Most luxury travel buffs will know that the Banyan Tree brand has been synonymous with luxury, spa-filled romance for many a year. Unfortunately, such peace-orientated bliss isn’t always compatible with a family holiday. But, fret not. Angsana is Banyan Tree’s younger, funkier (and dare I say cheaper) little sister and, in the Maldives at least, it’s possible to let the family run a little wild at an Angsana resort whilst soaking up Banyan Tree treats just a short island hop away.
Angsana Ihuru is a bite-size paradise island just 20 minutes by speed boat from Male airport, which itself is a 10 hour direct flight from London. A perfect circle, the impossibly turquoise Indian Ocean washes over white sandy beaches, which rise up to a small mound of palm trees. Nestled in those palm trees is everything you need to completely kick back at Angsana Ihuru. Thatched cabins with sandy gardens lead down to the sea; each is defined by outdoor bathrooms and pretty bedrooms. A beachside restaurant and bar serves everything from barbecued Red Snapper to spaghetti hoops – popular with little ones the world over, it seems. A shaded spa with individual and couple treatment rooms can be found and there is a Padi Gold standard dive centre offering diving, snorkelling and watersports, all just moments from the island’s house reef, complete with the full cast of Blue Planet. Holidays don’t get much easier than this.
What Angsana may lack in some facilities (there’s no pool or kids club), it makes up for in charm and simplicity so it’s absolutely family-friendly. Staff are attentive throughout and a strong eco ethos creates a natural sense of humility – refreshing when compared to some of the more brash Maldivian resorts. This is especially true when it comes to marine conservation – guests are encouraged to get involved in coral protection, coral planting and species spotting from the start.
For our weary, holiday-ready heads and over-enthusiastic toddler, a few days on Angsana Ihuru was all about settling into our little beach cabin and embarking on mini-adventures – scouring beaches for shells and crabs, running around the island in just 10 minutes, splashing about in bath-like, warm water and watching hungry reef sharks hunting from safety of the jetty.
Although there’s no formal babysitting service, several of the girls that work on the island were more than happy to watch our two year old for a couple of hours here and there, giving us the chance to snorkel, sea kayak, grab a sundowner or indulge in the spa. The proximity of everything also made it easy to capitalise on nap times, each of us taking it in turns to switch out between marine-based adventures and crashing out in the hammock.
Whether eating on our patio or in the restaurant, high chairs, bibs, cooked-to-order food and other toddler-based dining paraphernalia were always on offer. A candlelit BBQ seafood extravaganza on our own patch of beach one evening provided a welcome respite to early restaurant meals, especially when a couple of Eagle Rays joined in flapping about just meters away.
Any danger of cabin fever was easily crushed with the free ferry shuttling back and forth to the larger Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru island resort, just a mile or so away. If the boat trip alone isn’t enough entertainment for all the family, once on Vabbinfaru there are further watersports, beaches and marine life on offer. Every afternoon, the resort’s conservation-orientated Marine Lab offers ray and baby turtle feeding demonstrations alongside informative talks about the different species and conservation issues. Dining at Vabbinfaru’s Ilafathi restaurant also made a nice change to food routines – especially since the food is more upmarket than that at Angsana.
Proximity to Male makes this little island the perfect spot to soak up some Maldivian underwater adventure and beach living for a few days on the way to or back from other destinations. That said, we could have easily whiled away a whole week simply enjoying the no nonsense routine of sea, sand, sun and sleep.
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