This was a day, recalls the gal, of three boats, two planes, one buggy, one bus and one car. Let us get it straight, this transfer from one luxury resort to another. Wake up at COMO Maalifushi, Maldives, swim and breakfast. Buggy to the hotel’s dock, to be seen off by GM. Speedboat to pontoon, to board awaiting Twin Otter (Maldivian) to fly just under an hour to Male. Immediate bus, or minibus actually, around the entire airport complex to the main terminal. Check-in for flight. Fly to Doha. VIP-ed through Maha welcome, car to ferry port, board catamaran – see above – for 25-minute regular service to Banana Island. Met by GM and management team, another boat across the lagoon, and then – actually via a second buggy – to villa 6008.
Banana Island is a natural, banana-shaped island, 30 acres in all. Sprawling from one end to the other is the one resort, run by Anantara. There are 141 rooms, in three-floor blocks, land-set pool villas – very popular with Middle East families – and in over-water villas. What, I wondered, differentiates these over-waters from the ones in the Maldives? Well, the boardwalks here have high railings, as shown (in the Maldives, there are no railings at all). Here, too, the hanging rail in the closets is at least six feet high, to accommodate the full-length white dish-dash robes of local men who might, apparently, be basketball players.
This is very much a resort for local people, and visitors from Saudi Arabia and others who want an alcohol-free environment. Especially at weekends the place is packed, with all rooms taken. Visitors come over for the day, for the artificial surfboard centre, the two movie-theatres showing non-stop free films. There is indoor bowling, two outstanding gyms (one male, one female – with sudoku), and a wellness centre that offers detox and weight loss as well as fish-nibbling foot therapy (there is also a loop-shaped narrow and shallow canal that offers more therapy as you walk through). The eating choices are enormous, including a very popular chocolate centre right next to the wellness and weight loss place.
I had an Arabic dinner, and on the way home passed an engagement dinner, a local man and his lady love under a very-public gazebo on the beach. Next morning, my buggy driver was there at 5.15 to drive me the full length of the island to the gym, and at 7.30, on the German dot, there was the GM, Thomas Fehlbier, who had brought along his two lovely ladies for a very-European breakfast, when parents had boiled eggs and superb croissants filled with the best smoked salmon in the land, chosen after multi-tastings, apparently. The even-younger generation joined me in fried eggs, going for the brown organic rather than the less-exotic white eggs. And then my driver awaited, and it was back to the boat, and the mainland, and leaving this unique Qatari luxury resort for the real world. NOW SEE THE VIDEO OF OVER-WATER VILLA 6008