INTRODUCTION TO NALADHU PRIVATE ISLAND
Naladhu, meaning pretty little island, is one of the Maldives’ smallest and most intimate resorts, with only 18 ‘houses’ and one 2-Bedroom Residence. The resort is within touching distance of Male, ideal for late night arrivals and shorter stays.
Date of stay: March 2018
Room: Ocean House with Pool #5
Reviewed by: Aaron Yeung
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PHOTOS AND VIDEOS by CHINMOYLAD
WHAT I LOVED
- Location. Located only 35-minutes speedboat ride from Male International airport, its close proximity to the airport has both its positives and negatives. Naladhu is located next to two other sister-Anantara Resorts – interconnected by a wooden bridge to Veli and a 5-minutes jetty ride to Dhigu. The proximity and speedboat accessibility is great for late night arrivals and/or short Maldives stays.
- Privacy. Naladhu can only be accessed by guests staying at Naladhu, making the island extremely private and peaceful. Privacy is at its most prominent in the rooms; the 180 degrees ocean view houses offer complete privacy, since the reef is not accessible by guests due to the rocky surface, and there are only a very few occasions when boats sail a few kilometres away from sun-deck at the room. The sister resorts are located on the other side of the island from most of the rooms, so the rooms look out onto complete serenity.
- Rooms. There are only 19 villas on Naladhu, with 18 one-bedroom villas and one two-bedroom villa. For bang for your buck, this is the place to be if you’re looking for huge rooms and private pools. The one-bedrooms are spacious (300sqm / 3,230 sqft), with the option of choosing Beach House or Ocean House. All Houses at Naladhu have a 35sqm infinity private pool and are allocated a separate private cabana at the resort’s main beach. Inside the room, the bathroom opens out onto the private pool, with part of the bath being transparent as it shares a wall with the pool creating an open space. The outdoor sundeck is beautifully built for lounging and lazing, with a swinging couch and separate dining space overlooking the pristine sea.
- Two-bedroom Pool Residence. The two villas are linked by a very large wooden deck with an outdoor 20m x 5m infinity pool. The main villa has two floors, the lower floor consists of a large living and dining area, and the upper floor with a master bedroom and a bathroom with ocean-view. The second villa offers another bedroom ideal for children or families.
- Excursions and experiences.
- Lagoon Lunch. We were delighted to enjoy our lunch in the lagoon, sitting in ankle-deep water. The three-course lunch was very standard. Meats and seafood were grilled right next to us by the beach, but we did not find them juicy enough. However, the signature cocktail was exotic, made with tropical fruit in a young coconut and the highlight was certainly having lunch with baby sharks swimming around us as we sat in the water, which made for a unique experience.
- Turtle Snorkeling. Snorkeling is definitely on any must-do list in Maldives. We joined a turtle snorkeling tour and traveled 30 minutes on a speedboat south of Naladhu. We did see a medium-size turtle right after we jumped into water, and had a chance to swim very close to it. However, as you would expect for resorts in atolls close to Male, we did not see much colourful underwater life, and, sadly as is the theme in the Maldives of late, a lot of the coral reefs were dead and the overall experience was not as great as we imagined. We did speak with people who joined another earlier morning tour, who mentioned they did see more turtles and dolphins during the morning.
- Spa. Guests can choose to do spa on the beach or on the room terrace, we choose to experience it on the sundeck and it was one of the very best spa experiences we had, both in ambiance (sound of waves crashing into the rocks) and in execution. The masseuses understood our needs and preferences thoroughly before the treatment and delivered the most personalized experience.
- Food. There is only one restaurant on Naladhu, but guests staying at Naladhu can also dine at the other 8 restaurants on Veli and Dhigu. This is our first trip to Maldives, and I have been warned of the bad and over-priced food. But at Anantara, we had a remarkable experience, and tasted some of the best foods in our lives. Some of the highlights:
- The Living Room (Naladhu): Settled on the beachfront on Naladhu, Living room is our favourite restaurant, most of the dishes we ordered were very good and we especially loved the pan seared foie gras, yellow fin tuna tartar and anise & coffee spiced duck breast. The romantic dinner setting is also very elegant and impressive.
- Baan Huraa (Veli – Thai): Anantara is renowned for its excellent Thai cuisines. The seafood platter we had for lunch was good, but we were more surprised at how delicious the fried rice was. Baan Huraa sets over the lagoon on the bridge between Naladhu and Veli, and if you Look down from Baan Huraa into the ocean, you can see stingrays and sometimes, tiger sharks.
- Origami (Veli – Japanese): the sushi and sashimi were a bit disappointing, but the age sofutosherukururabu (soft shell crab) was spectacular and made up for the average appetisers.
- Sea. Fire. Salt (Dhigu – Seafood / Steak): the medium rare Maldivian tuna fillet was perhaps my favourite dish during the whole trip
- Service and the team. When guests arrive Naladhu, they are warmly welcomed by Shebo, the resort manager, their House Master and the Naladhu team. The service is consistent, warm and efficient on the whole:
- Guests are always greeted by their first name with a warm smile by the friendly hotel staff who are always ready to help
- The House Master is always available 24/7 and be ready to help with a phone call, whether it is a dinner booking at one of the restaurants, or if you need help inside the room.
- The House Master will set up a bubble bath and bed decorations for its guests the day prior to their departure.
- Design. Decorated in an electic ‘colonial meets marine’, the design might appeal to some – it certainly strays away from the ‘tropical’ cliches found in the Maldives, as well as the uber sleek/elegant styles some of the newer resorts have opted for. While we didn’t particularly ‘love’ it, it was a refreshing change to see something a bit different in the Maldives.
- Price. This really depends on what you’re looking for from the Maldives. Serious snorkelers or divers should stay away from Naladhu. However, for those looking for a first-time Maldivian experience but also prioritising luxury hotels, service and large rooms with private pools, in shoulder or high season, where luxury resorts can often charge upwards of USD 2,000/night++ for a private pool villa, Naladhu can be excellent value. However, in low season where the same luxury resorts often provide attractive offers (Stay 4/Pay 3, Stay 7/Pay 5, Half-Board, One Way or Return Transfers), it can make that choice that much harder.
POINTS TO NOTE
- House Reef. Located only 21km from Male airport, pristine picturesque Maldives this is not. While the shallow lagoon setting is quite interesting, the resort lacks a true house reef. We covered it previously, but much of the coral in the surrounding area is badly bleached, and while there is some semblance of life, this is not the resort to be at for serious snorkelers or divers.
- Facilities. Facilities on Naladhu are sparse due to both room count and its overall size. There is a small library and gym on Naladhu, as well as a small but unimpressive main pool on the beach next to The Living Room. But when you have a 35sqm private pool, the main pool is often not occupied by guests. There are also kayaks on the beach that guests at Naladhu can use. Generally, guests have to cross resorts to use some of the other resorts’ larger and more expansive facilities.
- Maintenance. Maintenance at Naladhu is passable, but not excellent. The resort opened in 2007, making it just over 10 years old – one would probably guess it was much older than that based on outlook. The resort’s maintenance could certainly improve. However, the sister resorts (which one must visit to enjoy wider facilities), some of which are even newer, showcase very poor maintenance across the board.
- Lack of attentiveness. The service at Naladhu is warm, efficient and friendly, but for a resort with 20 rooms and for the rates Naladhu charges, guests would expect perfection and a little more attention to detail and care. There was more than one occasion when used towels were left on the beach or sun lounges / cabana for half a day or longer, including our own cabana once, as well as uncleared drinks from our room.
- Private island. When staying on a self-marketed private island, guests would typically expect complete isolation. However, Naladhu’s definition of a ‘private island’ is rather skewed. Any Maldivian resort claiming to be luxury, by definition, should be a private island. While it’s trying to bring a unique concept with its location next to two other sister islands which guests can have access to, but only granting private accessibility to its own island, it’s not what you would typically expect from a ‘private island’. Certainly, there are no clear or obvious mentions on its own website about this arrangement, which would help in managing the expectations of guests arriving – and certainly for those who are widely traveled and experienced with luxury hotels and resorts.
- Sand quality. In the Maldives, one might expect the sand to be powdery soft. But on Naladhu, the white coral sand actually feels very rough at some points. There are better locations, both within and outside the Maldives, for powdery-soft sand lovers.
- Naladhu is located about a 35-minute speedboat ride from Male’s Velana International Airport. The resort offers a lounge facility (which is combined with its two sister resorts).
HOTEL FACT SHEET
- LOCATION: South Male Atoll, Maldives
- OPENED: 2007
- HOTEL ROOMS: 18 (6 Beach Pool Houses, 12 Ocean Pool Houses)
- RESIDENCE VILLAS: 1 (Two-Bedroom Residence)
- RATES FROM: USD 800/night++
Rates are only an approximation and subject to change and availability
OFFICIAL HOTEL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
An interactive 360-degree virtual tour of the resort can be viewed here
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Special thanks to Naladhu for hosting us