When the world gives you lemons…make lemonade.
When the world gives you lemonade bottles…make eco-friendly walkway.
One of the more creative solutions to the earth-friendly plastic bottle disposal issue in the Maldives is Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo’s walkways. They have coated their discarded plastic bottles with a layer of natural looking cement and used the result cylinders to make an extensive set of walkway liners.
From seeing through floors to not seeing through windows, Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo beach villas feature tinted glass windows. Not only do these help to keep the interior cool in an eco-friendly way, but they also allow you to keep the shades open while maintaining privacy (though you need to keep the lights off in the room to maintain maximum privacy effect).
From a snorkel enhancement to a wreck, to a wreck enhancement to a snorkel. The Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo extensive house includes its own wreck. A small inter-island cargo ship just off the main jetty. Usually such wrecks are the province of dive trips or excursions, but at Ellaidhoo, it’s just another handy feature of their extensively equipped house reef.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million. Videos are surging in on the web in general and in particular to try to capture the magic of the Maldives in even higher fidelity. I
Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo has taken cinematic illustration to the next dimension. The third dimension of 3D TV in its dive centre with stereoscopic footage taken of the house reef. Just need to get some footage of a shark coming straight out of the screen at you for a bit of hair raising fun.
For people who prefer a more holistic chilling out on the rocks, the Azmaara Spa at Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo features reflexology stones in their reception.
The house reef remains one of the top criteria in Maldive resort choice. Resorts with weaker or less accessible “house reefs” have to work harder to compensate with a more enticing overall offering. Distinguishing between the fine house reefs, though, is a very subjective exercise. Some have more coral, some have more fish, some are more accessible, some are more extensive. Except for Reefscaping, there’s not a lot that a resort can do to alter its reef endowment. But given it pre-eminence as a guest lure, I’m always surprised that resorts don’t do more to enhance the house reef experience.
One resort that has pulled out the stops to support snorkling (and diving) its own very fine house reef is appropriately named Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. They are blessed with a vibrant reef with curious caves and colourful soft coral. But instead of resting on their polyps (hmm…that sounds like a tired person with piles), they have invested in all sorts of infrastructure to guide and support to make the whole experience easier and more satisfying including…
- Snorkel/dive spotting white board
- Ropes to dive entry points and at entry points
- Current indicator
- Sign out board so people can go themselves on the house reef
- Wreck next to the house reef
- Snorkel board
For divers who want to dive this house reef, solo diving is permitted (as long as you follow the strict safety guidelines). I’ve not seen so many things put in place to enhance the house reef experience. A number of them are quite unique in their own right (eg. current indicator, house reef wreck). But the one that excited me the most was the “Spotting White Board”.
I have been advocating for years that resorts feature a white board where they could share their snorkel discoveries and sightings. I envisioned a map where people could highlight what they saw and where. My frustration with the lack of any logging or sharing facility is what led to me developing the Snorkel Spotter. Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo doesn’t have anything as fancy as that, but at least it has a log board for sightings (see photo below) which is in the right spirit.
Colourful creatures floating all around you. Some inquisitive about your presence, while others more skittish and shy. Large and small, or all shapes and colours. Not the marine life in the water, but the bird life in the air on Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. Elaidhoo features an expansive aviary filled with fowl of all description – parrots, exotic hens, cockatoos [OTHERS]. As colourful as any collection of tropical fish you will find in the water.
We took as many pictures visiting the aviary as we did on any house reef. But my wife Lori’s favourite (so much so that she changed her Facebook profile picture to it) was of the baby chicks who hid in their mother’s wings and poked their heads out (see bottom).
One of the things I have “now seen” is a li-lo for snorkelling. I called this out last year and now Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo finally has one. It is called a “Microsub” and you can rent it for $20 per hour from the dive centre. It is a great device for weak swimmers who want to enjoy the spectacle of snorkelling in the Maldives. In some respects, it is better than a life jacket because it keeps the legs elevated at the top of the water. One of the problems with weaker swimmers using life jackets for snorkelling is that they let their legs dangle underwater and often kick coral inadvertently.
Just another way that the Maldives makes the undersea extravaganza accessible to just about everyone.
Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo is like a 4 star Kurumba. Primarily because of it being a classic round Maldivian island shape surrounded by a ring of sea barriers. Some people are put off by the stone defences saying that they detract from the idyllic views over the ocean. But one dividend they provide is a safe haven of snorkelling for beginners and weak swimmers. It is the closest thing to an open water swimming pool. Yes, the sandy lagoon that are all over the Maldives also provide this sanctuary, but they also offer very limited things to see snorkelling. The sea defences themselves often provide a vibrant platform for all sorts of creatures. And the seas defences are positioned at the precipice of the house reef drop off, so the resort does offer that dramatic snorkelling for those who wish to venture out a bit more at some point.
But another reason for the comparison is its value for money. Kurumba is one of the best value-for-money 5 stars and I think Ellaidhoo might just be one of the best value-for-money 4 stars. Don’t take my word for it. I got the notion from a real Maldivian expert and veteran. Known as “Turquoise 23”, as she is known on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum, we overlapped on our visits this trip and arranged to meet up during our stay (see photo below).
My tours are starting to become TripAdvisor Meetups. We swapped stories and perspectives from her 15 trips to the Maldives. She has run the gamut from Shangri-La Villigili to the now defunct Lohifushi. Ellaidhoo is the third resort that she has graced with a return visit. She explained her decision to me saying she had a really great time here on her last visit and doing her research this time around, it was the best value going.
During my short stay, I uncovered 5 distinctives to write out in the coming months.
Photo courtesy of Francisco Negrin
Some people like having activities of a water sports centre, but others don’t like the noise and activity. A solution…put them all on another island as Chaaya Reef Elaidhoo has done. The sports centre is located at the neighbouring Maaga Island…
“Activities such as water skiing, jet skiing, and organises once a week Maaga beach party with a BBQ dinner. There is a sports centre with a modern gym, tennis court, squash court, and children’s play area.”
A sports haven among a paradise haven.