With dozens of high-end resorts to choose from, deciding where to spend one’s holiday in Maldives may be a daunting task for some. After all, the decision process isn’t quite like that in other places. Proximity to train stations, dining and nightlife options or commercial districts simply do not apply here. When it comes to a Maldives resort, most guests will most probably be looking for things such as overwater villas, turquoise waters with plenty of marine life, great food, well-appointed lodgings, privacy and other aspects that give the feeling of an “escape” – criteria which are hard to quantify as practically all resorts in Maldives offer these.
In fact, these were the exact same thoughts in my mind which was why up until this recent trip, I had never visited Maldives before. Despite having reviewed over 100+ hotels around the world, including other high-end resorts, the thought of having to choose one to stay in Maldives did not seem so straightforward.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to visit Maldives. For my first visit, I was invited by Amilla Maldives – a locally-owned resort in Baa Atoll (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), to experience just what they had to offer.
Perhaps my visit to Amilla Maldives was timely because the resort has been getting some attention lately. Other than being just a run-of-the-mill luxury resort, the property also has a strong focus on sustainability. They take it very seriously – as I would later find out during my stay. Other than this, the resort is also known for its focus on wellness. The property is a member of SLH or Small Luxury Hotels in the World – a list of carefully curated boutique properties from around the globe.
From Male Airport, there are a few options to get to Amilla Maldives. The most straightforward option is to take a seaplane from the seaplane terminal. I flew with Manta Air and managed to chill for a bit in their lounge. There were light bites such as sandwiches, cakes and cookies available. Drinks came in the form of coffee, tea or soft drinks.
At the time of my visit, Amilla Maldives was just a few days away from opening their own lounge in the new multi-storey seaplane terminal. I got a chance to visit the almost-finished lounge space just before my seaplane flight to the resort. The lounge is spacious with plenty of seating options and a balcony from which to survey other seaplanes landing and taking off.
From the main seaplane terminal, it’s an approximate 40 – 45 minutes flight to a floating platform somewhere in the Baa Atoll that’s shared by multiple resorts. Amilla’s own boat then waits there to ferry guests to the island. All in all, it’s a hassle-free experience with minders guiding you through every step from the moment you exit the airport up until arrival to the resort.
Alternatively, I’ve been told it’s possible to take a boat directly from the airport all the way to the resort. The journey is about 2 hours through this method and is possible when the waters are not too choppy.
Upon approach to the island, guests will be able to find a number of staff members at the dock giving their warm welcome, as is the custom in resorts around the Maldives. I was given a welcome drink – hibiscus tea (non-sweetened) and whisked to the villa with the resort buggy.
Reef Water Pool Villa
My Reef Water Pool Villa at Amilla measured a staggering 220 square meters. It comprised an indoor section with a living area, bedroom, bath and toilet that is interestingly situated in the middle of the space.
Upon entering the villa, the first thing that greeted me was a well-stocked minibar. Water, coffee and tea are complimentary. Coffee capsules for the machine were biodegradable while the teabags from Dilmah are supposed to be combustible. While coffee capsules and teabags are a standard part of any minibar, I was quite impressed by the sheer number of bags they had in the room. They had dozens with 6 different types of tea!
Those with late night hunger pangs can choose from an array of goodies, or even a bottle of champagne from the fridge. While I typically don’t take anything from the minibars, I thought it was a nice touch to provide all this. With even a cocktail maker provided, I’d reckon this is like a full-fledged bar rather than just a minibar.
Opposite the minibar is the work desk. I don’t know why anyone would be working while on holiday in idyllic Maldives but I suppose digital nomads are well taken cared of should they choose to switch on their laptops during their stay.
Beyond the desk is the spacious living area with a spacious couch that can double as a day bed as well as a lounge chair with a gigantic coffee table at the center. The sofa was positioned nicely, facing the floor-to-ceiling sliding windows that led to the outdoor space. This positioning relegates the 42″ TV to the periphery but between that or the sea view, I’d take the sea view any time.
The transition from living to bed is separated by a wall where the toilet and wardrobe spaces are. Another key thing to note here is the long cabinet space. It’s perfect for long-stayers or those coming as a family. You can hang everyone’s clothes up and still have plenty of leftover space.
Next to the wardrobe is the bed. It is king-sized but felt bigger than that. Perhaps it was the perfectly set linens – done without a single wrinkle on top – that served to enhance its size visually. Again, the bed is strategically positioned so that it faces the window. Guests can look at the infinity pool and the surrounding sea while being pampered on the soft mattress, if they wish. Charging outlets and light control switches are available on both sides. Night light is available as well for those who prefer not to sleep in utter darkness.
I thought it was rather unusual for the toilet here to be situated right in the center of the indoor space but I suppose it works somehow. It is not too near the bed, which is a good thing and the toilet door actually faces a more private section of the villa.
The indoor bath and showers are semi-open concept, with no doors to close off. That’s great for honeymooners or couples but could be a bit too open for families. If that is an issue, the resort also has the Sunset Water Pool Villa which has its own bathroom enclosure.
The Reef Water Pool Villa is so big that there’s actually a lot of unused space. Notably, the area near the sink is not well utilized. To fill the empty space, you’ll see two big curved objects that look like seats / stools.
The outdoor portion of the villa is even more stunning and it was there that I spent the bulk of my time whenever I was in the room. The view is unblocked with nothing but the sea save for some small uninhabited sandbanks that are several miles away. This means that one can enjoy a lot of privacy even when out on the deck with such an open view.
The outdoor space consists of a dining table with chairs, some sun loungers and a day bed. The outdoor area also has its own shower space for a quick wash after a swim / snorkel or simply for the novelty factor of doing it outdoors.
There is also a swimming pool here, quite generously sized and good for a relaxing dip rather than for swimming laps. For those who prefer to swim in a more natural setting, there is direct private access to the reef via some stairs from the side of the villa.
Amilla has no less than 9 dining outlets, from sunset bars to restaurants serving Italian, Indian and Japanese cuisine. During my stay, I tried Fresh for breakfast and dinner at Feeling Koi.
The breakfast offering at Fresh goes to show just how the property takes its wellness approach seriously. Their menu reads like a compendium, with a regular section followed by dedicated pages for vegan, keto, paleo and gluten-free breakfast items. Lactose intolerant? No problem. I asked the server attending me if I could have my cafe latte with soy milk and she gamely offered oat milk or almond milk as potential substitutes. I was pleasantly surprised because I often struggle to find dairy milk substitutes for my coffee even in luxury hotels.
As mentioned previously, guests can choose from ala carte dishes from the breakfast menu. The more interesting items include Maldivian Poke Bowl, Maldivian Breakfast and Masala Omelette. You can find the menu, which is frequently refreshed, here.
Apart from the ala carte menu, guests can also choose from the buffet items. At the time of my stay, this included a rotating selection of pastries, juices, smoothies and grain bowls. The resort grows / produces some fruits, herbs, vegetables and eggs inhouse.
For an island that is pretty much secluded, I was pretty much impressed with the dining options. The food I had were extremely fresh and well-prepared, particularly the Japanese food from Feeling Koi. As this is Maldives after all, my recommendation is to choose those dishes featuring the catch from the surrounding waters such as the Baa Atoll Reef Fish Sashimi Platter. I also tried the Miso Crusted Cod and it was excellent.
Feeling Koi is situated in an overwater deck just above the sea and we were told that guests could sometimes see shark passing by from the waters below. We didn’t get to see any during dinner but it made for a great ambiance nonetheless to sit there with the strong breeze. The restaurant is rather dark at night and the staff thoughtfully attaches a portable light with the menu.
For those with a sweet tooth, Amilla offers free ice cream to guests throughout the day at Chill’d Cafe. Lactose intolerant folks won’t be missing out either as they have dairy-free options available.
As one of the largest resort islands in the Maldives, Amilla offers plenty of activities depending on guests’ interests. There is as much to do on land as there is to do in the clear blue waters that even a non-swimmer can easily enjoy a couple of days on the island.
Amilla is proud of its Maldivian heritage and local ownership that it heavily promotes its local staff members, especially those working in food and beverage. During my stay, I got to do a cooking class with their Maldivian chef, Naf, who hails from the southern part of the country. I had fun discovering more about Maldivians eat as we set about our foraging lunch, first by picking up vegetables and herbs from the resort’s own garden and preparing them. We had Kiru Garudhiya, a simple yellow curry with vegetables.
Other local activities guests can do include day excursions to some of the inhabited islands to check out how locals live. As my stay was just 2 nights, I did not get to do this. In late July, they have the Maldivian Cultural Week where guests can participate in traditional games, join wood carving workshops through visiting local artists.
Another activity that ties in with the resort’s wellness theme is kombucha-making. I learned how to make the fermented tea, from selecting the culture, adding sugar and bottling. The resort offers kombucha as a drink during breakfast.
For a luxury resort in Maldives, one can expect the “essential” bells and whistles such as massages and other spa treatments. I was quite intrigued by the Sensora experience which I don’t think many other places offer. I would describe it as a massage for the eyes and ears. It’s like ASMR on steroids. Essentially a light and sound therapy, it’s supposed to alleviate stress. By the time I ended my 30 minute session I felt so relaxed and I dare say as relaxed as an actual massage session.
The gym at Amilla is quite well-equipped, so much so that they have a dedicated gym just for weights and resistance training and another one for cardio. One of their unique facilities is the jungle gymnasium which looks like a page out of The Flintstones. This means wooden dumbbells, wooden barbells and even wooden resistance training machines.
Another unique aspect about Amilla Maldives is their glamping bubble where guests can sleep in a ventilated transparent container with air-conditioning, power outlets and some seating and table space. Guests typically book the experience for an evening of stargazing. In the day, it may be less suitable especially when it’s sunny outside.
Amilla has hosted a number of celebrities over the years including the Beckhams and Gordon Ramsay but the resort remains luxurious without being ostentatious or over-the-top. In recent years, the current management has made a big push towards wellness and sustainability so those who come here will find their needs (especially dietary ones) well looked after. Although there are certainly plenty of great photo spots, I like how the property really focuses on service and delivering special experiences to guests rather than just aesthetics. I stayed 3 days and found that I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what can be seen and done in the property.
I love how the resort highlights its Maldivian identity prominently and this is another thing that sets it apart from other properties in the Maldives. Of course, not everyone staying in a resort in Maldives would be interested to know about the local culture but it is something I personally look at when I visit a country – especially when it’s my first time.
For those with a gamut of dietary restrictions, few other places will take them as seriously as in Amilla. While there isn’t a whole lot of things I don’t eat, I enjoyed trying all the healthier options like the smashed avocado, berries with oats, etc during breakfast. Everything was delicious – and most importantly, I could gulp the food down without feeling any guilt.
Whether for an escape or a honeymoon or a getaway with the fam-bam, Amilla has got you covered with its highly customizable stays, no shortage of things to do and efficient staff members. I am already thinking about returning soon, next time it will be for a longer duration.