When it comes to A-grade tropical luxury, Anantara Kihavah Villas has it all. But there’s so much more to this island maldives resort than its Robinson Crusoe-style beaches and azure lagoon. You can spy Hawksbill turtles from the five-star spa, sip cocktails in a subterranean restaurant and stargaze through the most powerful telescope in the Maldives. Here’s why Anantara Kihavah Villas is the ultimate winter sun destination
I’m sitting under a canopy of stars with a chilled glass of Champagne. So far, so normal in the Maldives. Well, actually, no. I’m at Anantara Kihavah Villas and as I lie back and gaze above me, the in-house sky guru Hammadh is regaling me with stories about the night sky.
He tells me that with so little light pollution here it’s possible to see some 15,000 stars with the naked eye, before inviting me into the resort’s own custom-built observatory which houses the most powerful telescope in the Maldives. He points out the moon, the pale-yellow rings of Saturn – it’s so clear when I peer through the lens, it takes my breath away – and Jupiter. I can’t quite believe I’m in a private observatory in the middle of the Indian Ocean learning all about the constellations. But then again, this is Anantara Kihavah and stargazing is just one of many stop-in-your-track guest experiences.
I’d arrived at the tropical island resort a few days earlier marvelling, as we approached in our little seaplane from Malé, at how no photograph ever does the Maldives justice. Below, the ocean is a patchwork of sapphire blue and turquoise, dotted with atolls. It looks so enticing I want to dive right in. Anantara Kihavah Villas is set on one of those islands, located within the Baa Atoll, and home to Hanifaru Bay, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that teams with marine life.
There are 80 villas and residences spread across the resort, either perched above the lagoon or tucked away amongst coconut palms on the beach. Kihavah means ‘young coconut’ in Maldivian and the island was a former plantation. That said, not one single tree was cut down during construction, with many villas designed and built around them.
I’m in a Beach Pool Villa. I have my own freshwater pool – though the beach is just moments away, accessible via a private pathway that’s a thoroughfare for busy little hermit crabs – a verandah with a swinging daybed and a dining table under the shade of a cabana. Floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors lead into the bedroom, all dark woods and breezy linen, with a huge bed. I sleep with the doors open, roused every morning by nature’s alarm clock of the sound of waves and chirruping jungle birds. A further set of sliding doors leads to the indoor-outdoor bathroom, which comes with two showers and a large circular bathtub surrounded by water.
The Over Water Pool Villas have just undergone a multi-million-dollar refurbishment and are no less impressive. They’re roomier, airier and more contemporary than before, with extended decks incorporating refreshed infinity pools, overwater catamaran nets and circular seating that’s sundowner territory. There’s also a new one-bedroom Family Over Water Pool Villa, with dedicated sleeping quarters for children. If you want to go all-out, the supersized private residences are celebrity-spec, with their own gym, treatment room, chef and wine guru. Bicycles are provided for each guest and there’s a complimentary buggy service too – though it only takes 30 minutes to circumnavigate by foot.
Although the staff are a hive of discreet activity, life here moves at a deliciously slow pace. I spend one morning beachcombing, finding the prettiest pastel shells I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to believe they’ve just washed up from the sea. Another afternoon, I spot a sign to the Orchid Garden and follow a fragrant walkway to where 1450 orchid plants are in full bloom, all under the care of Prem who tells me he’s been here for nine years looking after the garden, as well as the further 2000 orchids dotted around the resort.
Snorkelling is also on my list. Anantara Kihavah is something of a rarity as it has its own house reef; you can borrow equipment from the dive centre and within a few breaststrokes from the beach reach the ‘Golden Wall’, a vertical stretch of soft swaying corals in brilliant gold hues. Rainbow-coloured fish dart around me, and I spend a happy hour spotting as many different species as I can, with such wonderful names as stripy sweetlips, clownfish and the brightly hued nudibranch, as well as octopus, eels, spiny lobsters, sea stars…
But marine life isn’t only reserved for swimmers. On my evening stroll, I spy manta rays casually gliding beneath the overwater villas (during migration season you can book a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with them) and, as I lie supine on the spa’s sun-bleached relaxation deck, Hawksbill turtles splash about in the waves below.
The overwater spa is dreamy. There are six treatment rooms elevated on stilts, plus a mani/pedi station, hair salon and a medical spa offering aesthetics and vitamin IV infusions. Holistic treatments are based around ayurveda and I have the two-hour Subtle Energies Sleep Support Therapy. Guided meditation and yogic pranayama is followed by the full body Blissful Marma and facial massage, and completed with Nasya (nasal oil application).
There’s a glass panel below my treatment bed to watch the fish swimming below but to be honest, I can’t keep my eyes open. Yoni, my Balinese therapist, has an amazing aura and combined with her exceptional massage technique, there’s absolutely no chance I can stay awake. Needless to say, I feel incredible afterwards.
The spa is also where I do a Cell Wellbeing Epigenetic Test (Anantara Kihavah was the first resort in the Maldives to offer it) – a hair follicle test which determines skin and digestive health. Nur, a nurse from Indonesia, takes a couple of strands from the back of my head, which are sent off for analysis.
Less than 24 hours later, I’m emailed a 30-page personalised report with some pretty comprehensive results – lime, celery, shrimp and goat’s milk are just a few of my suggested new food restrictions. I also receive a 90-day plan of recommended treatments, personalised juices, menus and more. Guests can choose to start implementing this at the resort if they wish (on its own or as part of the wider curated Sleep Enrichment or Body Detox Restore programmes) or at home.
Considering the culinary options at Anantara Kihavah, I opt for the latter. The resort’s restaurants and bars – overseen by executive chef Joachim Textor – are too tempting for me to be abstemious quite yet. I breakfast at Sea, an underwater dining room that bathes me in an aquamarine glow as I tuck into French toast with berries and coconut jam. Drink Nham Jais at Sky bar. And feast on authentic tandoori at Spice.
Or you could have fresh sashimi and flame-kissed wagyu at the theatrical Japanese restaurant Fire; not to mention the daily morning spread at Plates (I’ve never seen so many choices, from curry to cornflakes to superfood salads) and casual dining poolside at Manzaru, which serves the likes of watermelon gazpacho and steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves. The infinity pool, incidentally, is one of the longest in the Maldives.
During my stay, I’ve practised sunrise sound healing and sunset cocktail drinking. I’ve learnt all about orchids and epigenetics. I’ve marvelled at an extraordinary, technicolour underwater kingdom and seen close-up a planet that’s some 883 million miles away. Anantara Kihavah Villas is – quite literally – out of this world.
Prices for two adults per night on a half-board basis in low season start from $1300 in an overwater pool villa and $1200 in a beach pool villa, excluding taxes.