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At a time when Aussie travellers are increasingly prioritising those big-ticket items, one destination is a clear winner. Here, ALLIE SPARR, Global Head of Brand and Marketing, FCTG Independent, reports back from an adults-only resort in the Maldives.

NOT TOO far from the southern edge of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is known for its crystal-clear waters and overwater villas.

Comprised of nearly 1,200 tiny islands speckled around the Indian Ocean, this destination seems to top most people’s bucket lists.

During a recent five-night stay at the adults-only Anantara Veli Resort and Spa, I caught myself pondering the strange feeling of sitting out over the water, connected to a miniscule island in the middle of an enormous ocean, yet able to enjoy clear, shallow, warm water all around me.

The unique geography of this nation can be hard to wrap your mind around, which only adds to its appeal.

While many travellers visit multiple islands on a trip to the Maldives, I stayed put at the resort throughout my stay. So here are six things you’ll discover during a visit to Anantara Veli Resort and Spa.

1. It’s not just for honeymooners

As the Maldives is often touted as the ideal romantic getaway, my friend and I joked about being the only singles surrounded by honeymooners in the lead up to our departure.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Maldives caters to a diverse range of clientele. For reasons obvious to anyone who has laid eyes on a single image of this spectacular spot, the destination has universal appeal.

There seemed to be no one dominant nationality or style of traveller. Families, groups of friends and couples were all represented at our resort and the neighbouring Anantara Dhigu, which is child friendly.

We even spotted a few backpackers at Male airport – no doubt taking advantage of the range of affordable accommodation options on offer.

2. Marine life is abundant

Staying at Anantara Veli was like having the Great Barrier Reef at your doorstep.

Dozens of different types of fish, reef sharks, sea turtles and manta rays coast right on by while you stroll along the boardwalk, relax on your deck, or even jump in to swim with them.

Snorkelling gear is included with your stay and there are plenty of other water activities on offer, including a glass kayak, to get a closer look.

There’s even another island on the property, known in English as ‘Picnic Island’, which is surrounded by reasonably shallow reefs and is full of colourful fish. It’s the perfect snorkelling spot – even for an amateur like me!

3. Your Villa Host is your new best friend

Upon arrival at the resort – which is via speedboat from the airport – you’ll be greeted by your Villa Host.

They will give you a quick tour of the property via golf cart, before showing you to and around your villa. They’ll then get your number and share essential resort information (spa, restaurants, activities, etc) via WhatsApp.

Our host was Ibrahim, an Egyptian native who had been working at the resort for five months prior to our stay.

Ibrahim answered all our questions, picked us up to drive us around the resort when requested and helped us book in for activities and dinners. He also managed all check in and check out payments and paperwork.

These Hosts look after a maximum of nine villas at a time and, while Anantara hotels have a fantastic app through which you can message and arrange whatever you need, this added layer of detail and service elevated the stay to deliver a beautiful luxury experience.

4. Service is exceptional at every point

Beyond the fantastic service we received from Ibrahim, I was incredibly impressed by the kindness, patience and detail delivered by every single staff member at this property.

From the lovely woman who welcomed us at the airport, guided us into an air-conditioned lounge and managed check-in before boarding the speedboat transfer, to the wait staff, housekeeping and even engineering – the team were warm, engaging and went above and beyond as their standard.

One evening when I popped out the front of my villa to take a photo of the resort at sunset, an enthusiastic staff member pointed out a manta ray and proceeded to share videos of the incredible things he’d seen over the last few months (see point two).

It was refreshing to see he hadn’t lost his enthusiasm for the scenery or wildlife, despite living in the destination.

The little decoration of our room during turn-down the night before departure and the way restaurant staff remembered our details even just after the first night was impressive.

The details make the experience and the team at Anantara Veli have it down!

5. Maldivian food is delightful

If you have even the slightest interest in Indian food, Maldivian food is for you. It’s like Indian and Sri Lankan but with their own spin.

Several restaurants around the property have a range of Maldivian dishes to try…and try we did!

The staff are happy to make recommendations and get a bit excited when visitors order their local cuisine. If it’s not for you – rest assured, there are plenty of other cuisines on offer.

I also highly recommend Spice Spoons, the private cooking class offered for guests at the resort. Choose between Vegan, Thai or Maldivian cuisine and then select three courses to cook from a list of options provided.

Naturally, we chose Maldivian (when in Rome, right?). We opted for Maldivian potato and crab cakes, tuna curry and coconut crème brulee.

Our class was conducted by one of the native Maldivian chefs and we were then served a beautiful three course meal in a private setting.

This was a fantastic experience and the food was so delicious I was actually convinced the team must have thrown out what we made and given us something the professionals had created.

Note: It takes a couple of hours so make sure you’ve had a snack before you go!

6. All-inclusive is the way to go

When booking a stay at Anantara Veli you can choose between having just breakfast included, half-board (breakfast and dinner) or all-inclusive. Go all inclusive.

You’re on an island so your only option is to eat and drink on the resort anyway. Prices on property are in USD and not cheap!

Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll have access to all restaurants at both Veli and Dhigu – connected by a two-minute pontoon ride with pick-ups every five minutes at either end.

If you’re on half-board or all inclusive, you’ll get an automatic credit of $US60 per person and at the premium restaurants – like the incredible Origami – billed for the difference.

If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure it’s apparent that the Maldives lives up to its reputation (as does Anantara).

Don’t wait to go. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion. The Maldives is a top destination guaranteed to please and worth ticking off everyone’s bucket list.