PARADISE: Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu really is the perfect honeymoon retreat
Arriving at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu fresh from my wedding felt like a dream. After flying into the capitol, Male, I hoped aboard a seaplane and took to the skies.
During the 30-minute flight, I got my first glimpse of the Maldives. Hundreds of tiny white islands scattered across the deep blue Indian Ocean, surrounded by a flash of bright turquoise.
Every resort has a different vibe and as the wings of the seaplane dipped I noticed how much greener “our” island was. A narrow strip of gleaming white sand shot around the edges, but the heart of the island was dense with plant life.
THRILLING: We arrived at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu by sea plane
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The Maldives – As one of the world’s best islands, it’s no surprise that the Maldives are a favorite destination for celebrities. You can find this low-lying island nation in between the Indian and Arabian seas has luxuriously appointed bungalows set
As I stepped onto the island I kicked my flip-flops straight off, sunk my feet into the sand and I tried to soak in all the natural beauty as I was escorted through the jungle-laden path to my overwater bungalow.
The sugar-soft sand, the palm-tree-lined beaches and the gleaming waters were all there just like on the postcards.
But the reality was even more beautiful than I had imagined and little flightless birds and hermit crabs scattered as we approached the jetty leading to our apartment.
Inside the stilted thatched hut, a four-poster bed sat under high ceilings looking out towards the terrace, complete with luxury private plunge pool.
Weirdly I was most excited about the loo with a view – the bathroom has a glass wall so you can gaze out at the sea as you go about your business.
HONEYMOON SUITE: Treat yourself to an overwater bungalow at the stunning resort
Staring out at the vast ocean I felt wildly alive and exposed to the elements.
We arrived in perfect sunshine but by the afternoon a huge black storm cloud rolled in off the sea. Rain is not normally a welcome site on holiday, but the thunder storms in the Maldives are so thrillingly dramatic it actually adds to the experience – plus they disappear as quickly as they arrive.
With over 105 resorts in the Maldives, it can be tough to decided between them, but while some have become excessively flashy, Coco Palm does classic barefoot luxury the right way.
It has all the mod-cons you could need, but isn’t over-the-top to the point that it ruins the natural beauty of the place.
LUXURY: Sip on unlimited cocktails while you watch the fruit bats fly in at Conch Bar
All the buildings are simple, open-sided with thatched roofs and the materials are all sourced locally.
The resort is also doing its bit for the environment and houses the Olive Ridley Project Turtle Rescue Centre.
In fact, the only vet in the whole of the Maldives performs operations and nurses turtles back to health on the island after they’ve been injured, most often by plastic ghost nets used for fishing.
Seeing the giant turtles recovering from such horrify injuries was a stark reminder that we need to limit our impact on nature.
Thankfully I was also lucky enough to see two healthy sea turtles in the wild, on one of the daily snorkelling trips organised by the resort.
The ethereal creatures chomped on sea grass beneath me seemingly unbothered by my presence, as bright yellow fish shimmered in the beams of sunlight shooting through the turquoise water. It was one of those serial moments of complete escapism.
The resort itself is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and home to incredible marine life and reefs not to dissimilar to those found on Blue Planet II.
The island’s reef is home to creatures including White Tip and Grey Reef sharks, Hawksbill turtles, Dog Tooth Tuna, Napoleon fish, schools of Blue Stripe snappers, Bat fish and Fusilier fish, Barracuda and Eagle and Manta rays and you can spot many of them from your bungalow.
WILDLIFE: The island’s reef is home to Grey Reef sharks and Hawksbill turtles
When we returned from the boat trip the sun was beginning to set behind the clouds.
Sunsets are a big deal at Coco Palm. Guests emerge from beach huts and private residences hidden in the trees for sundowner cocktails at Beach Bar.
With salt still in my hair, I kicked-back in a deck chair to watch the burnt orange sun sink behind the metallic pink sea – absolute bliss.
The island is the epitome of romance and relaxation and there are plenty of spectacular treatments to indulge in at Coco Spa, but you’re looking for something more adventurous there are numerous activities to keep you entertained.
TRANQUIL: You can spend a day on a completely private island
There is an abundance of water sports including surfing, power boating and knee boarding. You can also hire kayaks and paddle round the entire island in less than an hour.
Guests can spot bottlenose and spinner dolphins on one of the early morning or sunset cruises and watch movies under the stars on a giant projector on the beach in the evenings.
But if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime endeavour I strongly recommend the Embudhoo Escape. This trip gives you the opportunity to escape to a private island for the day – Robinson Crusoe style.
Just a 15-minute speedboat ride from Coco Palm, Embudhoo island is home to a single hut with two giant hammocks and a table and chairs.
Staff at the resort will pack you up a luxury picnic and leave you on the island to do as you please – skinning dipping is essential (in my humble opinion).
One of the appeals of the Maldives is the fact it makes the impossible, possible. And this is exactly how I felt as I sat on a desert island drinking chilled white wine and eating lobster.
PEACEFUL: Head to Beach Bar for cocktails at sunset
The quality of the food was another pleasant surprise at Coco Palm. The island houses two restaurants and a beach bar that offers lighter lunch options.
Cowrie, the largest restaurant, offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet. The food is constantly changing so you never get bored and they serve everything from ridiculously fresh tuna sashimi to barbecued steak and Maldivian curry.
The second restaurant – Cornus – offers up a fragrant selection of Thai food in fairy-lit opening between the palm trees.
Conch Bar, with its high thatched roof and white sand floor, is great for everything in between. They dish up freshly-squeezed juices, pastas, salads and snacks and they host live bands on select evenings.
I suggest heading there at around 4pm to feast on their mouth-watering samosas and watch the giant fruit bats fly in for the evening.
The Ultimate Travel Bucket List
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The Ultimate Travel Bucket List
If you really want to push the boat out you can opt for dinner in a private pergola on the beach, a romantic champagne breakfast or a hearty beach BBQ on the shoreline.
One of the main pleasures of the Maldives is not having to worry about anything. The biggest decision you’ll have to make all week is which cocktail to have or which flavour of ice cream the try next – and why not just have a scoop of each.
When I go on holiday I often end up feeling stressed because I feel like I have to see everything and do everything. But being stationed on a tiny sand island means you don’t even have to worry about sightseeing, so you can really switch off and enjoy quality time with your partner.
It gives you time to delight in the little things; spotting shooting stars from your private plunge pool, watching reef sharks circle round the bungalows at night, sipping coconut water straight form the nut and switching your phone off and having a proper, uninterrupted, conversation.
I originally thought I’d want an action-packed honeymoon, but after the stress of organising a wedding, the Maldives and more specifically, Coco Palm, was exactly what I needed.
On the last night we dined right at the waters edge and as I looked out at the whispy clouds, lit by the sinking sun, I took a moment to appreciate the true magic of the tropical paradise.
Eight Bucket-List musts to tick off at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu Resort:
1. Travel by seaplane
2. Spend the day on a private island
3. See dolphins in the wild
4. Kayak round an entire island
5. Stargaze from your private plunge pool
6. Swim with wild turtles
7. Have a massage for two
8. Enjoy a private dinner on the beach
Hayes & Jarvis are offering a seven night holiday to Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu in the Maldives from £1,599 per person
The offer includes seven nights for the price of five at the five star resort, a complimentary upgrade to all-inclusive for the duration, sea plane transfers and return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways. Based on departures 18 June 2018.
To book call 01293 762 456 or visit hayesandjarvis.co.uk