Basking in Lankan hospitality in Maldives

Resort report By Royston Ellis

"I've sold five bottles of Dom Perignon champagne this week," Donald told me proudly. "For celebration dinners over there." He pointed to the pair of gazebos defining the edge of the ravishingly blue water of the swimming pool where it seemed to spill over into the lagoon below.

Donald lives on the banks of the Madu Ganga, that grand river of a thousand islets at Balapitiya. However, he works in the Maldives where he is in charge of food and beverage at the high-end restaurant on the John Keells-managed Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo resort. He seems to have swapped one idyllic setting for another: the company of fellow Sri Lankans -- both staff and guests -- and the pure holiday ambience of an efficiently run but modestly priced tropical island resort.

Pool and overwater bungalows

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo is in Ari Atoll, 25 minutes by Maldivian Air Taxi seaplane from Male' International Airport. It is a large island -- it even has its own football pitch -- with the untamed lushness of a tropical forest rather than the severe landscaping of some of its neighbouring, boutique-style resorts. The standard of hospitality at Chaaya Reef supports my belief that when I find a resort in the Maldives that I enjoy, there are bound to be Sri Lankans involved.

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo benefits from the experience of its Sri Lankan managers and front line staff like chefs and barmen. The welcome is palpable, and the farewell no less fond as managers and staff stand on the jetty watching the dhoni depart for the seaplane pontoon. They wave with feeling, and don't turn their backs with a sigh of relief as soon as guests depart.

During my short stay I observed a rare inter-action between the Sri Lankan staff and guests from Singapore, England, France, Canada and Germany. Everyone was enjoying themselves, pleasing themselves, with nothing forced. There was even impromptu ballroom dancing to the music of a Sri Lankan one-man band. Guests were obviously inspired by the setting of the Malamathi restaurant at the end of the island where it overlooks the swimming pool that soars out above the lagoon, and a horseshoe- shaped jetty linking 12 colourful overwater bungalows.

Each bungalow contains two guest units whose colours reflect the hues of the beach, lagoon and ocean. Each one has a startling painting on its wall of psychedelically-portrayed kissing fish, an ingredient of a fishy folk tale Maldivians love to relate, similar to the story of Jonah and the whale.

The overwater rooms have narrow balconies above the lagoon, a spacious bedroom with light flowing in from two sides (only if guests open the wall-to-floor curtains). There is a dressing room with lots of closet space adjoining the semi-open-air bathroom, where a triangular love-in bathtub lies in a corner under the thatch and stars. As well as the flat screen television, hairdryer, tea-making set, mini-bar and mini-safe, there are the up-market additions of an ironing board and an iron and even a scale to check your weight.

A superior room

In contrast to many resorts, these overwater rooms do not involve a long hike to the shore since it is only a few seconds walk to the Malamathi Restaurant, reserved for water bungalow residents. I was amused that housekeeping staff use an energy-saving, eco-friendly means of delivering linen to the rooms: a wheel barrow instead of a golf buggy. Actually, the décor of the water bungalow rooms is amusing too, with cloth starfish hanging from the curtains and wooden ones climbing up lampshades. The rooms are high-roofed and Bahamas bright, adding to the fun of staying there. The 28 superior rooms furnished like city apartments, and 46 beach and 14 garden bungalows have all been decorated to reflect a jolly nautical mood. There is a beach bar perfect for sunset-watching, as well as the main bar and the separate main restaurant. All meals are buffets and guests usually stay on an all-inclusive package. For Sri Lankans there is a special, very reasonable room rate.

There are activities galore including unorganised bird-watching. A surprising variety of birds is attracted by the island's tropic wilderness, including affable mynahs that are talkative and delighted to befriend the resort's guests. It's another of the features -- together with Donald's champagne -- that make Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo enchantingly pleasant for a short break. (

Royston Ellis is the author of “Maldives” published this month by Bradt in the UK and Globe Pequot in the USA. (

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
Other Plus Articles
The many ills of a little pill
My inspiration was my first love; European cinema
Waiting with bated breath for more on ill-gotten gains - Letter to the Editor
Learn a little lesson from a great Indian statesman - Letter to the Editor
A great philanthropist, visionary and entrepreneur - Appreciation
Perfect wife to a soldier and diplomat - Appreciation
An Irish Rose whose goodness blessed this country - Appreciation
Birthday remembrance - Appreciation
Say hello to Bee-eaters, Brown flycatchers and Kentish plovers...
From London to Lanka, the life of a centurian
Moved by the flamboyance of the flamenco
Just what the doctor ordered! A wholesome story and abundance of talent
A feast of art and craft comes alive in historic Galle
Our times through the eyes of the young and the old
Light of wisdom over darkness of ignorance - Deepavali falls tomorrow
She’s indeed a world citizen
Basking in Lankan hospitality in Maldives
A Sunday out on a different latitude
Bonsai bonanza
Mighty Jeshan gives weight to Lanka


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2008 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution