Sat eagerly watching with fascination from the seaplane window – our transportation from Malé Airport to Mudhdhoo Island – I spot it from the sky after about 30 minutes of flight, our home for the next four nights – the postcard-perfect, island resort of Dusit Thani Maldives.
Surrounded by crystalline blue, gently splashing waves, soft swaying palms, and white washed sandy shores, the island’s welcoming team greets us with cold towels, iced drinks and warm smiles upon landing. I’m instantly relaxed.
Escorted to an awaiting golf buggy is where we meet Hannan, our personal butler for the stay. “If you need anything, anytime, day or night, here’s my number. Give me a call and I’ll be happy to help”, he assures.
It’s apparent that incomparable service and luxury is a key ingredient on this island. On route to our room while passing through the gorgeously lush, forest-like landscape of the island’s interior, the realisation of where I am hits me. The scene couldn’t be more perfect – we’ve touched down in paradise, located in the Maldives’ first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Baa Atoll.
Dusit Thani Maldives is everything the photos online depict, and more (trust me when I say there are stunning photo ops on every, single corner).
Checked in and at ease with the naturally luscious surroundings and second to none service, I’m now ready to discover the island’s culinary offering. Something I now refer to as a gourmands dream.
A word with the chef
When it comes to dining on the island, there are more options available than you can imagine. To my surprise, everything is accessible here. If there’s a certain cuisine you fancy, it’s available – thanks to a dedicated culinary team that work around the clock and plan months in advance to ensure food standards and quality remain unparalleled, tells the resort’s executive chef Cameron Steele.
The Scots chef explains that despite being miles away from the mainland, separated by open waters, the island is able to offer cuisines ranging from Thai, Arabic, French, Maldivian, American, Indian, Chinese and more.
“We really pride ourselves on being able to cater to the needs of all of our guests here, while also staying up-to-date with the latest culinary trends and food happenings around the world,” he says.
As an island destination, food and beverage all has to be imported – which is no easy business by any means. Listening to chef Cameron’s behind the scenes take on how it all works is admirable – there’s so much more to the F&B processing here than meets the eye.
It takes days alone for a shipment to reach the island from the capital, so food orders have to be made in advance based on occupancy predictions, catering to all tastes, waste prevention and other important criteria.
“It’s funny to think that Christmas is over eight months away, yet we’ve already got our orders in,” he jokes. “It’s all about preparation, so we’re always able to deliver what’s expected.”
And, he was right, there wasn’t a thing missing from the island’s food scene.
This island is perfect for those looking for an offering of flexible dining, from in-room options with meals served poolside to your villa’s deck, to romantic lunches and dinners arranged at various private locations around the island (also known as ‘borderless dining’ options) – there are plenty of choices to keep you occupied.
On the first night we were stunned by a candlelit dinner on the beach, complete with a personal server – Lachey, who became our server for the duration of the trip – something that really added to the personalisation of our stay. “It’s quite common that are guests here have a dedicated server for their holiday,” he tells us.
From the get-go Lachey knew our favoured drinks, preferred meat temperatures, and spice preferences. He was on hand to answer any questions, as well as add to our experience with information about the destination we wouldn’t have known otherwise – all without being intrusive.
Another evening we were treated to a barbeque for two, served at a private location known as the wedding pavilion. Here a chef, teamed with Lachey, to cook a meal fit for a king. From grilled lobster and scallops, to medium-rare tenderloin and foie gras, this experience offered it all (for the love birds looking for a honeymoon spot, or a spot perfect to pop the big question – here’s where you need to be).
Next up on the borderless dining list is a lunch not to be missed. Set upon the white, soft sandy shores – this lunch option allows you to sit with your toes submerged in the refreshing water while a three-course gourmet meal is served. We enjoyed a light chicken cesar salad, followed by freshly grilled ‘catch of the day’, and a serving of made-in-house mango sorbet – perfect for the time of day.
With the fish swimming around our feet, I’m in my element – “what could be any more perfect than this?” I ask.
“Well, we do actually offer guests the opportunity to dine out on the sandbank when the tide is low,” tells Lachey, pointing out across the turquoise waters. “A boat takes diners across, where a meal of their preference will be made on a barbeque, or prepared in-kitchen and driven over.”
Just when you think the pinnacle has been reached, comes something to push luxury boundaries. Incredible food standards aside, I’ve come to realise that it’s all about creating experiences here, the team at Dusit Thani Maldives really allows you to make memories that’ll last a lifetime.
In addition to the awe-inducing borderless dining options available, there are five F&B outlets on the island – and it’s hard to choose which one to start with.
Admittedly, Benjarong was my favourite of the trip (partially swayed by the fact I adore Thai food!) This is Dusit Thani’s global signature restaurant and it never disappoints. Set over glistening waters on tall stilts, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, paired with unbeatable views over the ocean and into an open plan kitchen where a seasoned team of Thai chefs whip up mouthwatering dishes smelt throughout the dining room.
“I’d never want to work anywhere else,” admits chef Sunai who has worked on the island for several years. “With a kitchen overlooking these views – what could be more relaxing? I’m blessed to work here and have access to the specialty Thai ingredients that allow me to create the cuisine I love here.”
“We really pride ourselves on being able to cater to the needs of all of our guests here, while also staying upto-date with the latest culinary trends and food happenings around the world”
From traditional Thai green curry (recipe overleaf), cashew nut chicken and Tom Yum soup, the flavours were outstanding – and true to typical Thai style, they had a spicy kick! For dessert, I requested mango sticky rice (my all time favourite), and it was the best I’ve ever tasted. Served with an extra portion of coconut milk on the side, the dish was perfectly executed, moist and plentiful.
Following dinner, you’re able to head up to Sala Bar, the deck above Benjarong serving refreshing cocktails under the open skies.
Next on the list is The Market, where international flavours are brought to life each night. With a specialist buffet, this outlet showcases individual worldly cuisines on rotation each night of the week – making it the ideal venue to head to when you’re in the mood for a range of options.
Another great restaurant, Sea Grill, exists poolside and features outdoor seating and private wine cellar seating – both of which allow you to sit in barefooted bliss with sand in your toes. Here a large open grill allows diners to choose from a range of fresh fish from a counter, or choose from an a la carte menu that features premium options from both land and sea.
After dinner, adjacent Sand Bar is just steps away across the twinkle-light lit infinity pool. Ideal for a relaxing nightcap paired with shisha, this bar is also the best spot on the island for sundowners and snacks as the sun sets in the distance. With live music and set happy hours, this is where you come to watch the world go by.
Once your food cravings are satisfied, it’s on to exploring the island’s activities. Now, you may think that the Maldives is just a honeymooners destination for lounging around on beautiful beaches day to day, but it’s not. There’s a relatively wide selection of unique activities to keep you active and busy.
With Dusit Thani Maldives encircled by a 360 degree living house reef and a gorgeous aqua lagoon – it’s pretty obvious where to get started. We head to Seasplash Dive and Water Sports Centre – a spot where you have access to water sports, snorkeling equipment and the ability to plan boating trips for dolphin watching, sunset cruises, deep-sea diving or to go snorkeling at prime locations for spotting whale sharks, tropical fish, turtles, eagle and manta rays, and more (don’t forget to bring the GoPro!). There are also kayaks, jet skis, jet packs, water skis and a bunch of other equipment for ensuring optimum water fun.
After picking up our snorkeling gear, we head paddle out to the reef, where schools of tropically coloured fish swim around in the crystal clear waters, in and out of the breathtaking coral. As an avid lover of the water, this moment was one I’ll never forget.
Discovering the underwater world at it’s best – it’s a magical memory to make.
If you’re looking for something a little more laid back, relax at early morning yoga at a serene pavilion overlooking the water. Then head to Devarana Spa and pick out a treetop treatment pod for a pampering massage of your choice – nestled in jungle-like surroundings with soothing music, this experience truly induces a state of zen and tranquility. This spa is focused around the traditional Thai heritage of natural healing, and masterfully marries old Thai therapies with modern techniques. It’s safe to say we left floating on cloud 9. And, what’s better yet is that you can drop the kiddies off in the care of the resort’s Baan Sanook Kids Club – where they’ll be kept entertained and happy.
Sleep under the stars
Now, when it comes to resting your head – you may think a room is just a place for retiring to in the evenings, but this isn’t the case here. We actually spent a good chunk of time at the villa due to its fantastic facilities – it really made the holiday.
With seven villa types to choose from, it’s a tough call deciding which one of the 94 immaculately equipped, Thai-inspired rooms to opt for.
Ranging from Beach Villas (which come with and without pools) that are beautifully engulfed by tropical flora and private access to the beachfront, to Water Villas with pools that provide the best of both worlds with beach and direct lagoon access.
Next on the list there’s the Ocean Villas with Pools, which are accessible via picture perfect wooden, winding pathways over the water. Perched idyllically above the Indian Ocean, these villas feature private, infinity plunge pools and access private access into the coral-filled water.
For families travelling to the island, there are Two Bedroom Family Beach Villas available, designed in a child-friendly manner with walls enclosing the garden and recreational area for privacy. These villas also offer a private pool – equipped with all the essentials needed for a perfect, intimate family getaway.
To add to the collection of stunning properties, last on the list are the exclusive Ocean Pavilions and Beach Residences’ – there’s only two of each on the island. In a nutshell, the Ocean Pavilions are floating havens of luxury, with two bedrooms, a large private infinity pool and a gorgeous deck for relaxing on. While the Beach Residences’ brings as sense of home indulgence to your stay, with extensive living space, two bedrooms, welcoming comforts and a private pool that leads onto the beach.
All villas at Dusit Thani Maldives are furnished with subtle Thai touches, yet boast the beautiful Maldivian architecture expected at such a destination. One thing I loved especially about our villa – which you’re able to in any room on the island – is the ability to stargaze under the moonlit sky at night. Out in the ocean, away from the city’s streetlights, the skies natural beauty really comes through, awash with the brightest shining stars.
Experience of a lifetime
All in all, this destination comprises the ingredients essential for creating the most memorable of experiences. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway of a rejuvenating fun-filled holiday to detox from the stresses of everyday life, Maldives offers it all – and as did I, I’m sure you’ll leave reflecting on this being one of the most breathtaking destinations in the world.
From the healthy, positive, helpful attitudes of the team, the naturally stunning surroundings, the lack of pollution in the softly blowing, fresh breeze, to the innovative cuisine and the safe sense of security provided, there’s not much more you would wish for from a holiday spot.
As we board the speedboat for a 10 minute ride across to Dharavandhoo Domestic Airport for a domestic flight back to Malé Airport (seaplanes are not allowed to fly after sunset), I feel genuinely sad to be bidding a farewell to the island I’ve fallen in love with and the team we’ve become friends with.
With the waves splashing around the boat as we jet off, I turn around to click one last snap of heaven.
……. I’ll leave you to guess what my desktop’s screensaver is!