Many of the staff members have been with the resort for 10 years or more. This says a lot about concern for the staff which is directly reflected in the sincere and friendly service that they provide. The atmosphere is familiar, relaxed and sorted.
Apart from the staff, the only thing remaining from the previous incarnation of Veligandu is a line of 10 Waterbungalows, and even these have been refitted to become Water Villas, almost identical to the 66 new Jacuzzi Water and Beach Villas. The difference is that they are a bit smaller and have an enclosed rather than partly open bathroom. On the other hand, they have access to snorkeling on the outside reef, though currents and occasionally waves can be an issue here.
Half the 76 rooms face west to the sunset and half face east to sunrise. On the west side, there is decent snorkeling accessed off the main jetty, so those few jacuzzi water villas near the jetty also get access from their decks. The best snorkeling is accessed off the southern tip. The key difference between the snorkeling zones is that the west looks into the atoll and the east looks out to the ocean. There you find a lot of rays, sharks and turtles, even mantas apparently.
A fine beach runs down both sides of the island and, at the southern end, a good third is a broad sandbank, which is what ‘veligandu’ means in Dhivehi. Lined by loungers with thatched umbrellas, this is a serious sun tanner’s dream. The lagoon is a few steps away and so too the snorkeling point of exit. Some guests prefer to spend more time around the central swimming pool. In between these 2 outdoor attractions lies the great, long, high bar with different seating areas for activities, for chatting and for quiet.
Sand below and thatch above is still almost everywhere, including the reception, bar and main restaurant. It’s a classic combination that softens and warms the sharp edges and glistening surfaces of modern, chic decor. In the rooms, the rich dark wood floor achieves something similar.
Veligandu is a big favourite with honeymooners and it’s easy to see why when, sitting in your jacuzzi in the water villa deck, you reach for a tropical fruit from the complimentary basket, sip from your glass of bubbly and gaze out through the open wood panels to the sun going down across the atoll. Sometimes jacuzzis can be little more than a tick in a box, here they are simple to use and really add something to the room.
The dive base had a big drop in clients when the resort price went up and more honeymooners came. But the base leader turned it around by shifting the focus from all-out, serious multi-dives a day to one which looks at the guests and the way they want to experience underwater. The groups are smaller now, guests are asked about what dive they would like next and the service is flexible. In terms of the diving itself, with just one other resort, Kuramathi, in this small atoll and many good spots, the trips are mostly within 25 minutes and the boat is usually alone. A good manta point is nearby (usually December to May), but the highlight is the hammerhead shark point. It’s a 6am start but the dive base leader says he never fails to get excited. A 2-tank dive is an option down to north Ari Atoll, to Maya Thila, one of the top spots in the country. With 4 other types of sharks frequently seen it’s unsurprising a shark specialty course is offered back at base.
Snorkeling excursions come recommended, especially to a site called ‘Three Palms’. Another boat excursion of note is to an inhabited island, Hoodoo, on its own tiny atoll some kilometres north of Veligandu. It is rarely visited but it’s a special place: traditional, friendly, an agricultural island and the site of ancient Buddhist remains.
One disappointment to this great resort is the spa, which is square and functional rather than possessing beauty and a bit of pizzaz or, better still, some Zen. The quality of the cuisine, too, was just a little below what might be expected to go with the quality of the resort overall. Then again, I went in the low season and this does have a bearing.
Having found something to complain about I can very happily say I love this place. The staff and management are fantastic, it all looks great, feels luxurious and the beach is pure heaven.