Shangri-La Villingili might be the “Southernmost Resort”, but Equator Village gets you to the Southernmost Point, the tippy-toe, of the Maldives on its Gan island (as you can see from the map below, Villingili resort island extended below the position of Equator Village, but the rest of Gan island outside the resort compound goes further south). Maldives Complete roving reporter Paola posted the above photo of this geographic extremity on the very tip of Gan’s southern promontory.
Compass point extremes have a strange allure. Like you have gone to the very edge of the place in question. The planet carries on pretty much like the surrounding area, but still you feel like you have reach to the limit of this destination. Especially in the Maldives which stretches so extensively from north to south for nearly a thousand kilometres. Our son, Chase (himself a veteran of many Maldives trips) has explored these topological margins with his field recording both in the USA (Key West where we stayed at the Southernmost Hotel) and the UK (where he undertook a project to record all for compass points extremes in Britain which ended up in the British Library).
The resort to celebration all things aviation is Equator Village. Not only set in the epicentre of Maldives aeronautics past and present, but itself originally an airbase. The villas themselves used to be officer quarters and the dining room the officer’s club. The classic post-war style is still in evidence and the property features a number of reminders of its high flying pedigree. RAF veterans still make regular pilgrimages for reunions to the resort. I especially enjoyed this nostalgic collection of videos taken of Gan way back before the tourism industry had brought foreign guests by the planeload.
For the full story, check out my previous post about the base’s history (as well as some of the other historical highlights of Gan.
Historically, when it came to the rest of the world first visiting the Maldives, Gan was the centre of the map, in fact the very heart of navigation and in the whole Indian Ocean area. The Addu Island has a proud aeronautical legacy that goes back decades and continues to this very day. And for a cargo plane full of fun facts that I picked up during my stay there this summer as well as some follow up research, check out Maldivian Holidays’ latest issue features a piece on Gan by yours truly. You can read their online version, and (appropriately enough) it is also distributed as an in-flight magazine in the Maldives.
As it happens, Equator Village welcomed the latest resort manager, Mohamed Waheed, this past week. May this resort fly high for many years to come.
Some people (and resorts) think that the big, prominent, showy parts of the property are what define its “star quality (eg. 4-star, 5-star, super 5-star+). The welcome jetty, the extravagant ingredients on the menu, the ubiquitous service. But there are a number of small acid-tests which distinguish the quality of the resort just as much. Three of our favourites are…
· Pina Colada Test – This drink is perhaps the definitive tropical cocktail. It is just complicated enough in its recipe that it’s quality and style varies enormously from resort to resort. In my annual tour report on the Maldives Trip Advisor Forum, a short one sentence assessment of the pina colada (I have one at every resort) speaks volumes about the resort’s attention to detail and care for such an iconic part of the sunny holiday experience.
· Beach Furniture – For starters, plastic versus wood is what separates the 4-stars from the 5-stars. Don’t even think about calling yourself a 5-star if you are going to put out plastic furniture. And the super 5-star+ resorts go a step further special design, cushioning or creative placement (like in the pool).
· Cocktail Snacks – The basic here is the crisps/potato chips and nuts which is typical 4-star fare. The 5-stars will go for olives and maybe some flavoured snacks like a Bombay Mix. And the super 5-star+ resorts will provide specially prepared gourmet nibbles.
It was given this context that we were so pleasantly surprised by one of the most more-ish pool snacks ever served to us in the Maldives was at what is probably the lowest cost, full-fledged resort in the Maldives – Equator Village. They make freshly cooked potato chips. And they are delicious. Crispy and hot. Admittedly, they are not complimentary (they cost $5), but it is money worth spending for an accompaniment to your sundowner cocktail.
Best resort for Gary Lineker!
Equator Village has been one of the most keenly anticipated resort visits of this tour. It is one of the very first resorts I researched back in the early 90s when I started my whole Maldives adventure. There was very little on its rudimentary website at the time and little has changed.
Kurumba might be the “oldest resort”, but Equator Village is the “oldest” resort property. Its buildings were built in 1960. Its original residents weren’t exactly “tourists” in the strictest sense, but they considered their stay very much a paradise posting. Gan was a British RAF base and historical accounts talk about the officer’s days spent snorkelling the reef and sunbathing on the beach. Not too much has changed in 56 years then!
This aesthetic of the last days of the Empire survives in the current property with rattan furniture, wrought iron lamp posts, and even tin roofs! The resort villas themselves were actually the original barracks for the RAF officers and the main reception building was the officers mess and officers club. Equator Village as kept the property well maintained and it is nicely decorated with fresh paint and a number of other modern upgrades (like in room Wifi).
Equator Village is one of the lowest priced resorts in the Maldives. Not just the room rate, but the Serena Spa there offered massage treatments on special which were the cheapest massages we have ever gotten in the Maldives ($80 for one hour), but as good as any luxury spa (delivered expertly by the ubiquitous Balinese masseuses). The resort can be a very handy option with possibilities for exploring the Addu atoll on a budget and mixing your stay with a bit of history and local culture.
Vintage Maldives drenched in a shared English heritage.
If you get geographically claustrophobia, then you can still enjoy the tropical splendour of the Maldives on the more substantial plot of land, Gan. Covering 1500 hectares, it provides expansive open spaces rare in the Maldives. Big enough for an airfield which stretches from one end to another. And an old, disused golf course (built by the RAF airmen stationed there).
Not only is Gan substantial, but it is connected to a string of islands Feydu and Hittadu. The resident resort there is Equator Village. As a result, it 'open' in another way by being also the one resort located on an island where other non-staff Maldivians reside. So it is truly open to Maldivian life not just landscape.
While the absolute lowest price for the Maldives seems to be Asdu Sun, if you want a refreshing brew, pool-side pina colada or glass of wine with dinner, those refreshments can add a tidy amount to an tight budget. As a result, many prefer the ‘All Inclusive’ scheme which minimises those mounting extras and can provide the lowest total cost of a holiday.
Equator Village has an All-Inclusive (AI) for $167 for 2 people sharing making it $84 per person per day which would seem nearly as low as Asdu Sun’s FB offer. Unfortunately, it does take an extra plane transfer to get there which adds $337 per person or $48/day for a 7 day stay.
But, Club Faru quoted $184.00 on All Inclusive for two people sharing for $92 per person per day. That not only covers an extra meals, but drinks (including spirits), soft drinks, coffees and even an city tour excursion to Male. That could be an even a better deal than Biyadhoo’s FB offer overall.
One of the defining characteristic of the Maldives are their miniscule islands, but if such diminutive scale is too claustrophobic for you, then maybe you want to consider the other end of the spectrum. The largest resort island (the second largest island in the whole country after Hithado in the same atoll) in the Maldive archipelago is Gan at 2,256 square km. That compares to an average across all the resort islands of about 200k square metres.
Gan’ s resort is Equator Village. Gan also has an extensive history which includes a British naval base established there in World War II and an ancient Buddhist temple.