The flight from Katunayake to Gan Island takes about an hour. You fly over a flat and fragile looking stretch of land; white sand visible through a layer of water. This eventually morphs into a strip of beach, and then you feel the wheels of the plane crunching on the ground.
Gan Island used to be a British Air Force base until the late sixties. Now the whole Island is basically an airport, with a few other establishments and one resort; Equator Village. Being situated right across the equator, the resort will give you a certificate with your name on it to commemorate your journey across the Earth's midriff.
Located in Addu Atoll, Gan island is connected to its neighbors via a network of roads, a situation unique to the Maldives. This gives you a level of freedom to move that is also very unique. Here, your resort experience on Gan need not be restricted to the Island alone. There's more to do than to sit on your beach chair, get brown and better read. Check out our post on Addu Atoll for more info.
The resort is built out of the old RAF officer's mess. So manages to place itself quite nicely between the Island's history and its forward-looking, tourism oriented future. The main building is typically tropical modernist, white everywhere, easy on the eyes. The lobby has comfortable seats and plenty of pulp fiction lining the walls, left behind by tourists from all over the world.
The bar area was my favorite, lots of empty spaces and well-placed seating. Sometimes there is live music at night, and then you can go and sit out on the sandy areas stretching to the waterfront, to which the salon doors of the bar open out to.
The AC rooms soon become a sanctuary against the humidity outside. A well thought-out color scheme and cane furniture gives a vaguely colonial vibe but just enough to charm, like the whole of the hotel. The rooms are spacious with a nice porch/varendah set up with space to sit and relax, and also to hang out your wet clothes.
The bathrooms are nice. Hot water is plentiful, and you have pretty much everything else you need. There's a router in every room, so good internet guaranteed. A double room on full-board basis sets you back USD 180.
The food at Equator Village is very good, though it's not mind-blowingly spectacular. The kitchen produces a steady output of consistently pleasant food. A Sri Lankan was running the kitchen when we were there, and the cuisine was best described as 'international fusion'; there is a range of salads, grilled items, pasta etc. along with rice, curries (mostly Sri Lankan-Maldivian influenced) as well as some Adduan favorites like tuna broth and chicken, fish or dhal curry.
A few favorites were the Snapper cooked Sri Lankan style and the Garu Dhiya fish broth. Eat the latter with onions, green chilies and a dash of lime on rice, with a healthy dose of fried drumstick leaves to add crunch.
It’s really quiet here, that’s amazing if you want to unwind and relax. Occasionally there will be a band in the night and then some music and dancing. Games such as snooker, table tennis, foosball etc. provide the only other relief.
The service is very good. The staff is prompt, well trained, yet also relaxed and friendly.
Don't worry if the prospect of just hanging out at the bar and beach all day strikes you as a bit boring. The resort offers quite a sizeable range of additional activities you can try out. Everything we tried was lots of fun. We took the Addu Atoll tour (USD 13 per person) and spent a pleasant afternoon exploring wetlands, historical monuments and getting a taste for local life.
Dolphin watching (USD 32) had us out in the sea on a hot humid morning for about 90 minutes with no fish in sight. Then we ran into a huge school of spinner dolphins, it was my first time seeing them and I tell you it was amazing.
One evening we went sunset fishing (USD 20) and actually managed to catch a few snappers, along with other guests, under the guidance of some experienced hands. Activities are a great way to get to know everyone else in the hotel; staff and guests alike.
If you're in Sri Lanka and have never been to the Maldives, or looking for a trip there that has a balance of luxury and authenticity, Equator Village might be the place to go.
Getting here is easy and inexpensive (you can probably get a return air ticket for around USD100), the resort is charming and while not cheap, is cheap compared to the usual norm in the Dives. The best part is all the extra things to do here, history, island hopping, wildlife, fishing there's something for everyone in Addu.