Where did I go: Meeru Island Resort, North Ari Atoll, Maldives
When did I go: May 2017
Meeru Island Resort is located on the Meerufenfushi island on North Ari Atoll. Like many other Maldivian resorts, the entire island is dedicated to the resort. The island is about an hour's speed boat ride from Male International airport (In Maldives standards, this is pretty close to the airport).
Meerufenfushi is right next to Dhifushi island, which is one of the inhabited Maldives islands. Meerufenfushi is also the furthest East island in the Maldives, so has the claim to fame of being the first Maldivian island to see the Sunrise.
The island is about 90 acres, which makes it one of the larger resort island in the Maldives (and was big enough for us to recognise it from the plane as we approached Male airport).
Arrival at Male airport is fairly straightforward. The airport is very small (only one runway). You get off the plane and walk across the tarmac into the arrivals building.
Visitors from most countries don't need a visa before arriving (but do check beforehand). At immigration you need to complete an arrivals card, hand this and the passport to the official to get your visa stamped. They will give you a departure card back with our passport. Hold onto this, as you will need it hand it back upon leaving Maldives.
From Male international airport, Meeru Island is a 55 minute speed boat ride. At the time we went, there was no option to take a sea plane. On our booking info, we were instructed to come to the Champa resorts desk in the arrivals hall. When we did, they checked our names off the list and attached Meeru tags to all our luggage. The speed boat to Meeru was leaving in 50 minutes, so we were directed to wait in one part of the arrivals hall. Normally the average wait is one hour, but you could be waiting for upto 2 hours. This was my least favourite part of the holiday. As although there were plenty of seats available and there were fans, it was pretty hot and humid and we had been traveling for 19 hours at this point. This is the case for the guests to vast majority of resorts. Some of the more expensive resorts (e.g. Anantara) have their own private waiting area with air-con and refreshments.
When the boat to Meeru arrived, those of us who were waiting were led to the boat. In total, there were about 30 visitors (and several Meeru staff members). There was a bit of a wait at the jetty until they loaded all the luggage to the boat, after which we were invited to board. (Tip: When you get on to the boat, you have the option of sitting outside or inside. It will be tempting to sit outside, but don't. You will smell diesel fumes from the engine and it will be hot. Instead go inside, where it is air conditioned and you get a just as good view from the large windows)
The ride was uneventful and pretty smooth, and no sea sickness in sight. You see a number of islands on you way, but the most interesting is Male.
On arrival at Meeru Island, we were led to the main bar. There was a musical reception committee, which was very lovely. After a short intro, all the guests were given welcome drinks and the paperwork to complete. They also took copies of the passports. We were on the all inclusive package – the packages and what was included and what was not was explained very well. By this time, our luggage had been brought ashore, and we pointed these out and they wrote our room numbers. Then the golf buggy took us (and the hand luggage) to our rooms. Luggage took another 30 minutes or so to arrive at the room (another little tip – pack your swimming costumes in your hand luggage, this way, you won't have another agonising wait to have dip in the Indian ocean!). Finally, after 22 hours of travelling, we were ready to start our holiday!
I have to say, the arrival was the one part of Meeru island that I thought could be improved. There was a lot of waiting around and at times, it felt a bit like going on a group tour, rather than a once in a lifetime romantic getaway. For example, I couldn't see why the paperwork couldn't be completed and room numbers assigned whilst we were waiting at the airport. This would have allowed us to go straight to our rooms and less waiting around. But from here on, it got better.
With over 280 rooms, Meeru is one of the larger resorts in the Maldives. Meeru island has garden villas, beach villas, water villas and over water villas. Garden villas are set in the centre of the island, away from the beach. Beach villas, as the name implies, are on the beach, but set back from the water front, but you get a sea view. The water villas, are somewhat confusingly, set on the beach, but close to the water front. The over water villas as the name implies, set on stilts, over the water. During our stay we stayed in both a water villa and and a over water villa.
Water villa was lovely – it was less than 15 steps from the villa to the water, and the villas are set in a low on the North East beach of the island, which is easily the best beach on the island. The villas consists of a large bed/sitting room and an open air bathroom and Jacuzzi. At the front there is a private veranda with Sun loungers.
There is more space in the bedroom and bathroom, but what really makes the difference is the sea. You have instant access to the water (via stairs), or if you prefer not to get your feet wet, you can watch the fish from the veranda.
As an you are further out to the sea, you also get a larger variety of fish swimming by – we saw stingrays, several different types of sharks, turtle and many other fish.
What also makes a real different is at night – the underside of the villa has flood lights which illuminate the water at night, and its like having your own personal aquarium right under your feet, with unlimited selection of fish.
Tip: When you get there, buy a little leaflet from the gift shop that has names and pictures of all the fish – we didn't do this until day 5 (of 7), and really wish we had done it sooner.
The rooms on the North side of the island are usually for couples and, with the south side usually for families.
East side of the island is perfect for snorkelling and swimming, with a pristine white beach, and shallow water. This side is protected by a reef about 500m from the beach and as a result, the water is very calm.
West side has the arrival/departure jetty, main reception and water sports. Beach is pristine, but the water is rougher and deeper on this side, so less ideal for snorkelling.
On the whole, the island is well laid out. Both the North and South side are equipped with similar facilities. We ended up spending 90% of our time on the north end of the island.
If you are on either the all inclusive or full board plans, breakfast lunch and dinner are all served in the same restaurant for your entire stay. Food is buffet style and there was a good variety of dishes from various cuisines. Food on each day was sufficiently different from the previous, and the food was of a very high quality. We didn't feel the need to visit any of the other a la-cart restaurants on the island. Desserts were a tiny bit disappointing (but that's probably because I have a sweet tooth).
The all inclusive package covers a pretty good selection of drinks, except for beer. The choice of beer is rather limited (on the all inclusive or not). Good selection of cocktails is also available.
There is no such thing as a typical Meeru client. We found people from a variety of background, countries, culture on the island. There were young, old, couples (mixed and same sex) and families. Everyone was polite and well behaved.
The snorkeling around the island is pretty good. There are a wide variety of fish to be seen. The East side of the island is a lot calmer that the West side, which has a lot of strong currents, and I would only recommend this if you are a reasonable swimmer.
There are a large number of excursions available – to near by islands, to Male, fishing and snorkeling, We didn't get a chance to try most of these, as we were there at the same time as a tropical hurricane. Most of the excursions got cancelled due to the bad weather. We did get to go on a sunset cruise (which was part of the All inclusive package).
We also went on a snorkeling trip to the house reef, which took about 10 minutes by boats. There was quite a lot to see here too.
Activities & Entertainment
Being one of the larger islands, Meeru has lots of activities available if you get bored of the sea and the fish: wind surfing, kayaking, golf, jet ski, yoga, to name a few. Only downside is that most of these are outdoor activities, so liable to cancelled due to bad weather (this happened on 4 out of 7 days during our time there). There are not many indoor activities available, but there is a games room and a library.
The main bar on the island had a theme night every day – karaoke, movie night etc. We didn't explore this much, as we are early birds. But we did go to the Maldivian cultural night and found it to be very interesting. Since our excursions got cancelled, this was the closest we got to experiencing Maldivian culture.
The Duniye overwater spa is wonderful. Set above the water, there are glass floors in the treatment rooms, allowing you to watch the sea life pass by whilst being pampered from head to toe.
Reasonably fast, but not fast enough for Netflix.
Customer service on the island is very good. Everyone was very polite and service is reasonably quick and efficient.
Room service was also very good. Our room was cleared twice daily, and they timed it so that this was done when we were at lunch or dinner. All the staff at the restaurants and the bars were very good. Special mention to the spa staff and Leena, the yoga instructor.
Departure was very smooth. We received a letter the night before with our bill and stating the times by which we had to be ready to catch the bat back to Male. On the return trip, it was a smaller boar with about 12 people.
- Location: Meeru is close to the Male airport (Only 45 minutes by speedboat). This means that the transfer costs are cheap compered to many other islands.
- All inclusive package: All inclusive package at Meeru is very good value for money. It includes all buffet meals, selection of snack items at any time, selection of drinks from the mini bar. Overall we felt the offering was good and we didn't feel as if we were missing out on anything. The house wines which are included in the package are also very drinkable. Same goes for other spirits and cocktails. All menus has the all inclusive items clearly marked. The package also inlcudes a couple of other "bonus" items such as half-a-bottle of champagne per stay, sunset cruise and free introduction lessons for golf and wind surfing.
- The island is large, and when we were their it was 90% full, but it didn't feel busy. There were plenty of empty stretches of beach, plenty of chairs and loungers everywhere and spaces in all the restaurants.
- Value for money: Meeru is is on the lower end of the cost scale as far as Maldives is concerned, but still luxurious.
The not so good
- Excursions organisation: During out stay, there was a tropical hurricane doing the rounds in the Indian Ocean, so many of the excursions got cancelled. The information didn't really get conveyed to the guests, so often we would arrive to find out the excursions had been cancelled.
- Arrival – as I said above, this is one part of the that oculd be improved.
Overall it was a great stay. Meeru is a great resort, a great hotel. But on the whole would I go there again, I'm not so sure – the reasons aren't do with Meeru per say – but with Maldives and whether Maldives as a whole is value for money, compared to other similar destinations – this is the topic of my next post – Maldives – is it worth it?