IS­LAND time

VOGUE Living Australia - - Concierge -

‹‹ This far-flung car­canet of 1200 is­lands, only 200 of which are in­hab­ited, re­ally does live up to the cliché of a trop­i­cal par­adise. Co­coa Is­land in par­tic­u­lar cap­tures the imag­i­na­tion by tap­ping into a child-like de­light for mag­i­cal hide­aways and pure es­capism. It’s small — it takes only 10 minutes to walk from point to point — but idyl­lic; a se­cluded white gold gem.

My ex­pan­sive villa, built over a shal­low turquoise la­goon, feels lux­u­ri­ously airy and pri­vate de­spite be­ing one of 33 sim­i­lar struc­tures all linked by el­e­vated bleached-wood walk­ways. Be­neath the ka­jan thatch roof, the interior is white and Min­i­mal­ist but warm, wel­com­ing and richly tex­tured with nat­u­ral wood and stone fin­ishes, teak floors and tatami mats, and hand­made tex­tiles from nearby Sri Lanka. This is high-end, low-key lux­ury at its best, ex­pertly cu­rated by Como’s founder Christina Ong, the Sin­ga­porean bil­lion­aire who has built not one but two lux­ury re­sorts in the Mal­dives — Como Co­coa Is­land and its slightly larger and newer sib­ling, Como Maal­i­fushi — as part of her sta­ble of only 14 prop­er­ties world­wide. The fa­mously pri­vate Mrs Ong has, with her daugh­ter Melissa Ong (the ‘mo’ in Como), es­tab­lished a per­sonal brand of lux­ury around a golden trin­ity of stun­ning nat­u­ral lo­cales, im­pec­ca­ble yet dis­creet ser­vice, and first-class cui­sine un­der­pinned by an ethos of bal­ance and well­ness that goes un­der the ti­tle of Como Shamb­hala — a con­cept that em­braces a suite of holis­tic treat­ments and ther­a­pies. On Co­coa Is­land, for me, Shamb­hala is all about the hy­drother­apy ses­sion, an ex­pe­ri­ence that verges on the bib­li­cal. I also try out the daily med­i­ta­tion, com­pli­men­tary yoga and the healthy or­ganic menu op­tion in the re­sort’s res­tau­rant, Ufaa, which trans­lates as ‘happy’ in the lo­cal Dhivehi lan­guage. The beauty of Shamb­hala is that ev­ery­thing is op­tional. If your idea of bal­ance, like mine, is a morn­ing yoga ses­sion book­ended by an evening cock­tail, then this is for you. To truly im­merse my­self in the full Mal­dives ex­pe­ri­ence and the mag­nif­i­cence of this part of the In­dian Ocean, I take the spec­tac­u­lar 60-minute sea­plane ride south to Co­coa’s re­mote sis­ter is­land, Como Maal­i­fushi. My host, gen­eral man­ager Pi­etro Ad­dis, warmly greets me on the jetty, and ush­ers me into a golf buggy. Pass­ing se­cluded gar­den and beach vil­las, I ar­rive at an over­wa­ter suite ele­gantly cu­rated in Como’s sig­na­ture un­der­stated lux­ury by Ja­panese interior de­signer Koichiro Ike­buchi. At my door is a bi­cy­cle, the pre­ferred mode of travel on the is­land (there are no cars). And it’s here on Maal­i­fushi, lan­guidly cy­cling down white sandy tracks shaded by lush palm for­est dot­ted crim­son with hi­bis­cus, that I find my per­sonal def­i­ni­tion of pure, unadul­ter­ated joy. There are three restau­rants on the is­land, in­clud­ing the Ja­pane­sein­spired Tai, perched over the ocean with a view­ing plat­form where you can watch baby nurse sharks cruis­ing below. For the ac­tiv­i­ty­in­clined sun­set b among essence changin where yo

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