Just a tad bit more than a hop, skip and a jump, the journey to the private island of Angsana Velavaru in the Maldives’ South Nilandhe Atoll is an adventure in itself, culminating in a spectacular seaplane ride over the exquisite atolls.
It’s worth it, though. This kind of peaceful, white-sanded isle – one of a handful of blips in thousands of miles of empty ocean – means a level of relaxation you won’t get elsewhere. One couldn’t have designed an environment which dictates switching off as the one that exists naturally here. The only sounds are the lulling splash of waves meeting shore and bird calls; the peace is only occasionally broken by the distant landing of a plane or the rhythmic lumbering of a supply boat. You’re far from home and all the better for it. There isn’t much to do here – and that’s the point.
Rather unusually, Angsana Velavaru sits across two islands with a shuttle boat that runs between them. On the main island, an arc of white sand, fine as dust and raked like a Japanese garden, greets you as you wander down the jetty; the beach villas sit around the edge of the island where you will also find the hotel’s pool, main restaurants and activity centres. The other island houses the over-water villas, a restaurant and also the island’s house reef. Dotted about are covered sun loungers shaped like weaver-bird nests, a nod to the Maldives’ rich natural environment. At night, oval woven pods swing from the broad canopy of trees, dropping discs of light onto the sand below, still warm between your toes.
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Rooms and suites
On the main island, beach villas are functional – a little cosy in their primary colours and a bit of questionable artwork adorning the walls, but they do perfectly well for a comfy sleep next to the ocean. And the traditional cajan (thatched) roofing provides a nice, organic touch. You’re not really here for the indoors anyway – outdoor bathrooms are a treat, showering under the morning sun or the stars at night, swaying palms the only observers. It can take a minute to get used to, but in the end it’s rather liberating.
From the French doors of your villa, surrounded by lush vegetation, you’ll wander a few steps to a couple of sun loungers and a shade; the sea flows past a little further on, punctuated by the occasional juvenile shark swimming through the shallows.
Despite having neighbours on either side, the villas are private and the view stretches, uninterrupted, for miles either way. It’s the sort of place where the only thing that’ll wake you from that shaded, hazy, one-of-a-kind holiday snooze is the abrupt interruption caused by dropping your book on yourself (and yes, we’ve all done it).
Across the channel, the over-water villas are some of the largest in the Maldives. They are three-bedroom and have their own full-size pools; stairs drop down into the ocean and you can easily swim out to the edge of the house reef for gorgeous snorkelling.
Eating and drinking
The international breakfast covers all bases – French toast to fried eggs, kimchi to curry, served alongside strong, black coffee; iced, for us, in this heat.
Kaani is the core restaurant at Angsana Velavaru and turns out a great range of global food showcasing both the raw and the cooked – tuna tiraditos to crispy fish tacos, fresh salads, burgers and fries. Azzurro restaurant is across the water, thick timbers sitting between you and the waves. It serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes with plenty of seafood and a selection of Australian Wagyu steaks. Funa restaurant, jutting out from the island on a long jetty, serves Pan-Asian cuisine – som tam, satay, sashimi and unmissable Korean wings to start, bibimbap, poke and laksa to follow. It’s eclectic, for sure, and the “Pan” here is doing some heavy lifting, but everything is well considered and cooked with a reverence to each dish’s heritage.
What to do
Angana Villavaru translates as “turtle island” in the local Dhivehi language, which gives you a strong indication as to the order of the day here – dive into the azure, warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Snorkelling and diving are both fantastic and you’ll be spoilt with the wondrous things you’ll see – the seas of the Maldives are some of the richest and most diverse in the world. Rays, dolphins, sharks and turtles are among some of the larger visitors, while there are plenty of juvenile and reef fish to make you feel all David Attenborough. Word to the wise… take a rash vest to protect you from the sun; we ended up losing track of time and swam for a couple of hours.
There’s also a spa, gallery and kid’s club on site. It’s a family-friendly resort and children were pretty quiet during our visit. There are plenty of activities to keep all of you occupied, as well as a marine centre.
Guests can take part in a “coral planting” activity. In an effort to combat the effects of the coral bleaching due to El Niño in 2016, you’re invited to take broken, still-living chalky stalks of coral and attach them to metal frames which are sunk just off the edge of the island. Coral is incredibly slow growing but the natural world forms the lifeblood of the Maldives so it’s great to see conservation efforts underway. There are also longer term plans underway to switch to renewable energy.
The sunset cruise is a truly moving experience. Pumping chart tunes aside (and this comes down to personal preference – party or peace?), the cruise takes you out for an hour or so and if you’re lucky will be punctuated both by champagne and dolphins. On our visit, a pod hundreds-strong visited us and swam alongside our boat, their glistening grey bodies leaping and spinning out of the ocean or swimming alongside our bow to a chorus of whoops. These creatures create a shared sense of wonder and joy in the natural world.
William Leigh was a guest of Angsana Velavaru. A beachfront villa starts from £409 per night, exclusive of taxes and fees, based on the all-inclusive dine package; angsana.com
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