Review — “May I help you unpack Madam?” asks Mahon my handsome private butler from Chennai, India. I hold up my daypack and flippers, that’s all I’ve brought. “Should I open the champagne for you?” he says pointing to a bottle of Taittinger chilling in an ice bucket in the living room of my overwater residence. I check my watch. It’s 11:30 am, but hey why not, I’ve got nothing else to do other than cool down in my private infinity plunge pool on the spacious split-level deck or maybe slip on the flippers and check out the fine house reef right outside my villa. But before I do anything that adventurous I check out the villa itself, which is the size of a small house. There’s an extensive pillow menu on my bedside table, yes, a pillow menu, the curtains in front of my oversized bed can be controlled by remote control and, on request, Mahon will fill the massive bathtub that overlooks the turquoise lagoon with a luxurious bath, to go with the French bubbles I am about to taste.
Coco Bodu Hithi in the North Malé atoll, a 40 minute speedboat ride from the airport, is your classic Maldivian luxury resort. Only, it just got better. In May of this year, the Escape Water Residences were re-launched as the new Coco Residences with a private butler service who completes your check-in and check-out in the villa and will discreetly look after you throughout your stay. This is all about making you experience all-out luxury.
The residences are located on their own oval shaped over-water pier, away from the rest of the resort, but close to Stars, the restaurant, library and bar reserved for guests of Coco Residences, who are entitled to complimentary tea, coffee and desserts served on this private deck in the late afternoon, and complimentary spa treatments and yoga sessions.
Before I am tempted to pour myself another glass of French champagne, I make my way to the overwater spa, which sits on its own pier adjacent to Coco Residences in a small cluster that includes the over-water gym and yoga space.
I ask Po, my masseuse from Thailand, to throw a few traditional Thai stretches into my Balinese oil massage, because I know my body will love it. “You very tense,” she says. I know. It’s from too much sitting, and too much working. Po smiles. She’s seen it all before. Her nimble hands work magic on my body. She kneads, pummels and, I’ve asked for it, cracks my body until my bones feel like soft jelly. My mind, lulled by the sound and sight of lapping waves underneath my massage table, has surrendered to a state of peaceful bliss. It’s taken one hour, and I am miles away from work.
From Coco Spa it’s a few steps and you are inside the cooling jungle. Mahon appears out of nowhere in a buggy offering me a lift, but I feel so re-energised after the best massage I’ve had in a long time, I want to take it all in on my own time and on foot. And quite frankly, it feels just a little overindulgent to have my private butler chauffeur me around an island that is about 400 meters long and 300 meters wide.
There are 100 villas on Bodu Hithi Island, but you wouldn’t know it as the Island Villas are discreetly hidden by the vegetation and the Water Villas, which come in 3 distinct categories, are little islands on stilts onto themselves.
The lobby, a sand floored building with thatched roof oozing island vibe, is crowded with Chinese tourists busy checking out of their Water Villas and into their Island Villas or vice versa. “It’s how they choose to experience the resorts,” says office manager Frank Jerusalem. “Europeans would protest if you’d ask them to pack their bags halfway through their holiday to move to another villa. But the Chinese get so excited, they want to experience everything.” He’s showing me through an Island Villa, which has two distinct outdoor areas. The one facing the kingsized bed, has a private pool and daybed, the other, facing the sunken living area, is a private deck fringed by tropical vegetation. You can just glimpse the ocean through it, the beach is meters away via a private jungle path. I am ready to pack my bags. It’s love at first sight. Next time, I’ll have to do as the Chinese do and try several room categories.
And for such a small island there are an astonishing seven bars and restaurants. I sip a mango daiquiri sundowner in the Latitude cocktail bar by the infinity pool before I make my way across to Aqua, which as the name suggests, is an over-water restaurant that serves modern Asian seafood. The tuna tartare is a spicy surprise and the grilled catch of the day melts in my mouth.
On the jungle path, just outside the restaurant sits Mahon in his buggy, waiting to take me home. I have no idea how he knew I was dining here, but I am grateful for the lift. Did I say it felt overindulgent to be chauffeured around such a small island? Well, I take it back.
The next day, I go from private butler to private snorkel guide. Jesse is a twenty-something Marine Biology student from Jersey on his second internship at Coco Bodu Hithi. He just loves it here. And what’s not to love. The speedboat takes us to Turtle Point, 5 minutes away. The coral here is amongst the best I’ve seen in the Malé atoll and there are plenty of fish. Jesse has brought the super-sized underwater camera, just in case we see a turtle.
For the past two years the resort has run a turtle identification project, led by the resident marine biologist Chiara Fumagalli, who is in charge of all the marine biology centres of Coco Collection. Over 150 hawksbill turtles and one green sea turtle have been identified so far through the distinctive scale patterns on both sides of their heads, the equivalent a human fingerprint. Guests are encouraged to participate by taking photographs of both sides of the head and reporting sightings. And if a guest finds a new turtle, they have the honor of naming it. The Marine Biology Centre at Bodu Hithi will keep guests updated with photos, creating memories that last forever.
On this occasion we don’t see any turtles but that’s ok, I’ve seen plenty. Instead we see two spotted eagle rays gliding gently through the water. We swim alongside them for what feels like an eternity. Jesse is excited. That was a very exclusive encounter he says.
What can I say, Bodu Hithi does exclusive luxury all the way.