The Maldives is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world renowned for its crystal clear waters, gorgeous palm tree strewn beaches and world class snorkelling. This island nation filled with hundreds of little atolls is home to many resorts and one of the most breathtaking of all is the Anantara Hotels, just a short boat ride of the capital Malé.
Anantara has three resorts linked together across four islands and proves to be one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. Each resort is designed to cater to different clientele. Anantara Dhigu is a family orientated island, Anantara Veli is an adults only island whilst Naladhu is an exclusive boutique style island.
The three hotels are well positioned within the Maldives, proving one of the shortest boat rides from Malé airport in comparison to other resort islands. Upon arriving, staff greet guests and lead them to a calm air conditioned lounge to wait before boarding a speed boat to one of the four islands. We stayed in a beach bungalow on Anantara Dhigu, the family island of the three hotels. The bungalow was clean, simple and nice, styled in an amber timber finish. The bed was decorated with tropical flowers and a cute welcome greeting.The bungalow featured an alfresco bathroom. The toilet, shower and bath were all outdoors in an enclosed garden space with thatch roof. It was a cool twist with the option of showering under the sky, however a little problematic when ants begIn crawling over your feet or mosquitoes threatened to maul you as you sat on the toilet! Be sure to lather yourself in the bug spray every time you venture outside.We ventured to the main pool which features a gorgeous infinity blue looking over the ocean horizon, perfect for sunset drinks such as a coconut colada (pictured) or a light afternoon snack. As we watched the sun sink down over the Indian Ocean, the gorgeous blue water sparkled with glistening sun rays.That evening we ate at the main restaurant, Sea Salt Fire on Anantara Dhigu. For our starters we enjoyed Spiced crab cakes with snow peas, mango, mint, garden leaves, chilli relish ($US31). The fish cakes which were lightly crumbed and fried, then topped with a sweet tomato relish. The Tuna poke (US$28) featured marinated tuna cubes, grapefruit, avocado, coconut, onions, tomatoes and coriander. The dish was dressed heavily in a rich coconut milk mix with diced avocado that was more like a ceviche in coconut milk, rather than the raw tuna salad we typically expect in Australia. Considering the price of both of these starters, we were left underwhelmed with both the standard of culinary expertise and overall flavour.For mains we both opted for freshly grilled pieces of white fish, these were served with sautéed buttered vegetables on a bed of creamy pureed potato. One fish was the local snapper fillet (US$35) whilst the other was a white local grouper fillet (US$35); although I was hoping for something a little special, the dishes arrived exactly as described. We enjoyed a side of caponata which consisted fried eggplant, vegetables and pine nuts (US$8). This was one of the highlights of the meal, full of flavour, with a rich ragu of vegetables including zucchinis, carrots, onions, tomatoes, capsicums and olives marinated in their cooking juices. The dessert was delectable also. The Chocolate lava cake (US$16) was a decadent chocolate pudding with vanilla cream, berries and what the menu described as Valrhona chocolate ice-cream but instead came as vanilla bean ice-cream. Whilst hitting the flavour notes, it fell short in presentation, with the dish arriving to the table with ice-cream all over the plate, making a mockery of the original presentation. The Coconut brûlée ($16) with mango & mint salad, coconut sorbet was a finger licking dish of goodness. The coconut custard had a lovely consistency, and very very light crunchy top, whilst the coconut sorbet went down an absolute treat.
What we did come to learn by the end of the dinner is that most guests are on an all-inclusive package where food and some house beverages are included. However, most menus have supplements for additional or special items.
The next day, the breakfast buffet was an impressive affair of amazing foods and wide ranging variety. The yoghurts and muesli station featured dairy free options, low fat, decadent muesli, cottage cheese, fresh fruit salad, plain yoghurt, mango, peach, blueberry sauce, pear compote.
The middle of the room was filled with enough baked goods to feed a town, with cupcakes, muffins, croissant, bagels, every type of bread roll one can imagine, donuts, pastries and more.
There was cheeses, smoked meats, and other delights not to mention a waffle, pancake and crepe station, made to order eggs from scrambled to poached and omelettes, on top of an assortment of Asian foods.
We waddled away to soak up some sunshine, marvel in the aquamarine water and snorkel across the islands. There is plenty of equipment for snorkelling provided complimentary, as well as ferries constantly transporting guests the 200m between the islands. The three minute boat ride was pure bliss, as you travelled across the glassy surface absorbed by some of the bluest water one can imagine.Off each of the islands, there were cool devices hanging in the water, such as a hammock which depending on the tide was either submerged or just dangling millimetres above the surface. Whilst on the other side of the island, there were two swings which sat just above the water too. These were fun to play on, and also offered the prime Instagram opportunity!In the afternoon, we ventured to the spa bungalow, and met their lovely spa supervisor & therapist who has lived in the Maldives for many years. We opted for a relaxing massage in an overwater bungalow, with a glass bottom to watch fishes dashing playfully below. The front of the room featured French doors that opened up onto the ocean ahead, with the calm ocean breeze lightly whistling.That evening, we enjoyed cocktails by the pool at Veli, with fiery torches illuminating the ocean below, and waves crashing up against the glass balcony. We had two of their specialty cocktails which were delectable, fruity and refreshing! Each evening walking to drinks or dinner we would see various beach settings decked out for private couples dinners, often these had even been dug into the sand like furniture. My favourite was decorated with lamps hanging from tree branches and palm leaves, all finished off with the most perfect pink sunset thanks to mother nature herself. For dinner we ventured to the floating restaurant Baan Huraa between Naladhu and Anantara Veli, which was Thai inspired. It embraces the exotic ingredients of Thai cuisine, aiming to balance sweet, sour, spicy and salty. To start, we enjoyed Som Tam (US$19) which was a traditional spicy green papaya salad which was light and refreshing given the heat. As well as this we chose the Yam Poo Nim (US$21) soft shell crab salad that was quite similar with a chilli lime dressing. Both had a big kick of chilli, but were equally delicious. The mains consisted of Plam Samrod ($34), sautéed vegetables Pad Pan Ruam (US$11) and I insisted on an order of my favourite Thai noodle dish Pad See Aew (US$27). The problem with living in Sydney is being spoilt by the availability of amazing Thai restaurants for a fraction of the price here. By comparison, everything fell short of our expectations but nonetheless, our Thai palate was pleased with some of the simpler dishes such as the coconut rice which was addictively good, filled with flavour and moistness!Come dessert, we feasted on mango sticky rice Khao New Mamuang (US$21). This dish consisted of a sweet ripe mango cheek boasting amazing flavour, coconut cream and three types of infused rice- pandan, taro and coconut. This went down a treat. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at Anantara Veli as I was interested in inspecting the atmosphere on the adults only island. Sadly, I quickly realised that this was the island I should have stayed at. It was quieter, more elegant with sleeker more stylish finishes and the mood and atmosphere was more relaxed and calm. The breakfast offering was a little more refined, but with a very similar array of items. A very cool bread display featured all the pastries your thighs could dream of with donuts, croissants, pretzels, danishes, muffins, a variety of breads and more. One could then order items a la carte, which the chef would prepare made to order. We (tried) to eat lightly that day as we were off to a special Spice Spoons cooking class shortly after. This is a special feature that Anantara provides, where guests can learn first hand from the island’s chefs about some Maldivian signature cooking. The setup was impressive, with a vibrant colourful assortment of spices and fresh produce decorating the room. The first dish we created was some homemade crabcakes. We mixed a selection of spices in the pan, with finely chopped onion, fish stock and oil, adding in fresh crab meat. We then rolled the mixture into palls, coating it in fresh bread crumbs and then setting them aside for later. We began on the main dish then which was a tuna curry. Tuna is the staple of Maldivian diets. The waters are filled with an abundance, and the locals source the protein for their diets almost exclusively from this one fish. The culture embraces spices, and hence loves curries. Today we created a Maldivian inspired tuna curry. We sautéed onion, spices, oil and stock along with rich coconut milk, adding in the fresh pieces of tuna fillet. This simmered away and we began on dessert. Dessert was an unusual item I had never encountered before. We simmered incredibly sweet condensed milk with vanilla essence and cardamon pods over a low heat, adding translucent super skinny glass noodles. We stirred and simmered them, until they were thick and creamy, then served so fittingly in a coconut husk.The chefs prepared our crab cakes in the deep-fryer, and sat us down at a beautifully curated table embellished with spices and a special message. We sat looking out at the waves breaking off the reef, with the soft breeze singing amongst the palm trees, and the mesmerising blue glistening in the sunlight. It was pure bliss. Shortly after the final products arrived, and we feasted on the wonderful locally inspired cuisine.That evening, Anantara hosted drinks for guests with its staff members and managers. There was fire dancing, canapés, wine and tropical cocktails as well as little stalls from each of the various outlets such as the spa and restaurant that occupy across all three hotels. It was a great way to meet other guests, staff and mingle. Plus another one of the Maldives signature sunsets did not disappoint.I was sad to depart island life the next day, from the gorgeous morning sun to the breathtaking sunsets in front of our beach villa. However at some point one must take the trip back to reality. As we sailed (or sped) into the sunset on our speedboat, I bid adieu to the Maldives and know I’ll be back again soon.
Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort
Phone: +960 664 4100
Getting there: The resort is located 21 km south of Velana International Airport, on a private island and accessible 24 hours by speedboat transfer (35 minutes journey).
I Ate My Way Through stayed as guests of Anantara Resorts