When vacationing in a part of the world as heavenly as the Maldives, you’d be excused to want to spend your stay sipping Bellinis by the beach. But if said beach is part of the Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, there’ll be plenty of diversion should you tire of R&R eventually: from wildlife encounters to overwater spa treatments and a nearby islet available for private hire and special moments – because who wouldn’t love a retreat from a retreat?
First impressions count. That much goes without saying, perhaps, but the kind and courteous staff at Anantara Dhigu had a way of making us feel particularly welcome in the Maldives. There was, for one, the ceremonial chanting and drumming as we concluded our 35-minute speedboat journey from the airport and stepped ashore Dhigufinolhu island. A freshly sliced coconut in hand, we were quickly chauffeured to our villa, where further welcome messages awaited, and a local grey heron stood proudly by our private pool, ready for its close-up – although, we take it, animal guest appearances are not guaranteed!
From the pool, it was only a few steps down a private path to our very own beachside loungers, and dazzling views of bright, Maldivian blue stretching almost all the way to the horizon: the sandbank upon which Anantara Dhigu was built extends far into the sea, making the Western side of the island ideal for nervous swimmers and parents travelling with young children. Incidentally, the resort is perhaps among the most family-friendly in the South Malé Atoll. That’s because, despite its five stars, the overall atmosphere here is more barefoot and friendly than decadent and ultra-exclusive, which suited our jet-lagged feet just fine (who would want to squeeze into a pair of Oxford’s for dinner by the beach, anyway?).
Between a myriad of water-based activities on offer, a cinema under the stars and cooking classes using produce from the chef’s garden, there’s plenty to keep guests of any age cartwheeling around the resort – not to mention the actual gym, or the badminton court nestled into the island’s tropical interior. Dhigufinolhu is no larger than most barely-there Maldivian isles, but each time we went on a stroll around the wide and open paths that wind their way across it, we stumbled upon another little corner inviting us to lean back and pick up a book. In fact, the hotel’s beach villas feel not unlike cosy corners, either, which is not least thanks to how gorgeously they blend into the natural setting: along the sand path to our 150 square-metre, thatched-roof Sunset Beach Pool Villa, flanked by hibiscus flowers and palm trees on each side, the warm and welcoming embrace of nature was felt with every step.
Right on time
While you’re Out There
Much like another Maldivian Anantara stronghold, Niyama Private Islands, Dhigu offers plenty in terms of activities: we got particularly lucky during a dolphin cruise, with a dozen porpoises jumping and playing around the front of our boat. There’s also the option to pontoon over to neighbouring Veli, or Gulifushi, a private little isle you can have all to yourself for a beachside picnic or a tanning session in complete isolation. Just keep your swimwear on – nudity is against the law.
That’s not to say, however, that we didn’t enjoy the modern-day amenities available inside (and, it should go without mentioning, the air con). Not only was our villa bright and airy, featuring large windows, high ceilings and ample storage space; it also came with a pool-side sun terrace, where day beds, an oversized swing and a private dining area within earshot of waves crashing on the beach all vied for our attention at the same time – just how does one decide? We did think our villa would’ve benefited from a bit more tropical zest, as decor felt just a tad uninspired – and with the outside being this lush, not bringing it indoors more is somewhat of a missed opportunity. But then again, our outdoor bathroom more than made up for this, with its massive, freestanding tub, cedarwood and patchouli-scented toiletries, and a mosaic shower surrounded by nothing but clear skies and flowering shrubs (and, rest assured, a wall for privacy).
Those looking to embrace the outdoor life even more should opt for one of the overwater villas at Anantara Dhigu. Lined up along an elegantly curved pier, their humped, silvery roofs reminded us of greyhounds on a starting line: sleek, stylish, striking. In contrast, the stilted spa, which also rises from the clear blue waters below, is more in keeping with traditional Maldivian aesthetics, featuring thatched roofs across its airy entrance hall and six designated treatment suites. We thought service here was impeccable, and staff bent over backwards to turn a sixty-minute Signature Massage into a bespoke ritual that left us feeling refreshed and, thanks to our therapist’s consistently firm pressure, light as a feather. If the idea of studying marine life while being kneaded from head to toe takes your fancy, glass panels in the floor beneath massage benches offer rather entertaining views.
The restaurants at Anantara Dhigu are quite the sight, too. Any taste is catered to between the hotel’s very own gastronomic offering, and the eateries on neighbouring Anantara Veli, an adults-only resort conveniently accessible via a three-minute pontoon ride across the mini-archipelago’s shallow waters. We tried Sea.Fire.Salt, an overwater grill flanked by flickering oil lamps that conjure up a romantic island feel. Its wide-ranging menu featured several, delectable plant-based options for us to choose from, and, in that respect, was better equipped than Italian-themed 73 Degrees on Veli – though we hear a soon-to-come menu makeover will incorporate more vegan-friendly options… hooray!
For a true standout experience, make your way to Baan Huraa, which offers sweeping views from its isolated position between Veli and the third property in the cluster, the more upscale Naladhu Private Island. The Thai head chef and team here know exactly what they’re doing, and all our courses (of which there were many) tasted every bit as fresh and sophisticated as they would in the land of smiles. You could argue it’s rather fitting: this being a Thai brand, a decidedly Thai sense of hospitality and warmth imbued every part of our stay at Anantara Dhigu. From our Kuwaanu, a designated villa butler, leaving handwritten notes by our bed each night, to the omnipresent smiles that enhanced our days as we strolled down the beach, we felt looked after with genuine care and appreciation until the very end of our stay. Clearly, it’s not just first impressions that count here.