No it’s not a shipwreck (though you can imagine that if you like) nor a bad dhoni parking job. It’s the dhoni-inspired Anantara kids club.
Who needs a big body of water at their kids club when you can have an entire ocean in your imagination. In fact Anantara does have any kiddie pool at its kids club, but the dollop of imagination the kids can be out in the open ocean while in the safety, security and supervision of the club. Anantara has modelled its kids club as a Maldivian dhoni. So as our son would say, he’s not going off to child minding…he is on an adventure on the ‘big boat’.
Tis indeed the season for taking the plunge. The nuptial plunge. Bridal magazines are cascading off the newsagent shelves, harried betrothed are scrambling for church bookings, and couples are getting vase.into their charming first rows over patterns for the bridal registry.
Why not avoid the latter most with gifts that everyone can agree on? That is, just about anything enjoyed in the Maldives.
Anantara (all of their Maldives properties – Kihavah, Veli, Dhigu) has introduced a ‘Honeymoon Registry’ with gifts like an ‘Upgrade to an Over-Water Pool Villa’ or a ‘Private Sand Bank Day Trip’.
When Lori and I tied the knot, we loved getting cash as gifts as we were so impoverished. Starting our lives and blowing so much on the event. During our honeymoon, we tracked our special treats (eg. nice meals out, horse and buggy ride, trip to the amusement park) and what we spent on them. Then, when we got back and dug into thank-you note writing, and we attributed the cash gifts to the treats we enjoyed. The generous gift givers seemed to really enjoy the fact that they contributed to something special rather than just topping up a bank account.
The registries are such a help to guests and loved ones who want to make a gift. You never know quite what to get especially in these days where many people do already have a lot of the basic household items. Not to mention that massage or beach dinner sounds much better to give than a toaster or vase.
Bed decoration, with petals and blossoms from local gardens, is a longstanding tropical resort tradition practiced with great panache in the Maldives. Kuramathi has innovated on the concept with towel sculptures. And Anantara Veli provides another twist with coral floor decorations (see photo above). They create a variety of artistic greetings to guests using coral bits from the beach.
This distinction seemed appropriate to call out today with the passage of another romantic rock flirtingly brushing by the earth more closely than it has in over three decades – Asteroid 433 Eros (‘Eros’ of course the ‘God of Love’). Mind you, that intimate encounter is still 16 million miles away.
So today in Anantara Veli you can get romantic signs from above in the heavens or below at your feet from possibly the most romantic rocks in the Maldives.
“I don’t even know half these people!”– 12 pains of Christmas, Twisted Christmas
As delightful as holiday greetings are to receive, sending them can be an exhausting tasks. If hours hunched over the kitchen table scrawling out notes can brings on sore shoulders and writers cramp, then the greeting you need is Anantara’s. After a traditional Thai greeting of a discrete bow with clasped hands, an Anantara spa therapist offers a 5 minute head and neck massage while you are sitting in reception and registering. Not only one of the best first impressions ever, but also smart marketing of free samples to promote the spa (it didn’t take my wife much thinking or delay to sign up for the full treatment at Anantara Spa).
Happy Loy Krathong!
“On the eve of the 12th lunar month, Anantara Resorts Maldives is proud to present a traditional evening of Thai cuisine and Krathong – flower-shaped candlelit rafts – in celebration of Loy Krathong, The Festival of Lights, under a full moon at Baan Huraa restaurant. As a resort company steeped in heartfelt Thai hospitality it gives us great pleasure to introduce and celebrate one of the most beautiful Thai festivals with our story-collecting travellers from around the globe. Our resorts encapsulate the excitement of discovery and exploration that comes with entering new territory and, though we are celebrating the Festival of Lights outside the Kingdom, I cannot think of a more perfect setting than the greatest paradise on earth to express good wishes to our guests and team members and to look to the future as we float our floral offerings on the night.”
With its romantic trappings (full moon, flowers, candles), as well as its aquatic and even ecological origins, the Maldives has to be one of the best places on the planet to celebrate this endearing Thai holiday…
“Popular legend holds that the celebration is an expression of gratitude to the goddess of water ‘Phra Mae Kongka’ for having extensively used, and sometimes polluted, the water from the rivers and canals. It is also in part a thanksgiving for her bounty in providing water for the livelihood of the people.”
And in the Maldives, there is no better place to celebrate anything Thai than Anantara’s three conjoined properties: Dhigu, Veli and Naladu. Anantara is itself a Thai company which explains its exceptional catering to all things Thai. Their spa is heavily Thai themed with Thai treatments and therapists. In fact, Anatara has one of the most relaxing greetings in the Maldives as its therapists come out to reception and give all arrivals a brief, complementary head and neck message in reception. They obviously have a Thai restaurant, Baan Huraa, which is certainly one of the best if not at least the most authentic in the Maldives. It even features a vintage Thai wine ‘Dranmonte’ (vintage) according to Bala, the resort sommelier.
My fortnight tour of the Maldives identified 89 potential new ‘Best of Maldives’ features (to add to the 169 I have already posted and the further 94 that I have drafted in the wings). Over the upcoming fortnight, I will be featuring the first ‘Best Of’ pieces stemming from the trip. They might not be the biggest or most dramatic, just a sample of some my favourites.
Speaking of favourites, our favourite food of the trip was hands down the Italian-Fusion restaurant on Anantara Veli, Geckos. When I first was told about it, I was a bit sceptical. ‘So what is it? Pizza and sushi? What’s the fusion?’ And it is indeed the ‘fusion’ that makes it special. Executive Sous-Chef Ken explained that they use indigenous ingredients from both Japanese and Italian cuisine and do indeed ‘fuse’ them into novel renditions of familiar dishes and styles.
Yes, they have Sushi Pizza (the sushi is put on after it’s cooked and the pizza base is a thinner style). They have Italian pasta made with Japanese togorashi and nouri. Even the Italian garlic bread is accented with Japanese spices. I had the Teppanyaki pork on lemon grass and crab meat sauce which was stunning. The chef’s specialty is ‘Ebi Pizza’ made with prawns, crab, dry roasted seaweed, Japanese spices, Mishima yaksri
Ken even offers the guest recipes of any of the dishes you crave (my wife wants the recipes for the ‘Roasted sesame seed ice cream’ and ‘spiced salmon on Tagliatelle with wafu sauce’).
‘buon appetito’ in Japanese
The Maldive Trio.
We live on a farm in a converted barn quite close to our other neighbours who also live in charming conversions. We are quite remote, being out on a farm, but we don’t feel isolated because we have our neighbours with whom we regularly have spontaneous gatherings for BBQs, tea or drinks. It has a delightful ‘little community’ feel to it. Anantara Dhigu/Veli/Naladhu has that same feel.
A little cluster of three resort islands plus a staff island and a little bonus island makes it like a little exotic community of paradise. It has a different feel to that of the big resort islands, because each individual island is relatively small. Sales Executive Shanoon Khalid, who took me around, is a Maldivian native and he said that the ‘community of little islands’ feel is very authentically ‘Maldivian’ and has the closest feel of any resort to the ambiance and atmosphere of where he grew up.
The portfolio approach to resort layout also enables a ‘have your cake and eat it, too’ solution: the privacy of a small select property with access to a broad range of services and infrastructure – small island feel with large island amenities. Peace and quiet on the beach with water sports available (but secluded away on another island so little sound activity disturbs the beach-goers.
All three resorts are peppered with delightful touches you would expect from a proper 5 star property. For example, Dhigu’s water villas have ceilings styled as if a Maldivian dhoni (traditional) boat had been overturned on the villa. Their design also provides great views while maintaining privacy from the adjacent villas.
The biggest shortcoming to these Anantara resorts is the snorkelling. You can, of course, go on plenty of snorkel excursions for some stunning snorkelling at nearby reefs. If popping out of your villa and plunging straight into snorkelling is high on your list, then I recommend the Veli island where they have some really fine crops of new growth branch coral in the water villa lagoon. Marine Biologist Sarah Kompatscher also says that there are a range of small reefs around the resorts that they can take you and direct you too (she says that octopus is actually quite commonly sighted and Shanoon noted that schools of squid are quite common) according to your swimming abilities.
Five-star done just right. Not too fussy, but nothing missing.
Ocean kayaking to the neighbouring ‘picnic island’
While Olhuveli and Fun Island might be a football pitch apart, if you want a little neighbourhood of tiny companion islands, then the Anantara resorts – Dhigu, Veli – and Naladhu. Each resort is just under 300 yards apart. So if you are apprehensive about being too remote and isolated, then maybe this little cluster in the Lakshadweep Sea is for you.
On the subject of Diva and being in the awards season, a second hat tip to Diva for being ranked the highest for ‘Most Romantic’ in its ‘Travellers Choice Awards’. A big kudo since the Maldives are perhaps most famous a honeymoon destination. So they are the most romantic in an area considered one of the romantic in the world.
Johnny Mathis, general manager of Diva, commented on the prestigious recognition, “It is a fine achievement for the entire team after only one year in operation. This is indeed good news and will further boost our position as a prime destination for romance and honeymoons.”
The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award is the third international award for Diva, since opening in 2008. It follows Diva being named the best hotel in the Indian Ocean in Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List 2009; and ‘Hideaway of the Year Award 2008’ by prestigious German magazine, Hideaway.
Also, an honorable mention to Anatara Veli and Chaaya Reef Elliadoo who came in right after Diva.