Gan Island: a different side to the Maldives

One of the potential frustrations of visiting the Maldives is the necessity of choosing between staying in a luxurious resort or getting off the beaten track and seeing something of the local culture. Resorts tend either to be located on private islands or on parts of islands that have been entirely cut off from areas inhabited by the local population. In light of this, Gan Island and the Equator Village Hotel are something of a rarity in that they offer guests the opportunity to experience a bit of both.

Gan Island has recently become much more accessible due to a new international route to their tiny island airport. Sri Lankan Airlines, as part of their new focus on expanding regional routes, has become the first international airline to offer a Maldives destination beyond Male. Currently, there are 4 flights a week between Colombo and Gan.

Located in Addu Atoll, the most southerly point in The Maldives, Gan itself has a fascinating history. A British air and naval base in the Second World War and, later, the cold war, this tiny (but surprisingly big by Maldivian standards) stretch of palm fringed land has played a significant role both domestically and internationally for decades.

Flying directly to Gan removes the need to transit through Male and change to domestic flights, air-taxis or speedboats. Beyond getting rid of the transit hassle, flying directly to Gan also minimises the costs involved with getting anywhere this remote in The Maldives.

Addu Atoll is comprised of seven islands, four of which are joined by causeways which are passable on foot or by cycle or vehicle. This is a somewhat unique feature in The Maldives, and means a visitor to Gan is able to enjoy the secluded ‘private island’ experience on Gan itself, while being able to explore the inhabited islands of Feydoo, Maradoo and Hithadoo and get a taste or real Maldivian life.

The Equator Village is located 1km from the airport and will hold some considerable appeal to people looking to visit The Maldives who are not inclined towards high-end luxury resorts. Located on a former military base, the hotel is not luxurious by contemporary international standards but offers a fantastic variety of facilities in a truly spectacular location. Simple in design and layout, all bedrooms come with en-suite bathrooms, hot water showers, fridges, air-conditioning and a charming veranda.

If you book the hotel on All-Inclusive basis, a range of local excursions and activities are included free of charge in the price. The hotel two snorkelling trips per day on the hotel boat, visiting an array of coral reefs in the area, again free of charge for all-inclusive guests. There is a weekly island hopping boat trip as a well as a guided vehicle tour of Feydoo, Maradoo and Hithadoo islands. All guests are given bicycles to explore the other islands of Addu. Local islanders are welcoming and friendly and there are a handful of coffee shops (Maldivians consume staggering quantities of coffee) and eateries to stop off at. The harbour is also worth stopping off at; it’s interesting to see the complex logistics of making such a remote place function.

The hotel also had a jovial atmosphere, with staff ever friendly and a lot of interaction between hotel guests – this is not a place you come for total solitude, unlike many of the Maldivian luxury resort. If you are looking for luxury then it is worth noting that there are also two higher-end resorts close to Gan (the Shangri La on Vilingili Island and the Canareef Resort on Herathera sland), which the direct flights can also be used to make access more convenient and considerably less costly.

Spending days jumping in and out of the sea at the hotel, snorkelling with baby sharks, wandering around the shores of Gan and taking advantage of the excellent activity list at the Equator Village… the trip to this unique island and hotel now seems something of a dreamy memory. I certainly plan to return to this slice of isolated paradise and I hope the Equator Village can resist the urge to ‘upgrade’, as it currently stands totally alone in what it offers visitors to the Maldives.

Sam Clark is CEO at Experience Travel Group.

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Comments (8)

  1. Hi Sam,

    The beauty of the Maldives is stunning. Spectacular, really.

    Every time I see the place I am reminded of my beloved Fiji trip a few years back.

    Pristine waters. Beautiful views. Stunning vibe to the place overall.

    I also like how Gan Island offers a bit of a different feel versus the rest of the Maldives, which is a sweet change up to an already fabulous place.

    Good deal that it is more accessible too, which always helps.

    We thought of a quick Maldives trip when visiting Sri Lanka a few years ago but did not get around to it. We need to book that trip though when back in the area, for obvious reasons.

    Thanks for sharing Sam.

    Ryan

  2. Sam Clark says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Yes agreed. Gan is totally awesome – you’ve got fantastic resort options, but also can get a feeling for some of the weird magic of the inhabited islands that you are sheltered from in almost all other resorts.

    Do let us know at Experience Travel Group when you’re ready to look at options!

    best,

    Sam

  3. M.Naeem says:

    Hi Sam
    Gan is nice place to visit and the area is connected with inhabited other islands. The setting is completely different from most of resorts of Maldives.

    Thanks for the information
    Naeem

  4. Jade says:

    Fabulous news that this island is becoming more accessible through regional routes. I’d like to think this allows tourists like me to experience something new, whilst boosting the local economy too. Of course, it’s important to keep a balance environmentally, but it looks like places like the Equator Village are managing to have an authentic experience that blend well into the existing island culture.

  5. Lizzie says:

    Choosing between luxury or something more ‘real’ is always my dilemma! That’s why I think I always need to visit places at least twice… I really do like a place with history, my boyfriend does too, and that’s usually my selling point of a holiday! Snorkelling with baby sharks would be my ideal activity on an island like this, wow – such a beautiful paradise

  6. Sam Clark says:

    Gan is perfect for you Lizzie. You can explore the little chain of islands, but stay, for some time at least in the wonderful Shangri-La there!

  7. Samantha says:

    Gan looks perfect, I’d love to explore the chain of islands. Great that this island is becoming more accessible. It looks like a very beautiful place with sandy beaches. I’d love to visit and relax on the beach.

  8. meenal deshpande says:

    Maldives is one of the best destination for relaxation and to spend some quality time with our loved ones.
    I have been there in last year an di enjoyed so much.
    soon i will plan for the next vacation to explore new places out there.

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