After settling on a winning formula at Meeru, Champa & Crown Resorts have recreated the same thing here pretty much exactly. Both resorts are always full and the tour operators always want to get more rooms for their UK, German, French and Swiss clients.
One key to their success is having one end of the island for families and the other end for couples. There are 4 room types. Garden Villas are the economy rooms inside the island. They, together with the Beach Villas, are at the family end. The Jacuzzi Beach Villas are towards the no children end and the Jacuzzi Water Villas are adults only.
Each end has its own swimming pool and bar. The garden villa and beach villa guests eat at the Funama Restaurant in the middle of the island, the jacuzzi room guests eat at the Ahima restaurant by their pool and bar. The bar there is also the sunset bar which is open to all adults. It’s happy hour is not at sunset but at 11-12pm! Like Meeru, the specialty restaurants are a Hot Rock (cooked at your table) restaurant by the sunset pool and an Asian Wok, over-water off the other end of the island.
Quality food and drink are other key elements of the formula. The buffets are the same for both main restaurants and are faultless. The display islands mean there is no queuing, there’s great variety and the main dishes are different for every day of 2 weeks. The Hot Rock is a treat for that special cut or seafood served outside around the pool, and the Asian Wok is a fantastic quiet retreat for a romantic evening.
It’s a sign of how well this whole resort ticks that the swimming pool and bars are abuzz with fun and laughter. Clearly many guests are meeting others here that they really get on with. Also the staff are really well looked after by this company and it tells.
A large majority of guests come on an all-inclusive plus package. The plus part is free soft drinks and beer from the minibar, a main bar that is open 24 hours and free use of the sports equipment and unmotored watersports. And there is plenty of sports: tennis, badminton, table tennis, billiards, darts, water polo, football (a top class artificial pitch) and fitness centre. Not forgetting the putting green.
1 sunset cruise is also included but you will also want to go on an island hopping trip or a manta, turtle or whale shark excursion. Vilamendhoo is lucky to be near the southern tip of Ari Atollwhere there is one of the world’s largest groupings of adolescent male whale sharks known. Big Game Fishing is expensive but if you do catch a sailfish or wahoo you can have it cooked as you like it that very evening.
There is a difference in price between Meeru and here but that is all about the seaplane transfer you need to make. For that extra price you get a sunset bar that is perfectly located and more modern and good-looking, but the big plus is the great snorkeling just a few metres away from the beach. This is unquestionably one of the top 7 resorts for snorkeling.
Diving remains a big part of the holiday for quite a few guests. There are 10 entrance/exit points around the island for easy buddy housereef diving. The channels of South Ari Atoll have long been renowned for the quality of the sites. And then there are the mantas and whale sharks just a short ride away.
The beach is narrow because this is a thin island side on to the channel current but the sand is good most of the way around the island. The northeast corner has some erosion, affecting 15% to 20% of the rooms but there are plans to turn that around.
The massive building work has meant that the flowers and bushes at ground level have gone and left the resort looking a bit bare for now, until the replanting takes hold and grows. Then again, Vilamendhoo was always an island with large numbers of huge coconut palms and they are still there to give the paths and rooms shade and that all-important tropical island look.