Angsana Velavaru resort in the Maldives is located in the south-western atoll of Dhaalu and is known for their unique InOcean villas which are set at the edge where the coral reef meets the Indian ocean. Before our stay here at Velavaru, we had avoided overwater villas of any sort due to safety concerns for the kids. But after having stayed in different Maldivian island resorts on the beach facing the water for the past three weeks, we thought perhaps it was time to try staying over the water.
The InOcean Villas at Angsana Velavaru are a unique concept in that these villas are not physically connected to the rest of the resort. You have to take a 5-10 min boat ride between the main island and the InOcean Villas. These villas sit directly on top of the house reef surrounding the island and you can simply walk down steps from your villa into the pristine coral reef.
Getting to Angsana Velavaru
Getting to Angsana Velavaru requires a 40-minute flight on a TMA (Trans Maldivian Airlines) seaplane from the airport in Male. Alternatively, if you are coming from another resort in the same atoll (like we did from Niyama), you can come by speed boat. It took us approximately 60 mins by speed boat on a clear day to reach Velavaru from Niyama. While they are both within the same Dhaalu atoll, most of the journey was across the pretty calm ocean, though choppier compared to going across sheltered waters, considering that it was on a day with good weather in a week of mostly rainy days.
If you go to Angsana Velavaru by seaplane, keep in mind that since TMA is an airline that services many resorts, it's very likely that your flight from Male won't be direct and will have to land at several resorts along the way. This could increase your flight time considerably. While there, we heard it took some people up to 3 hours to reach the resort because of the stops along the way. We were lucky that on our way back to Male, there were no stops and we could fly directly back.
The seaplane to Angsana Velavaru doesn't pull up to the resort island or the InOcean Villas directly. Instead, the plane pulls up to a small floating platform, and from there you go by boat to either the resort island or the InOcean Villas. This may seem a bit scary at first, but once there it felt perfectly safe, even with 2 young children.
InOcean Sunset Pool Villa with Sala
The room we stayed at was a sunset facing 1 bedroom InOcean Villa. It was spacious for an overwater villa and comes with an infinity pool, an outdoor pavilion upstairs, and a daybed (they call it 'sala') at the end of a long boardwalk where you can climb down to the coral reef and go for a snorkel.
Room decor is pretty typical of Angsana resorts and they all stick to a very similar style and color scheme. After staying in a few Angsana resorts, we found the look a bit boring, but it's like that for most major hotel chains that have standardized looks across their different properties.
The villa layout is open-plan. From the main entrance, it opens to an area with a daybed, TV and a small round table with chairs. From there it leads to the main bedroom, which then leads to the bathroom area. The bathroom has a rather unusual design, with the bathtub sitting on the same marble floor as the bedroom and right next to the window, and sink areas being in the middle of the room. We found the oddly slanted sink mirrors to be unergonomic as well. If you do use the bathtub, you might want to keep your curtains closed in the bathroom as it's possible for others to look in if they are outside their villa on the pool side. However, doing so will defeat the view from the bathtub.
Angsana Velavaru provides complimentary water in the room and all in glass bottles as they try to minimize use of plastic for environmental reasons. We requested a lot of extra water bottles and we found the room well-stocked.
They were able to accommodate most other requests we had, and things we needed in the room for our kids. There were a few small things like a bottle sterilizer and bathroom stool that they didn't have, but that's understandable as this is not primarily a family resort.
Housekeeping on a platform in the middle of the ocean is bound to be a challenge, and overall it was ok. There were however some instances where housekeeping could have been better. On some occasions, they forgot to remove and replace empty water bottles, even though we put them in as visible a location as possible with their tops off to show they were empty. They also forgot to clear the trash on a few occasions. But those were minor issues which were resolved with a call to reception.
There is a floor-to-ceiling window in the shower stall and it lets you look down into the turquoise lagoon as you shower. Lower the shower blinds by two-thirds so that people walking along the walkway to their villas can't look into your shower stall. Besides, that's all you need to be able to look down into the beautiful water beneath the villa.
Even with the day curtains closed, the view is amazing. Just looking outside makes you want to go out, lie on the sunbed, soak in the view, then go for a snorkel and back to the sunbed. The infinity pool was our kids' favorite hangout.
These sunloungers and the villa's infinity pool are a great place to spend a good portion of your day. Just remember to put on lots of sunscreen. Also, we found that the water in the lagoon was sometimes warmer than the water in the pool (which was very cold at times), besides, the coral reef is where all the action takes place, so make the lagoon your primary swimming choice.
If you want to just lie down in the water while taking in the view, the far side of the pool is shallow enough to lie in. This will let you cool down in the water while soaking in the view and the sun.
Everything about the villa, especially the outdoor spaces, are there to help you relax, lie down and enjoy the spectacular view. There are just so many places to do it, in the sunlounger, on a "trampoline" type surface over the water, in the pool, on the roof of the villa, or even at the end of the jetty where the steps are to go into the lagoon there is another day bed.
Most of the outdoor wooden flooring of our villa looked like it could use a fresh coat of paint as it was pretty worn out. The wood didn't seem warped or dangerous though; it was just the aesthetics of it that could use a bit of TLC. Inside the pool, some light covers came off, and after they were put back in place by the repair guys, they came off again. Luckily it seems they were still waterproof and it wasn't actually dangerous to be in the water, but it did create some sharp edges around the lights.
None of the outdoor spaces of the InOcean Villa are kid-safe, so if you're with kids, you'll have to watch them like a hawk to make sure they don't climb over the edge as it's a steep drop into the lagoon. In fact, the resort made us sign an indemnity form saying we understood this and that we wouldn't blame them if our kids decided to try diving off the pool into the very shallow lagoon.
The main island resort is the part which has all the other stuff, such as the beach villas, spa, kids club, some restaurants (although there is one near the InOcean Villas), dive center, reception, shop and even a caged aviary with parrots. Every day around 5-6pm, there is also stingray feeding at the jetty beach by someone who works at the dive center.
For those of us staying at the InOcean Villas, we had to take a 3-minute short boat ride on the hourly shuttle boat.
The manager who greeted us on our arrival assured us that if we needed transport at other times, they would be happy to take us across. However, the truth is that every time we requested transport at other times, the staff would tell us to wait till the scheduled time, and not once could we get on a boat at other times. I feel that being a 5-star resort, they should be more flexible with ferrying guests between the main resort island and the InOcean Villas.
If you're going on the morning house-reef snorkel, they can pick you up at the InOcean Villa side as long as you register in advance. They can do the same for other tours, such as to the nearby local island, diving, etc.
The Lagoon at Angsana Velavaru
Angsana Velavaru's reef is very big, and we only snorkeled a small portion of it, which was near our villa. Our villa had the best portion of the reef. All you have to do is put on your snorkel and fins, and walk down the ladder into the water.
The part of the reef closest to the villas is very shallow, especially at low tide, and during low tide it is dangerous to go directly over that part of the reef as you'll end up scraping yourself and damaging the reef. We snorkeled over to the channel that took us to the reef wall, and that's where the reef is pristine and you can see the amazing sea life.
However, take some time to explore the reef next to the villas during high tide. The closer you are to the villas, the more damaged the coral is as it is sandy and shallow, but that's where I saw two different species of sea turtles and a large (over 1-meter long) stingray. So have a swim around it before heading to the main reef wall and on the way back, you may get some pleasant surprises.
This was the first sea turtle I got to see while snorkeling in Maldives and I was very happy to finally see one. It was quite big at maybe 80cm or so. I enjoyed swimming near it for a while and it didn't seem bothered at all or threatened by my presence. I saw this same turtle (or I think it was the same) on another day as I was snorkeling, and this time I got to see it trying to eat from the coral reef.
On a later snorkel, I saw a much smaller juvenile sea turtle, and it seemed a lot more intimidated and didn't like me too close, so I gave it some space, but didn't get any good pictures.
I was lucky to see this big stingray swimming quite close to the villas.
The coral reef at the edge of the lagoon is in great condition and a lot of it goes down quite deep on the wall. It was teeming with schools of beautiful reef fish, although most were quite small. I did some free-diving down the wall and there were bigger fish there, but it was too deep for me to free-dive to the bottom.
What I didn't see (and was looking forward to), were sharks. In some other Maldives resorts, the reefs were full of blacktip reef sharks and some nurse sharks and I had hoped to see them here, but seeing the sea turtles and stingrays more than made up for it as I hadn't seen those when snorkeling in Maldives before. If you are scared of sharks in the water, even though reef sharks are generally harmless, then perhaps not seeing them while enjoying a beautiful reef, will be something you would prefer.
If you want to use any of the resort's snorkeling equipment, they will require you to do a "test" to see if you can jump in the water with the equipment, put on the mask in the water, swim back to the jetty, and so on. This was the first time we had encountered such a thing in a resort, and while they say it is for safety, it makes it very inconvenient for guests who want to borrow snorkeling equipment.
We had our own snorkeling equipment with us, and since I am PADI-certified, I could borrow fins without needing to do this test, but if you do need equipment, you will need to plan enough time to do this test before you can get it and go snorkeling. If you don't pass the test, you will need to go on a snorkeling course (at a cost).
Angsana Velavaru's Beach
On the days when we went to the main resort island, the weather wasn't too good and the seawater was pretty silty most of the time. The main beach was empty, possibly due to the weather. That might also be because the beach villas all open up to their own private beaches which people would naturally use.
There wasn't much shade on any of the sun loungers along the beach, so when it was sunny, it could get too hot to hang out there, especially with kids. The wooden platform on the beach near the cafe looked like it could do with a bit of work - the planks were getting a bit wonky and some looked in need of replacement or repair.
We tried walking around the island along the beach as we had done in some other Maldives islands, but due to the vegetation and tides, it was impossible and we had to go back to the main path through the interior of the island.
We did manage to see some of the beaches around the islands, and they seemed to be less maintained than on other Maldivian islands where the sand is kept immaculately clean and constantly cleared of debris that washes up, but they were still beautiful.
When we wanted to use a kayak, we were told by the water sports staff that the weather wasn't good for it, even though the sea wasn't too choppy. Also, most of the water sports staff seemed very busy talking together or using their phones in the back room and when we tried to ask them about what water sports we could do, they gave us a look as if we were disturbing them and pointed us in the direction of a sign about water sports with barely a word.
The level of service here was far lower than we had experienced in the water sports centers in other Maldives resorts. In the end, we didn't get to do any water sports as the staff there, weren't really interested in giving us their time of day so we went off to do other things.
Food at Angsana Velavaru
Angsana Velavaru has 4 restaurants and bars: Azzurro on the InOcean Villa platform, Funa, Kaani and Kuredhi bar. Since we stayed in an InOcean Villa throughout our stay, we ended up eating at Azzurro most of the time because of the inconvenience of going back and forth to the main island.
For those new to the Maldives, the price of food on any resort will seem very high, but that is due to the cost of getting food shipped to the islands, wastage, etc. It's just something you have to accept when you stay in Maldives, and if you want to avoid a bill shock, just get a full-board package.
The views from the Azzurro are amazing just like the views from the InOcean Villas, and if you want to dine outdoors there are tables there too.
Azurro is supposed to be an Italian-themed restaurant and having experienced fantastic fresh food in other Maldives resorts, we had high expectations. Unfortunately, none of the food was fresh at all in any of the restaurants in Angsana Velavaru.
Even the "fresh" fish that they bought from local fishermen was immediately put in a freezer, and for anyone who is a foodie and used to fresh food, the results are very noticeable.
In other Maldives resorts, we would always ask which fish were fresh and try to eat that as the taste would be fantastic, but here, there was nothing fresh to choose from, and we had to decide which frozen protein to choose from.
We found it hard to believe that a 5-star resort like Angsana would not have any fresh food at all, especially, since it sits just 20 minutes from a local island (which we visited), and where the local's main business is fishing. You would think they could have fresh reef fish and tuna delivered daily by the islanders as even the more remote resorts do.
And, if they are going to use only frozen food, perhaps they should have made some Asian or Maldivian favorites like chicken or tuna curry. Granted, in the buffet served at the main island, there were some attempts to create those dishes, but they were just not up to the level seen in other Maldives resorts or in Asia.
This is a shame as Angsana Velavaru is a Singaporean-owned resort, and their sister resort in Maldives, Angsana Ihuru, which has only one restaurant, has delicious (though very limited) food.
Even the breakfast buffet was very disappointing. The pastries were soggy and barely edible on most days, probably due to cling-wrapping them when sending them over from the main island. The pancakes and french toast were not very nice at all, even when we asked them to make fresh ones for us. Most of the time they were over-cooked or had some other issue that could easily be avoided with better training and supervision. The ham selection at breakfast seemed to have the cheapest and worst quality hams, and overall the whole breakfast buffet looked like something from a cheap B&B and not a 5-star resort that charges over $1k per night for an InOcean Villa.
Perhaps one of the problems was there was no head chef around. In all the other resorts we stayed at, there would be at least one F&B manager doing the rounds, asking us how the food was and checking on the quality of the food served. But, in the 6 days we stayed at Angsana Velavaru, we didn't see any manager going around and checking on everything.
We tried the lunch buffet at Kaani restaurant on the main island a few times and that was equally disappointing. The meat cooked from the BBQ station was tough, overcooked and lacking in flavor.
Perhaps someone who is not a real foodie would not have been bothered by this, but to us, one of the great pleasures of staying in a 5-star resort is enjoying 5-star food. This is something we feel the resort could easily improve on by hiring good head chefs and sourcing for fresh ingredients from the neighboring local island.
The service level at the restaurants was also touch and go. One or two staff tried to give a small level of service, but the majority would barely look at us when we ordered, looked the other way when we tried to call them over, and overall didn't seem enthusiastic or happy to serve. This was a far cry from the fabulous and friendly service experienced in other Maldives resorts.
Perhaps the funniest of all is the sign that greets you when you enter any of the restaurants. It's a tacky, yellowing, laminated sheet of paper with a patronizing message about how you shouldn't dress, and what you shouldn't do. This really turn-off sign makes the restaurant seem like a cheap diner serving drunk tourists. It doesn't befit a 5-star resort sitting on a platform in the middle of the ocean. Why they have it at all is baffling.
Angsana Velavaru's Kids Club
Another reason for staying at Angsana Velavaru was that it has a kids club. It is small, but has some toys, a TV and a little playground next to it. Our kids did enjoy their times there, but since it was so small they would get bored pretty fast. Also, when there were more than a few kids inside, it would feel pretty crowded. But, the main issue is that it is really understaffed with only one person to handle it, and that person has to help out in reception if there are no kids at the kids club.
If you want to leave a kid under 3 unattended, you need to use their paid babysitting service, but due to limited staff, it's important to book well in advance. We tried getting it at the last minute on one occasion and they said they couldn't arrange it. The only time we could make use of it was when we requested it a day in advance.
There were no cooking or baking activities for kids here. Our boys had really liked making pizza, cookies and brownies at the kids clubs in other Maldives resorts, and this was something they missed doing in Angsana Velavaru.
The Spa at Angsana Velavaru
If you've been to a spa at an Angsana (or Banyan Tree) resort, then you'll find the spa at Angsana Velavaru to be pretty similar. The entrance and waiting room is indoor and air-conditioned which is nice on a hot day. You choose the package you want from a plastic sheet book with printed options inside. Plastic laminated sheets seem to be the norm in Angsana Velavaru with restaurant menus using laminated or plastic sheets with printed pages inside.
The outdoor treatment rooms are in bamboo pavilions. The shower stall was very old and rusty and looked like it hadn't been thoroughly cleaned for quite some time. The flooring in the shower area had black sticky tape marking the boundaries, which gave a sense of being in a rundown place.
Overall the facilities seemed quite dated, especially after we had enjoyed the very modern facilities in other luxury resorts in Maldives, where the treatment room overlooks the turquoise lagoon.
To someone who rarely goes to a spa or hasn't been to a Banyan Tree/Angsana spa before, then it might be no big deal. However, since we go to spas quite frequently, the look and feel of Angsana Velavaru spa fell below our expectations, although the massage was relaxing.
Angsana Velavaru has a beautiful lagoon and a platform over it where the InOcean Villas are located. It's a shame they don't have spa facilities over the water with views down to the gorgeous lagoon.
Angsana Velavaru - Bottom Line
We recommend going to Angsana Velavaru just for the amazing snorkeling and abundant marine life. If you are looking for good food, you'd be disappointed though.
We enjoyed snorkeling in the Angsana Velavaru lagoon immensely and would love to snorkel there again. The InOcean Villas were spacious and are well-suited for both honeymooners and families alike.
However, there needs to be an improvement in the food and service level overall to convince us to go and stay in Angsana Velavaru again, given that there are many other luxury resorts in Maldives. Angsana Velavaru resort has a lot of potential, but it feels quite neglected.