MAALIFUSHI, COMO HOTELS

Splash! An arrival totally appropriate for Maalifushi by COMO. My seaplane, a short 50 minute flight from Male over countless spits of sand, reef and sea, was the beginning of my trip to the ultimate adventure island.

Greeted at the jetty, within minutes my check in was done and I was whisked off in a buggy to my over-water suite.

Suites face sunset or sunrise in a clam-shaped layout and are light and paired back. Limed furniture and draped four poster beds have you waking up feeling fresh. Stepping outside there's a plunge pool, thatched sala and an outdoor shower for peaceful private moments.

There's a room type for every traveller at Maalifushi. The two bedroom COMO villa boasts dining spaces both indoors and outdoors, multiple lounges and a reading room. It's just right for a pair of holidaying couples.

On land there are garden suites, similarly furnished for those wanting an on-island feel and a two-storey, four bedroom COMO residence. The white-on-white residence comes with a kitchen and full sized pool and could accommodate families comfortably (an incredibly awesome family holiday mind you).

Kids and adults alike cool off on the beachfront pool which backs on to the bar and restaurant. The beach itself is pristine and home to the house reef, full of marine life.

The main restaurant at Maalifushi offers a range of options from Maldivian, Italian and modern cuisine, executed well by COMO's chefs. Breakfast is a little too good with ricotta pancakes with salted caramel and banana. Healthier choices are available like silken scrambled eggs and almond porridge if you're so inclined.

COMO's Shambhala menu is available throughout the resort with fresh and nourishing options. The Big Salad, overflowing with vegetables and a sesame dressing was moorish and crunchy. Washed down with their pressed juices, I was energised for the afternoon's activities.

On Tuesday's and the weekends Tai, the Japanese over-water restaurant, opens and serves up locally sourced fresh fish. Traditional small plates of Wagyu tataki, tempura shrimp, soba noodles and sushi use modern flavours and could have been mistaken for a New York style Nobu establishment if not for the house Sting Ray floating by in the ocean.

Ready to explore the reef, I whizzed over to the marine hut on the provided hipster bikes. Equipped with a straw basket, I packed my essentials and cycled barefoot from one side of the island to the other in a few minutes. Oodles of fun!

The island surf hut is staffed with pro instructors to take you out to secluded swells. For the less active book in at the dive centre for an outer reef snorkel. I had a turtle moment which made me squeal underwater with delight.

One of my Maalifushi must-do's (there are many) is the dolphin sunset cruise. The experienced marine biologists locate dolphins at feeding time and in my case they were in the hundreds. Spinner dolphins chased the boat, jumping up and spinning high in the air. I've never seen them so close and in such large numbers. Of course, in true Maalifushi style, this was done accompanied by prosecco and sushi.

If you're ready to chill out, head over COMO Shambhala spa and yoga centre. An indoor studio and outdoor pavillion hold classes daily for some "me" time. All bases are covered with a huge outdoor playground for kids to occupy their time with while you relax.

Sweeping the beach in the morning are Maldivian ladies employed by COMO as an initiative for local women who seek work. They're elegant and peaceful in their white dresses and give Maalifushi a sense of where you are in the world.

On the outside, Maalifushi is a luxury resort in the Thaa Atoll with expert design, cuisine and service. But, it's for everyone. Water activities and thrills, romance and unwinding, there's no place for boredom at Maalifushi. I didn't get to experience everything Maalifushi has to offer, because there is just so much. But that's ok, I'll be back for more soon.

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: Luxury and adventure.
ROOM PICK: Over water suite.
WIFI: Yes, complimentary.
RATES: Starting from US$990 per night including breakfast.
CHILDREN: Yes, bring them!
IN-ROOM: Bath tub, TV, international electrical outlets/USB, dining seating, lounge, deck and sun loungers, outdoor rainshower, plunge pool, walk in robe, dressing area.
MINI BAR: Water is refilled and complimentary. Daily fruit platter.
GETTING THERE: A seaplane is organised by the resort upon booking at a charge.

I stayed courtesy of COMO Hotels.
http://www.comohotels.com/maalifushi/

COCOA ISLAND, COMO HOTELS

I stumbled upon Cocoa Island by chance. More preoccupied with it's newer sister, Maalifushi, it was a last minute addition to my trip to the Maldives. Sometimes, in this case most definitely, these unexpected experiences can be some of the best.

Straight off the plane at Male, a COMO representative was waiting for my boat transfer. A short 30 minute ride and I was at a tiny spit of heaven (I could walk the perimeter of Cocoa Island in fifteen minutes). With only 33 over water suites, it's got intimacy written all over it.

Rooms are neutral and light. Despite the resort being twelve years old, it's not outdated. High ceilings, naturally finished wood and white linens are perfectly matched with the aqua view. Crystal clear, warm water is accessible from my porch and feels totally private, besides the occasional gummy shark.

Don't bother packing shoes. In fact, I kicked mine off on arrival and struggled to find them again. Hammocks and swings are dotted about the tiny island where I happily fell asleep reading the new Harper Lee novel. The sand, white and squeaky, is uninterrupted island-round, with a sand bar stretching out further than I could be bothered walking at low-tide. 

The house reef is home to some of the most vivid sea-species I've ever seen. Striped and spotted fish in yellow, blue and black swim in the hundred's below me as I snorkel for the first time. The visibility is clear as the island marine biologist guides me how to dive down, a technique I don't quite master through no fault of my teacher.

COMO, a Singaporean group with an affinity for luxury and authenticity, has implemented their holistic brand Shambhala in Cocoa's dining and spa. Shambhala's menu isn't based on counting calories but rather focuses on maximizing nutrients to increase your energy, concentration and personal well-being. Breakfast was avocado on nut seed crackers, pressed juices and raw porridge (almond meal). French toast and bacon is on hand too, just in case.

Lunch options are too many for my FOMO paranoia. Grilled chicken with quinoa and pomegranate salad and vegetarian mee goreng are all Shambhala. I'm feeling pretty good about myself even though I've eaten more than my fair share.

Dinner is buzzing, with guests from other resorts visiting to try Cocoa's highly regarded cuisine. Seafood barbeque's, Indian curries, pasta and modern dishes are balanced, well proportioned and fresh using locally caught fish and ingredients.

Suites and villas line the main boardwalk in a traditional Dhoni boat design. Separately, a small cluster of one bedroom villas are available and give extra privacy. I could sun bake and swim all day and not see a singe soul.

Cocoa Island, as with other COMO group hotels, has a comprehensive eco-policy. It strives to take great care of its local wildlife and marine life, as well as being involved with the local communities. This sort of attitude is impressive and is becoming incredibly important when considering travel these days.

Although I could quite happily do nothing at Cocoa Island, in general that sums up my stay, I wasn't short on choice for activities. Daily fish feeding, yoga and aqua therapy were all included and a long selection of off-island trips were available. My pick is the spa, where Shambhala massages are treated in private huts with a turquoise view that was incredibly peaceful and healing.

Service is impeccable and almost invisible at Cocoa Island. Daily seasonal fruit platters and water bottles miraculously appeared laid out in my room, towels were always fresh and room service is available. The staff know their guests by name and seem to love Cocoa Island. It makes the island feel just a little more special.

Without sounding cliche, Cocoa Island is the place where you'd take that special someone for long walks on the beach and to watch the sunset. It doesn't get old though. When you're this secluded with fresh food, marine life and an airy villa, it's hard to believe it ever would.

Back on my villa's deck, I discover a resident crab on the ladder leading down to the water. He scuttles out to see what I'm doing. As I float out in the water, resembling a starfish, he seems content and not threatened, edging closer. I take it as a seal of approval from Cocoa Island that I'm doing the Maldives right.

CHECKING-OUT DEBRIEF
FEEL: Shipwrecked island paradise.
ROOM PICK: One bedroom villa.
WIFI: Yes, complimentary.
RATES: Starting from US$990 per night including breakfast.
CHILDREN: Yes, although I feel this island is suited for couples.
IN-ROOM: Bath tub, TV, international electrical outlets/USB, writing desk, lounge seating, deck and sun loungers, outdoor rainshower.
MINI BAR: Disposal camera, sunscreen, chocolates, drinks. Water is refilled and complimentary.
GETTING THERE: A speed boat transfer is organised with the resort for your arrival from Male.

I stayed courtesy of COMO Hotels.
http://www.comohotels.com/cocoaisland/