It seems a slightly strange notion for people to train and diet for the perfect beach body weeks before their holiday, only to forget all about wellbeing, fitness and healthy eating while they are there. For me, I’ve never really worried about this; you see, my holidays usually consist of pretty adventurous activities — such as heli-skiing in the rockies, trekking gorillas in Uganda or scaring hippos away from my fishing line in Botswana.
I’ve been to remote tropical locations all around the world for work and I often stay a day or two longer to relax. But this time, I was heading to Maalifushi by Como in the Maldives. It is the first and only resort to open in the unspoilt Thaa Atoll, the archipelago’s southern reaches — an area that is well-regarded for its diving. The resort is reached by a 40-minute seaplane ride from the islands’ capital in Malé. The Thaa Atoll, a beautiful ring-shaped reef, is one of the largest in the world, comprising more than 60 islands over 500 square miles, many of which are uninhabited…you really do feel like you are on the edge of the world when you arrive.
Accommodation includes 33 overwater villas, as well as 32 garden villas, suites and rooms, all built of yellow balau wood with Kajan thatched roofs, referencing indigenous architecture, while remaining elegantly pared back to reflect the island’s serene setting, but at the same time offering modern amenity one could require.Overwater suites and villas are built off wooden walkways that stand above the shallow lagoon, each with its own private terrace. Our first few days are in the beach villa, beautifully private among the trees — 10 steps away from your terrace and you are on the beach; 20 steps and you are in the shallow blue lagoon. Moving to one of the overwater villas later, the beach stay became a distant memory quickly. If you are lucky enough to be facing away from the main pier and out to sea, it means you have the sun on your terrace and infinity pool from morning until sunset every evening. Unfortunately, we were a little unlucky with the weather and only caught two sunsets. Nevertheless, they were worth the wait.
Even though you don’t ever want to move from your overwater abode and every meal can be arranged in the villas with your private butler, it is much more fun to walk along the beach or through the shadier jungle, or even cycle to the restaurants and bar (I highly recommend getting a bicycle as soon as you get there).
The Como principle of integrating fine cuisine into each guest experience is something that sets it apart from other resorts in the Maldives. Maalifushi’s approach to cuisine is contemporary and relaxed, with menus inspired by the ocean setting. Tai is the headlining restaurant, featuring probably some of the best and freshest Japanese seafood I have ever had. Madi offers a classic Como all-day dining experience showcasing tropical ingredients in Maldivian, Mediterranean, Indonesian and Thai-accented dishes. With all the food, you may not be aware but you are eating clean. Everything is organic and obviously, the fish cannot be any fresher. The delicious sauces and dishes are inspired by Indian, Asian and Western cooking, which also replace the need for the usual high amounts of salt, sugars, preservatives and enhancers that are so commonly used in Westernised cooking. Although I think I eat rather healthily back in London, after seven days in Maalfushi and eating far more than I would regularly, I still managed to lose 3lbs (1.36kg).
If, of course, you want to eat super carefully, the Como Shambhala cuisine is also available, which focuses on a perfectly calibrated mix of raw and cooked ingredients with very specific nutritional purposes. The resulting dishes help boost concentration and energy, while balancing blood sugar levels. Living enzymes are retained in the preparation techniques in order to help cleanse the body from the outside in. Though this was taking it a little far for me, the delicious Shambhala juices helps everything from blood pressure to moods and your general health.
Thila is a relaxed pool bar and lounge for billiards, easygoing salads, pizzas and wood-baked seafood.
The main attributes at Maalifushi are its staff, whose warmth, discretion and passion for detail stands out from the competition, and the service provided. I can safely say I have never experienced service like this — 300 members look after you with such impeccable respect that it’s hard to not want to take them all home. Not once did I hear the word “No”; just “let’s see what we can do” with nine times out of 10, it was made possible. Many resorts and hotels could learn from the staff here.
When it comes to maintaining my fitness, the main thing I look to suit my needs in a hotel is the gym. Maalfushi’s may be small but it is clearly designed by someone who knows what a gym fanatic like myself would require, be they cardio, free weights and weight machines. After working out, there are eight overwater treatment rooms that offer a range of signature facials, massages and body therapies. The retreat also has an open-air yoga pavilion that offers complimentary daily classes and its resident yoga teacher Becca is exceptional.
However, most of my fitness came from swimming or kayaking out to the reef for diving and snorkelling. My favourite activity was to take a paddleboard early each morning out to the uninhabited islands — although the staff recommended “not” to do this, to me, it was perfectly safe.
Of course, not all activities require physical assertion, especially if you wish to see the island’s marine life. I personally took one of the sunset tours to see the huge pods of spinner dolphins that feed every evening just 10 minutes from the resort. Here, you get to see why the name of these mammals is so appropriate, as you get to see a wonderful acrobatic show within touching distance from your boat.
You can also tailor-make your break at Maalifushi to suit what you like, especially if you wish to escape from noise, people, hassles or hectic schedules. What you do have is total seclusion and privacy, and a place where you will certainly come back healthier, fitter and more relaxed than before.
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