x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Soak up nature in luxury at Anantara Kihavah Villas, Maldives

Hotel Insider: A fantasy Robinson Crusoe-style escape, yet with every luxury you could want.

The resort offers great snorkelling in tranquil surrounds. Courtesy of Anantara
The resort offers great snorkelling in tranquil surrounds. Courtesy of Anantara

The welcome

After clearing the friendly and efficient immigration system at Male airport, an Anantara representative escorts us to an air-conditioned car for the five-minute drive to the seaplane terminal where Anantara has a smart new lounge. We're offered cold towels and drinks and relax for half an hour before our transfer. After a scenic 35-minute flight north with Trans Maldavian Airways, we touch down on water and are ferried by speedboat to Anantara's welcome jetty. We're greeted by staff and taken to our villa by golf buggy. After a relaxing foot bath and welcome drink on the deck of our over-water villas, we give our villa host, Solah, our passports to complete the check-in process.

The neighbourhood

Anantara's fourth resort in the Maldvies is on Huravalhi island in Baa atoll, 125km north-west of Male. Most Maldavian islands seem remote, but the small size of this island and the fact that the atoll was declared a 174,000-hectare Unesco biosphere reserve last year emphasises the sense of glorious isolation. Of Baa's 75 islands, only 13 are inhabited (of these, six are resorts). The Huravalhi island is entirely taken over by the resort, which has 78 over-water and beach villas, but the beach villas and staff accommodation are so well shrouded by greenery that you barely notice them.

The room

We chose an over-water villa, which is large (259 square metres) and airy, with views over coral reefs to the open sea. The bathroom is a pavilion with high ceilings and a glass-bottomed bath from which we can see fish below. I love the outdoor deck with a swinging daybed, dining table, and our own private plunge pool and sun loungers.

The scene

The slick Asian design complements the setting. Despite the number of villas on the island and high occupancy when we visit, the beaches seem pleasantly deserted most of the time. We see most of the other guests only in the restaurants. Celebrities including sportsmen Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo have been spotted recently.

The service

Generally intuitive and helpful without being obsequious. The only delays we suffered were in the Fire restaurant, where it was difficult to get the staff's attention.

The food

Food prices at five-star resorts anywhere in the Maldives are usually vastly inflated. This is no exception. Portion sizes are generous and the setting is unforgettable. The resort has a newly opened dining complex called Sea.Fire.Salt.Sky. Sea is a spectacular underwater restaurant, with glass walls surrounded by corals and fish. We tried the "lobster lunch" of lobster spring rolls, lobster bisque, grilled lobster and cakes for dessert - a delicious feast and $214 (Dh786) per person including tax and service charges. At Fire, an open-air teppanyaki station, we tried local tuna and red snapper sashimi from $2 (Dh7) per piece and seared scallops with vegetables and fried rice $52 (Dh191). Everything was delicious. At Salt, a large open-air Asian restaurant, the sum tom (green papaya salad) and pad thai were good for $22 (Dh80) and $30 (Dh110) respectively.

Loved

The island's small size, and the sense of space, light and air. The clarity of the water and being able to snorkel straight from our villa. Having a massage in an over-water spa pavilion with the sound of the waves lapping underneath.

Hated

The air conditioning in our villa would not go under 24 degrees and the unit became noisy when we put it on a lower setting.

The verdict

A fantasy Robinson Crusoe-style escape, yet with every luxury you could want.

The bottom line

Beach pool villas at Anantara Kihavah Villas (www.kihavah-maldives.anantara.com; 00 960 660 1020) cost from $1,574 per night (Dh5,780) including taxes and breakfast for two people.