There is always a memory, from every luxury hotel that the gal visits. At Maalifushi by COMO, Maldives, it is probably the spa therapist walking towards you, from her treatment room. She holds a royal blue umbrella over her head, not because of the rain but because of gorgeous, beat-down-on-you sun. Spas are about betterment of body and soul, not allowing you to frazzle like a strip of bacon. The ideal recovery after any long flight is a good spa session – emphasis on the word ‘good’, by the way. And this one certainly works.
Getting to Maalifushi is, frankly, not exactly easy. Fly into Male, and hope you do not arrive a few minutes after Emirates and/or Singapore Airlines. Immigration can be a nightmare. Having a ‘fast track’ priority card from your airline does not help – I found the fast track line slowest of all. A tip I found out later; stand in the furthest right of the foreigners’ lines, next to the Maldives passport line. If you are lucky, when that line rushes through, you just might be called over. Anyway, once through, COMO’s superb greeter Zanesh meets you, takes you 300 yards to the domestic terminal, checks you in for your Maldivian Dash-8 flight to Thimarafushi, an airport on a tiny island, where you transfer, via a minibus from tarmac to water, to the hotel’s own boat, for a 25-minute ride to the island (Sam, the onboard minder, hands out water, and sweet-smelling iced towels).
There is the resort, occupying one 800 x 200 metre island in Thaa Atoll. Thanks to modern communication (and connectivity in the Maldives, even at sea, seems to be great), the resort GM, Andrew Drummond, is personally waiting to meet you all. There are 66 villas here, called bungalows. For most space, choose 406 or 408, both 4,000 sq ft over-water villas, with two bedrooms each. Personally I prefer being on dry land as there is more privacy. 203, therefore, was perfect, set on an absolutely private bit of beach with a walkway, through pandan and magu and other undergrowth, to the shared beach.
I had a pool big enough for a few laps, just to myself and no-one could see me. My villa had stunning ceilings, like origami – this is one of many unique points here. Outside, all buildings, villas and shared facilities, look normal-thatch, though the thatch is actually long-life, from Indonesia. Inside, the roofs are angled and twisted and turned, as if perfected by an origami master (the designer is in fact Japanese, Koichiro Ikebuchi). I lay on my bed, a four-poster with thin gauze curtains, and looked at my ceiling, and its fan. And then I stirred myself, to get up and start doing things
Generalisations about the Maldives certainly include getting to and from resorts. Some are close enough for speedboat yachts. Other resorts use seaplanes, currently a monopoly, owned by the American biggie, Blackstone (although Island Aviation, which runs Maldivian, has, with the help of hotel entrepreneur B.S. Ong, who owns this and eight other Maldives resorts, already got four seaplanes ready for final permits to offer an alternative). Positive generalizations include magnificent activity offerings, with unlimited water sports, professional diving and surfing, and so on. There is a party of 20 Tropicsurf enthusiasts, aged up to about 55, here right now – I watch some, at breakfast, and they go for green waterfall health drinks, yoghurt and eggs (this is a far cry from the days when 14th century traveller Ibn Batuta came to the islands, and lived off dried fish, and vermicelli of colocasia – elephant ear – cooked in coconut milk).
The food today, in the Maldives, is sensational, especially here. I was, with great pride, shown this luxury resort’s own garden, with rows of cucumbers next to fruitful papaya trees, and herbs galore. Gosh I ate well (thank goodness for my pool, and the LifeFitness gym, open from 6 a.m., to provide workouts between culinary sessions, and among the many free activities are two, hour-long daily yoga and fitness classes). We decided on Japanese, for dinner. This is an over-water restaurant, with a big outdoor bar for pre-meal cocktails, before moving inside to sit up at the sushi and sashimi preparation. Two Thais were slicing as wafer-thin as any I have seen in Tokyo, but while they finished their gorgeous platter someone brought an amuse, a single oyster with a passionfruit coulis. Sashimi, and tempura, and Japanese salad over, back home I found tomorrow’s schedule. There is certainly no need to be bored here – they even have movie evenings, popcorn included.