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Saturday, June 2, 2018

7 Reasons To Visit Dusit Thani Maldives

Of all the resorts I've reviewed in the Maldives (and that's most of them), Dusit Thani is in my personal Top Five. Here I'll tell you what makes it so special...

A stunning resort offering a unique combination of Thai and Maldivian hospitality! Photo: Dusit Thani

The other day I wrote about why Four Seasons Maldives has a special place in my heart but although it's considerably less pricey than FS, Dusit Thani Maldives has very good game if you're looking for a five-star resort in the Maldives. Let me tell you why: 

1) You don't need to be a Kardashian to afford to stay at Dusit Thani Maldives

It's a more affordable option for those who don't want to compromise on world-class luxury and service. 'But wait', you might be asking, 'Aren't all Maldives resorts basically the same: white sand, turquoise sea, luxury water villas...'. Sure, choosing between Maldives resorts can sometimes feel like choosing your favourite KitKat out of a box of KitKats (or something funnier)...But hopefully in this blog I can help explain the nuances. Here's the thing with Dusit Thani. It's in the lower half of five star range (compared to the $50,000 a night suite at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, for example). But it's still a very solid Maldives five star resort. I'll tell you why in more detail this post. 

Contemporary Thai decor in one of Dusit Thani Maldive's beach villas. Photo: Dusit Thani

2) Thai Charm and Hospitality, in the Maldives

‘Sawasdee Kaa!’-  this is how the personal butlers greet you at the seaplane jetty with the classic Thai hand gesture and a slight bow. It's the start of a unique journey where guests experience a combination of Asian cultures: Thai hospitality meets the natural beauty of the Maldives, with everything running like clockwork thanks to the excellent Thai, Maldivian and international staff. The staff are extremely friendly and welcoming, the management clearly made an effort to train everyone. (You'd be surprised how many big resorts fail on this).

The stunning beach and water villas are in mint condition, since the resort only opened in 2012 (I was lucky enough to be amongst the media invited along to road-test it and revisted many times since). The villas are decorated in a contemporary Thai style - subdued tones with subtle nods to the resort's Thai ownership (Dusit Thani is a well-respected brand in Thailand), such as beautiful Thai silk curtains and traditional artwork on the walls. 

The accommodation also delivers exactly what you want from a Maldives resort: private sundecks, infinity-edge plunge pools with wow factor, beautiful bathrooms and the obligatory romantic bathtubs big enough for two. Artwork in the restaurants and bars provide hints of Thai culture, but the thatched roofs pay homage to Maldivian traditions.

It's hard to find a better spa in the region than the Devarana Spa and its super-talented, lovely staff. Photo: Dusit Thani

3) One of the best spas in the region

Wait, while I'm still on the subject of Thai hospitality, did you know they have one of the most beautiful spas in the Maldives? And it's not a case of style over substance either, the Devarana Spa at Dusit Thani is the only spa in the Maldives entirely staffed by Thai massage therapists, who are some of the best in the country. 

Devarana Spa is a highly-regarded Thai spa chain. The actual building is an extensive private treehouse. The heavenly-looking white treatment rooms are linked by wooden walkways high up in the trees. Inside they are gleaming havens of tranquility. If you can, try the Devarana Signature Massage that combines Thai, Shiatsu and Ayurveda techniques with Swedish and Aromatherapy influences...I'm drooling just thinking about it! 

Benjarong Restaurant: A real treat for anyone who loves Thai food! Photo: Dusit Thani

4) While we're talking about indulgences: Thai cuisine!

As we all know, Thai cusine is some of the most delicious in the world. At Dusit Thani Maldives you can find a range of restaurants with international cusine but the jewel in its crown is the stunning Thai signature restaurant suspended over the ocean, named Benjarong.

Benjarong is staffed by Thai chefs and waiters and offers truly authentic Thai cusine and service. All of the classic Thai dishes we all love, such as chicken with cashew nuts and green curry are available, as well as some less well-known options. Benjarong hangs directly over the ocean, and above it on the next deck is the Sala Bar. You can head there for an after-dinner cocktail such as a lychee mojito to enjoy the incredible views over the ocean and a hip lounge atmosphere. 

So many restaurants and bars in the Maldives stand on platforms over lagoons but at Dusit Thani there are no less than four separate spacious dining decks over the water. 

The beautiful infinity swimming pool is lit up by LEDs at night. Photo: Dusit Thani

5) Infinity pool and gourmet steaks 

I'm putting these two together as one because they relate to the same location. If you enjoy a quality steak, then you must check out Sea Grill, which is next to the beautiful freeform infinity pool (I didn't know what a freeform pool was either before I started writing about the Maldives for a living: It means it's a soft shape; not a square or rectangle). 
The interior of Sea Grill - or better yet, catch the breeze on the terrace

One of the prides of Dusit Thani Maldives is the 750sqm freeform infinity swimming pool, which is built around an ancient banyan tree. It was one of the largest infinity swimming pools in the Maldives and the only one with a beautiful tree in it (before Amilla Fushi arrived on the scene a couple of years later) and at night the water is brought to life by dozens of twinkling LED lights.

Sea Grill serves fresh seafood but in my opinion the superbly-grilled, juicy, grass-fed Wagyu Australian steaks are incredible. During the day time, you can chill at Sea Grill and watch the infinite turquoise ocean and at night the tiny colourful lights in the bottom of the pool create some magic.

The house reef is in pretty good condition and diving/snorkeling in the Baa Atoll area is excellent. Photo: Dusit Thani

6) An eco-friendly ethos

A lot of 'greenwashing' happens around the world but a few years ago I investigated what luxury resorts in Baa Atoll, including Dusit Thani Maldives, are doing in terms of conservation and environmental work. The good news is that Dusit Thani is doing a lot of genuinely impressive work on that front. 

The main focus of all of the eco-initiatives at Dusit Thani Maldives is on the marine environment. The resort’s marine biologist offers guests regular talks about the huge range of marine species like turtles, rays and dolphins in the area, and leads guided turtle and manta-spotting trips where she informs guests about the species and the importance of conservation. The marine biology team is experimenting with coral-planting in the lagoon to mitigate the impact of coral bleaching in the immediate area and a small amount of damage which was an inevitable result of the resort’s construction.

They also grow vegetables and herbs on the site and have their own desalinated water bottling plant  to reduce the amount they have to import (almost everything in the Maldives is flown in or shipped in), plus they recycle bottles and glass and re-use them on pathways and as mosaics. 

The island's natural beauty is another thing that makes it special. Photo: Dusit Thani

7) The beautiful natural environment

As I said earlier, I'm hoping to explain some of the nuances. There are 26 atolls in the Maldives, and Baa Atoll is one of my favourites. How do they differ? In more ways than you can imagine! From the depth of the water in the atolls (which affects many things including the diving and marine life) to how close they are to Male (you may notice more planes overhead, commercial boats passing by out at sea, etc). 

 A unique feature of the oval-shaped island is that the vibrant coral reef completely surrounds it, unbroken by a natural lagoon.Small, delicate paintings on the walls and contemporary works of art in the restaurant and bars give subtle hints of Thai artistry in the resort, but the thatched roofs and wooden walls pay homage to the Maldivian traditions.

Baa Atoll, where Dusit Thani is located, is a UNECO World Biosphere Reserve, recognised for the importance and diversity of its marine life and protected for future generations. And just around Dusit Thani's vibrant house reef itself you'll find abundant marine life including Hawksbill turtles, brilliantly-coloured fish, soft corals and some huge table corals too. 

As for the island, it's a perfectly oval-shaped island encircled by a beach of icing-sugar soft sand. (Again, nuances! Some beaches are full of dead coral and one in the far north is really rocky!). The beach stretches all the way around the island (again, not all of them do), and you can walk all the way around the island uninterrupted (some resorts block off part of the beach for a private staff area). 

Some final points about Dusit Thani Maldives: 

This was my private open-air bathroom on one occasion I visited, complete with plunge pool. Photo: Sarah Harvey

  • The villas are full of modern technology including complimentary Wi-Fi, cable TV and a Bose surround sound entertainment system, not to mention private wine coolers filled with wine and champagne. The minibar snacks include some Thai treats, including delicious spicy lemongrass crackers!

  • 15 of the 46 Beach Villas have small private pools in the outdoor bathrooms but they are rather tight on space, as there is no-where to lie after a soak. However, the huge pools of the two-bedroom Beach Residences are impressively large; perfect for a big family.

  • The Lagoon Villas and Ocean Villas all provide incredible sea views and the fantastic reef is just a stone’s throw away. Those who prefer to be closer to the sand will find the Lagoon Villas are a better bet.

  • Activities and excursions include wine tasting on a sandbank, fishing, sunset champagne cruises, monitoring turtles nesting, yoga classes, and snorkeling with resident marine biologist.

One last look! Photo: Dusit Thani

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