over water

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 Despite the resort being twelve years old, it's not outdated.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/