More than a decade ago when email forwards were all the rage, Tim and I received a forward of a bungalow over some of the bluest, clearest water we had ever seen. It had glass portals in the floor to watch the fish below and it looked absolutely magical. It turned out to be in the Maldives, and at the time, out of our reach. One day…we said. Ten years later, we found ourselves on what still feels like the dream trip of a lifetime. We spent a glorious four days as guests of Anantara Kihavah Villas Maldives and the resort island definitely has a whole lot of WOW-factor.
Anantara Kihavah Villas is located on the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, 125 kilometers from the Madlives’ captial Malé. Guests of the island resort arrive via a seaplane transfer, which is treat in and of itself as you fly over aquamarine-ringed island after island on the way. As if on cue, dolphins jumped out of the water and greeted us, chasing our boat’s wake as we made the final transfer from the seaplane’s floating platform a few hundred yards offshore to the island paradise.
Our villa host, Mausool, was waiting to whisk us away to our over water villas.
Mausool pulled our buggy to a stop and pushed open the doors to an airy villa filled with light and endless views of the Indian Ocean. After a quick tour – here are your his and hers walk-in wardrobes, outdoor rinse shower, indoor rain shower, wine refrigerator, iPhone docking station and sound system – he invited us to have a seat on our deck. Handing over a special welcome cocktail he had prepared, we each dipped our feet into ginger foot baths. Ah, this was life…
Mausool left us to relax and that is just what we did for the rest of the afternoon. We alternated swimming in the Indian Ocean right off our amazing deck with dips in our private infinity pool. A call to Mausool and lunch was served right on our deck. There was no reason to leave. We ate and watched as more dolphins played in the water just in front of our villa. A curious stingray swam right up to our steps.
The day’s toughest decision was where to nap. On the over water hammocks at the deck’s edge? Or maybe on the sun loungers? The full-sized daybed swing won out in the end as we rocked and listened to the waves lapping at the villa.
Nighttime is romantic; the privacy of the over water villas perfect for skinny dips in the infinity pool and romantic soaks in the glass bottom bath. Cradled in Egyptian cotton, we slept like babies each night as the tide brought in waves that would crash up under our villa.
Dining at Anantara Kihavah Villas
We ate so well during our stay at Anantara Kihavah Villas in the Maldives. A few more days there and we would have needed to start taking a daily swim around Kihavah Huravalhi Island to work off all the amazing food. We were pleasantly surprised at the variety of dining options available to keep breakfast, lunch, and dinner interesting. And we tried them all.
We arrived shortly before lunchtime off an overnight flight and relished an afternoon in our amazing over water pool villa . We called up Mausool, our villa host, to order in-villa dining for lunch. In no time, he was unpacking a hot lunch of burgers and pizza margherita on our deck. I swam up to our deck just as he picked up the silver domes with a flourish. Who needs a swim-up bar when swim-up dining is available right in your villa?
PlatesBreakfast was quite literally the only time of day when we were distinctly aware we weren’t alone on the island. Everyone would converge from their villas for the amazing breakfast buffet served in Plates.
There was so much variety you could eat for a week and not have the same thing twice. Curry potatoes along side a cooked-to-order omelet, a yogurt topped with various fruit and granola from the toppings bar, and fresh fruit became some of the delicious ways I started each day. Each morning a different freshly squeezed juice was offered; Tim even tried the coconut juice. It was so fresh, it was served right in the coconut.
And if you need your daily dose of the news with breakfast, iPads are available for reading with breakfast.
Manzaru Poolbar and Restaurant
After returning from our snorkeling excursion, we were starved. We stopped by Manzaru and had a leisurely lunch poolside. The description alone of the Wagyu beef burger had our mouths watering. It arrived with four homemade sauces and a perfect portion of fries.
In the evening Manzaru turns into a fine Italian dining restaurant with Chef Umberto hailing from Bergamo, Italy. We were invited to a private dinner with a group of French journalists and Chef Umberto cooked us up a very special meal. We even had the opportunity to help make the homemade pasta, which was a preview of the cooking classes that can be arranged during your stay.
We all laughed over amazing food like an ahi tuna tartar, proscuitto in a creamy cheese sauce, and fresh pasta with truffles. Of course, there was also wine, which even Chef Umberto and the sous chefs helped us drink.
Sea.Fire.Salt.Sky is Anantara’s signature dining complex of four very unique restaurants. Sky was under renovation during our stay, but we did get to enjoy our very first Maldivian sunset with drinks and sushi appetizers at Sky’s rooftop lounge.
At Salt, it’s all about salt as the name might imply. Food is served on Himalayan salt blocks and in Himalayan salt bowls. There is even a salt sommelier that brings various salts to enhance the flavors of each course.
Our 5-course feast at Salt was one of my favorite meals. From the skewered chicken served with a yogurt dipping sauce to the Wagyu beef that was cooked and served on a Himalayan salt brick, each course was more delicious than the last. We also really loved the betel leaf wraps. Take a betel leaf and sprinkle a little diced onion, lemon, and ginger. Add a chili pepper (just one because they’re spicy!), a little dried coconut, and some shrimp nuts. Spoon a little of the Thai sauce over it all, fold, and enjoy.
Fire is Anantara’s seaside teppanyaki lounge. The chefs dazzled us with their culinary acrobatic skills as scallops and wagyu beef flew under the thatched roof designed to look like a Samurai Edo helmet.
There was only one dining option we didn’t try. Anantara Kihavah offers Dining By Design where you can choose to dine privately on the beach, in one of the palm groves, or even on Anantara’s private island. Simply select your dream location for a romantic meal and Anantara’s chefs take care of the rest.
Dining Under the Sea
The Maldives is one of the world’s top diving destinations, but you don’t have to be a diver to experience the beautiful underwater world of the Maldives. We dined adventurously at Anantara Kihavah Sea Restaurant, part of the the quartet of Anantara’s signtaure Sea.Fire.Salt.Sky dining complex. Located on the ocean floor, Sea is a magical experience with 360-degree views of passing fish, turtles, and even sharks.
Sea is open for both lunch and dinner. We were invited for lunch, which is a 3-course lobster lunch of lobster spring rolls, lobster bisque with lobster fritters on asparagus sticks, and grilled lobster. A molten chocolate brownie is a sweet finish to the incredible meal. While the food is absolutely delicious, the real magic of Sea is being beneath the sea while fish swim all around.
Anantara Kihavah Sea Restaurant feels incredibly exclusive and luxe with just eight tables. Our 1pm reservation afforded us a lot of privacy, with just one our table dining at the same time. For part of our magical underwater meal, we even had the restaurant completely to ourselves. A baby sea turtle decided to join us, munching on the coral as we sipped wine and watched in amazement just a few feet away.
Each table has a book of Maldivian reef fish and we had fun pointing out all the various fish swimming around and quickly flipping through the book to name them. “Oh look! There goes a trumpetfish,” I’d point out. “Hey, I saw that guy snorkeling yesterday. He’s called a Titan Triggerfish,” Tim countered back.
We were almost to distracted by all the colorful reef fish to eat. As we sat there enjoying a crazy-cool lunch under the sea, I started thinking that we should snorkel right around the restaurant. “I don’t think they want us swimming around the restaurant while people are trying to eat,” Tim said. Just then a couple went snorkeling by! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to prove that snorkeling around the restaurant was a brilliant idea. (And so we did the next morning.)
Once we finally pulled ourselves away from all the magical fish, we spent a bit of time exploring the more than 250 labels in the underwater wine cellar. Classic vintages from 14 different countries fill the underwater wine cellar’s coolers and shelves.
We did peek into the restaurant at nighttime out of curiosity. Spotlights illuminate the water and some sharks were swimming by just as we had poked our heads in. But if we had to recommend lunch or dinner for the best viewing, we definitely recommend lunch.
Coral Adoption Program
The Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world, lying an average of just 1.5 meters (4 feet, 11 inches) above sea level. The Maldives often appears on lists of places to visit before they vanish and rising sea levels have already forced entire populations to relocate to other islands over the last two decades. Anantara Kihavah Villas, located on the Baa Atoll which was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011, is ensuring countless magical beach vacations just like Tim and I had are part of the future through their Coral Adoption Program.
Coral reefs protect the pristine white beaches surrounding Kihavah Huravalhi Island and play host to an array of Maldivian reef fish, lobsters, and other bizarre looking creatures. Coral is a sensitive organism though, vulnerable to extreme weather and sudden environmental changes. Coral is so sensitive that when El Niño raised sea temperatures by 4°C in 1998, 90% of shallow coral reef was lost in the Maldives. Again just recently in 2016, the longest global coral bleaching event in history occured and impacted the reef at all four Anantara properties in the Indian Ocena.
Anantara Kihavah Villas’ Coral Adoption Program works to rebuild and replant the reef that was lost. They have also introduced HARP, Holistic Approach to Reef Protection, and between the two initiatives have almost fully rejuvenated the reef around the Sea underwater restaurant since the bleaching event.
During the construction of Anantara Kihavah Villas in November 2010, the resident marine biologist created coral gardens by attaching coral to iron frames in the middle of the over water pool villas’ lagoon. When the coral garden is finished, it will resemble an “A”, to stand for Anantara, of course!
Guests of Anantara Kihavah Villas can contribute to the on-going reef conservation effort in the Baa Atoll by adopting a coral frame from the resort’s website. The resident marine biologist helps guests transplant their very own coral onto the iron frames in the lagoon and you can even monitor the growth of your coral on the website. Photos are taken by the resident marine biologist every three months.
I put on my flippers and mask to take my own peek at the coral garden in the lagoon. The coral frames provide an easy snorkeling trail and fish have already begun to return to the reef. I even saw stingrays and black tip reef sharks in the lagoon!
By purchasing a small frame at $100, a medium frame at $200, or a large frame at $400, you can help save our oceans.
Know Before You Go
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Our trip to the Maldives was hosted by Anantara Kihavah Villas in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article contains affiliate links. When you book on Anantara or Booking.com through our affiliate sites, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.