The very mention of Maldives always evolves an image of coconut palms on a tiny island, of azure crystal clear water, of postcard perfect scenery be it land or underwater. Yes, I can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with this tropical paradise. But just as true, are the pricey premium resorts that many would dream about and consider a vacation here “a trip of a lifetime” or something on their bucket list. Thus, as a travel blogger with Jetabout Holidays, I had the luck to experience more than half a dozen high-end resorts over a short period of time. It opened my eyes to the distinctively different features and characters of each resort. And in this instance, the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas ranks among the cream of the crop, balancing luxury and fineness effortlessly like an illusory Utopia.
The Amazing Resort
This beautiful resort is located on Kihavah Huravalhi Island, Baa Atoll , west of the Maldives atoll chain which is made up of 75 tropical islands. In June 2011, Baa Atoll was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, placing it in the hall of fame sites such as Komodo island in Indonesia, Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia and the Galápagos Islands. With only 13 of the islands inhabited and a population of 11,000 , this resort is well placed in a secluded and exclusive location.
The Over Water Villa
While most resorts looked somewhat similar in layout and design from afar, the quality of materials used and furnishings become apparent upon checking in. It’s what distinguish resorts and exude that ‘feel good’ and “wow” factors. Anantara group of resorts worldwide have always scored high consistently and that finesse is right here too, if not better.
My accommodation for the stay – an Over Water Pool Villa. With almost 260 sg.m of living space, you will feel at one with the wide expanse of the Maldivian tropical paradise. Fully furnished with any creature comfort you will need and more. I slept like a baby cradled in supreme comfort as the calming waves slushed underneath the villa each night.
The resort have 79 spacious villas, ranging from 260 to 2,730 square meters catering to couples or families, either poised over the water with sweeping ocean views or nestled along a pristine stretch of private beach.
The villa dining pavilion, looking out into the picturesque Baa Atoll. You can lounge on the deck netting or Maldivian swing bed. Either way, you wish time stands still here. You can also do skinny dipping in the sea in full privacy, as the human density is very low.
The bathtub with transparent base looking into the reef beneath the villa and view of surrounding islands as far as the eyes can see. This is “bath decadence” at its best.
The tastefully laid out villa shower and restroom area alone is bigger than a lot of city hotels room anywhere worldwide. There’s also an outdoor shower, perfect for getting refreshed under the Milky Way and night skies.
The villa private swimming pool. You will be spoilt for choices for a dip. Personally the shallow beach right in front at the villa is perfect for day swim while the pool is ideal when it gets too dark at night.
Each villa comes equipped with bicycles so that you ride around the island. Perfect for a bit of exercise and saving on carbon footprint in the process. But buggy transport is provided upon short notice if you prefer.
One of the best things to do in Maldives is nothing. Simply enjoy the peaceful scenic blue sea on the breezy Maldivian swinging bed is already a joy of life.
One of the best activities to do at night is stargazing. With the lack of light pollution, the constellations, Milky Way and tons of stars will enthrall especially city folks. Even shooting stars and orbiting satellites can be spotted. The resort also conducts pre-dinner stargazing session for guests, expounding some of the starry secrets at it’s stargazing deck.
The resort ground
Being the 1st operator in the Maldives to be Green Globe Certified highlights Anantara’s sincere commitment to operating in an environmentally, socially and culturally responsible manner through a broad spectrum of initiatives. The resort are fully designed with sustainability and low-carbon footprint in mind.
Most resorts in Maldives have a swing built over water which makes for that idyllic “Instagrammable” moment. You can swing high and splash into the water for that unique picture.
Dusk at Maldives are simply gorgeous. End of a beautiful day, start of an enchanting night.
Most resorts in Maldives charges higher rates for villas with sunset view. There is a reason for this.
You could lounge at your own villa sundeck but there’s plenty more loungers around the resort so guests can choose the ambience and view they desire.
The resort main food and beverage hub. An absolutely lovely place to chill. But it’s usually quiet outside meals time as guests are either enjoying the Maldivian magic from their villas, out on scuba diving trips, doing yoga or many other activities.
The resort various decor theme are inspired by nature around them. Certainly a fitting tribute to the awesome beauty that surrounds the Baa Atoll.
The vegetation at the atoll is not limited to just coconut palms or marine hardy plants. The gardening staff have fabulous green fingers in cultivating tropical flowers like orchids which beautify the resort landscaping.
The fabulous Gastronomic Experience
Complementing the beautiful Maldivian ambience are the equally exquisite dining option. So aptly described in the resort website “Sea.Fire.Salt.Sky –A one-of-a-kind over and underwater dining experience. From a mythical escape into the depths of the ocean to reaching for the sky at the rooftop bar, the Indian Ocean unfolds before your eyes in four different ways.” You know you are in for a gastronomic treat.
The resort’s spectacular SEA Underwater Restaurant. As part of the resort’s signature dining concept, the dining experience here was so magical, that it could very well be the key reason for choosing this resort over others. Definitely a culinary highlight anywhere in the whole of Maldives, in my humble opinion.
Lunch under the sea at Sea is an absolute MUST! Best reserve a table during resort reservation and turn up slightly earlier before opening hours to ensure a good table. Lunch is unhurried and drawn out so that you can enjoy the reef fish swimming all around. Each table has a book of Maldivian reef fish on it so you can better put a name to the fish you spot swimming right across. WiFi is not available at this underwater venue, so guest can better savour the view and meal.
A gastronomic experience must be accompanied by great wines. For wine connoisseurs, even novices, will be well served by the resident sommelier, who will complement the meal with fabulous vintages or house pour.
My Wangyu beef tenderloin paired with Chardonnay by the resident sommelier hits the spot. It’s like the beautiful reef out there, with all flavour and texture swimmingly good. Felt like in heaven already.
The attention to details and presentation made the dining experience that much more memorable. My leek and potato puree soup with black truffle and quail egg was simply out of this world.
Dining by the pool and under the stars at Manzaru, the resort Italian restaurant. As always, the gorgeous Maldivian skies beautified the ambience for a romantic dinner. The diner’s attentive butlers up the experience with their polished service and engaging diners with light conversation.
Tasting local food is one highlights at the resort. My fave was the Maldivian Curry with steamed rice and freshly fried papadum. And the wide range of dishes on the Plates restaurant buffet line was over the top. With such a wide variety of dishes, i wished had a few stomachs. Good food, great scenery..it was a great start to the day.
At the resort Fire Restaurant, built with a dome ceiling reaching for the sky, the atmosphere is communal and theatrical with a chef who occasionally invites the guests to flip an egg and catch it mid-air around the teppanyaki hotplate. Certainly an “egg-citing” experience.
The gorgeous House Reef
Although the atolls in Maldives are generally festooned with beautiful coral reefs , not all resorts in Maldives are blessed with great house reef. Those resorts that do not have good reefs will usually provide guests with short boat ride to nearby reef for snorkeling. But at Anantara Kihavah, I am please to say I experienced one of the best looking house reef, within just a stone throw from shore.
The amazing house reef by the SEA underwater restaurant. Although man-assembled, this beautiful reef is blossoming and teeming with marine life with healthy soft corals and giant clams. The Maldivian government practices of banning trawling and allowing only line fishing helped in part to maintained a balanced eco-system and helped the reefs recover faster from massive coral bleaching that is afflicting coral reefs worldwide.
The lovely hard corals are healthy and act as a nursery for fishes to breed and survive better. Soft corals like anemones are less frequently spotted at the shallower depth, compared to reefs at countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
An Oriental Sweetlip sharing a harbourage with Butterffly, Squirrel and Hawk Fish among lovely red sponges , all at 5 ft depth with 20m visibilty. It like swimming in a giant aquarium.
A small school of Powder Blue Surgeon Fish nibbling on algae at hard corals. This helps in grooming the hard corals, keeping the eco-system equilibrium in check.
The Rejuvenating Anantara Spa
If relaxing on powdery white sands and swimming in the azure waters aren’t sufficient to eat away your worldly woes, the resort professional wellness spa therapists will certainly helped guests ‘reset’ bodily and mentally.
6 over-water treatment suites are available at the resort to lavish attention on guests by professional therapists. Each treatment room is in its own over water bungalow with glass windows on the floor to watch the reef fish swim while enjoying a variety of treatments. But honestly, while the transparent glass window is a nice touch, I usually go into deep slumber the minute the expert masseur does her magic.
The resort spa earth-friendly wellness products are available for purchase. Perfect as gifts for friends when returning home. But I suspect you will want to keep it for yourself. It’s just too good to give away.
The inner sanctum of tranquility at the resort. You wish the clock slows down and be pampered forever, elevating your sensory pleasures beyond beautiful reef fishes and delicious food.
The impeccable service and friendly staff
Central to any good travel experience is the service you received during a vacation. At Maldives resorts, as most if not all, the time are spent at the resort, the trip enjoyment level is heavily centered on service. And I am please to say the Anantara group has lived up to it’s reputation. From arrival to departure, everything was perfect. We were assigned a personal butler for the entire stay, who attended to our every need. We were given a mobile phone with direct link to him so that any request for assistance or info are answered promptly within three rings.
Our butler, named Knaif, ferrying us to our villa after being greeted with cold towels and chilled drinks upon arrival. And from there, did an orientation to the spacious villa so that we know where the switches are located and how to work the essential appliances. Check-in was seamless, smooth and very pleasant, so that we can start enjoying the lovely resort immediately.
We didn’t need to trouble our butler much, for what more would you need in paradise?. Throughout our trip, the service request to our butler was basically for buggy transport and departure arrangement. Although each villa is provided with bicycles for personal mobility, I was not comfortable riding bicycle as the last time I rode one was a few decades ago. What more balancing photographic gears and myself on the wooden boardwalk may be see me falling straight into the gin clear water. Not a comfortable thought may I add.
One of the resort staff cycling around on housekeeping duty. Eco-friendly practices are heavily adhered to on the island, in line with their earth-friendly and eco-conscious philosophy.
The restaurant kitchen staff were absolutely fun and spontaneous. My request to grab a picture of them while they are cooking resulted in a group shoot, all within 10 seconds.
Resort staff at the jetty bidding farewell to departing guests. A contrast of feeling replayed everyday with elated arriving guests and sad departing guests. One can’t get enough of paradise.
Newly arrived guests feeling the warmth reception the resort jetty and led by a staff playing Maldivian drum to the resort. A memorable start to a great vacation ahead.
The resort staff at the jetty to see us off to our next adventure at another resort. Such is the warmth of the staff. A lovely end to a wonderful trip and makes you want to come back again.
Getting to the resort
Overseas visitors to the Maldives land at Velana International Airport (previously known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport) , the country main international airport. From the moment we cleared passport control, the resort’s representative will be on hand to meet and escort us via air-conditioned coach to the sea plane terminal (just a few minutes away) where the resort maintains a sleek and comfortable lounge overlooking the seaplane berth.
The Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas sea plane terminal lounge. Guests staying at Niyama Resort are also served here as both resorts are owned by the Minor Group of companies.
The lounge has restroom facility, complimentary WiFi, snacks and beverages for waiting guests from different flights as the seaplanes are readied for the transfer to the island resorts.
The seaplanes used are typically 18-seater DeHavilland Twin Otter. Space in the cabin can be limited and is not air-conditioned. But the 40min flight (USD300 per person , per way) on the way to the resort offers an amazing view on the atolls, islands, reefs and lagoons.
Enroute to the resort, you will get to see history in the making – Maldives’ new runway. The international is undergoing massive upgrading and expansion to cater to ever increasing tourists arrival. The current world’s largest airliner A380 will be able to land on the new runway.
Arrival at Anantara Kihavah resort, the floating platform is situated a short distance away from the resort to minimise aircraft noise from disturbing the serenity of the resort and guests enjoyment. A speed boat will then whisk guests to the resort just under a minute away.
Some good information information to know before you go. Over water pool villas at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas start at about S$2000 per night. There is a mandatory sea plane transfer fee of about S$420/per way per person. As sea planes do not operate after dark, an overnight stay at Malé is required if you arrive at the city in the late afternoon or evening. For the perpetually internet-wired up visitors, heave a sigh of relief as WiFi connectivity is provided with compliments on the island. The resort has many other activities apart from those mentioned in the travelogue. A minimum of 3 nights stay onward is advised for a well-rounded experience at this spectacular resort. Do check out my other Maldives resorts travelogues if you need more information.
Footnote : All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Holiday Tours and Travel (Singapore) and all rights reserved. Stay at this resort is hosted but opinion expressed is factual, honest and that of author.