“ Country: Maldives / World Region: Indian Ocean „
Embudu Village- South Male Atoll
Regular readers of my reviews will know that I am a fairly frequent visitor to The Maldives, as some years ago I made my first visit for my silver wedding and fell in love with their beauty and simplicity. In order to afford to visit these islands I follow some very simple guidelines as cost is a major issue, and there are many islands within the chain that are reserved for the very wealthy. I am the budget traveller and choose to visit off season and to low cost islands so that the price becomes comparable with European holidays. This is how I came to visit Embudu Village.
Originally I was booked to go for my fiftieth birthday, but due to my father being diagnosed with cancer and awaiting surgery, I didn't feel I wanted to be so far away, so I cancelled this trip but promised myself that I would rebook at a later date which is what I did earlier this year. I booked through Holiday Hypermarket just the week before, and can highly recommend this company as they always seem to have the best prices on package holidays, often undercutting the cost offered by the tour operators themselves on their own websites. I always book late if I can as this brings the price down a lot.
I actually went in June which is the low season, but with climate change now the high season does not guarantee zero precipitation, but the chances of rain are much greater in the low season which has some quite heavy monsoon type downpours. Fortunately these are mostly in the late afternoon which I find rather refreshing and sometimes the sea whips up too which adds to the excitement!
Embudu Village is probably along with Biyadhoo and Fihalhohi the cheapest place to choose if you are on a budget. This is partially because these islands are close to the capital Male and are reached by speedboat, which is considerably cheaper than seaplane. The other reason for the inexpensive nature of Embudu is that the accommodation is simple and no frills, but for reasons that I will explain in a moment I think Embudu provides a holiday that is so peaceful and serene that this is not important to me anyway. Having said that we had one of the upgraded rooms and the standard was excellent.
On arrival at the resort I was impressed within the first few minutes as an email I had sent requesting a table for 2 in the restaurant had been noted and acknowledged by a very friendly hotel manager. Even in the more upmarket resorts guest are expected to share tables with complete strangers, which is something the Maldivians seem to think that tourists enjoy. However it is not for me I'm afraid as it is far too hit and miss with regard to compatibility, and also it rather ruins a romantic holiday when you have to make conversation with folk, some of whom love to talk about their work as previous holidays have highlighted. This is not for me - I like to escape all of that and not sit in the middle of the Indian Ocean talking about business cases, or as happened once - the perils of my vegetarian lifestyle to my health! Don't get me wrong I love to chat to folk around the island, but not meal after meal if you don't gel, so always email the resort and follow up on arrival before you go the restaurant because it is difficult to change after you have sat with people as it can offend.
The island is very tiny indeed compared to most and is reached within a few minutes by speedboat from Male. There is a programme of refurbishment and re-building in progress as some of the rooms have been knocked down, so there is some work going on, but it is screened off by tall fences and is being done discreetly and with respect for guests. On this island the staff and guests mingle a lot and you will often see staff on their hours off lying in hammocks or chilling, which I really like as on some islands they are segregated completely.
The rooms are basic but very clean and the housekeeping is excellent with sheets and towels changed daily, and the bed turned down each evening and the sheets folded in beautiful patterns.
Each room has a shower and air conditioning and there are water bungalows for those wishing to upgrade. These are quite close to the shore and are not perhaps as luxurious as some islands, but they do have a clear glass area in the floor of the lounge which enables you to watch sea life.
The main reason that I travel to these islands is for the snorkelling and this island is absolutely amazing for this. It has a house reef very close to the shore and it is teaming with every kind of tropical fish in abundance. I was able to swim with Eagle Rays which is something I will never forget. The dive school is excellent for those wishing to learn to scuba dive or to take advantage of the many excursions they offer to dive sites for the more experienced.
The food is beautiful and the staff in the restaurant are friendly and very keen to please. I found the food to be of a very high standard and there was always something for vegetarians as it is all self service. The last night our table was decorated with flowers and looked absolutely beautiful.
There is also a spa on the island which I did not visit but I understand from others that it was very good and a great place to be pampered.
There are beautiful beaches on Embudu - icing sugar sand with just a head popping up every now and then as a hermit crab emerges. When the sun shines the water is turquoise and the water twinkles as local boats called Dhonis sail past on the horizon. It is such a calming sight and nowhere is crowded.
The island has very few English tourists - most are German or Swiss and the atmosphere is laid back with very little organised entertainment.
We went all inclusive which I like to do as it means I can keep hydrated, and if you are a lover of alcoholic drinks this is a good idea too as it takes way the worry of the bill at then end.
I think one of the most memorable moments for me was meeting a local who was pointing out the various islands that you can see in the distance - one Taj Exotica - a 5* resort and the other - Thilafushi or "Rubbish Island". Every day you could see the plumes of smoke rising up from the island as tourist trash ended its days on this former taste of paradise. It broke my heart to see this inevitable side effect of tourism and I always make sure that I do not leave empty bottles of sun lotion or shampoo to add to the problem that is growing year on year. The sight of this place does not dominate the island as it is sufficiently distant, but it does remind you of the problem that exists when we seek to enjoy these remote lands.
I also think it is so important when visiting these islands to take time to understand the culture of the people and the way that tourism has helped and also hindered their family life. Many of the staff live on Embudu but their families are in Male. Yes the tourist industry has provided job security, but it has also been a prescription for family members to spend long periods of time apart. Furthermore if you analyse the cost of a Maldivian holiday a large proportion of the cost is the airfare, and the modest sum charged by the more budget islands for accommodation and food leaves little room for criticism in my opinion. I just feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to see these beautiful islands which are absolutely awe inspiring.
Embudu is small, you can walk round in a few minutes, but it is a jewel in the Indian Ocean. The island is home to a beautiful aviary of colourful budgies that tweet their birdsong, and we always made a deliberate attempt to visit them several times each day before settling down in a hammock under a coconut tree to digest lunch, or before a gentle swim to glide along the reef edge as guests in the sea life world. Embudu is a warm and friendly place that gives so much and I feel very very privileged to have visited. We don't usually go back to islands in the chain more than once - at least we didn't until now as I am planning a return visit sometime soon to enjoy once again the simplicity that is Embudu.
This review will also be posted on Ciao under my user name Violet1278 and on IgoUgo with photographs