If you are like me you do you are reading this review because you are a traveler who does his/her research.
I'm going to go on record and admit that my girlfriend made fun of me for going on Trip Advisor and it's forums as much as I did.
"What? Do you have friends in forums now? That is just creepy"
Yeah she said that.
When I first came to trip advisor for advice I did so because in America we don't have a lot of travel agents that specialize in the Maldives.
Trip Advisor was an amazing resource not just because of the reviews but also because of the Maldives Forum; their resident experts are very helpful.
In the spirit of that helpfulness I'd like to add that we have a lot more pictures if anybody wants to see them I can send you links to them. (I wish that TA let you download more than 10 pictures)
All of that being said let's get to the review.
We booked our ticket using miles coming through Singapore. We went from LA to Japan to Singapore a got to spend a night and a day in Singapore; I highly recommend this as this breaks up a very long trip. We got to Male around 10:00 PM and took the super fast speed boat to Veli. Between getting bags, customs, and the boat trip we arrived to Veli by 11:00 PM. We were greeted by 4 staff some of which were playing drums (nice touch). The check in process was quick and painless; they gave us lemon scented cold towels and some refreshing tea and gave us discount vouchers for the spa. It was at this point that I met Ahmed (I hope I'm spelling that right). Ahmed became my right hand man in orchestrating my elaborate plan to propose to my girlfriend. That's right I had hatched a diabolical plan to propose to my wonderful girlfriend and Ahmed and I fooled her completely.....but more about that later.
Ahmed showed us to room 170 which was a great room but not the one we had our hearts set on staying in. We stayed in 170 overnight and then were moved to 148. 148 is the best room for the overwater bungalows (not the deluxe) because it gives you a view of both the sun rise and the sunset and it is closest to the greatest deposits of coral in the lagoon. The coral has the greatest amount of fish and sea life around it so every time we stepped off our balcony we had amazing sea life to see. 148 also only has one neighbor to the right and therefore it is one of the most private overwater bungalows. The room itself was wonderful, absolutely five star; the bathroom was immaculate and you could even drink the water if you wished. (Speaking of which they give you plenty of bottled water) The room was cleaned twice daily and we were never really bothered by our house keeper; he did a great job of keeping the place clean and he made us wonderful towel sculptures with flowers our last night in Veli. It has a plasma TV and dvd player and they have a movie library that is free but we never checked anything out and spent very little time watching TV; they have about 20 channels, 10 of which are in English.
This is the best resort/hotel service that I have ever experienced. All you had to do was ask and they made it happen. Service is always with a smile and even if I didn't enjoy every meal I could never fault any of my servers who always upbeat, jovial, and attentive. Not to sound cheesy, but the Anantara Veli, Dighu, and Naladu have service that is truly in a class by itself. I work in market research for a living and I had a great conversation with the Food and Drink Manager of the resort about why they are so good. After that conversation I realized that they are so good because they genuinely care for and are interested in their guests (they almost treat them like family). Seriously. The upper management is very on top of everyones needs and this attention to detail is mirrored by the staff. I really can't say enough good things about them, and I would encourage any of you who have questions about the resort to email them. They were very prompt in their responses and were helpful in educating me about al the amenities of the resort.
The Food and Drink
Just so you know where we are coming from, my girlfriend and I are huge foodies; we love all different types of food and love doing french tasting menus and Omakase for sushi. We know and love our food as one can tell by looking at my belly.
Should you go full board, half board, or no board; this is a point of great debate.
We went with no meal plan and it worked out very well for us; we got to eat what we wanted wherever we wanted. We simply brought a small suitcase with some cereal and pop tarts and this took care of breakfast for us; which we would eat every morning on our wonderful deck.
You have access to 8 different restaurants between Veli and Dighu some of which are open different days for lunch, dinner, or both.
Our ritual was to go scuba diving or snorkeling during the mornings and then have lunch at either Dighu or Veli's pool bar. The Dhoni Bar was the place we ate most of our lunches but the Aqua bar on Dighu had almost an identical menu. We'd usually split a hamburger and a salad, and that along with the yummy selection of bread and hummus/eggplant/butter spread was more than enough food to stuff us. It should be stated that the Dhoni Bar had our favorite restaurant staff; they were always quick with a smile or bad joke and Kamal and company really looked after us like family. We spent a fair amount of time at the Dhoni Bar and we had such a good time lazing by the pool reading, boozing it up, and making friends. My girlfriend especially liked that they gave us these cute complimentary ice cream cones with refreshing sorbet each afternoon. (Again, a nice little touch)
For dinner we'd make reservations at one of the other six restaurants. The following is a brief description of each of the restaurants and they are ranked in order of enjoyment. All of the restaurants had amazing service.
1. Geckos Grill
This was a Benihana teppanyaki style restaurant that only has the Benihana type of show once or twice a week. I had the tenderloin and fried rice, she had the fish, and we shared a piece of carmel cheesecake for dessert. The manager of this place was great; he was very knowledgeable about all the island had to offer. We were surprised that this place was our favorite as a lot of the other reviews had been less than favorable.
2. Baan Huraa
This place had the best ambiance and was very romantic. The food was delicious and had all the standard Thai fare that you'd expect. We ate here twice and loved the crashing ocean waves and the reed animal sculpture that our hostess made for us; we hung it in our room (see pics)
3. Fushi Cafe (BBQ Night)
This was a lot of fun because they had set up tables on the beach and we dined on grilled seafood and meat under the stars. They had a great selection of tiger prawns, lobster, and meat which was deliciously prepared
4. 73 Degrees
This had a cool sea food market concept. You were given a little plastic shopping basket which you took over to the "fish market" which was a board with fish prices by the gram which had local fish, imported fish, crab, lobster, and tiger prawns laid out in a nice display. The "fish monger"/server would put the fish into a plastic bag and into your basket. Next, you would walk your selection over to a chef would would prepare it any way you like.
5. Fuddan Fusion Grill
This restaurant was located by the water on Dhigu; apparently the have a shark/ray feeding every night at 5:30ish but we never got over there to see it. The service was great here but the food was good but not great; I had the lobster and she had a fish of some kind. I just remember it being kind of blah. The view and ambience were nice though.
Again this was located on Dhigu and while the service and ambience were great the food was just okay; I had a pasta and bolognese sauce and flavor wise it just did not stand out. My girlfriend ordered some kind of seafood pasta and she thought her scallops were a little rubbery. Our friends seem to enjoy their meal so maybe we just picked the chef's weakest dishes.
Now to the issue of drinks.....
Folks, drinks are expensive! They have to import everything in and that is why most of the alcohol prices seem exorbitant.
8 dollars a beer and they only have Heineken, Asahi, Corona, and San Miguel. A word to the wise, stay away from the San Miguel; it tastes like what I imagine canned body odor would taste like. Seriously it was nasty and yet I forced my self to finish it because I wasn't going to waste and 8 dollar beer.
Mixed drinks are $12.50. They can make any kind of mixed drink that you want including lots of great alcohol smoothies and fruity tropical drinks.
Wine is kind of a crap shoot. We did have a bottle of some nice chilean wine, but most other wines were really over priced. Sutter Home is $55?! For those of you who don't know Sutter Home it is a wine that you would find in a drugstore etc. We did have a really nice Coppola Shiraz the last night that was $80. When we came back to LA we happen to find the same wine for $8.99?! If possible I would really try and stick to what you know; otherwise you end up drinking France or Italy's version of Sutter Home. I'm sure that they probably have some good wines, but unfortunately we didn't have the bank roll to launch a full scale investigation.
Champagne and bottles of hard alcohol were very expensive but they had all high end brands; many of which were stocked in your hotel room. Champagne I believe started at $60 or $70 and I believe this was the same price for a medium size bottle of hard alcohol. (For brands see pictures)
You aren't allowed to bring any booze into the Maldives; it is a Muslim country so don't buy/bring any duty free booze with you because the authorities will take it from you and give it back when you are leaving the country.
Diving, Snorkeling, Excursions, and the Spa.
If you are going to the Maldives you'd be a fool to not get your open water certification before you arrive. The Maldives have the most amazing array of sea life and you would be remiss to not explore this as much as possible. We saw over 170 different types of fish, 3 different types of sharks, 3 different moray eels, 2 different rays, and did I mention giant manta rays? Holy [expletive], those things look like the creatures from James Cameron's movie the Abyss. We actually ended up getting our advanced open water certification when we were there because we knew we wanted to take at least 5 dives (we ended up doing 6 in all) and we figured if we were going to do those dives we might as well get another certification so we could further our diving education. We bought the advanced padi book in America for $25 and they reduced the certification price to $450 from $500. We read our chapters on the plane and this was good because it really helped pass the time.
Our dive instructor was Phil.
Did I mention that Phil is the man?
What a cool guy! He was so enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and friendly that he made all of our dives unforgettable experiences. He was truly one of the main reasons that we had such a great time. The other dive staff Nadine, Olessa (sp), and the German instructor were super cool as well.
The real unsung heros are the lads that help you get into and out of your gear on the boat. They were awesome and every time you finished a dive and got out of your gear they were there with a ice cold refreshing lemon scented town and plate of fruit. Thats right a plate of fruit?! Really this is the only way to dive! Luxury diving at it's best. It costs roughly about $100 per dive with gear rental and boat fees etc. and all of their scuba equipment is top of the line gear.
We did a navigation dive, a deep water dive, a buoyancy dive, a night dive, a wreck dive, and dive at ghooli (sp?) which had insane amounts of wild life.
Describing these dives just don't do them justice.....just see the pictures.
The same could be said of the snorkeling which we did almost everyday outside our room.
We did take an island hopping excursion which turned out to be three adventures for the price of one. The Mafushi island is the local island that is closest to the resort. It has 1 restaurant, a couple souvenir stores, and a bodega like market. There are 1500 residents that live on the island 700 of which are in prison. Yep this little island houses the country's biggest prison; most of the people are in for drug related offenses. I really recommend going on this because it is good to see how the real people of this small country actually live; not everything is a sunshiny resort etc. You can also support the local economy by buying souvenirs from these guys as opposed to buying them at the hotel so bring a fair amount of cash; they don't mind bartering or deal making etc. After we got back in the boat we went looking for giant manta rays and we snorkeled close to two of them. We also went to another reef teeming with life but it is better to just see the pictures.
We went to the jungle spa which was very nice indeed. I looked at the overwater spa and it was beautiful too, but the jungle spa had an equally cool vibe. Upon check in they had given us some vouchers that gave us a milk/honey foot bath, a thai back massage, and thai stretch. The treatment was $60?! for an hour and half and was awesome! Most of the other treatments were pretty pricey and after the first one we decided to spend our money on diving. But again there was really great atmosphere at both spas and a really great staff that we had the pleasure of experiencing at the jungle spa.
When you go on vacation sometimes you get lucky and meet a great group of people; this was one such vacation. We met 3 couples who were just cool people. Jonathan and Elina (aka our favorite Ozzies), Lazarus and Maria (aka The Greeks), and Allison and Alistar (Ozzies #2). All three of these couples were so intelligent and interesting, and we especially had some great laughs and conversations with the Ozzies and the Greeks. We have such fond memories of all 3 couples and 2 of the couples were instrumental in helping me surprise my girlfriend with a wedding proposal.
The Proposal (aka Operation Bamboozle)
Upon planning this vacation I emailed back and forth with Veli management asking all kinds of inane questions to get a sense of how I was going to pull this off. We got to the resort at night and the next morning I got up early grabbed the ring from my bag and high tailed it to reception. I gave the ring to my pal Ahmed for safe keeping and he put it in their safe. From coming to the trip advisor forum I discovered that you could get an upgrade to Naladu the 6 star resort for $250-$350 depending on availability. Naladu usually goes for $1700 a night so this was quite the deal. They only can give you this deal if they have availability but trust me it is absolutely worth it, especially if you can surprise your special lady. So very simply the plan was to secretly move our stuff from Veli to Naladu stay there for two days and propose over there. My lovely girlfriend did not make this easy. My plan was to send her to the spa with our friend Elina, however at the last minute my girlfriend decided she really did not want to go to the spa?! Who doesn't want to go to the spa? Anyhow I quickly constructed a lie using our friends at the reception desk. They came up to me at the pool and told me that my work had an urgent call for me and needed to talk to me right away. I did a great job of acting like I was pissed and then said I'd grab the phone call in the room. Meanwhile our friend Jonathan distracted my girlfriend by regaling her with tales of his scuba diving adventures. Like clock work the porter met me as I walked to the room. I quickly packed our stuff and we'd cleaned out the room in 15 minutes. The porter and I then dodged between water bungalows making sure that my girlfriend didn't turn around from the pool and see us off in the distance. I felt like Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible. We then made the long run over the overwater bridge which connects the two islands. We ran into the room and I threw everything I needed to into the safe, leaving the porter to put the rest of the bags in the closet. I then ran back through the jungle path this time so my girlfriend wouldn't see me and was sweating like a pig in the heat. I walked right up to the pool and dived right in all the trace of sweat washed away by the cool pool water. I then told her a fabricated story about why my work so urgently needed to talk to me and she believed it hook line and sinker. I actually came up with the story on my sweaty run through the jungle. If only she gone to the spa! What woman turns down going to a spa? Any way with her believing my work story I casually ordered a beer and cooled off for 30 minutes. I then causally mentioned that Ahmed had got permission for us to go and take a tour of 6 star resort which I had shown her online when we were back home in LA. I told her my rationale for going on the tour was I really wanted to see what cost $1700 a night. Again my girlfriend was hesitant and wanted to put her leftover club sandwich back in the refrigerator in the room. Of course the jig would be up if she got her way so finally I put my foot down and said "I really am curious and it is only a ten minute walk!" In a huff she finally agreed and we walked hand and hand over the overwater bridge toward our new home and our new future together. TO BE CONTINUED
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Retreat hand-in-hand to one of the most naturally stunning destinations on earth, a romantic paradise enveloped in soft white sands and turquoise waters. Just 20 km by speedboat from the airport in Male, delight in the private luxury of your own over-water bungalow, with all the comforts of home and then some. Unwind in your room, either over water in the crystal lagoon, or from your Ocean Pool Bungalow, with private pool and ocean views offering beach and lagoon access a few minutes stroll from your room, or admire the kaleidoscope of exotic fish and corals just steps from your over water and deluxe over water bungalow. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Agoda, Booking.com, Minor Hotel Group Limited, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Priceline, Expedia and Jetsetter so you can book your Anantara Veli Resort & Spa reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Anantara Veli Hotel South Male Atoll
- Anantara Veli Resort And Spa