In the peaceful seclusion of Maldives’ North Malé Atoll, there lies a coral island where elaborate fantasies come to life. It is the Coco Privé Kuda Hithi Island, one of three properties owned by the Coco Collection, where the fantasist in me recently embarked upon a three-day journey. It all began when I arrived in Malé from Dubai on a bright Thursday morning, the tropical heat and humidity reminded me of my hometown Karachi.
After being escorted to a jetty facing the airport, I hopped aboard a speedboat, and what ensued was a 35-minute ride to the island that I greatly relished, taking in pristine views of the turquoise waters and the scent of salt that perfumed the air. As the speedboat slowed down, I peered at a small piece of land spanning 1.4 hectares, replete with silhouetted palm trees swaying amidst lush green plants.
A view of the Coco Privé Kuda Hithi Island
Dressed in all-white, the island staff greeted me with an arms-wide welcome, offering a freshly concocted piña colada and playing the traditional Maldivian drum called boduberu that evoked a tribal feel. I stepped inside the resort that is a maze of lavishness, featuring a master residence and five villas, Palm, Starfish, Manta, Heron, Gecko and Turtle, all named after the various flora, fauna and wildlife found in the Maldives.
In addition to the residences, the resort houses a dining room, kitchen, bar, library, gym, and steam and powder rooms. Singapore-based Guz Architects have fused the island’s pristine natural surroundings with a contemporary yet timeless flair, its open-plan, free-flowing design exudes understated luxury. “Coco Privé was conceived as a luxury secluded hideaway,” says Guz Wilkinson, founder and principal architect at the firm who designed the island. “Existing trees were kept wherever possible and the villas were placed accordingly.”
Dining room in the island's master residence
Contrary to what one would expect from a Maldivian resort, Kuda Hithi creates its own aesthetic vocabulary that is all about sleek, modern design. “We wanted to create something that you would not find anywhere else in the Maldives, at least not when we built the island five years ago,” shares Sarah Hilmy, marketing and sales manager at Coco Privé, who worked closely with Wilkinson on how the island should come together as a whole.
Upon taking a tour of the island, I was instantly drawn towards the bespoke design elements, sourced from all over Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. I stayed in the beach-facing Heron villa, encircled by lush green trees and with a sumptuous infinity pool to the right. “Our inspiration was the beauty of the island itself, so we tried to bring nature into the development through transparent sliding walls and pools tightly integrated with the villas,” shares Wilkinson. “Overall, we wanted a warm, intimate development of human scale that made the most of the island’s stunning natural beauty,” he adds.
An interior view of the Heron villa
Inside the villa, the king-sized bed draped in crisp white bedding with a headboard featuring a nautilus shell made of leather is a nod to the natural surrounds, while the floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside in. Created with a blend of natural materials such as wood and sandstone, the villa comprises polished white concrete floors, and walls and ceilings covered in warm tones of timber. “It was important that the elements contribute to create a soothing and calming environment, one that makes you feel at home,” notes Hilmy.
The villas are equipped with touch interface technology, meaning you control lighting, television and curtains from the comfort of your bed. The pièce de résistance are the semi-open and open-air bathrooms with a freestanding bath, so you rejuvenate with Acqua di Parma amenities and relish beauty essentials like a hair curler to achieve the perfect beach waves. The real tour de force of the resort is that it offers a single-party experience for guests, whose net worth is estimated to be above $70 million. They range from entrepreneurs to celebrities, royalty to politicians, all of whom come to the island in quest for absolute privacy and solace. Among the few who have publicly commented on their stay at the island are Hollywood’s Sophie Turner, Kevin Hart and Joe Jonas.
Bathroom in the Heron villa with Aqua di Parma amenities
“Regarding any flight routes above the island, there are no permits for helicopters to fly in the Maldives, barring the government, and due to typical seaplane routes, they rarely, if at all, fly over Coco Privé. We can ensure privacy from this angle,” explains Hilmy. The team also facilitates guests with VIP immigration services and private transportation.
But with such a luxe experience comes a hefty price tag of $45,000 (Dhs165,263) a night, which, Hilmy says, is in keeping with the island’s uniquely well-rounded facilities. “First, guests get to have a whole tropical island to themselves. Second, the price includes almost everything – a team of 30 staff, private return transfer on a luxury yacht, all meals and snacks, unlimited drinks, spa, diving (if certified), use of diving equipment and boat, and laundry.”
For the Middle Eastern traveller, the island offers the ultimate retreat. “We offer special options for our Middle Eastern guests, such as having the island staffed entirely by female butlers,” notes Hilmy. Owned by a local family and located in a Muslim country means that Coco Privé offers halal meals, with the Quran and prayer mats readily available, and a mosque located on the island itself.
Day after day, I relished a delightful mix of international cuisines and local breakfast specialties such as the tuna-based Mashuni and Kulhimas. I also indulged in a 60-minute massage using Kaashi Theyo (virgin coconut oil) and having breakfast on a yacht on my last day, which is when I had my first encounter with dolphins.
After days of fantasy fulfilment, I packed my bags and was seen off by the same staff who had received me upon my arrival. As the speedboat whisked me away, the island disappeared into the darkness and I closed my eyes in hopes that when I would open them, I would find myself back in the tropical heaven.
Priced at $45,000 per night for up to 10 guests. Cocoprive.com