In the remote Baa Atoll, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu has everything you could want from an affordable, luxurious, romantic and remote island with the serene natural beauty of beach, sea, vegetation and fish
After celebrating our snowy wedding in Scotland we were so excited for our December honeymoon in the Maldives. After nine months of trying to decide where to go and haggling with tour operators and trying to decide on which island to go to, I landed on Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu – a member of the group of small luxury hotels in the world. We wanted a small island, away from the capital Male due to air traffic (which I heard was a nuisance at a lot of the other resorts); an island with an on-site reef, a dive school and a spa. Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu was just right and situated in the Baa Atoll, one of the most northerly and isolated atolls providing uncrowded dive sites. Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, best of all, was not ridiculously priced, we paid £1500pp for 10 nights half board.
Travel to Coco Palm
We travelled via Air Mauritius from London Heathrow to Male (but you can fly BA now also, maybe a better option as you have a better chance of being upgraded). After a 10 hour overnight flight on arrival at Male we were whisked away by bus to the Coco Palm private sea plane lounge, a beautiful timbered area with light refreshments as we awaited our sea plane. The 30 minute sea plane journey was a wonderful trip which had captivating views of the atolls below. I had a nervous excitement as I hoped ours would be everything I had dreamed of. After 30 minutes we descended towards the green vegetated island of Coco Palm - our home for the next 10 days. The sea plane landed at a jetty where we were greeted by a boat and transported to the island, receiving lemon hot towels and a bottle of water. On the island we stepped off onto the 20m jetty to the sound of a four-piece Maldivian band singing “welcome to Coco Palm”. In our first few steps across the lagoon we saw a baby shark (in four years of diving the first I had seen!). Each couple had an individual host who took us to the central reception area, a large wooded stilted area in the centre of a lush vegetated jungle. We were swiftly greeted and checked in and informed of the activities, which, as a honeymoon couple, we would get for free.
Our room was a deluxe beach villa (no.82) situated on the NE side of the island. I had read previous reviews regarding the sand bags being used due to the active erosion, I had emailed the manager prior to our departure requesting a deluxe villa (61-86) on the part of the island with no erosion, this was welcomed and accommodated. On arrival at our thatched villa we were excited by the amenities our room offered: our own private plunge pool, outside bathroom (with the biggest sunken bath I have ever seen) an outside shower and toilet, four poster bed with a mosquito net (no TV), a terrace with loungers and the best yet was a private garden with walkway down to the beach with two private loungers. The rooms have a beautiful elegance of natural beauty and white linen and with the little extras such as body lotions and soaps, a fruit basket and sparkly wine we felt at peace. As the sun set we took our first footsteps on the whitest sand I have ever seen and were blown away by the remoteness of the place – no other soul could be seen.
We were pleased not to have paid the extra (£700) for a lagoon villa as these did not have their own loungers on the beach – and often we saw couples walking around from the beach villa area to find a quiet spot. We spent most evenings walking around the island watching baby sharks and bat fish in the shallow turquoise blue lagoon, and sipping a cocktail at the bar as the sun set. What took my breath away was the quietness of the place, this is an island with only 98 rooms, when we were there it was only half full and many days we saw no one else as we walked around the 600m x 200m island. This is not an island for partying, but if you want luxury, outstanding attentive service and a postcard setting in which you can enjoy the company of your partner then you will have as much fun as us.
We decided to book in as half-board and were pleased given the size of the meals. We ate mainly in the main restaurant (Crowies), located centrally, it is surrounded by ponds with floating lillies and requires washing of the sand from your feet prior to entering. Every meal time we were greeted by the same hostess and led to a table. The food at breakfast was a mix of stations – pancakes, eggs, waffles, Maldivian curry, pastries, porridge, a wonderful delicious lemon rice pudding, fresh fruit and waiter served cafetieres of tea and coffee. We took to walking around barefoot – no need for shoes (unless you fancy tennis). Dinner was a similar set up with stations serving various dishes on demand; my favourites were black bean crocodile and the grilled fish was usually unbeatable. We ate in the Thai Cornus restaurant one night but were not impressed by the food quality – my lobster was still blue in places and my husbands soup had been spiced too heavily with cloves and was very bitter – these are minor faults and certainly other couples seemed to enjoy eating there. One of the best dining experiences was the beach bbq dinner under the stars, we sat on the beach lit by candles and ate starters and salads, served out of a dhoni (a traditional boat), followed by barbecued courses of fish, shell fish and meats, the lobster was succulent and the best we had ever eaten.
Most days we snorkelled the house reef, a mere 30m from the beach a drop off occurs where you can see an amazing array of fish. I would definitely recommend taking a fish guide (e.g.Coral reef fishes by E Lieske and R Myers; Princeton University Press) the reef is an underwater jungle of an amazing variety of triggerfish, snappers, fusiliers, moray eels, puffer fish, damsels, surgeons fish, unicorns, squids and many more (they do sell some guides in one of the two island shops but they are pricey). Our best sightings while snorkelling were regular encounters with adult black tip reef shark and sting ray.
We did a day diving and never before have I been diving where the team sort out all your gear and even put you in your BCD and take it off and dismantle it for you. The dive sites were wonderful, but sadly we didn't get to see the manta rays which were absent at the feeding stations.
We spent a morning on a dolphin cruise, well worth the $29 pp and we were lucky to follow a 200 strong dolphin pod for 2 hours – an exhilarating experience. We also did the romantic sunset cruise which came as one of our honeymoon extras, we sailed around the Baa Atoll islands in our own private dhoni, sipping champagne and eating canapés served by our own butler. We watched the sunset and saw manta rays for the first time.
We had our own Robinson Crusoe experience by spending an overnight experience on an island. We were taken by speed boat to the private island, where we had our own chef cook us a 6 course meal of prawn cocktail, grilled lobster and truffle, reef fish and river prawns followed by a selection of meats (including veal, chicken, lamb rack and duck breast), as we finished our wine the waiter and chefs left us by speedboat and we were alone. As we watched the sun set we felt like we had entered a David Attenborough documentary – over a thousand crabs unearthed from the sand and scurried down to the sea (I had been warned by our hostess at breakfast, with a nervous giggle– now I understand why). My husband - an ecologist - loved it. It was one of the most romantic evenings ever – we ate like kings and slept alone on a desert island with only the sound of the waves (and crabs!) and the sound of thunder and sights of lightning as a late evening thunderstorm came across. Although a pricey $400 per couple I would highly recommend this unique coco experience.
I am so pleased I chose Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu as our honeymoon destination, it definitely felt a privilege to be there to enjoy the natural beauty of its lush vegetation, white sands and turquoise blue waters. We recommended this to some discerning friends and they had an equally amazing experience, focussing mainly on spa treatments. So Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, despite being small, can cater for a mix of activities from adventure to relaxing spa treatments all set in an understated luxury.