You know what you’re getting with the Maldives. There are no hidden depths to the archipelago of sparsely populated islands (except the various reefs and diving spots of course); they embody the idyllic white-sand getaway to a tee. There are however slightly different ways of experiencing that paradise.
It all depends what you’re after in your getaway. A family holiday with plenty to do for the kids? A romantic couples’ retreat? Do you want to be king of your own island for the day? They’re all possible among the many, many different resorts scattered across the equally numerous islands. As a compact example of all three however, look no further than Anantara.
Situated a 35-40 minute boat ride from Male, Anantara is actually three resorts; they all just happen to be a couple of minutes’ boat ride from one another. While that should make them feel homogenous, their different personalities are kept rigidly separate. Sure there’s some crossover from one island to another (well, between two of them at least), but their approaches to luxury are different enough.
Dhigu is the family-friendly affair, with plenty of watersports, sizeable villas – both over water and on their own stretches of beach, all with rich woods and equally rich views – and a compact selection of restaurants to suit most tastes. Veli on the other hand is a couples’ retreat, adults-only and with villas built for two. As a resort it’s a lot quieter than Dhigu, with most guests seemingly keeping to their own devices. There’s no risk of your romantic moments being spoilt by screaming little people.
Then there’s Naladhu Private Island. While it does stretch the definition of ‘private island’, its 19 colonial-style villas are incredibly well-appointed, a huge jump in exclusivity from the other nearby islands. It’s gated, the villas are invisible from the shoreline and each comes with its own house master to cater to your every need. Basically, you won’t be running into any riff-raff. If you really want to splash out, this is where you go, especially if that involves booking out an entire island.
In fact, that’s precisely what happened a year or two back when a certain oil-rich royal family decided to have the entire resort – not just Naladhu – to themselves. They brought in their own security and an armada of patrol boats to ensure their privacy. Sure it’s a little excessive, but what do you expect?
Even if you’re not in the market to co-opt and militarise a trio of idyllic islands, there’s plenty to do at Anantara. Well, as much as there is to do across most of the Maldives. There are water-sports of every description, be that snorkelling with nurse sharks or touring the island on a jet ski to hovering above the water on jets. Even the house reef, just metres away from a island bar only accessible by boat (or a hefty wade) is right there whenever you want it.
On land there are cookery classes, an extensive list of spa treatments and bars and restaurants in which to while away the hours. And that’s about it, really. I’m not saying there’s a lack of things to do, just that if you’re the kind of person that needs to be active all day every day (and aren’t a serious scuba fanatic) you might find it all feeling a bit samey. That said, if you’re a family with kids, a couple retreating from the world or in search of pure, blissful privacy – i.e. the holidaymakers Anantara is actually aimed at – you’ll be fine.
Now, I have to admit, I had one issue about the entire stay which has nothing to do with Anantara itself. The weather. On paper, 40 degrees and 90 per cent humidity sounds like it’ll be lovely. For some of you it might be. For me, it was pain. I’m used to a British summer which can get blown away in a stiff breeze; this forced me into my beautifully air-conditioned villa for good parts of the day. Really the only relief was a dose of tropic thunder to break the heat.
Still, if there was anything to force me out it was the food. The simplicity of Anantara’s signature concept restaurant Sea. Fire. Salt. is just as satisfying as it sounds, while the Italian dining at Terrazo, just above, has a fantastic wine list. Thai restaurant Baan Huraa makes the most of the local seafood with punchy, fragrant sharing dishes and finally there’s Origami. If you’ve never had Teppanyaki before, that should be your first port of call: it’s dinner and a show all in one, with plenty of fire (and some culinary circus tricks) thrown in. It’s arguably the most complete collection of restaurants of any Maldivian resort, certainly that I’ve ever visited.
There is no mystery to the Maldives really. You know what you’re getting as soon as you hear the name. The white sand, blue waters and tropical climate don’t vary much, and everywhere has seas teeming with life. It’s all in how you experience it and at Anantara’s triplet of island resorts, the choice is yours.