Report of my trip to the Equator Village Hotel, Gan Island, Maldives 19 - 27 November 2002

By Andy Knowles.
(See bottom of page for Andy`s travel arrangements)

Early last summer while aimlessly surfing the Internet, I came across the RAF Gan web site. Having read the articles and seen the photographs, I decided my wife and I needed a holiday in the sun.
I checked on the Internet for any cheap airfares to the Maldives and in September I booked with www.dialaflight.com for Qatar Airways flights, routing LHR-MLE via DOH. As soon as the tickets came in late September, I phoned the Qatar Airways office in London and 'bagged' the good seats.
Having found the Equator Village website on the net (www.equatorvillage.com) I e-mailed them to book the room. As soon as the room was confirmed by return e-mail, the manager of the Equator Village booked the MLE-GAN-MLE flights with Island Aviation Services for us. IAS operate the only scheduled air service into Gan, flying twice a day using Dash-8 aircraft. The cost of these flights is included in the hotel rates, so you don't pay for them until checking out of the hotel.
All was then set for our holiday.
The Qatar Airways flights were uneventful and at 1400 on November 19th we touched down at Male' International Airport. The weather was heavy rain showers with a cool wind, which did not bode well for our holiday. I must admit, I was a little concerned; as I had told my wife it would be hot and sunny! I had tried to find the weather statistics for Gan, but could only find them for Male', which being some 300 miles north of Gan and in the Northern Hemisphere, wasn't a lot of use. I've since found www.worldweather.org, which gives the yearly rainfall and temperature stats for Gan.
The Gan flight wasn't until 2100, so we went as instructed to the Kaimoo Tours desk in arrivals. The rep then took us over to Male' to the Kam hotel where a day room and meal were provided. At 1930 he arrived back at the hotel to take us back to the airport for our flight to Gan. We took off on time, and at 2205, touched down on Gan. I was back!
Thankfully, the weather was good with about 4/8 SC at about 15,000 and a light warm breeze with a gibbous moon reflecting off the lagoon. We were met at the terminal by the manager, Mr Visvalingam who then took us the short distance to the Equator Village. Although it was late, the kitchen staff had kindly stayed behind to provide us with a meal. After the meal and check in formalities, and a visit to the Bar, we were shown to our room. The room was spacious but a little bare, a few pictures or hangings on the walls would have been an improvement. However, the room was comfortable and shower refreshing.
The next morning we awoke to glorious sunshine, thankfully!! We then collected or bikes and set off for a cycle ride round the island.
How things have changed. Yes I know it's been 27 years, but the amount of vegetation was amazing. The European trees that were planted by D.O.E. are now huge and provide a lot of shade along the ring road (without the fear of falling coconuts!), and provide roosts for the numerous White Terns and other birds of the atoll.
Most of the accommodation blocks are still there and are used by the Sri Lankan workforce of the four Sri Lankan owned clothing factories on the island. Unfortunately, my old block, BB60, had been knocked down. A lot of the specialist technical buildings have also been knocked down, but many admin buildings, including SHQ, BFPO, 180 Club and the Astra still remain almost as they were in 1975.
As we cycled round, we met many local Maldivians, who on hearing me shout "RAF Gan" were only too willing to stop and chat about the old days. I had photographs of the BB60 room boys with me in the hope that I might be able to contact them, but alas, no one I met seemed to know them.
The hotel is based around the old Sergeant's Mess but now boasts a very refreshing free form pool, with pink and light grey paint in the Bar! Each room has A/C and is 'en-suite' and a small veranda. The hotel rates are for A.I. with bikes, snorkelling, fishing and island hopping included in the price. At the time of our visit, the maximum number of guests at any one time was 12, all the others guests being German. Several German holiday companies actively promote Gan as the best diving (in the Bushy area) in the Maldives.
Although there are factories on the island, they are totally unobtrusive and the hotel is very peaceful and an ideal place to relax. We spent our time cycling in the morning and then lounging by the pool most of the day until about 1745 when it was time to go to the Rwy 10 threshold to watch the sunset, still as impressive as ever.
We took a taxi ($16) up to Hittadoo for a drive across the causeway and up the new road for a look round. The road had only been opened about 3 months and is the longest highway in the Maldives, and at one point, it splits into two single-track roads with palm trees in the central reservation.
I went on the island-hopping trip up to Hulhudhoo where I met Mr Soqdi, the Headmaster of the Hulhudhoo Primary School. I had arranged to meet him as my daughter, who has recently graduated from university, would like to go there for a few months to help the VSO volunteer teach English to the children before she starts her Post Graduate Teaching course in September next year. I was sent on a mission to find out about the schools etc. Mr Soqdi took me on the back of his little motor-bike (which was certainly an experience!) to visit three schools on the island. On my return to the boat, I noticed it wasn't parked where we left it. The reason was they had forgotten me! The boat driver had cast off and was proceeding out of the harbour, when one of the Germans said "Hey, what about the English guy" Doh!!
The next stop was Villingili for a BBQ. Unfortunately, the beach that they have the BBQ on is strewn with rubbish, whether it's from past BBQ's or flotsam, I couldn't tell. One man, 10 minutes and a bin liner would make all the difference.
Annoyingly, the management of the hotel don't seem to be interested in its history. Ian Morrison left an excellent folder with the history, anecdotes and photographs of RAF Gan, but like the RAF Gan visitors book, it's kept behind the Reception desk and you have to ask for them, if you know they're there, that is.
On the way back, we had a daylight flight back to Male' (where it was again raining) and stayed at the 4* Hulule Island Hotel. The good thing about the HIH is it has a Bar! Where as all the other hotels at Male' don't.
Happily, the weather on Gan was excellent every day and we had a brilliant time. I can thoroughly recommend anyone to go back and see the old place again.

The cost for our package was very reasonable and was as follows: -
Qatar Airways tickets x 2 = £995
7 nights AI at Equator village inc return flights MLE-GAN = £920
& Day room/dinner at the Kam Hotel, Male'
1 night B+B at theHulule Island Hotel = £75
Includes all transfers, taxes and CC charges

TOTAL = £1990 or £ 995 p.p.


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