It’s a 50 minute speedboat ride to the tiny, oval-shaped island of Eriyadu which sits alone, just behind the outside rim of the North Male’ atoll. The day I visit, it’s school holidays and the speedboat is packed with locals. There is just enough time to catch the sunset from the deck of the over-water restaurant and bar, the only over-water structure in this small, no frills resort.
A pod of dolphins gently glides through the water and a spotted ray poses in the shallows for our cameras. In the distance the surf of the outer atoll is a faint roar and the distinctive call of the native Maakana bird echoes from the tiny jungle covered island as the sun slips into the ocean and the sky briefly glows pink. Eriyadu Island Resort is about the simple pleasure of feeling at one with nature.
Everything here is simple, including the 60 bungalows built along the shoreline like an unclasped necklace, just behind the protective belt of native vegetation which helps stabilise the beach and provides plenty of shade and privacy.
The resort was fully renovated in 1998 and is currently undergoing another facelift, with the last of the beach bungalows being updated. There is also a block of six stand-alone units. Space has certainly been maximised on this small island. The bungalows are built in pairs and the fact that you can hear your neighbors through the wall makes this no paradise for honeymooners. Surprisingly though, this resort never feels crowded as people seem to disperse between the pool, the house reef, and the many dives sites within easy reach of the resort.
The fine white sand travels around the island according to the seasons and prevailing winds. During the Western monsoon, which coincides with low season, the beach on the northern side, where most of the bungalows are, is somewhat diminished. All the more reason to spend your time head down in the water, because what the rooms lack in fancy decorations, is made up for by the abundance of colorful fish and coral in the house reef. It’s easily the best house reef in the Male’ atoll.
German born Dagmar from Eurodivers, who run the dive school at Eriyadu Island Resort, which sits on its own jetty, is a veteran dive instructor with more than a decade experience all over the Maldives. The Eriyadu house reef, she says, is certainly very pretty. The best time to snorkel is between 4-6pm, when you might see white tipped and black tipped reef sharks, turtles, spotted rays and eagle rays who come in to feed.
I follow Dagmar’s advice and in the late afternoon the water crackles with the noise of colorful fish nibbling on coral that comes in all shapes and forms. Swarms of tiny bait fish turn the velvety water into a gentle whirlpool. It’s like swimming inside a tropical fish tank. A hawksbill turtle pops its little head out of the water inches from my face and continues to go about its business of foraging amongst the coral unperturbed by my presence. It’s possible to snorkel all around the island. It’s that small.
Hungry snorkelers and divers are rewarded with abundant lunch and dinner buffets, served in the main restaurant, a simple open structure with a sandy floor and chilled atmosphere. No need to wear sandals here, or anywhere in the resort. There’s plenty of variety, including a staple of two curries, grilled tuna, a salad bar and rotating theme of Maldivian, Chinese and Mediterranean food. Bbq on the beach is a regular highlight as is the tropical fruit slicing station. Just point to a juicy pineapple and it’ll be cut open for you on the spot.
Swim, eat, rest. There isn’t much else to do here, except maybe get a Balinese massage in the small spa.
At sunrise the beach looks like a freshly laundered sheet. Two grey herons are the first to leave their footprints in the fine white sand. While the resort is still asleep, the native bird life, of which there is plenty, have reclaimed the island. Eriyadu Island Resort truly is Maldives in its natural state.
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