|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.