Another Maldivian resort; what makes this one special? A 55-minute seaplane flight from the Maldivian capital, Male, Maalifushi by COMO is the first luxury resort to open in the pristine, 60km-wide Thaa Atoll, in the archipelago's southwest. Being so far from the commotion of the inner atolls (close to Male) means that this is one property that manages to live up to its billing as a tranquil hideaway.
Isn't there another COMO property in the Maldives? There is: Cocoa Island, an array of overwater villas a 40-minute speed boat ride away from Male airport. Given the proximity, Cocoa Island is sometimes used as a staging post by Maalifushi guests arriving at night (as Cathay Pacific passengers from Hong Kong do) and some opt to split their holiday between the two resorts. Most of the villas on Cocoa are built around a lagoon teeming with small reef sharks, stingrays and large reef fish, and at one end of the island is a spit that stretches for hundreds of metres, allowing you to feel like Moses, striding out as the crashing sea parts to let you through.
And the new place? The Maalifushi resort (top) consists of 65 villas and suites standing either over water, behind their own patch of sand or with a garden. Despite having steps down to the sea, each water villa (above) comes with a generous deck pool. Villas and suites have been designed to make the most of the fresh air and wooden floors and decking, indoors and out, ensure the resort is small-child friendly (with none of those slippery surfaces you often get elsewhere). A well-kitted-out kids' club, Play, ensures it's parent friendly, too.
What is there to do? Not surprisingly, diving and snorkelling activities take up many of the pages in the in-room information folder, but there is space in there for a cultural excursion to the island of Guraidhoo, to "see how island life has existed for hundreds of years", and picnics on uninhabited islands, as well as fishing and a range of other water sports. On hand is a marine biologist who, among other things, leads excursions to turtle-rich reefs and a sunset cruise in pursuit of the local spinner dolphin pod, which numbers up to 300 animals. For a night out, you can go to a disco beneath the waves …
You cannot be serious? Well, sort of. Special torches and lenses for masks are provided for a night snorkel to best appreciate the colours corals emit, "making the reef seem like a disco dance floor".
Will we see sea life without venturing out to the house reef? Life around the legs of the villas isn't as plentiful as that at Cocoa Island but it's possible you'll spot a shark or a stingray on your way to breakfast.
Speaking of food, what are the options? Breakfast and lunch are served in Madi ("manta ray" in Dhivehi, the local lingo) and although the choice isn't especially wide, the food is healthy. As in all COMO properties, menus come with a nutritious Shambhala selection and a list of fresh juice concoctions and their benefits (the "Liver and Gall Bladder Flush" could do with a sexier name). Dinner can be taken at the open-air Thila (above), or in Japanese venue Tai, where a "domesticated" marbled ray, known as Aki-San, loiters beneath an open well in the centre of the restaurant, waiting for sushi scraps. Cycling back to your villa on a resort bicycle (below) along the unfenced wooden boardwalks after an evening of fine wine or cocktails is not advised; you wouldn't be the first to topple into the shallow, clear water below.
Is there a spa? This is a COMO resort, so of course. The Shambhala Retreat consists of eight overwater treatment rooms, steam rooms and an open-air yoga pavilion.
Does the place have an eco-conscience? As well as the usual suggestion that guests might like to use their towels more than once, the resort produces, by desalination, all of its drinking water, both still and sparkling, and all bottles used are glass rather than plastic. The many light switches in the villas are all clearly marked, so you don't have to go on a mass flicking campaign when you want to turn some off. The benefit is negated, though, by the fact that when you return to your villa of an evening, every light has been left blazing, every fan left spinning and every air-con left blasting by the turn-down crew.
And the cost? Prices range from US$750 per night for a garden room in low season to US$10,000 for the four-bedroom COMO Residence over the Christmas period. Return seaplane flights from Male will cost an extra US$550 per adult.