Vibrant shades of blue appeared from the window of Maldivian Airways’ seaplane as we ascended from the Indian Ocean. At its deepest, the ocean appeared cobalt. Where the water shallowed, sunlight reflected off the sand and coral reefs revealing greenish-blue tones. Ranging from turquoise and cerulean to emerald, these parts created agate-like cutouts in the massive body of water.
After about 45 minutes of wonderment, our barefoot pilot prepared for landing in the middle of the ocean. A bright red buoy contrasted against the cyan-colored water. Like a James Bond film, a speedboat awaited near the wood floating platform to take us to the remote island of Maalifushi.
The seaplane and speedboat were the last modes of transportation on our 28-hour journey from Los Angeles to COMO Maalifushi, Maldives. Before arriving into Malé International Airport we had taken two flights plus had a seven-hour overnight layover in Dubai. Upon arrival at Malé a representative from COMO dressed in a white polo, khakis and flip-flops greeted us. As we waited for him to secure our boarding passes for the transfer to Maalifushi, I rummaged through my luggage and immediately changed out of my sneakers and into sandals.
He transported us to COMO Maalifushi’s seaplane terminal lounge, similar to The Private Suite at LAX. Here we had our first taste of COMO Shambhala ginger tea steeped with lemon juice and raw honey. Through the expansive windows, we watched seaplanes take off and land on the water before we boarded our own plane to the resort.
If there was ever doubt that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations, COMO Maalifushi was the proof. Once we arrived I had the thought that if I had to come by rowboat, I would have.
The property has a total of 65 over-water villas and beach suites. I had a water villa to myself, featuring wall-to-wall windows offering views of the Indian Ocean and a deck outfitted with a private pool, an outdoor shower, as well as a staircase leading into the approximately 80º ocean.
Within moments of checking into my accommodations, I put on my swimsuit and dove into the salty, warm water. Throughout the stay the weather, like the ocean, was consistently in the 80s.
As author Isak Dinesen said, “The cure for anything is saltwater—sweat, tears or the sea.” Knowing of COMO’s celebrated wellness concentration, I was looking forward to self-care with Dinesen’s quote in mind.
Dreamed up by COMO Hotels and Resorts’ owner Christina Ong, COMO Shambhala is the practice of holistic healing through massages, beauty treatments, healthy cuisine and yoga. According to the COMO Shambhala website, “The philosophy is inspired by the mythological kingdom of ‘Shambhala,’ which in ancient Buddhist texts denotes a sacred place of bliss. The belief is that everyone can find tranquility within themselves by exploring body, mind and spirit.”
All COMO Hotels and Resorts worldwide offer COMO Shambhala cuisine developed by the group’s executive chef. The dishes are either on a separate menu or on the regular menu indicated by the COMO Shambhala logo. Many of these offerings are also raw, gluten-free or vegan, and all are sans processed sugar. Each item is carefully prepared for specific nutritional purposes such as increasing energy and balancing sugar levels.
They can also be found in Christina’s cookbook, The Pleasures of Eating Well: Nourishing Favourites from the Como Shambhala Kitchen (Clearview, 2016). Among my favorite dishes were a salad of crab, longan and green mango with cashews and chili-lime dressing; pad thai with brown rice noodles, tofu, cashews, sprouts, chili and tamarind; and a bowl of vegan coconut yogurt topped with mango and passion fruit, and nut and seed clusters.
In addition to eating clean, I experienced daily spa services set in over-water tranquility rooms. Among the treatments I received was an Indonesian massage, which employs a precise technique of thumb rolling and kneading strokes—as targeted as (yet more relaxing than) a deep-tissue massage. Each service, including facials, begins with a gentle exfoliating foot ritual.
COMO Maalifushi also offers twice-a-day complimentary yoga classes, six days a week. In the morning the class takes place in an all-glass studio adjoining the spa, since the reflection off the white sand is too bright. The evening session is held in a stilted, open-air pavilion above the gentle surf.
Complimentary yoga and Pilates and the COMO Shambhala cuisine make it exceptionally easy to resolve to be healthy. However, if you’re looking for additional experiences, the resort offers wellness retreats with visiting practitioners. In April the resort will host a weeklong total body renewal program with fitness expert Amy Buck and registered nutritionist Eve Persak. The six-day workshop combines high-intensity exercises and yoga, as well as nutrition education and healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
The takeaway from a wellness vacation at COMO Maalifushi? Enlightenment through simplicity. From dining on clean cuisine to being barefoot 24/7, it’s time to embrace the essential you.