The most reasonably priced all-inclusive resort in the country, Summer Island is also one of the most relaxed and unpretentious. It is a resort that is comfortable with what it is and what it offers: long, slow days in the sun, interspersed with snorkelling trips or diving, and long, convivial nights in the bar.
In a large lagoon on the western edge of the atoll, the house reef is too distant and, outside, too rough for snorkelling. So the resort puts on 4 hour-long snorkel trips every day. The first two are free and additional ones are just $3 each.
This was once a solidly German dive island. It is now three quarters German and a quarter British and although being all-inclusive has reduced the numbers, diving still plays a large part in the island's identity. For newcomers to the sport, the lagoon, with a gradual slope and sandy bottom, is ideal for learning.
The same lagoon is perfect for water sports too and this is one of the more active centres. The thatched hut sits at the end of the jetty at the top of the path down the island. With its eye-catching display of equipment, laminated pictures and special offers, sooner or later you are likely to take up on something. It might be a banana boat ride or wakeboard initiation, a parasailing high or a full moon catamaran trip.
The 92 Standard Rooms are fairly tightly spaced around the three sides of the island. They are very simple, with air conditioning but not even a telephone. Each of the rooms is white and clean, has a third bed, a weak shower and a decent veranda with chairs, deck-chairs and sun loungers. They are all close to the shore with views out to sea and are likely to have a good beach too.
After judicious pumping to fill in the gaps from erosion most of the rooms are now well catered for. One side of the triangle, facing out to the open sea, has a wall running its length. Just 12 of the standard rooms are on this side (the last numbered) as well as the 16 water bungalows.
In a line of blocks of 4, the water bungalows are large, solid and square. They are similar to the ones on Embudu Village, even down to the plate of glass in the wooden floors. As the premium rooms, they have a telephone, hair dryer, stocked minibar and satellite TV. The uninterrupted views to the horizon are great but the deck is way too small, you can see all your neighbours and there are no steps down to the water.
A few steps from the end of the short jetty takes water bungalow guests to their own numbered thatched umbrella and loungers, on a good little stretch of sand at the tip of the island. The heart of the island is not an out-of-bounds staff area but is attractively worked with palms and flowers and even a little stream and rockery. Birdsong decorates the silence, both from wild birds and the almost too successfully breeding caged birds.
In a quiet spot without rooms the Serena Spa juts out over a hidden beach into the lagoon. Staffed by two young women from Kerala it has a small but varied menu of treatments, from facials and bodyworks to ayurvedic massages and specials such as a 'divers recovery' and a 'sun lovers package'.
The restaurant serves 3 buffets a day and the coffee shop gives out hot drinks and sandwiches at teatime. A few paces away is the large bar, equally dark under its low thatch and equally easygoing, with sand on the floor. A disco happens every week and some light live music every other week, so this isn't a hotbed of live action but people do seem to find plenty to keep them up till late most nights.
Although everybody is on an all-inclusive package you still have to sign straight away for everything you drink. This irritant is smoothed by the attitude of the staff, which is everywhere eager and helpful. Indeed, this is one of the keys to the place. The relationship with the staff seems to make things more a matter of friendship than 'service'. And, similarly, the management is not remote but very happy to consider any suggestions and ideas.
In short, this is an economical all-inclusive that knows it’s an economical all-inclusive and does the job extremely well.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville