The Maldives conjures images of white sand beaches dotted with palm trees, bright aqua ocean water with coral reefs brimming with colorful fish and postcard sunsets from the beach or over the water villas. With over 105 resorts scatted among 2,000 individual island, the Maldives is a bucket list destination where one can escape the confines of large resorts to experience a vacation as a castaway on a small island.
As mentioned in our previous post, we decided to stay at the Anantara Dhigu for our Maldivian vacation because it ranked the highest on the 4 criteria that were importance to us while ensuring we’d spend about $500 per day. In this post, we will share a review of the property and general impressions about our experience at the resort.
Part of the Anantara luxury brand founded in Thailand in 2011, the Anantara Dhigu is a 5 star resort located a 35 minute speedboat ride away from Male airport and has 110 beach villas and over the water suites. With about 9 different room types to choose from with advertised prices ranging from $567USD to $1,900USD, families and couples will be able to find something that suits their budget and aspirations for a Maldivian vacation.
Located near sister resort Anantara Veli (adults only) accessible by boat, the Anantara Dhigu offers guests more space, facilities and dining options due to access to two resorts. With an advertised 11 dining options, guests will have variety and not have to eat at the same restaurant evening if they don’t want to. For dining, you can pay as you consume or pay for a half or full board package with or without alcohol. The prices for the half board and full board vary based on travel dates and were this amount when we visited:
Half Board Dine around USD $110.00 per adult per day – Dinner at Buffet Restaurants only or any, of the available restaurants at Anantara Dhigu or Anantara Veli.
Full Board Dine around USD $ 170.00 per adult per day – Lunch & Dinner at any of the available restaurants at Anantara Dhigu or Anantara Veli.
Note: Pricing is subject to 10% Service Charge, 12% GST
Children under the age of 12 eat for free.
In addition, some of the meals require that you pay a top up supplement as they are not included in the meal plan.
The Anantara Dhigu facilities include: an infinity pool, fitness centre, spa, tennis court, yoga classes, cooking class, water activities (waterskiing, jet ski, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, etc.) and there is a children’s activity centre. The adults-only sister property Anantara Veli also has its own facilities, including an open air cinema.
Arrival to Airport and Speedboat Ride:
Once we arrived, we went through immigration and had our bags screened again by customs to make sure we were not bringing in alcohol or pork products as those are illegal and banned. After we cleared customs, we made our way to the public area of the terminal and found an Anantara representative who was holding a sign and proceeded to escort us to the arrival lounge where we were offered cold towels and chilled beverages to freshen up. The boat is not private so you do have to wait for other passengers but since no one else was going to the resort, we headed out on the speedboat within 10 minutes.
As we left the terminal, we crossed the street and were helped onboard the speedboat and were handed a lifejacket and some chilled water. It was quite the assault to the senses to breathe in the salty, warm, and humid air and take-in the scene of colorful water and high rises in the distance. We enjoyed the speedboat ride which went by pretty fast and 10 minutes prior to arrival, we were offered another cold towel.
As we pulled up to the dock, the staff were singing and dancing as a welcome which was a nice touch. As we disembarked the boat, we were asked to take a photo in front of the sign and ushered to complete the check-in process before being guided to our room and given a tour.
The Room – Sunrise Beach Villa:
We booked the sunrise Beach Villa, the cheapest room at the resort. Since it takes less than 15 minutes to walk the entire island and how it’s shaped, we had easy access to both the sunrise and the sunset within minutes from our villa and so we were happy we didn’t spend an extra $150 to book the sunset villa.
It’s rare to enter a room and feel that the photos don’t do it justice but this was the case here. We loved the floors, the way the bed was centered and faced outward, the outdoor terrace with a day bed and chairs with a path to the beach, the welcome fruit plate, yoga mat, and the indoor and outdoor bathroom options. The room was in immaculate condition and you can tell that housekeeping and maintenance are on top of things here.
The room comes with an espresso machine and enough pods to make many coffees which would come in handy for us since we were still feeling the effects of jetlag. There was a small fridge with drinks and snacks for purchase. Jason had a Tiger beer despite the high price tag of $8USD + 12% tax and 10% service.
The indoor bathroom area has a toilet on one side and a shower on the other, separated by the entrance and a sink on each side. The outdoor bathroom area has a covered large bathtub and an outdoor shower that is not covered. Overall, we felt the outdoor bathroom area was private but it would have been very private had the wall been 1 foot taller. One day, housekeeping filled the tub with water, bubbles, and flowers which was very nice and relaxing.
The terrace was a nice place to lounge; from reading a book to doing yoga, we spent a lot of time here, especially when it rained. If there is one thing that was missing, it’s pillows for the swing as we couldn’t really use it otherwise.
The bed was very comfortable and we appreciated the ceiling fan but as there were no screens, we had to lock-up and turn on the air conditioning to sleep. The recommendation to set the air conditioning at 23Celsius was perfect; the room was cool and comfortable without feeling like an ice box.
Beach Access and Snorkeling:
After our arrival, we were thankful our bags arrived quickly so that we could change into our swimsuits to go for a swim. Since there was a path that led to the beach from our villa, it took less than a minute to make it and we could pretty much swim there. The sand is white and made up of tiny coral which makes it hard to walk so wearing sandals or water shoes is recommended. The water was very warm and shallow as it was low tide.
As hotel guests, you can borrow snorkel gear from the water sports centre for free during your stay. The centre opens is open from 08:00-17:00 so make sure to get your snorkel gear as soon as you arrive if you intend on snorkeling early in the morning the following day. You can pretty much snorkel anywhere but the staff are quick to give you some tips. We saw the most fish near the ferry dock between Anantara Dhigu and Veli, including a stingray.
During low tide, you can also walk/swim to Gulhifushi aka “Picnic” Island. If you don’t want to walk/swim, you can take a ferry or kayak. Picnic Island offers facilities like food and beverage to complement a day of swimming, snorkeling, kite flying, and beach games for all Anantara guests. Unfortunately, Picnic Island was closed for a day when we visited due to bad weather. Due to all the rain and thunderstorms, we didn’t get to snorkel as much as we wanted and did not get to kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
In addition to snorkeling, you can explore swings and hammocks in the water, which are very popular photo opportunities for Instagram. Word to the wise: it is not as easy as one might think to get on the swing as it takes lots of upper body strength. We joked that it took me longer to get on the swing than walk the entire island. Kudos to all the Instagram influencers who make it look very easy.
As self-proclaimed foodies who often travel to enjoy local cuisine, we were not expecting much from our time in the Maldives due to the high prices and how everything is imported. We did the math and decided a half or full board package was not economical or practical for us so we opted to pay for what we consumed.
After perusing the in room dining menu, we decided to skip dinner on our first night because we weren’t that hungry after eating so much on our flight in Emirates First Class. Had we been hungry, we would have ordered a hamburger and fried, one of the cheaper items on the in room dining menu but that would still end up costing about $50USD.
Due to our jetlag, we were still waking up early and very hungry so we made our way to breakfast for opening at 06:30. We were very impressed with the selections and service at breakfast and I was able to indulge in healthy and not so healthy items each day. There was a made-to-order egg station, Japanese and Chinese food, Middle Eastern food, Indian food, local Maldivian food, fresh cut fruit, pastries, toast, cured meats and cheese, and standard items like yogurt and cereal. We were also told we could go have breakfast at Veli but from our research, we stayed at Dhigu as there were more options. If there is one downside about staying at Dhigu, it’s the loud children and crying babies that were subsequently appeased by loud iPads. Even when the restaurant was empty, they’d still find a way to sit right beside us.
After breakfast, we decided to go make a reservation for Baan Huraa, the renowned Thai restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, they were not able to accommodate a dinner reservation until 21:00, which was quite late for us. Considering the only restaurant we wanted to eat at was Baan Huraa, we were pretty disappointed and wish they’d have told us to book dinner sooner since availability was an issue. The only restaurant that was available for dinner with a reservation was of course the dinner buffet at Fushi Café, which we were trying to avoid. We decided to take a chance and go to Baan Huraa for opening and hope they could seat us.
Since Anantara is a Thai brand, we had high hopes for Baan Huraa, the Thai restaurant at Veli. Even if we didn’t have a reservation, we arrived at opening and they were able to seat us. The setting at Baan Huraa is pretty stunning as it is a teak house on stilts over the ocean. As you dine, you can hear the ocean and always have a nice refreshing breeze. As a welcome, they offered us an appetizer of mixed items that you assembled on leafs: it was really delicious and had that been a menu item, we would have ordered it.
For dinner, the usual lack of appetite due to jetlag set in so we decided to share a few lighter items: Gai Hor Bai Toey $24USD (Deep fried marinated chicken with garlic, coriander, yellow curry, oyster sauce – all wrapped in pandan leaves and accompanied by a sweet tamarind sauce), Som Tum Thai $25USD (Northeastern style salad of green papaya, peanuts, yard long bean and tomato in a tangy tamarind juice, palm sugar and prawns), and Narrn Tok Nua Yang $27USD (Northeastern style grilled beef sirloin with aromatic fresh herbs, roasted rice powder and lime dressing). The food was served with a few different types of rice and the presentation was lovely. We enjoyed every single dish but had regrets about the Gai Hor Bai Toey as it was not as flavorful as the others and was pricey for what you got. Overall, the food was delicious, the right spice level, the quantity reasonable, and the service outstanding. From a dining experience, it was comparable to some of our favorite Thai dining experiences elsewhere in the world, including Thailand. In the end, we really enjoyed the entire experience and the meal which ended up costing us $150USD (we each had 2 beers in addition to the food). Dinner was not cheap but it was still cheaper than having the dinner buffet at Fushi Café. Here is a link to the menu at Baan Huraa.
On another night, we decided to skip dinner altogether as we had complimentary snacks and drinks at the Manager’s reception since we were not that hungry and we were still feeling the sticker shock from our awesome Thai dinner.
Most say that the best time to visit the Maldives is from November to April during the dry season. The monsoon season runs from May to October, peaking in June. Despite it being high season and dry season, it rained for hours and thunder stormed while we were there. While the staff said it’s unusual, the weather has become quite unpredictable in the Maldives the last couple of years. It rained so much while we were there that Male was flooded: 117 homes were damaged and 20 people evacuated when it rained 223.5 millimetres. My friend visited the week before we got there and did mention that he also got rained in one day but that the rest of the days just has occasional passing showers lasting around 30 minutes. Considering how expensive it is to visit the Maldives, we choose to spend minimal time here and hoped the best for the weather but we had some bad luck. Due to the cloud cover, we didn’t have those picturesque days that most people who visit the Maldives hope for and are able to take photos of.
The Maldivian Experience:
Compared to other beach vacations, the Maldives offers total relaxation in an uncrowded setting. Despite the hotel being at 90% capacity, we didn’t encounter many other people, especially on the beach. The only time we did encounter a lot of other people was at breakfast.
Compared to other resorts where you need to walk down long generic hallways, take an elevator and walk about 10 minutes just to get to the beach or pool, accessing the beach and blue waters within 1 minute from your villa is quite the ultimate in luxurious and serene experiences.
For those who are more active and don’t really like the all-inclusive resort experience, you may find yourself feeling island fever in the Maldives after a few days. For us, 3 nights and 2.5 days was the perfect amount of time even if we wished we’d have had another day to experience better weather.
We really did enjoy our stay at the Anantara Dhigu and feel that it was the right choice in the end from the overall experience, the accommodations, the amount of time we spent, and the budget we set for this leg of the trip. We can see why people enjoy the Maldives and appreciate its beauty, which is unlike anything we have ever seen. When you are used to larger resorts with a high volume of rooms, the Maldivian experience is way more serene and luxurious. Considering it takes us about 30 hours to get to the Maldives, the high cost of food an accommodation, the unpredictable weather and feeling of being stuck on a small island, this was a really fun thing we enjoyed but are not sure we’d go out of our way to do again.
Have you been to the Maldives? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit? Are you hesistant to visit the Maldives because of cost?