The Sheraton Full Moon Resort and Spa has recently undergone a complete refurbishment, giving it a smart edge. The resort welcomes mainly families or groups with a fraction of couples looking for good-value accommodation. The plus point of the Sheraton is that it is only a 10 minute speedboat ride from the airport, which means that you do not need to wait around for hours before getting settled on a sun lounger by the sea. A fairly large resort, the 'Sheraton ambience' is prominent, despite its exotic location. The resort is well-suited to families on a budget. As the hotel is in such close proximity to the capital, Malé, which can be seen from a distance, there is less of a Robinson Crusoe appeal here as neighbouring resorts are also visible.
Images: Stéphanie Poli.
The Maldives consists of over a thousand islands arranged into what is commonly-known as atolls, or groups of islands, although the word 'atoll' actually denotes an island made of coral surrounded by a lagoon. The Sheraton Full Moon is set on its own island just a 10 minute speed boat ride away from the airport.
Around 200 islands of the archipelago are inhabited (recorded at the time of our visit in April 2010). Each hotel has its own island (unless you stay in the capital or Hulhule, the airport island). Among the 200 or so inhabited islands, some are inhabited by locals only - hotels and locals rarely mix unless in a work environment within a hotel structure. By this, we mean that there are no local villages which share a hotel's island and vice versa. Tourism and local life are kept separate. This means that there are no cultural activities on hotel islands, although most hotels tend to organise excursions to neighbouring local islands for the day.
Upon arrival at the airport, everything may seem very confusing, with people milling around all over the place looking lost - you will notice a row of hotel kiosks, and a row of Maldivian Air Taxi or Trans Maldivian Airline kiosks behind that. When you come out of the arrival doors, just look out for your host who should be waving a Sheraton Full Moon Hotel placard. The host will then lead you to the boat jetty from which the speed boat leaves for the hotel.
The Sheraton group took over the island in 2008 and added its own touch to what used to be known as the Full Moon Resort, which was a simple upmarket backpackers' choice. The resort has more of a countryside hotel atmosphere rather than that of a remote tropical island, especially with it being within such close proximity to the airport island, Hulhule, and the capital, Malé. The islands are visible from the beach. Full Moon island is of average size for the archipelago at less than a mile long and 300 metres wide. The hotel is classed as a midrange luxury establishment, and has all the facilities one would expect, such as an entertainment area with pool tables, a good range of restaurants, a good size pool, and a spa. Located on its own island linked to the main resort via a footbridge, the spa is the highlight of the resort; a real haven of peace and tranquillity with friendly staff, it is a must for guests in need of some time out.
The pool area is another highlight. Surrounded by thick green vegetation and dotted with fuchsia Bougainvillea, the area is extremely pleasant for a stop by the bar or a quick dip. In terms of facilities there are also tennis courts (free for all guests), a spacious and well-equipped gym, a business centre, a library with free internet access, and ping pong and pool tables. It is worth mentioning that the lagoon is unsuitable for snorkelling but it is possible to arrange diving and snorkelling excursions with the diving centre. There is also a water sports centre, although there are no motorised sports on offer - there is a fee for renting snorkelling equipment.
A kids' club and teenager area were being built just at the beginning of the footbridge to the spa when we visited (April 2010) which looks like a promising initiative, since the resort welcomes a large number of families. Water Villas are rarely rented out to families with children under the age of 13 in order to maintain the level of intimacy.
The hotel has 156 rooms, 52 of which are water bungalows and water villas, have all recently been renovated to Sheraton standards. The beach accommodation is situated in two-floor houses along the beach. These rooms are rather basic, and although they are functional, they do lack an exotic feel which we thought was a shame. The rooms are however bright and have been renovated to the latest safety standards. The rooms on the first floor have a terrace looking out onto the turquoise ocean and the ground floor rooms have a terrace leading to the beach through the garden. For something a little more pleasant, opt for a thatched roof cottage. The cottages, as the name suggests, are small bungalows set amidst a delightful garden of Bougainvillea close to the beach. They each have an individual terrace which adds to the charm of the bungalow. Spacious, although a little dark, the rooms are very comfortable with crisp Sheraton-logo printed linen covering the king size beds. There is a semi-outdoor bathroom which gives an exotic dimension to the otherwise lodge ambience of the cottages.
The water bungalows are set along the island's length to the west of the arrival jetty. Those close to the spa, so furthest away from the arrival area, are the most pleasant, quiet, and intimate. Looking right out to the sea, the entrance facing a line of tall green palm trees and mangrove. This area of the island is truly charming and without doubt picture-postcard material! Each bungalow has its own deck; it is worth mentioning that because the bungalows are fairly close to one another, privacy may be compromised at times. There are interconnecting water bungalows, but they are rarely rented out to families with children under the age of 13. Small in size, but very cosy, the water accommodation is smartly decorated and the real highlight here is the bathtub overlooking the glimmering turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Secluded from the rest of the resort and close to the heavenly spa, the water bungalows or one of the four water villas are ideal for honeymooners.
All rooms have complimentary tea and coffee making facilities. Bathrooms all have bathtubs with refill Sheraton own-brand amenities. The cottages have an outdoor bathroom with bathtub and a separate open air rain shower which is a real delight!
In terms of restaurants, the hotel's main restaurant, Full Moon, serves buffet style meals. The restaurant is indoors which can feel a little oppressive in the heat, but the shade is definitely welcome during the hotter months. Instead of settling for a full-board formula, if you have a little bit of extra budget, it is worth saving your appetite for a variation in the evenings. Visit the Thai restaurant, Baan Thai, which serves some delicious specialities although the restaurant itself feels a little temporary in its décor, making the overall experience average (but the food does remain tasty!). The Sand Coast Café has a lovely setting, on a deck by the sea and is open for lunch and dinner. Guests can expect a mix of international food here. Open for dinner only, the Atoll Grill is one of the best options at the Sheraton. Tables are laid out next to the beach and the live cooking stations give the restaurant a lively atmosphere which is a welcome change from the other outlets. Guests should book in advance.
The anchorage bar has a lovely deck along with day beds and relaxing music to unwind to whilst sipping a cocktail and looking out onto the big blue sea - you have to be quick to snap up a day bed though, as some guests get up at the crack of dawn to make sure they are the first to get there! The second bar is Drifters, which is more of an English pub where sports is often shown.
The main beach is found at the opposite end to the over-water accommodation. It is long, and receding due to the environmental impacts taking their toll. However there is still plenty of space. The beach is clean, but the lagoon is not really suitable for snorkelling. There is a small bar for refreshments and more than enough sun loungers. The beach is lined by vegetation and then by the beach accommodation. Although the beach is pleasant enough, and good for family fun due to the shallow water, it isn't the most dreamy of beaches in the archipelago.
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