x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hotel insider: Dusit Thani Maldives

A naturalistic island resort with Thai touches

Villas on stilts sit over the Dusit Thani resort's blue lagoon. Courtesy Dusit Thani Maldives
Villas on stilts sit over the Dusit Thani resort's blue lagoon. Courtesy Dusit Thani Maldives

The welcome

Three couples, all Russian, emerge from our seaplane when it touches down by Mudhdhoo Island. One woman is wearing an off-the-shoulder Missoni dress that's more red carpet than desert island, but the backdrop, inky blue ocean, pale turquoise lagoon, swaying palm trees and silky white sand is pure film set. Shaaz, my personal butler, takes me to a sand floor reception, gives me lemongrass tea and then takes me to my ocean villa in a buggy. He explains how to get their own film channel, and make my own coffee. Later, when I discover that turning the master switch off automatically turns on a light under my bed, I regret, as I always do, forgetting to ask the right questions on lighting.

The neighbourhood

Dusit Thani is the latest in a long line of luxury resorts to open in the Maldives in the past few years. Our immediate neighbours are Anantara and Four Seasons (with whom fierce inter-hotel staff basketball matches are fought). The resort sits in the centre of Baa Atoll where the rich underwater life has earned it world biosphere reserve status by Unesco, the only marine site in the country to achieve this.

The scene

Dusit has gone for a mix of authentic Thai with a splash of Maldivian eco chic. My fellow guests are mainly Russian and Chinese families but at other times of the year, the resort is also popular with Middle Eastern and European guests.

The service

Good. There are lots of nice touches: when I left my reading glasses behind, for example, the restaurant offered me a choice of six different lenses. I watched as staff built a barbecue on the beach including a large screen for one family whose children wanted to watch a film while the parents ate.

The room

Over -water villas are the best thing about the Maldives and my ocean villa, approached from a pier, is no exception. The large wooden-framed bungalows with palm thatched roofs look quaint but they are modern, simple, comfy, spacious and stylish inside. I can step straight into a lagoon from my personal terrace. I love it.

The food

There are three restaurants: the Market is open for breakfast and for an international buffet dinner; the Sea Grill is open for à la carte lunch and dinner; while Bejarong, the signature Thai restaurant, is open for dinner. Compared to other Maldivian resorts, the food prices are reasonable. A plate of sushi at the Sea Grill is US$35 (Dh128), chicken satay $18 (Dh66), and chicken and chips or curry of the day $25 (Dh91) and $35 (Dh128). All the food is good, and at Bejarong, which has its own Thai chef, it is outstanding. Even the humble spring rolls ($17;Dh63) were the best I have ever tasted.

Loved

The Devarana Spa signature massage ($150; Dh550 for 90 minutes). A mix of Ayurvedic, Shiatsu and Swedish, my therapist Bim is excellent and the tree-top treatment rooms are a delight.

Hated

The staff service stations dotted around the island are practical, but look like ugly bus stops and out of place among the lush vegetation. Also, the sand bikes provided at each villa are not meant for short people.

The verdict

A quiet resort lacking the wow factor of others but I love how natural it feels. The spa and the Thai restaurant are both sensational.

The bottom line

Double rooms start from $600 (Dh2,203) per night and ocean villas from $1,250 (Dh4,599). Dusit Thani Maldives, Mudhdhoo Island, Baa Atoll (www.dusit.com; 00 960 660 8888).

* Sue Ryan

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