well ordered as the day it opened. Add a first class beach and reef plus outstanding service and you have a winner.
The island is a rare mix of untouched, lush vegetation and areas of tamed nature. A sandy path in front of the rooms is shaded by bowers of bougainvillea, mature palms and more than one very fine banyan tree; while a neat garden marks the crossing of the two interior paths. The rest of the interior is left more or less wild.
Past managers have instigated a number of environmentally friendly procedures. One is to regularly clean the house reef manually, another is disposing of all refuse in the most appropriate manner and recycling whatever is possible (for example, coconut husks and oil drums to local islanders, and kitchen waste turned into fertiliser).
The thick, cream coloured beach has been allowed to flow around the island from season to season as it has always done. The only intervention is temporary sandbagging at the last possible moment. There are no groynes or lagoon walls. This is still a picture perfect island.
The commitment to nature is paralleled by a commitment to maintain the built environment as new. First constructed in 1989, the rooms and public buildings are in perfect shape.
The 50 individual bungalows are solidly made of coral and handsomely decorated inside and out. They are perhaps not as big as they look from outside (with their overhanging thatch) but there is plenty of space for dressing and sitting areas.
The restaurant, bar and reception are sensibly joined together in one area. The bar is the least attractive part for me: simple cane chairs sit on a tiled floor with patches of circular straw mats. The restaurant too looks a little old-fashioned but the happy hubbub at mealtimes tells me the clientele are content and the food is good. The waiters contribute their part. To a man they are excellent - attentive and smiling. Indeed the same is true of all the staff here, most of whom have been here for many years and love the place as much as their guests.
This is predominantly an Italian island but not exclusively. The animation is moderate and there is no pressure to join in. Nonetheless, other Europeans should be happy to go along with the hip, young Italian animators in their blue tops and white shorts and not miss out on some good excursions.
The resort makes good use of a neighbouring desert island - for a picnic lunch on a full day excursion, for a sunset and sangria event and for private dinners and even overnights. Every day there is a snorkel trip to one of several different reefs as well as a weekly nightsnorkelling adventure. The resort also runs a successful trawler fishing boat with a history of big catches of sailfin and even giant grouper.
Snorkelling is very good on the house reef too, with much better than average coral life. There is a cut through on either side of the island but the reef is accessible everywhere at high tide. The dive school runs guided snorkelling and diving on the house reef, as well as courses. The base leader, Christian, a Swiss Italian, has been gaining an enviable reputation by word of mouth from satisfied guests and the diving has greatly increased in popularity. The boats are never crowded, the instructor to diver ratio is high and the overall personal service is much appreciated.
A mention should also be made of the two fine spas. The larger one is inside the island (next to the garden), with space for ‘Adam and Eve’ treatments (couples together), while the small spa hut is near the water’s edge for the added dimension of the soothing sound of the waves upon the shore.
Put simply, Madoogali is still one of the very best Italian resorts in the country.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville