If you’re looking for a true taste of private island luxury when travelling to the Maldives, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the big-name hotel brands, passing them off as all rather ‘generic’.
Naladhu Private Island challenges this misconception. Part of the world-renowned Anantara portfolio, although tellingly not directly using its brand name, Naladhu is in fact, nestled among two of the Maldives’ most visited resorts: Anantara Dhigu and Anantara Veli.
Naladhu Private Island does not shout its unique offering, nor does it need to. In fact, such is its exclusivity we stumbled across this beautiful tropical paradise by chance, and we will be forever grateful that we did.
This exquisite island, the smallest of the three Anantara islands, has luxury at its core. Forget standard water villas and non-descript modern interiors, Naladhu is in a league of its own.
With around 20 houses fringing the island, Naladhu remains a place that acts as a home-away-from home for the international jet set and those with (very) deep pockets.
From the moment, you’re whisked away from the airport in the air-conditioned bliss of a luxury yacht you’re given an indication that Naladhu will not be your ordinary Maldives experience.
Around 45 minutes from Male, nothing quite prepares you for the first glimpse of the brilliant azure lagoon that surrounds Naladhu and its Anantara neighbours. A welcome party of the resort’s management team greet you upon arrival where a symbolic gong is hit in your honour – something that marks the arrival of each discerning guest to Naladhu Private Island.
As with any luxury resort, there is no need to check-in, you’re simply guided through the lush, tropical landscape to your house. Naladhu’s unique accommodation is where this tiny private island really comes alive. With 6 Beach Pool Houses, 12 Ocean Pool Houses and a Two Bedroom Pool Residence, Naladhu places a focus on exceptional home comforts for its guests. The feeling of home you get in your very own house is completely unmatched anywhere else in the entire Maldives. The Beach Houses, as the name suggests, are facing both the beach and the turquoise lagoon, albeit hidden from sight by a myriad of palm trees to ensure utmost privacy. Although all the Houses mirror each other in terms of size, interiors and facilities, the difference is both the outlook and this is entirely personal preference. The Ocean Houses in contrast, offer exquisite views of the energetic waves that pound the rocky shoreline where they perch.
There is no direct access to the water here such is the temperament of the ocean but the vista itself more than makes up for it. All Ocean Houses are also given their very own private beach cabana on the lagoon side of the island so that its guests can still enjoy the feeling of dipping sandy toes in the warmth of the water.
Designed to resemble a traditional beach house, its white washed wooden structure is perfectly set off by an eclectic collection of creature comforts. From china-patterned soft furnishings that adorn both the wicker king-size bed and the snug window seat to the vintage-inspired alarm clock, hat stand and varnished bookcase that decorate this room, the overall look evokes a sense of nostalgia.
There are surprises a plenty and even on our last day, we were still discovering hidden gems tucked neatly into the four corners of this perfectly formed house; there is a thoughtful pillow menu with fluffy samples tucked neatly into the draw.
Some hotels have rooms, Naladhu has houses. Enter through the double-door façade and be greeted by a antique floor runner and mirror-framed bar adorned with freshly prepared canapes, coffee and bottled water.
To the left, a bijou dressing area contains some of the fluffiest white robes we have ever come across and a coveted walk-in wardrobe, an unspoken nod to Naladhu’s well-healed clientele. The bedroom is separated by a curtain and offers spectacular views out towards your very own sundeck (complete with wooden swing chair). Although the interior is given a traditional feel there are still those all-important modern touches that any five-star resort should offer. A BOSE home theatre system and LCD satellite TV come as standard (not that you’ll need them) and there is a selection of DVDs to rent should you tire of the magnificent ocean view. You wont, but just in case.
The outdoor bathroom is perhaps, the piece de resistance of all the houses on Naladhu. Sheltered from the elements, the focal glass-sided bath that makes up one side of your sizeable swimming pool is a feature worthy of social media sharing. On occasions, you’ll return from the beach to an expertly drawn bubble bath complete with decorative candles and reading material placed tenderly alongside. It’s touches like these that really set Naladhu apart from the rest.
There is a certain romance about Naladhu that starts with your own private space for the length of your stay.
The island is so small that there is no need for a golf buggy to get around, simply grab your umbrella in case of the occasional sporadic tropical shower and set off to the central restaurant and pool area. Such is the status of Naladhu that it is often rare to see another guest during your stay, encompassing the feel of a true private escape.
The Living Room is the island’s only restaurant but Naladhu is hiding a secret; Guests staying at Naladhu can visit the neighbouring Anantara islands and use both their facilities and restaurants, however, those staying at Anantara Veli or Anantara Dhigu cannot enter Naladhu. In fact, there is a large wooden door located halfways down a pontoon, accessible only with your steel house key.
Having spent more than a few days on Naladhu and visitng a selection of the other restaurants, The Living Room still remained our firm favourite. Located right on the powdery sands of the beach and overlooking the dazzling blue lagoon, it’s quite possibly the best view you’ll have ever had for breakfast. Sheltered from the sun under one of two thatched cabanas, dining here is an absolute pleasure. Although The Living Room’s unpretentious location and paired-back decoration suggest that the menu might be reminiscent of your average beach restaurant, the food here completely contradicts that. From themed nights that focus on perfectly cooked meats to a seemingly endless breakfast and lunch menu, the quality of the food here is excellent, as is the presentation. What’s more, a glass-walled wine cellar stands proudly to attention, stocked with some of the most rare vintages from both the Old and New Worlds. The wine list is on par with the gastronomic food menu and the restaurant’s Master Sommelier is inspired in his efforts to pairing a wine with your meal.
Other notable restaurants in the vicinity, a short ocean walk or boat ride to the neighbouring islands, includes Baan Huraa, cited as the finest Thai restaurant in the Maldives and we’d have to agree. Perched over the water’s edge where the inner translucent lagoon meets the inky outer reef and accessible via a wooden walkway from both Naladhu and Veli, Baan Huraa features authentic Thai cuisine. Enjoy fragrant coconut curries from Thailand’s southern provinces and hot and spicy dishes infused with chili from the North of the region, every dish is as beautiful on the plate is it is delicious on the taste buds.
Sea.Fire.Salt on family-friendly Dhigu is also worth a visit if you’re a carnivore at heart. As seems to be a trend with signature restaurants here in the Maldives, Sea.Fire.Salt is also located on the cusp of the ocean. Boasting fantastic views of distant islands framed by twinkling lights, dining alfresco on the wooden deck is a real treat. Feast on freshly caught Maldivian seafood such as reef fish, lobster and prawns alongside prime aged imported Australian cuts that can be ordered flame grilled, tandoori style, wok sautéed or cooked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. As its name suggests, this restaurant has an extensive salt selection further complemented by a resident salt guru. Yes, you read that right.
There’s a small spa on Naladhu Private Island but you can also visit the neighbouring Sundari Spa on Anantara Veli which is not only bigger but has a wide range of Ayurvedic treatments. This serene hideaway, nestled among the palms of an adults-only island is a perfect place to visit at sunset as you sink into a blissful slumber at the expert hands of your masseuse simultanesously with the setting of the sun. Those that are new to Ayurvedic practice need fear not, because the Sundari Spa is designed for both those who are beginners to Ayurveda and the more advanced students that wish to deepen their understanding of its roots and benefits.
If you’re visiting the Maldives for more than just land discovery, you’ll already know that this unique Indian Ocean archipelago possesses some of the world’s best locations for snorkeling and diving.
The cluster of Anantara islands is protected by coral reefs, the most diverse type of marine habitat, and also support an astounding array of marine life just waiting to be discovered. The resort’s water-experience club, Aquafanatics (located on Dhigu and accessible by a 2-minute boat transfer) offer a range of diving, snorkeling and non-motorized watersports in and around the islands. In addition, they have initiated a coral adoption programme that helps to accelerate the regeneration of coral growth in the atoll reef. The best place for under water discovery is around the shallow waters of ‘Snorkel Island’ the fourth and smallest island in the vicinity. Housing only a daytime beach bar and a scattering of loungers, hours can be spent swimming around the island getting up close and personnel to baby reef sharks, stingrays and tropical fish galore. The PADI Dive Centre also offers a full range of SCUBA certification courses if you’re planning to stay in the Maldives for more than a couple of days.
As we mentioned, the ocean side of Naladhu boasts large waves that are unsuitable for swimming but excellent for surfing. In fact, surfers from all over the world descend on this beautiful part of the world to take advantage of the ideal surfing conditions.
Naladhu Private Island is exactly that, a private island paradise hidden in the depths of the Maldives but still as easily accessible as one of the bigger, wider known resorts. From the attentiveness of your dedicated House Master, the range of culinary delights on offer to surpassed comfort of your very own beach house, Naladhu is an experience unlike any other in the Maldives. It has a graceful elegance that will always be in travel style.