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Why I didn’t want to go to the Maldives

June 26, 2016
A perfect beach. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Absolutely no filter

The rhythm of the sea is a constant soundtrack to everything on the island. I can hear it thwacking the concrete stilts underneath my private villa suspended over the ocean, it laps in imperfect syncopation beneath the floor of the spa where I’m having a massage, crashes lazily onto the beach, seethes and plops alongside the raised teak pathways, and even when walking on the little sand trails through the small jungle, the quiet hiss is audible in the distance. It’s the first thing I hear on waking and lulls me to sleep at night. I’m obsessed by its changing colour. Being surrounded by this much water, from clear aqua blue to deep petrol grey has me taking pictures of it at every moment. It changes and reflect the light, the sky, the clouds, the sunrays and a myriad of different influences.

So here I am on this perfect island. Even though my home for the last 16 years has been a short four-hour flight away from the Maldives, unlike so many of my friends, I have never visited. I’d never even considered it and I had to dig deep to understand why.

And here it is. I thought I might be bored. Fully aware that being bored is a deficiency in your own character rather than your environment, this is a big confession. Much has been said about the dwindling attention span of youth due to the stream of information and entertainment via a myriad of sources, but it can affect anyone. Handling multiple social media channels for my blog and for clients, plus my dependency on online information has given me the attention span of a gnat.  A gnat that landed in the Maldives (still in the grip of a flu virus).

So when faced with the prospect of four days on an island with perfect white beaches, coral filled sea and not much else, I was slightly panicked.

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.comThis is what changed my mind

My trip to Coco Bodu Hithi in the Maldives was arranged by Travel Junkie Diaries. This is an initiative inviting followers to a new destination, to travel with strangers on an adventure of a lifetime. It’s a journey to know oneself, to seek inspiration and to share it with others. It’s a tale of new friendships… but more of that later…

There is a four-hour flight to Male from Dubai courtesy of Fly Dubai. While the airline is a low-cost no frills carrier they do have a business class option with big roomy comfortable seats, loads of leg room, free in-flight entertainment and a food and drink menu with a decent amount of choice. As our flight leaves at 1.30 am, being able to sleep comfortably is a real bonus for making sure we are in good shape to enjoy our first day to the max.

The sunset from my private deck. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

The sunset from my private deck

Chilling out in my room

We step out of the airport in Male, the capital of the Maldives, board a small boat and forty minutes later are refreshed with cool towels and walking up the teak walkway in our flip-flops, stopping every five seconds to take another picture of the views. A few clouds don’t spoil it – rain is always expected at this time of year.  A short buggy ride through lush vegetation and sandy paths leads us to the first of many vistas which are straight out of a Pinterest mood board. We emerge from the leafy canopy to a sweeping white bay and teak huts on stilts, teal waves lapping around them. The Coco residences is home for the next few days.

An L-shaped space, surrounds a deck with a private infinity pool, a double sun bed and a diving point and ladder leading directly into the crystal clear sea. The view is of waves to the skyline – not a single boat, person or other man-made item interrupts it and it’s completely screened from the views of each neighbour. This is blissful private seclusion. This mesmerizing view is visible at all times; through the double doors of my bedroom and double bed; from the huge marble bath; from the cosy sitting room; from the windows by the extensive wardrobe and dressing area; even from the glass sided walk in shower room. Add in a Bose sound system and a wine fridge.  There was little to tempt me to leave this space…. ever.

Watching nature

As an early riser, I leaped out bed at dawn ready to explore. During those early hours I encountered our local heron who fished from the end of our villas. Small lizards darted over the earth paths and a variety of birds swooped and darted over and around the island.  Strolling along the beach at this hour revealed tiny transparent crabs that scurried in and out with the tide, and hermit crabs – nimble despite the cumbersome shell homes on their backs. Nadine* did this walk at night and her torch revealed huge land crabs emerging from their sandy holes. Shoals of fish were easy to spot from the walkways and then there was the snorkelling and diving with turtles and sharks. While our rooms were suspended above the water other villas were nestled into a mini jungle on the island which was a verdant tangle of planting. Elegant palms soared into the sky above the lush greenery and there were all sorts of shrubs, flowers and even a little spice plantation, to investigate. I was particularly drawn to a plant with a bushy red ‘tail’.

We were warned that rain was a probability and the changing landscape, especially for a desert dweller kept me captivated. There was thrilling thunder and a deluge of rain at one point but it soon turned into the bluest, clearest skies I have ever seen. Watching the sunrises and sunsets was a rewarding occupation for a couple of hours a day (especially the latter with a gorgeous cocktail in hand).

Snorkelling and diving

There is equipment hire, boat hire and guidance for dive trips providing on Bodu Hithi. Lisa, the resident marine biologist took us out several times and has a wealth of knowledge. Three reefs surround the island and it’s possible to walk off shore and snorkel a few metres away. The sea-life is teaming although the coral has suffered some bleaching (as it has the world over) from global warming. We took a short boat ride to an area known for turtles and saw a couple.

Another short boat ride away was completely thrilling. We put on our gear, slipped into the water, dipped our masks in… and there in dark blue water directly underneath us were a huge school of nurse sharks and stingrays. White elegant shapes flipping and gliding so close, small fish tucking in tight to the sides of the sharks for protection. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed.

Maldives-1030

Snorkelling. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Nurse sharks. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Walking

Golf buggies were available at all times to ferry you round, but I rarely used this service. While Bodu Hithi is less than half a square kilometre in size, the little paths give you a variety of routes or you could walk on the beach round the island. There was always a new sight or vista round the corner to discover and the health app on my iPhone showed that I walked over 13 km on one day.

Swimming and watersports

There is a main pool as well as the crystal clear sea surrounding the island. I visited in June when the water felt like a degree cooler than body temperature; refreshing to get into but never cold or too hot (yes this is a thing – I live in Dubai!).

Michelle took a canoe out on the waters and a group flung themselves around on a donut. Windsurfing and waterskiing was also available.

Coco spa

My knotty shoulders mean that I’ve had regular massages for most of my life. Living in Dubai where  competition makes standards so high (over 50,000 salons and spas in the UAE) always makes me nervous of trying somewhere else. I needn’t have worried. The location alone induced a feeling of calm, the private treatment room cabin had a glass side looking out to sea. My therapist clicked my back (alarming but amazing) and wrung my muscles so it was almost painful but not quite. I loved it. Everyone in the group came back raving about their treatments too.

Inside the Coco spa. The infinity pool. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Yoga

There was a yoga teacher who led sunrise and sunset sessions. I’d packed my gear and was ready to yoga. However, we cancelled all our sessions as we didn’t have time to fit it in! I know, I know… but that just tells you how busy we were. If I was there for longer than four days I would have done sun salutations with the best of them.

Gym

Watch this video to see why this is probably one of the best views from a gym ever. It very, nearly tempted me in.

Coco Bodu Hithi - Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Our rooms

Food and drink

Or should I say eating and drinking. The Maldives is a series of atolls and islands so they don’t produce any produce, coconuts expected, and everything is imported – mainly from Dubai. For such a tiny resort there were a surprising range of options. We started each day with a buffet breakfast at Air, overlooking the sea and infinity pool of course. There was loads of choice including lots of healthy fruit, juices and Bircher muesli. We could have eaten a la carte in Stars on our pier, ordered room service or even booked an early morning fishing trip complete with breakfast.

Our favourite lunch spot was Latitude right by the pool, with comfortable rattan chairs and a sand floor. Grazing food like nachos, pizza and some good salads kept us going. At night we never ate in the same place twice, with Thai food at Aqua, sushi (plus an excellent wine list) at the Wine Library and a sumptuous barbecue cooked at one of the villas being highlights.

Our regular sundowner spot became Stars where Gautham, who acted as our own personal concierge, also whipped up a mean cocktail.

Tuna steak for lunch. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Coco cinema

After supper one night, a screen was rigged up on the beach; loungers, drinks and popcorn provided, so we could watch a movie under the stars. Coco comes up with all sorts of tailored activities like this which go down a storm with the many honeymooners who come to the island, but they can create things for groups too, such as a scavenger hunt for us.

Sunsets and sunrises

As alluded to earlier, watching the arrival and departure of the sun was something we treasured, in many alternative ways. At certain times of the year you can travel by boat to a sand bank in the middle of the sea, although it was under water at the time of our visit. We did go on a sunset cruise and watched a dramatic black cloud overwhelm the sky, glass of bubbles in hand. Another evening we jumped from the private deck of one of our rooms and saw the water around us turn pink. Moonlight cruises were available too.

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Sunrise

Sunset from my deck. Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Sunset from my deck

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Friendships and inspiration

As for the aim of this Travel Junkie Diary initiative to make friends and learn from other people, any scepticism about this lofty aim was blown out of the water by the incredible women I shared this trip with. I returned from the Maldives, my spirit lifted, gales of laughter still ringing in my ears and with a renewed sense of purpose ignited by the examples of these generous, talented go-getters. Do check them out, you will be rewarded. In no particular order:

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Live Loud Girl

I’ll admit I was rather nervous about going away with bloggers who were outside my comfortable sphere of food. Looking at Linda’s Instagram offered no solace. Clean minimalism, impeccable taste and then she arrived at the airport in a chic dress and perfect white Stan Smiths. However there was clue in the name and her anarchic sense of humour and unrestrained guffaws blew any trepidation out of the water. Her clear vision, military organisational skills and creative talents are seriously inspiring – she’s in Saudi right now unpacking a whole container for a whole house styling project. Her Snapchat is seriously hilarious. I just hope she never sees the state of my desk! Live Loud Girl

Glory Girl Fit

*At the Stylist Arabia Social Media Awards, I saw a bronzed, beautiful girl with an incredible figure and a massive smile claim the fitness category prize. Make no mistake, Nadine works very hard for everything she achieves and looks for good in every situation and everybody. Her enthusiasm for life is totally infectious and she was bouncing around like a Duracell bunny or doing backflips into the pool when the rest of us were indulging in downtime. She’s not at all puritanical (before I met her I dreaded healthy eating mantras where major food groups are the devil incarnate), and promotes strength, activity and health rather than weight loss. The more I got to know her, the more I realised what a genuinely good and kind person she is.  She’s inspired me to be more focused and motivated about my own fitness. GloryGirlFit

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

I’m Anna Roberts

The professionalism of Anna just blew me away. She was never, ever without her tripod and had a clear plan of the range of shots she wanted to take each day. Every evening she edited and scheduled a beautifully made video, brilliant capsules of memories and highlights. Day one, day two, day three and day four here, plus check out her new website – a media platform for ambitious and career oriented women.

Alabaster Fox

Adrianna travelled from Poland to join our trip and took the bravest step into the unknown. Don’t be fooled by her cool, elegant images, she was utterly beguiled by the whole experience and got ridiculously excited about macarons and french fries! Most photographers spend years trying to develop their own unique personal style, but she has certainly found hers; impressive for someone so young.  Delve into her Instagram to see a naturally good eye for beauty and composition in full force.

Maya Toubia

“I thought the way you all took so many photographs of everything was a bit ridiculous” chuckled Maya candidly about her first encounter with our group as the only non-blogger.  As the owner of a successful wedding planning business she soon became part of the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ camp and was beating us at our own game on Instagram. Her utter enjoyment of every moment of every day was palpable and uplifting. Maya Toubia

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

Travel Junkie Diary

Introducing you to the person with the vision, drive, imagination and grit to make all this happen – Michelle Karam. I’ve followed Travel Junkie Diary from the start and watched it grow from a small but perfectly formed blog into the multi-dimensional platform it is today. She steered our group on this trip with a light but deft hand on the rudder and nothing was too much trouble (or ruffled her composure). Together with lovely Lara Taki and the Coco Collection Badu Hithi team, they ensured we were treated like queens and truly this was a trip of a lifetime for which I am eternally grateful; for the company and the place. Travel Junkie Diary

Also a huge shout out to the wonderful, warm, generous, funny, outrageous Houda from Fly Dubai who has a soundtrack for every moment of the day and lights up a room when she arrives.

Environment

You know I couldn’t enjoy my time on the island without digging into the effects of this development on the land, sea and creatures around it. The resort has it’s own desalination plant to produce water and a sewage treatment plant (some islands eject waste into the sea) and has an environmental policy which includes recycling. There are many practices to protect the coral, fish and sealife around Bodu Hithi from turtle identification to the detection and removal of ghost nets. You can read more here, but talking to Lisa the Marine Biologist and the Bodu Hithi team I felt there was a genuine commitment to preserving this beautiful place.

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

The four days we spent on Coco Bodu Hithi flew by but the rejuvenating effects felt as though I’d been away for much longer. My book remained unread and I still had many things that I’d return to the island for. Do I want to go to the Maldives now? I think you know the answer.

Thanks to Travel Junkie Diary, Coco Bodu Hithi and Fly Dubai for a phenomenal trip. Thanks also to Clarins for treating us to items from their summer collection which I loved especially the Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil.

Check out more beautiful pics by Michelle’s here and on the Coco Bodu Hithi site here.

Going to the Maldives-on mycustardpie.com

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17 Comments
  1. June 26, 2016 9:37 am

    Fascinating piece with some – as always – great shots! I’m not good at all at just chilling on holiday – always have to be exploring – so the concept of just being based in one resort with not much to do but relax, eat, swim and do some basic healthy exercise really doesn’t appeal to me. Two questions… Were you there pre-Ramadan – it’s an Islamic country and there seems to be a fair bit of wine in your itinerary! And I’m curious why food is imported from Dubai when India/Sri Lanka would seem more obvious. Is that to give a better choice for Westerners?

    • June 27, 2016 10:00 am

      I’m exactly the same – as my recent seven hour walk round Milan demonstrates! – that’s why I was so surprised to enjoy this so much and actually it felt like we were busy all the time. I was there in Ramadan and there was no evidence of this at all at the resort – I guess it’s the same as in Dubai hotels. I’m sure some food is imported from Sri Lanka but it’s probably easier to get everything sent via Dubai as they are so geared up for importing international goods that tourists expect. This is just supposition and I’m not saying it’s good or bad – just the way it is. As you know Dubai imports around 95% of its food.

  2. June 26, 2016 10:37 am

    You’ve brought back so many wonderful memories of my honeymoon to the Maldives 4 years ago. Agree, people think they’ll get bored but the beauty of it is unlike anywhere else, and I’d go back in a heartbeat! If only it wasn’t so expensive! Beautiful photos Sally.

    • June 27, 2016 10:01 am

      It really was so beautiful Nancy – and as someone who likes wild coastlines and green spaces I wasn’t prepared to like it so much. How wonderful to have your honeymoon there.

  3. June 26, 2016 10:45 am

    What a glorious experiience expressed in your charming, insightful and warm-hearted way Sally. I too have never been to the Maldives despite it being so close. Your post and pics have made me begin planning … what a treat to enjoy the beauty of a paradise island and the company of some spectacular women – they were lucky to have you there too!

    • June 27, 2016 10:02 am

      What a kind comment Tara. And you of all people deserve a trip to paradise. I’m a total convert now – I loved it.

  4. June 26, 2016 12:03 pm

    I’m not a beach person, and while I’d be curious to visit somewhere like the Maldives, I find that when there’s so much more of the world to see, it doesn’t feature highly on my wishlist. I can relax by a pool for alternate days or for a few hours a day, as long as I can mix in lots of excursions to explore as well. If I have a stash of great books on my Kindle, it’s that much easier. The images look stunning.

    • June 27, 2016 10:04 am

      Honestly that’s how I feel too Kavey so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and that I would definitely return and recommend to other people. Actually hardly sat by the pool or on the beach at all either – we always seemed to be doing something, but not in a rush. Totally recharge.

  5. June 26, 2016 2:25 pm

    I’ve always wanted to go to somewhere like the Maldives, with a deck right down on the ocean. Absolute paradise! I actually quite enjoy being bored occasionally, it makes a nice change from constantly having something on my mind! To just be able to sit back and do absolutely nothing… bliss 🙂

    • June 27, 2016 10:07 am

      Good for you. I don’t know why I’m increasingly unable to switch off – I used to be able to do nothing or lose myself in a book. The time to step down a notch and enjoy little things, like flowers and nature, was good for me – a kind of mindfulness. I think you’d love this little slice of paradise Becca.

  6. June 26, 2016 3:37 pm

    Sally, would you believe it if I said that we spent months in Maldives – S was auditing in one of the resorts…. decades back? No pics to share at that time!!! Lovely post – and was great to know some non-food bloggers/influencers too. Love Michelle’s instagram account and love the way she’s growing.

    • June 27, 2016 10:08 am

      Goodness – that must have been such an experience. Funny the lack of pics isn’t it – especially compared to now. I have very few from our time in Jeddah (photography banned) – and it was five years of our lives. Michelle is very inspiring.

  7. June 26, 2016 8:42 pm

    It looks a dream Sally! I’m with you I would have been worried about getting a little bored no matter how beautiful but it looks like you had a wonderful time and had more than enough to do! I need to get there at some point myself! Thanks for a great post and pushing the Maldives a little higher on my list! X

  8. June 27, 2016 10:09 am

    I’d love to see the Maldives through the lens of your beautiful captures Adriana.

  9. June 27, 2016 1:27 pm

    Wow. I just savoured every word and every photo of this lovely post. I’ve always been a military-planned city holiday sort of person, but lately, and in part probably due to the constant connectedness of social media, I’ve absolutely yearned for a holiday like this. Coco Bodu Hithi sounds like the most spectacular place to recharge and the changeable weather seemed to make it wonderfully dramatic. You sounded busy, but relaxed busy – perfect. I’m glad you enjoyed your travelling companions and the little touches like the cinema are so nice. I’m also pleased that they seem so active in conservation and their environment.

  10. June 30, 2016 2:37 am

    Gorgeous post Sally – I so enjoyed reading it especially because I’ve never pondered more than a few seconds on the Maldives for the same reason you mention – the fear of boredom….perhaps it should be back in my travel radar!

  11. June 30, 2016 1:46 pm

    Weirdly for someone who practically grew up on beaches (Florida Gulf Coast), for the past 25 years or so beaches have rarely featured in my holidays. I think that is because I too feel a bit bored by the lying around thing, despite opportunities to tackle all of the books that I never have time to read. But, I do think that if I could do a beach holiday JUST LIKE THIS then I could cope. As you managed. And so beautifully. Gorgeous post as always. You paint the most beautiful pictures with words and camera.

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