We had the speedboat transfer which was exciting as we saw flying fish and dolphins on route to Ellaidhoo. I don't think it'd be worth it to get the sea plane given how much more it costs.
Before you visit - buy a digital underwater camera. You won't regret it. I got the Nikon Coolpix S31. Cheap and cheerful but VERY good video and photo quality...and the flash works underwater too. Take a large stash of rechargeable batteries and you'll be set. The reef is amazing, I honestly did not expect it to be as spectacular as it was. We saw hundreds of fish species, sharks, rays, lobster, shrimp. I never wanted to leave the water! Paradise.
The beach is small, but very pleasant - get there early if you want to nab sun loungers for the day.
The lagoon area is very useful for acclimatising to snorkelling or for nervous swimmers. Be aware of the tides - when it goes out it can be very difficult to get back in as the water becomes so shallow you have to be very careful about putting your feet down on the rocks. I saw several stonefish whilst snorkelling so do whatever you can NOT to put your feet down as you could get stung and it will kill the coral if you happen to tread on any. Those little bootie things would have been handy for low tide times. We didn't have any and just timed our swims carefully. Strong swimmers will do fine without fins, but those not comfortable in a current should invest in a pair (or hire them from the dive centre). I bought a pair to bring with me but they gave me blisters (I must have very soft feet!) so I abandoned them for barefoot swimming.
We didn't do any scuba diving but did use the dive centre for a night snorkel. Well guided and very reasonably priced. DO IT! This was an eye-opening experience. The reef is so different at night with LOTS of big predators out and about. Sharks, stingrays, moray eels, jacks, tuna. It was a bit scary to be surrounded by so many large powerful fish but once you learnt to relax, and know that they weren't interested in you (they just followed our lights) it was fascinating. Lots of corals open up at night too which was great.
The spa is spectacularly good. It was the first time we'd ever had a massage and had two visits using the couples deal. Body scrub and massage over 90min was about $120. We felt high as a kite on our way out - it was lovely! Excellent staff and a wonderful experience. I wish we'd done more!
The food was good - bread made fresh every day, lots of choice, nice staff at the serving stations, everything cooked to how you want it. Nice steak, stir fries, and great curries.
We paid for a meal on the beach which was very nice, if a little pricy. All the food was excellent except for the lobster, which was a bit overcooked. My boyfriend proposed which was fantastic under starlight, although not a big surprise as it was well planned. This is a good job because they'd written "Congratulation on your engagement" on the table in sand (very sweet) and revealed it as soon as we sat down - before he'd even asked me! Whoops. Not very professional. Afterwards, one of the managers came to chat to us and told us in great detail how a couple the night before had bought a very expensive bottle of Lanson champagne (out of our price range) and that he'd saved the cork. He then presented us with the cork which he'd written "Congratulations" on for us in a marker pen. I thought this was really weird and felt a bit insulted. Not really a memento I'd want to be taking home - a cork from someone else's bottle of bubbly! A bit of a shame we didn't get any special upgrades like others have had but we did have fancy art on the bed when we returned to our room which was a nice touch.
We did an excursion to Maaga reef which is the island you can see from Ellaidhoo. It is billed as "uninhabited" which is a bit misleading as it is certainly that. Two guys live on the island which has started to have a development being built on it (but they ran out of money or the government blocked the development or something) so it was weird to walk around these half finished villas. Anyway, aside from that - you will get a guided tour of the reef there. My goodness it was worth it. The coral is very different to that on Ellaidhoo - acres of hard coral, rolling landscapes. Fantastic. We saw sharks, eels, and lots of fish we hadn't seen on our own island. Spectacular. That was worth the trip - a must to have booties though as you have to wade out a long way in shallows that are littered with dead corals to get to the reef (I picked my way out very carefully with bare feet).
Another trip we did was the sunset fishing - great. We caught a large fish each that was cooked for us the next evening in the restaurant. Great!
The bad parts:
Rats are everywhere - in the trees, running over the bungalow rooftops, in burrows, around the restaurant. It might take you a few days to notice them but they are numerous. We had several rats fall/jump into our open bathroom from the overhanging trees which was really unpleasant as they left droppings all over the place. They kept eating the soap from next to the sink so we had to keep the soap in the room away from them. DO NOT leave your toothbrush in the bathroom as it will be crawled over by hug cockroaches and nibbled by rats. We both called and visited reception several times about the rats but the staff did nothing and sent no one to come and lay traps or poison. It was really upsetting to have nothing done. Only after writing a note (and leaving a tip) for our room boy did anything get done and traps were set. It didn't end there though - once the trap caught the rat it took two days for someone to come and take it away (the poor thing was still alive!) Really unpleasant and made using the bathroom a bit of a horror.
2. GARDEN ROOMS
These are set back from the front and VERY dark - almost too dark to read in at night. You'll need a torch to see in the wardrobe. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, but adjoin another bungalow next door. The walls are very thin and have a locked double door between them. Basically - if your next door neighbours become amorous you will be spared NONE of the sound effects. It was awful. AWFUL.
3. FRUIT JUICE
When we are paying so much for a holiday, the least we expect is fresh orange juice. It doesn't even need to be freshly squeezed - it could be from concentrate, but no. Unless you are willing to pay extra you will get synthetic "squash-like" juices that are quite disgusting. AVOID. They'll even use them in the cocktails unless you pay extra. This was a huge disappointment and I felt really hard done by. Surely it wouldn't cost them much to import some fresh orange juice from concentrate in cartons? It makes everything feel really cheap and we felt conned.
Aside from those three issues we had - overall this was a fantastic holiday and we would consider returning if a few niggles are sorted out (JUICE - please don't shortchange your guests!) - it is the reef that really made the holiday and would tempt me back. The staff on Ellaidhoo work very, very hard and often don't see their families for months on end. We tipped staff really well before we left as their hard work was appreciated. An excellent two weeks.
Don't have a garden room if you like peace and quiet.
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Report response as inappropriate
Greetings from Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo..
Thank you for choosing to vacation with us and for taking time to share your review “Absolute Paradise - but too many cut corners to feel really special” on Trip Advisor.. We are pleased to know that your overall experience was fantastic, despite the few niggles. We are constantly on the alert to improve our standards and appreciate you sharing your perceptions, as it helps us to improve our services rendered. Addressing the same, we apologize that you felt weird and a bit insulted by the cork scenario. It was, however, meant with good intentions. The Maaga Excursion is different from the "uninhabited" excursion which is to another island called 'Diggiri' and goes as "Island Hideaway". Apologies that you confused the two.
We are an ISO certified resort and place high importance on the health and safety standards maintained.
Nonetheless, we've taken into consideration all your comments and are looking into them. Hope you'd consider returning, thus giving us the opportunity to excel your expectations. Until then, Cheers from the Management and all the staff out here at Ellaidhoo..
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.