Travel expert Anna Chaplin takes us to an unplugged paradise, off-the-charts cuisine, and mile upon mile of sun-drenched beaches on her favourite island in the Maldives.
As someone who struggles to sit still for more than five minutes, I thought I might find the Maldives a little tame. How wrong I was.
The rejuvenating spirit took over me as I landed at Male airport—I’m at a place where no one knows me, rendering it free for me to explore the islands and myself. I rove around with childlike wonder as that thought manifested. I lose myself in the night skies and waves lapping at my toes under the stars. My shadow falls gently to the sand, the waves lap at it, tantalising the senses, as equanimity and completeness wash over me. I took to swimming on the beach in the mornings.
Its beauty struck me as otherworldly, every bit as scenic and attractive as depicted on postcards.
The Maldives is a popular honeymoon destination, which owes its reputation to its unique setting in the middle of the warm Indian Ocean. It offers a safe haven for the newlywed as the remoteness of the island gives them a break before settling into the routine of marriage. There, couples can create indelible memories through long walks on the beaches and marvel at breath-taking sunsets. Coral reefs, marine life, and beautiful turquoise lagoons. You’ll never tire of exploring the islands with your partner. You have a plethora of activities waiting for you to fill your agenda with—romantic beach dinners, underwater night clubs, and dives to see the colourful marine life. For more adventurous couples, water activities, kite-surfing, or kayaking are also available.
For single travellers, you can heighten your senses by engaging in fun activities—perhaps the greatest act of self-care out there. We get to spend time with ourselves in an off-grid place, to disconnect from technology and rekindle our relationship with nature. In the Maldives, serenity and calm comes so naturally that it is the perfect destination for a digital detox.
Situated in the South Male Atoll, it takes 40 minutes to reach COMO Cocoa Island by boat, known to be one of the lesser-known and smaller resorts in the Maldives. It has a boutique, ship-wrecked paradise island air about it makes its presence felt, and somehow more prepossessing.
There are 34 overwater villas in place that allow you to dip into the turquoise lagoon to explore the sea-life. Built to resemble traditional dhoni boats with bleached wood and Kajan roofs, they are reached via planked walkways stretching out into the warm lagoon. The island never gives pressure to its guests the way cities impose pressure and business on its residents. The small number of people there gives a good chance of having the beach to yourself.
Cocoa Island is known for its health and wellness industry. Ufaa Maldives Restaurant in COMO features seafood and organic vegetables in novel combinations, with a medley of European and Indian flavours. Each dish is carefully prepared with the most well-sourced of raw ingredients, including the freshest possible fish.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with flexible dining to suit guests’ preferences. Cuisine features European dishes in addition to a blend of Indian and Mediterranean traditions with an emphasis on locally caught seafood, fresh produce, and COMO Shambhala healthy eating options.
The following day, we embarked on a fishing trip where we got to eat our own catch for lunch. Mine was made into a tandoori marinade, succulent and flavourful from being marinated in Greek yoghurt and marinade, complemented with earthy flavours like masala, ginger, and garlic. It is named for the cylindrical clay oven in which it is cooked—a tandoor.
My next destination was Amilla Fushi in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The name directly translates to ‘Your island home‘, and lives up to its title thanks to its welcoming atmosphere and service within its luxury villas and facilities. They are contemporary in style, resembling houses one would allude to a movie scene in a 1960s Beverly Hills movie. The interiors are minimalist, with only essential pieces arranged neatly in the room with an inviting beach-chic décor. The Ocean Reef Villa provides direct access to the stunning house reef from the private deck out the back of the villa. Spacious bedrooms allow areas for escape, to find solitude and peace.
At Feeling Koi, Amilla Fushi’s signature restaurant which sits alone above the crystalline waters, the chefs flaunt their cooking in a theatre kitchen with incomparable expertise. I particularly enjoyed sipping sundowner cocktails at the lounge bar while immersing myself in the rapturous sounds of the DJ and waves, admiring the moon rippling in them.
You can work out with the island’s resident Bodyism Personal Trainer at a spacious gym on the beach overlooking the crystal blue ocean. Amilla’s Wellness Resorts takes on a holistic approach to health and wellness, not restricted to spa, yoga, and fitness. They believe in the importance of healthy food and beverages, thus offering a range on their Clean and Lean menu. You can take part in the Clean and Lean meal plan, with personal training sessions on your very own terrace at one of the Wellness Tree Houses by Bodyism, positioned 12 metres above the ground. A highly personalised schedule for the ultimate digital detox.
For the more laid-back residents, spend your time at the Javvu Spa, composed of 10 wooden double treatment pods with a sauna, tea lounge, and a pavilion perfect for yoga and mediation activities. The Spa is also equipped with a specialist barber, hair salon, and beauty bar for manicure and pedicures. At the end of the day, you can relax even more with a drink in hand, or lose yourself in a good book while you watch the sun slip below the Indian waters from your own private villa.