I Should Cocoa: Magnificent Maldives


Since when has the weather ever affected the British ability to enjoy a holiday? Not in Blightly, not so in the Maldives, as Leo Bear discovers…

Putting down towels to stem the flow of water gushing in under the door of my villa was the last thing I expected to be doing in the Maldives. Snorkelling with stingrays, maybe. Posing on the back of a yacht, sipping juice from a coconut? Yes. But battling the elements and fearing for my life? No.

But so it was. The wind was howling, the roof of my villa was rattling and water was creeping towards the edge of bed. I was holed up in my sumptuous over-water villa like a modern-day millionaire and I was starting to panic. Dialling ‘0’, I asked about a potential evacuation plan and was told to ‘stay put until further notice’, which is code for ‘it’s not safe for us to send someone to your room’ – I later learned that golf buggies can be blown into the lagoon during high winds.

Now this situation might sound bad, but believe it or not, it’s not the worst of it. My misfortune began before I’d even left Blighty. One of my best friends from childhood was due to be joining me on my Maldivian adventure, meeting me at Malé airport from her base in New York. She and I had spent our formative years together; drunkenly celebrated our 18th birthdays, inter-railed around Europe, and I was at her side when she walked up the aisle to marry a Lord. Naturally, since her exodus to the Big Apple, we’d seen little of one another, so it was with girlish excitement that I anticipated our reunion. As the redbrick houses of Croydon flashed past on my way to Gatwick, I was picturing the two of us cocktail-in-hand on a white-sand beach laughing about old times. Then I got the text message. The text message of DOOM. My long-lost best friend had missed her flight and no further seats were available. I was heading to paradise solo…


Happily, I discovered it’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself on Cocoa Island – even when your visit meets with the tail end of the monsoon. In fact, I was delighted to be there on my own. No compromises, no one to answer to, no snoring… A quick 15-minute saunter around the perimeter of the island revealed a type of laidback simplicity I’d not encountered in years. Nothing complicated. Nothing OTT. Just a bar. A restaurant. And a spa.

Sleeping on this dream island isn’t an option though. All 33 of the resort’s thatched villas stand side by side on stilts over a glittering lagoon the colour of Bombay Sapphire. Built to look like traditional dhonis (boats) – portholes and all – many have two storeys lending an impressive sense of space. Inside, sun-bleached wooden decks, whitewashed walls and tongue-in-groove panelling invoke a Hamptons-style elegance while handmade woven placemats, sea shells and naval ornaments lend a warmer local feel. Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the downstairs living area make the most of the ocean views, while a bedroom tucked away on the first floor ensures total privacy.

As you would expect, a high percentage of visitors to the Maldives are honeymooners and people tend to keep themselves to themselves, but here on Cocoa Island, I found my fellow islanders happy to chat – admittedly mostly about the weather. But more of that later.

Mealtimes are a highlight. Stick to the ultra-healthy Como Shambhala menu and you can go to bed with a crystal-clear conscience. Dishes are packed with living enzymes, vitamins and minerals; veggies arriving raw, steamed or spiralised, layered like origami – and meat and fish grilled to perfection. These holier-than-thou options are all part of the larger Como experience, also found in Bali, Turks and Caicos, Bhutan, Miami and London – each resort a beacon for modern holistic wellness. Watch out though, the combination of polished rustic décor and clever forward-thinking is a seductive one – you may well find yourself booking your next Como suite while under the spell of the one you’re in, as many of my fellow guests did.


But what of the rain I hear you cry? Well, it started on my first afternoon and it didn’t abate. By day three, the wind had died down enough for me to push open the door of my villa, allowing me to slosh down a sandy path lined with glossy wet magu leaves and fallen branches over to the spa. Opting for the longest, most luxurious treatment on the menu, the Como Shambhala bath (120mins), I felt I deserved it. And what a treat it was. Combining a shudderingly deep scrub (using Shea butter, almonds, coconut and macadamia nuts) followed by a soak in a bubble bath, with a one-hour deep tissue massage, my Balinese therapist Tari left me gurgling like a baby. I was in such a state of blissful abandon, I couldn’t have cared less about the rain. And guess what? On day four the sun came out.

Carrier (0161 492 1358, www.carrier.co.uk) offers seven nights for the price of five at Cocoa Island by Como from £2,580 per person based on two adults sharing a Dhoni Suite, including breakfast, return flights from London Heathrow with Emirates and speedboat transfers.

For more information about Cocoa Island, including details of rates and offers, a destination guide and more sumptuous photography, visit www.comohotels.com.

Follow Leo on Twitter @leobear