Athuruga: A truly wonderful island.. The reef is even better…(!)
We stayed 7 nights in barefoot paradise from 4th-11th of May.
The island is very beautiful, small and has a great atmosphere. The vegetation is mainly consisting of palms, which makes it open, with sea view from almost anywhere in comparison to more bushy islands. But there are of course other trees and bushes as well.
The beach is great all around the island and the sand is very soft and clean. Absolutely wonderful!
The beach bungalows are nice. Not luxurious, but no cheap solutions or kitsch either. Quite basic design, but all made of quality wood and natural colours.
What is really nice is that they are located close to the water on the beach, and not hidden behind vegetation. So they all have great unobstructed sea view, except the very first bungalows, maybe the first two-three). Otherwise they are all good.
Many people opt for a detached bungalow, but you actually see more of your neighbours, as they have no side-screens on the terrace.
There is shampoo, shower gel and body lotion in the bathrooms, only “no-name brand”, but ok for a short holiday.
We didn’t use our electrical adaptors, as they had a few two pin sockets in the wall as well, next to the bed.
Our room boy Ibrahim was very professional, efficient and discrete. Thank you Ibrahim!
The water villas are far more striking though, but only visited friends that stayed in one. We had a beach bungalow for the whole stay, and enjoyed staying directly on the beach.
The water villas are at a totally different level, both price and luxury..
Some people does not like them, but I think they are looking like white gems in the turquoise lagoon. They are very spacious, and the decks are huge for a 4+ star resort. That being said, the beach villas are more like 4 star, the water villas are really a true 5 star experience.
If you can afford them, go for it!
Best thing about the island is the reef which is very accessible. Dense growth of Acropora (also in shallow lagoon) and the house reef is big. You can swim along the reef drop quite far. But be careful to not go too far in choppy water, especially if you have to swim against the current when returning. Saw loads of fish on the reef, and eagle rays as well, but no sharks or turtles (but most other did see several). There was also quite many crown-of-thorns starfish, I hope they are monitoring the population, but understand that they will leave nature to itself as long as “possible”
I think the best part of the house reef is when using the reef exit at bungalow 35, and then go left. Update: The reef has taken a bad hit from the El Nino, especially during April and May in 2016.
We had high season millpond conditions the first days, but then the monsoon change arrived, and it was mixed stormy/ sunny the rest of the stay.
Also worth to mention, that we did not see a single mosquito through our stay.
The minibar in the beach bungalows consists basically of water, 6x250ml soda and 2x 330ml cans of beer and is restocked daily. You can ask your room boy for a different mix (only sugar free soda or more beer etc). The water villas have a mini fridge with wine selection as well.
Free laundry service was really a nice addition to the AI. It states 24-48 hours service. In our case it was left in the bag in the morning, and we had it clean and fresh the next day about lunchtime. So you don’t need to pack as heavy as usual.
The buffet restaurant was good and we never had any issues finding good food to our tastes. The highlights were maybe the marinated grilled beef, different pasta with loads of parmesan, pizza corner and fantastic homemade sorbets (try the coconut or black currant!). Even the sushi was nice, which is not often the case for buffet. The regular coffee was not perfect, but who cares when you have unlimited Illy Espresso.
The food in the over water restaurant was good, but not impressive. Just had one dinner there, and the starter and dessert were very good, but the main course a bit disappointing. You have to pay to eat in the WV restaurant if you are staying in beach bungalow, it is 50-ish $ per person for a 3-course. You can only get your booking confirmed the same morning, and it is often full.
The beach bar made good drinks, and Pina Coladas and iced coffee (with or without Amaretto) were enjoyed almost daily. The Bellini and other prosecco drinks were also very nice. You can bring cocktails back to your room in large plastic cups (to prevent broken glass in the sand)
We enjoyed the WV bar for a sun downer almost daily, which is a stunning place to be. It is included in the AI for beach residents also.
The service is very efficient, we did not have to wait at all to make orders in the bar or restaurant. Longest wait was probably 30 seconds through the holiday! All the staff seemed nice as well. I have seen lately that some complain about the service in the reviews, but for us it was perfect.
There is no dress code in any of the restaurants, which is wonderful in the humid heat. Wearing trousers, shoes and long sleeves in that heat is nothing for a Norwegian.. At least not for me.
Did the whale shark excursion and were lucky enough to see 3 whale sharks! (It could be 2, if we saw the smallest more than once.) We were 4 times in the water during the excursion, and were able to swim with them every time. The crew in the water sports centre was very nice and professional.
One big con though: Wi-fi only in the water villas which is a shame for a resort in this price class. That being said, it is free for everyone in bar and lobby area, Sometimes it could be very slow though.
We had a late checkout, thank you very much for that!
Dear crew at Athuruga: Well done!! We had a fantastic time! We hope to return one day..