One lagoon, three resorts, three identities; that is how we would describe the Anantara Dhigu, Veli and Naladhu resorts in the Maldives. We stayed at the Anantara Veli resort but explored the other islands during our stay as well. So today we bring you three-reviews-in-one emphasizing on the identities of the three.
Three of the four Anantara properties on the Maldives are located on a group of islands half an hour South of capital Malé and Malé International Airport. Located on the Eastern side of the South Male Atoll the Anantara resorts include five islands: Anantara Dhigu; the family resort located in the lagoon which reminded us a lot of the Cancun family resorts we’ve gone on family vacations to for the last decade to, Anantara Veli; the adults-only island that mainly consists of water villas, Anantara Naladhu; the high-end luxury island with large private villas overlooking the ocean side or lagoon, a dedicated picnic or snorkeling island and a staff island.
Guests can use the facilities of Dhigu and Veli all day, every day. Only Naladhu has restricted access to Naladhu guests and guests from Dhigu and Veli with a reservation to the Dining Room restaurant on the island.
Obviously the close proximity to the airport has positive and negative sides. It is quick and easy to get to the resorts from Male International Airport – the speedboat that brings you to the Anantara moors literally 5 meters away from the international arrivals. On the downside you hear some of the airplanes landing in Male at the resort. And since Male is also the economic heart of the Maldives there are more local islands in the vicinity and the economic activity can also create some noise and pollution.
The largest island of the three is home to the family friendly resort and hosts 110 beach- and over-water villas. The island is surrounded by white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. On the island you find three restaurants and bars: Sea. Fire. Salt for seafood and steaks, Terrazzo for Italian cuisine and Aqua for drinks and light snacks next to the resort’s infinity pool.
On Dhigu you also find a Spa, Dive Center, Kids Club, Fitness Center, volleyball courts and Tropicsurf – a surf school with outlets from Fiji to Costa Rica. Since the island is so large there are bicycles available for guests to cycle around. Since Dhigu is the only island of the three located in the middle of the lagoon it has white sandy beaches all around. The waters are quite shallow so kids can play and swim all around. From Dhigu you can also catch a 5 minute boat ride to the snorkelling island or Anantara Veli.
One of our highlights at Dhigu was the over-water Spa with nine treatment suites. Below the massage tables is a glass window which allows you to watch the fish as they pass through the sea below, one of the most relaxed experiences we had. Besides the treatment rooms you can also find a steam room and sauna at the Spa.
The Anantara resorts also run a Coral Adoption Programme. We joined one of their experts at the Dhigu dive center to adopt a piece of coral ourselves. First we collected loose pieces of coral floating around on the lagoons seabed and took them back to the island. Here we broke the pieces of coral up into smaller pieces and connected them with tie-rips to a steel frame. Afterwards we dropped the steel frame at a specific location in the lagoon at a depth of around three meters. Thanks to the fixed position on the frame the coral becomes able to eat and grow again. In one year the relatively fast growing staghorn coral can cover the entire frame and become home to fishes again. Ultimate goal is to create a new coral reef to connect two existing reefs in the lagoon.
Anantara Veli is Dhigu’s adult-only sister. The resort is home to several restaurants including to the Baan Huraa thai restaurant, 73 degrees the breakfast and seafood restaurant and Origami the Japanese restaurant where you can have teppanyaki. In addition there are a few bars including pool bar Dhoni.
Anantara Veli has a European feel to it with music playing and football shown on the tv in the bars. Veli has water villas mostly and we stayed in a deluxe over water bungalow with sunset views. The villas have an ensuite bathroom with separate shower and bathtub and terrace with two sunloungers and a plunge pool. There is only one canopy on the terrace though so it can get quite hot and hard to find shade. From the terrace there is a stairs leading directly into the ocean. And although there is not that much coral in the lagoon around Veli and Dhigu you can see quite a few fishes. We saw tunas and a few other large fish roaming around our villa. The walkway is quite long and if you are in one of the sunset villas expect a long walk to the restaurants and main pool. Unlike other resorts the walkways are not strong enough to support golf buggies so walking is your only option.
Veli also has a dedicated dive center where you can book diving excursions or get your snorkelling equipment. Additionally, you can book a cooking course, do yoga on the beach or watch a movie in the outdoor cinema.
Naladhu is the most luxurious and private island of the three Anantara resorts we visited. The island’s restaurant in the living room offers daily fine dining experience set at the lagoon beach. The restaurant has a great wine cellar which includes a selection of vintage champagnes.
Naladhu has only 19 houses of which 6 are beach pool houses, 12 ocean pool houses and an ocean view with two bedroom pool residence. There is a dedicated spa called the ‘Ocean Retreat’ which features just one treatment room with a swimming pool, steam room, rain shower and ocean view terrace.
The villas are all finished to the highest standards with Bose home theater systems, luxurious bathrooms and hardwood floors. All villas at Naladhu have infinity pools and a private cabana at the beach. A house master is available to assist with any queries or wishes that guests may have. The houses have more than just a mini bar but a well-stocked fridge instead.
Naladhu guests enjoy unlimited access to the facilities and restaurants at the other Anantara properties but guests from Dhigu and Veli cannot come to Naladhu, making it our top choice of the three resorts. We had dinner at the Living Room one night and the food was excellent and among the best we had during our stays at the Maldives. The beach is beautiful but the snorkelling directly at Naladhu is limited.
The three Anantara resorts Dhigu, Veli and Naladhu all have their own distinct purpose and audience. For honeymooners seeking luxury and privacy Naladhu is definitely our pick. The close proximity of Male has pros and cons; the island is easy to get to and the travel time is reduced which make the Anantara more suitable for a short stay but there can be noise and pollution from nearby islands, planes and boats. In terms of sustainability and underwater world there are better resorts.