Nothing can prepare you for the Maldives — and this is coming from someone who has lived by the Arabian Sea for most of her life. Idyllic islands with lush tropical greenery, unrestricted views of the Indian Ocean with crystal clear waters in every possible shade of blue, clear skies and beautiful coral reefs, thriving marine life and serenity — all of this awaits you at this archipelagic state located southwest of India and Sri Lanka.
What tops it all is the luxurious hospitality and unforgettable experiences that a handful of the island resorts strive to offer. During my recent (and first) visit to the Republic of Maldives, I experienced all that and more at The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah, an all-inclusive luxury island resort.
A trip to The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah, which is located far in the south of the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, on the island of Dhigurah, begins with an international flight from your home destination (in my case, Mumbai) to the Velana International Airport, Malé (the capital city of Maldives).
The resort's staff welcomes you at the airport in Malé and escorts you to the lounge where you can wait until your next flight. It’s a comfortable space equipped with a WiFi connection and a big-screen TV for entertainment. You will also find a decent array of hot and cold beverages and snacks.
Next, you hop aboard a domestic flight to Kooddoo Island. Flying 45 minutes south of the capital city, above the striking blue-green waters, you watch the cityscapes strip away and the unimaginable beauty of this paradise takeover. Think uninhabited islands and luxury island resorts of different shapes and sizes surrounded by lush greenery, pristine white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters.
This stunning aero ride ends at the humble Kooddoo Island airport. From there you head to the port, which is a few minutes away by bus, for a 10-minute speed boat ride to The Residence. The multiple transfers may feel a bit overwhelming, but the breathtaking vistas totally make it worthwhile. Oh, and the warm hospitality and the next few days of complete relaxation help too.
The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah is home to 173 luxury villas, which include four different types: beach pool, lagoon pool, water pool, and two-bedroom. Each of these villas houses a private infinity pool with an unrestricted view of the ocean. The beach pool villa has private beach access, while the other three villas have direct access to the waters.
Manmade and natural structures stand in harmony at the property, and tones of sand, blue, and green greet you in every direction you turn. Oh, and you can’t miss the feeling of barefoot ease all around. A good WiFi connection is available at the villas, restaurants, and lobby.
I stayed at the beach pool villa on the sunset side of Dhigurah — the smallest type of villa at the resort but with no compromise on space and luxury. The space is lavish, featuring a small lounge area at the entrance. To its left is a bathroom as big as the bedroom. The bathroom, much to my surprise, is roomy, equipped with a huge marble bathtub, indoor shower, outdoor shower, toilet, and his and her vanity sinks.
It also features a 150-155 sq.m. outdoor space, which is separated by large glass windows to light up the villa and give it a spacious feel. The outdoor space includes a small but gorgeous infinity pool, a private verandah lined with palm trees and flowering plants for maximum privacy, and private access to the beach.
As for the bedroom-cum-living space, its centrepiece is the huge bed that faces the verandah and the ocean. The living space is equipped with a mini-bar, fruit basket, and a bottle of sparkling wine (inclusive of the villa’s price) to get the vacation going. Unfortunately, I ended up spending so much time outdoors, I barely got the chance to touch any of it.
The villa’s interiors are modern and elegant with clean aesthetics. Expect wood furnishings, cream walls, and wooden flooring. Style-wise, the aim seemed to be stately luxury. The décor is minimalistic to ensure the focus remains on the sand and the ocean.
Overall, the villa checks all the boxes that one can ask for on a vacation — comfort, necessary amenities, WiFi, basic food and drinks, tranquillity, and Instagram-worthy views inside and outside.
Food and drinks
A few dining highlights of The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah include Li Bai, for those who want their fix of authentic Chinese delicacies; Long Island, a go-to for those into sunsets and cocktails paired with tapas; Pool Bar and Beach Club Café Del Sol, a cocktail bar with DJ music, and the Dining Room, an all-day dining space serving Eastern and Western cuisines.
Guests can also request a private dining experience on a castaway island, beach, or at their villa to celebrate special occasions. This can range from a romantic dinner by a private chef or a lavish, indulgent beach barbeque for the fam-jam under the beautiful, starlit Maldivian sky.
During my two-night stay at the property, I dined at the Dining Room from breakfast to dinner and I was spoilt for choice and how! The buffet dining space serves an extensive variety of dishes from several international, pan-Asian, and Indian cuisines. Think roasts, curries, stir-fries, salads, types of bread, and an interesting selection of mouthwatering desserts. The Dining Room also has live counters — eggs, pancakes, fruits, and dosas for breakfast, and pasta, grilled meat and veggies for dinner.
The waiting staff ensure you get a drink of your choice to accompany your meal and complete your dining experience. On offer is a selection of wines, spirits, cocktails, mocktails, and even coconut water. Mesmerising views of the tropical jungle on one side and the glistening blue waters on the other are complementary.
What’s noteworthy is that a lot of the ingredients used in whipping up the food and drinks — from vegetables to fruits, herbs and edible flowers — are grown right there in the property’s very own organic garden, The Earth Basket. So, it’s mostly a farm-to-table experience no matter where you dine. The Residence by Cenizaro (part of Cenizaro Hotels & Resorts) kickstarted The Earth Basket to showcase their commitment to a sustainable future.
Things to do
It is hard to stray from the villa, but the resort offers plenty of reasons to step out and explore. You can take the cycle placed outside your villa and head to an activity area of your choice or simply ride across the property.
Those with wellness on their mind can book a massage or treatment at the property’s Clarins Spa or an Aqua Yoga session. You can even book a tour of The Earth Basket where you can learn about local produce, organic farming, compost making, animal feeding, and planet positivity. All of that is followed by a delectable meal made using freshly harvested produce from The Earth Basket, which you can cook with the chef’s help.
Popular excursions also include an island hopping tour, snorkelling and scuba diving lessons, kayaking (and other water sports), and nature trails, where you are introduced to the amazing flora and fauna native to the Maldives.
You can also spend some time at the property’s gym and game room. The good folks at The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah are friendly and helpful throughout, and can help you put together a personalised itinerary for your stay to ensure you’ve experienced it all!