RECOGNISED AS A PARADISAL HONEYMOON DESTINATION, THE MALDIVES IS MORE THAN JUST POWDER WHITE SAND AND CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS TEEMING WITH MARINE LIFE. FACT’S DAVID TAPLEY SPENT FOUR DAYS AT THE BEAUTIFUL COCO BODU HITHI RESORT ON THE NORTH MALE ATOLL, BUT RATHER THAN TAKING TO THE WAVES FOR SNORKELLING AND MARINE ADVENTURES, HIS FEET WERE PLANTED FIRMLY ON LAND.
Our visit to the Maldives coincided with a residency by acclaimed Chef Colin Clague who avid readers will know as the Executive Chef of Rüya Dubai. The culinary adventure at the stunning Coco Bodu Hithi Resort included a masterclass in which we learned to make Rüya’s signature Levrek. A dish of sea bass sashimi with mustard, apple, and shaved radish (the key is a cold plate and top quality fish). The informal masterclass taught us the basics as we assisted in bringing Turkish cuisine to the shores of Coco Bodu Hithi.
The island itself represents a slice of paradise with its reef fringed waters, palm tree flanked beaches, and memorable Maldivian sunsets – we were delighted to play the role of castaways, albeit with a somewhat luxurious slant, while exploring the small island.
Offering a number of accommodation options and a total of 100 villas, the picture-postcard expectation of the Maldives would usually involve an over-water villa but we’d highly suggest considering the Island Villa as an alternative. Offering direct access to the ocean via an exclusive patch of the private beach, the island villas are much larger, clocking in at a more than generous 188sqm. The ideal island retreat, these open-plan villas encompass a spacious master bedroom featuring a comfortable kingsized bed, a sunken living area with wrap around couch and flat-screen television. Plus separate WC and shower areas. In the middle of the space lies a deep circular bathtub which is almost as appealing as the private pool.
The pool provides a more expansive body of water than expected and represents more than just a space to plunge. Boasting a depth and length that allows guests the chance to actually to swim. Located within a courtyard planted with lush vegetation, the first of two outdoor areas that flank the villa blends seamlessly into the surrounding jungle where fruit pats flap overhead and lizards dart about in search of shade. A pair of sun loungers, an elevated daybed situated over the pool on a raised dais and an outdoor shower complete the picture of privacy. When compared to the over-water villas, the pool in these island villas is not overlooked, making it a preferential option for those in search of complete isolation.
A beachfront terrace includes a small deck that bridges the area between vegetation and sand and affords glimpses of the turquoise ocean through the shaded tree-line, while presenting direct access to the beach and its warm shallow waters filled with blacktip reef sharks and skittish crabs.
With pretty thatched roofs, each villa has been designed using traditional Maldivian materials which add a rustic simplicity to the charming castaway feel. Yet a sense of luxury prevails with guests’ needs easily catered for in a villa that you’ll most likely not want to leave for the duration of your stay.
Six restaurants and bars ensure that Coco Bodu Hithi encourages guests to partake in a culinary journey around the island during the course of their stay. Dining options include elevated wine lofts or upon wooden platforms suspended above the waves while watching the sun sink below the horizon. Coco Bodu Hithi represents the epitome of destination dining with a number of cuisines represented. The international buffet at Air overlooks the tranquil infinity pool, where blue waters blend with both the ocean and the sky to create an unforgettable colour palette.
Sushi and sashimi come from the small but impressive sushi bar at Tsuki. While finedining restaurant Stars boasts unrivalled views of the night sky, which if you dine on a clear day will likely leave you awe-struck. Latitude is the place to go for light bites and poolside snacks – think salads, sandwiches and pizzas accompanied by a cheeky cocktail (or two).
A twice-weekly beachside BBQ is offered at Breeze, allowing guests to dine on fresh seafood with their toes in the sand. Or for those looking to embrace true Maldivian privacy and exclusivity, in-villa dining is offered. Complete with floating breakfast trays for the ultimate Instagram snap.
Our preference for dining would be seafood spot Aqua. Fully embracing the elemental name and the theme of water, the menu usually revolves around shellfish and sunsets but the night we dine re-connects us with Chef Colin Clague for a specially curated six-course menu of Anatolian flavours.
Having worked as part of the opening team at Dubai’s Burj Al Arab and high-end Japanese izakaya concept Zuma, Clague’s penchant for flavour and quality ingredients is enviable and we’re impressed at the consistency of the dishes and how they’re identical in taste to their Dubai counterparts, despite the notorious difficulties surrounding the sourcing of ingredients in the Maldives.
The menu boasted six of Rüya’s most popular dishes including 300-day grain-fed beef with a robust Turkish coffee and isot rub, the moreish filo-wrapped feta cheese Borek and (our personal favourite), Firin Sutlaç – a traditional Anatolian rice pudding enhance via sweet lokum and the subtle use of rose.
Located on a wooden boardwalk that seemingly hovers above the calm waters of the Indian Ocean that is alive with turtles and stingrays, lies the Coco Spa. Six overwater pavilions make for soothing treatment rooms for both individuals and couples and provide the ideal location to focus on wellbeing and selfrenewal. The glass floors within the treatment rooms add a nice touch and the underwater world with its abundance of marine life makes for a serene visual to accompany massage rituals and beautifying body therapies. The Spa area also features a sauna and steam room, yoga studio and a small but adequate fitness centre. Again, privacy is a priority and all spa treatments are also offered in-villa to ensure complete comfort and discretion for guests.
Dotted around the perimeter of the sandy island is the water sports centre where complimentary kayaks and snorkelling equipment can be used to navigate the crystal clear waters. Motorised water sports such as jet-skiing wake-boarding and catamaran sailing are offered at an additional fee. The dive centre is a hub of activity and is frequented by most visitors to the island for both PADI certification and excursions. For Coco Bodu Hithi is renowned for its spectacular and wellpreserved house reef, home to fascinating coral caverns filled with colourful fish.
Tennis courts, a meeting room, small boutique, and the marine biology centre also feature prominently amongst the sandy pathways of the island. The beauty of a resort like Coco Bodu Hithi is accessibility. A brief speedboat ride brings guests to the pristine island paradise from Malé. With so many resorts in the Maldives vying for the attention of holidaymakers, the ease of transit is a make or break decision when it comes to choosing a resort. Combine this with the flawlessly appointed villas and eclectic dining options, staying at Coco Bodu Hithi is a no brainer. ✤
GO: VISIT WWW.COCOCOLLECTION.COM/EN/BODU_HITHI FOR RESERVATIONS AND MORE INFORMATION.