Lucy Self, Editor at Large explores the beauty of the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, a resort with many unique experiences..

Imagine watching a movie in a private outdoor cinema or be spellbound by an in house astronomer who talks you through the wonders of the stars, that twinkle and bewitch in the night sky somehow allowing them a living presence as they reflect in your champagne glass.  A new observatory with the largest and most powerful telescope in the Maldives is on the roof of the Sky bar at the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas which will allow you to see the rims of Saturn! This has to be as close to paradise as one could ever get!

So as I left London’s grey blanket I projected my mind on to turquoise waters and overwater bungalows, an island lover’s haven and possibly as close to an image of idealistic retreat as one can imagine, literally!

I was off to the Maldives: two words that conjure up images of bone-white beaches, luminous turquoise waters and heavenly indulgence. I had never visited the islands before, but that imprinted image from travel brochures was what I was expecting, but the reality far exceeded even these hyperbolic descriptions! As the plane flew over the shining blue Indian Ocean and I glanced down at the tiny green islands that lay in the water like a crushed emerald necklace, I realized I was happy… and it was a wonderful feeling I hadn’t felt through out the long winter months that proceeded this much deserved break.

The Maldives is one of the most sophisticated holiday destinations in the world.  Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas is the perfect place from which to explore the underwater world of the Indian Ocean or simply relax and be pampered.  Just 35-minute by seaplane from Malé you arrive in paradise. I have been lucky enough to have visited a number of the hotels in this fair country and I can honestly say that Anantara Kihavah is most definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had.   The standard of service, rooms and cuisine are masterful, exponentially nurtured under the wonderful leadership of Dylan Counsel, the new General Manager.  A man who has been with the Anantara group for over 13 years and who understands and knows how to deliver 5 star luxury and ensure his guests are well looked after and happy.  He is always walking around the resort checking on the 350 staff and talking to the 200 guests when 100 % full. Dylan is proud that 60% of the team are Maldivian which ensures the local communities are well looked after.

Top Left – Three Bedroom Presidential Beach Residence. Top Right – Three Bedroom Beach Pool Residence. Bottom Left – Overwater Pool Villa with Ocean View. Bottom Right – Overwater Residence

The spectacular resort in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll island archipelago is set in a typical Maldivian tropical vegetation and offers stunning and very spacious Beach Villas close to fine white sandy beaches and some of the most beautiful water villas in Maldives all set over a turquoise lagoon.  Anantara Kihavah is a hotel not only for couples wanting a romantic getaway but also for families.  There has been a shift in the type of clientele over the years to 60% families and 40% couples.  There are 79 villas (ranging from 260 to 2,730 square meters, sleeping 2,3, 4, 6, 8 or 12 people).  The splendid water villas perched over the crystal clear lagoon waters all have suspended fresh water pools over the sea while the 4 bedroom beach pool residence which can sleep up to 12 with a vast living room and dining area can have meals served by their personal butler to offer the ultimate private experience. However my favourite was the 2 bedroom “Over the water pool residence”.   Here you look out onto the big blue sea and see nothing.  You feel like you are alone, the peace and quiet is only interrupted by the sound of the waves gently splashing against the columns below.

Cross the lagoon by a meandering boardwalk, entering a soaring tropical pavilion fragrant with coconut and lime. An overwater haven of tranquillity and sweeping ocean views, and enter  the award- winning Anantara Spa.Six standalone treatment suites lie perched over the lagoon. Bedecked in turquoise, white and sun-baked timber, each suite features hexagonal viewing panels below the treatment beds through which to observe the lagoon’s inhabitants, with baby pufferfish swimming by.  I imagined soaking in the calm of ocean waves with a milky petal-strewn tub for two; Enjoying the magic of synchronised movement as two therapists massage you with warm essential oils. Then taking in the sunset from the relaxation pavilion after a steam or soak in the oceanfront plunge pool.  all this sounded wonderful in the release  but would it really be like this ; when we decide to travel we all have an image of where we are going in our imagination but also a fantasy of how our life will be changed by the journey.

Sea Restaurant & Chef Lamberto Valdez

If you do not feel like diving but are wishing you could appreciate the wonderful underwater world full of beautiful coloured fish of all sizes and shapes, you need not worry.  The “SEA” restaurant is one of the world’s most beautiful underwater restaurant and the first underwater wine cellar with over 400 phenomenal wines from all over the world is the place to go. The charming executive chef Lamberto Valdez created a sublime international gourmet menu accompanied with a selection of wines paired by their Wine Guru which provided a truly world-class experience which you will never forget. The octagonal shaped restaurant was designed to optimize the underwater views from a diner’s perspective; the acrylic windows are set lower than the dining tables and extend past the guests’ peripheral vision, giving the illusion that they are part of the surrounding reef. There are mirror everywhere (on the ceiling, the columns, the walls) giving the sensation to be in the sea among fishes. This definitely was a highlight of my holiday.

The 6 remaining restaurants available give a fantastic diversity with there superb à la carte cuisine (including Japanese, Mediterranean and Asian) One is spoilt for choice every meal.  Of course there are the romantic “ a duex” candle lit dinners on the edge of the sea (dining by design).

Anantara Spa

When you want some more “just me” time, stroll across the jetty to 6 over-water treatment suites at Anantara Spa and reward yourself with the lavish attention of professional therapists.  Be spoiled in an exquisite decorated scented room with relaxing music in the background and enjoy one of their delicious massages.  If you happen to open your eyes you will see fish swimming around in the sea below.

The Maldives are of course known for its diving. In 1998 the corals were devastated by El Niño, which is said to have destroyed 95 per cent of the region’s coral. Thankfully nature is making an amazing comeback, largely thanks to the nutrient-rich currents that sweep the area. Soft corals are once again plentiful, while hard varieties, including cabbage and staghorn corals, are slowly but surely reappearing. In June 2011 UNESCO declared the Baa Atoll a Biosphere Reserve.  In its commitment to protecting the environment, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas has initiated the Coral Adoption Programme, a long-term plan designed to share learning experiences with guests, accelerate the regeneration of coral growth in the atoll reef, and ultimately ensure the future of this unique Maldivian destination.

Although the resort was about 80 percent full, I rarely saw other guests unless I ventured out to the spa, diving centre or a restaurant. Even then, tranquillity prevailed. The resort is definitely not for those who want a busy nightlife and a social scene. I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel more highly.