This neat, compact resort is run by the Taj group, India's leading luxury hotel management company.
The management is out front and interactive, perfectly turned out and always trying to keep their guests happy. On hand at the evening entertainment, encouraging guests to join in their cricket, football or tennis games, or just listening carefully to requests, the Taj's 100-year experience in the hospitality business is affirmed every day.
The resort is neither a very active place nor a completely quiet one. The excursion list is short and ordinary (Male excursion, Kuda Bandos picnic, night fishing and island hopping, plus a possible photo flight and whale submarine), but a sandbank some way off is used for couples to taste a desert island experience (with a bottle of champagne, of course).
The once-a-week disco on the beach is the single 'big night out' and 3 other nights have short, light entertainments. Otherwise the nights are for quiet drinks on the big bar deck overlooking the lagoon or reading and chatting outside the rooms.
Although not greatly used, the resort does have a gym, a full-sized snooker table and a small swimming pool. On one side of the pool is the spa, run by the famous Balinese company Mandara. The therapists are very good, the menu short and sweet, but the rooms are small and enclosed.
Strung along the slowly curving base of this rounded triangular island are the 36 Lagoon Villas. Constructed in pairs, their entrance is from the land but their balcony and views are over water (past the lagoon walls). One deck set back is large and private but the deck at the water's edge is very small and visible to all its neighbours. A few wooden steps take you down to a sandy lagoon with good coral outcrops. The first 2 villas look east and are very close to the snorkelling zone, the last 4 villas have the sunset every day and the remaining villas look northwards but do get sun on their decks.
The 30 Beach Villas are a little smaller than the Lagoon Villas but equally solidly built and equipped with satellite television and in-house movies, hair dryer, safe, minibar, and tea and coffee facilities. The rooms, again in pairs, reach around the rounded tip of the triangle and, in doing so, have very different experiences of beach during the year.
From August to January, the effect of the southwest wind and prevailing current pushes the sand into a very fine beach beside the main jetty and outside the restaurant, grill and first few rooms. It makes for a great focal point to the resort and its activities but at the expense of a beach in front of the remaining rooms. From February to March the beach moves back to give these rooms a fine beach, but this reduces the beach of the first few rooms and resort frontage to a rump of sand.
Snorkelling is very good on Taj Coral Reef. The house reef is accessible all around, although with the area outside the Lagoon Villas off-limits for half the year due to strong currents, the really good snorkelling area is not very extensive. Having said that, a house reef wreck 3 minutes from the beach is a big bonus. Surprisingly, there are no snorkelling trips on the excursion list.
Diving is well established here and, set in the middle of the western side of the atoll, many varied dive sites are within easy reach by dhoni.
The three main nationalities enjoying their holiday here are Italian, Japanese and British. Other guests come from India, France, Korea and China. Expectation of high standards is a common denominator of these guests and perhaps nowhere is this expectation more visibly met than in the restaurant.
The high thatched roof, open sides and views out to the beach or inside to the swimming pool make for a setting worthy of the cuisine. As you would expect, Indian curries are a speciality of the house. A renowned Japanese chef resides for a month a year to train staff in the finer culinary arts of the East. Chefs at a live pasta station perform every lunch and dinner. The buffet spreads are adventurous and perfectly turned out.
A grill specialising in lobster, squid, prawn and steaks has a fine spot at the water's edge and serves just 4 tables: 3 candlelit on the beach and 1 on the beach bar decking.
For service, cuisine and a fun but always genteel holiday, Taj Coral Reef scores highly.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville