Maldives resort reviews

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

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Bar experience
House reef
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Our Review

Dhuni Kolhu has benefited from other resorts passing it by for price, ultra design and amenities. Now it is comfortable with what it offers. It is high class but unpretentious, an award-winning package of those key Maldivian elements - diving, snorkeling, beach, island and accommodation.

Dhuni Kolhu has benefited from other resorts passing it by for price, ultra design and amenities. Now it is comfortable with what it offers. It is high class but unpretentious, an award-winning package of those key Maldivian elements - diving, snorkeling, beach, island and accommodation.

Baa Atoll is not one of the country's renowned dive areas, but a good reason for that is that until recently there was only one resort in the whole atoll, Soneva Fushi. Dhuni Kolhu, still the only resort in the south of the atoll, has discovered a number of very worthwhile thilas. Some specialise in colourful soft corals, others, in stronger current, boast sharks and barracudas. Manta rays can be seen all year round at one or other of the four manta points within range and there is even a good chance of seeing a whale shark, between June and November, around Hanifaru.
For these reasons, diving is popular here, particularly in the high season, when there are plenty of repeaters. But whether you dive or not, there's very good snorkeling to be had here. The reef drop-off is accessible around the curved part of this D shaped island, although a portion of that is restricted to high tides. It is the Deluxe Villas that have less access to the reef, although they do share one easy access point. (And they do face south for all-day sun).
I must say my brief snorkel was impressive: adult and juvenile Picasso trigger fish being a great start in the shallow water, quickly followed by a float over two dark grey sting rays, a close encounter with a juvenile turtle, striking parrot fish, a yellow and black box fish, a black tip reef shark, the same turtle on the way back and an adult clown trigger fish near the shore again.
The beach is another highlight. There isn't a room without a good bit of beach in front of it. The sand is allowed to move around the island with the seasons, as it should. Consequently a few Beach Villas occasionally need a bit of pumping or sandbagging to counter seasonal erosion. The original sand is as fine and lovely as anywhere in the country.
An unusual sight is a number of the Beach Villas sitting directly on the beach, as it were without the clothing of surrounding trees and bushes. Obviously this is brilliant for beach views but not so great for privacy. As a broad generalisation, Italians and Germans like this whereas British and French prefer the rooms on the west side (the straight side of the D shape). Here the rooms are hidden away and there is a big beach that faces the sunset but also a few boats and there isn't direct snorkelling off the beach.
The Deluxe Villas face south, they have good privacy, even at the beach side and access to snorkeling off the beach. Otherwise they are almost identical to the Beach Villas. The differences being a sunken bath at the back and a plunge pool in front.
These island rooms are not big but they feel lovely, spacious and airy. They are not straight-edged rectangles but circular, unevenly plastered, with rustic terra cotta tiles and a conical thatched roof. They fit in to their surroundings and so make you feel a better fit too.
The Lagoon Villas also have a comfortable rustic feel but are, at the same time, markedly a step up. The style is a kind of Maldivian gentleman's retreat. The floor is of polished wooden panels, there is a large, aged writing desk, a lacquer vase, local craft objects and a glass bookcase with useful books and a cd player. An espresso coffee machine fills out the picture. They are delightful rooms. But the first couple are very close to shore and just half of them face the daytime sun, while the other half face northwards. On the other hand, the snorkeling is most easily reached from the north-facing rooms.
The two Sunset Lagoon Villas at the end of the jetty are nearly twice as big as the other rooms on the island and they take the gentleman's retreat idea to its stylistic conclusion. But these aren't pretentious rooms, they are fun but they work really well. Quite a few guests book one of the rooms for their final 24 hours, when they will have a bbq on the deck, sip champagne in the pool and look out to nothing but a distant uninhabited island.
That distant, uninhabited island is called Embudhoo and for me it is the crowning glory of Dhuni Kolhu. You can visit it one couple at a time. One couple during the day with a picnic, the other couple stays overnight. During the high season it is booked out day and night, everyday. Funny how we will go half way around the world for authentic simplicity.
On the island is just one cadjan (palm frond) hut with two string jolis (seats), a pair of rough wooden chairs and a weathered table. A black tern sat on the entrance pole, white terns flew down to distract us from their eggs laid on the beach. This is as close to nature as most people will ever get.
Many a resort owner would overdevelop Embudhoo but the people behind the Coco Palm resorts have always been environmentally strong. Dhuni Kolhu, in fact, won the President's Green Resort Award way back in 2001. Since then it attained a Green Globe Certificate for its operational standards and won a number of other awards, including Kuoni's Green Planet Award for 2007-08.
The recreation centre, reception and restaurant are oddly cavernous places and the main bar doesn't look out to the beach or the sunset but, apart from these quibbles, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is a fantastic Maldivian package.
5-star, a la carte, activities varied, beach bungalows, beach notable, bed and breakfast, buffets, butler service, child friendly, close to Male, cuisine notable, environmentally friendly, exclusive island, excursions wide choice, feature design, fishing at sunset, full board, half board, island medium, island-hopping, nightlife, no internal flight, North Male Atoll, not Italian only, resort on own island, sand pure, spa, spa notable, special dinners, sports choice, sunset bar, swimming notable, swimming pool, transfer short, trees mature, vegetation notable, water rooms notable
It is also true that the brand marketing is brilliant. Brilliant and, in this case, not misleading. From concept to delivery the place is just really well thought through. They deliver on their perceived promises. But, heh, no one's perfect and no resort is perfect. Let's see if it's right for you.
The sister island, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, has won the president's Green Award and that concern for the environment is obvious here. The interior of the island is as rich with Maldivian flora as any resort island I have visited. Rather than great stands of tall palm trees, it is the variety of native trees, bushes and flowers that impresses here, either side of the narrow sandy paths.
That natural growth is used well to surround the rooms with a green privacy. That is true of most but not all land rooms. The last ten or so rooms at the tip of the island (nos. 330-340) are on reclaimed land and they are partly exposed to their neighbours, until the vegetation grows fully.
In the same way, there is a good beach in front of most but not all land rooms, with a few having a low wall and steps down to the sandy lagoon (305-312). People tend not to walk around the outside of the island, so wherever you are, there is a sense that from the interior path out to the sea, it is your own private space.
There is some excellent snorkelling from the Water Villas down to and just beyond the Aqua Restaurant. And again, good snorkelling on the north side, from near the tip of the island out to the Escape Water Residences.
Diving in the neighbourhood is excellent everywhere. A big highlight is the manta point, where manta rays are "100% guaranteed" between December and April (says the dive base leader Marco). These giants can even be enjoyed by snorkellers here, as they play around 2 metres below. Easy access thilas nearby (starting near the surface and protected from currents) promise juvenile black tip sharks, turtles and enormous table corals. The Protected Marine Area of Rasfaari is just a few minutes away, brimming over with new corals and schools of fish.
If you go diving you will enjoy personal service because relatively few guests choose to actually go diving here. This is usually the case on islands that have a lot of honeymooners or where the rooms are expensive and luxurious. Serious divers like to compromise on the room price and spend it at the dive base.
On Coco Palm Bodu Hithi the rooms are luxurious and, in my opinion, good value for their expense. The architect is a brilliant Maldivian and the interior design is by the same French team that did Huvafen Fushi. The result is a winning mix of easy-on-the-eye thatch and wood surrounding a great looking, thoroughly modern resort interior.
As you walk in an Island Villa you find a large, circular bath tub right in the middle of the room. From inside it you can watch tv or look past that to your green-enclosed verandah and discreet beach access. Looking the other way, you look out to your garden pool and day bed. As expected, the television is a wide-screen satellite number with a dvd player and usb port. The detailing and decorating is lovely here - and even finer in the other, more expensive, rooms. I was disappointed with the power of the shower, but this may not be a common or still existing issue.
There are two water villa jetties off the island. The first contains the Water Villas and Escape Water Villas of Bodu Hithi itself, while the other contains the Escape Water Residences of what is, in effect, a separate resort.
Sold separately and self-sufficient, floating out in the lagoon, the Escape Water Villas are like a private club for those seeking quiet, privacy and a tropical lagoon. There are sea views from everywhere; from the bathroom, dressing room, bedroom and lounge. And, of course, from the infinity plunge pool.
A butler serves every 2 to 3 rooms. The extra touches are impressive: silk robes, silk over the clothes hangers, a pillow menu, a soap menu. The amenities are by Molten Brown.
Escape Water Villa guests would usually prefer to dine in their own restaurant and take sushi in their own bar/lounge, but they might also stroll or take a cart to watch the sunset by the island's pool, main bar and wine bar.
This area is the one place where people come together to enjoy the company of their fellow guests, or at least the buzz of other people having a good time too. Here people are swimming, sunbathing, having lunch (almost everyone is on half-board), drinking in the bar and, occasionally, going upstairs for something a bit special in the wine bar.
Seductively lined-up in glass-walled, temperature-controlled rooms are 250 labels from 11 countries, ranging in price from $50 to $2,500.
It is not the sort of place that keeps going long into the night, though. There is an in-house band but not much else to keep you imbibing, unless you have made some new friends. This is essentially a discreet couples or honeymooners resort.
With sand in the reception, sand in the bar and soft, sany paths throughout, it is a beautiful, environmentally friendly, barefoot resort.
Review by Adrian Neville.

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January 27, 2012 - 18:53 - Neil Merrett
December 17, 2011 - 19:26 - Neil Merrett
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November 16, 2011 - 17:45 - Neil Merrett
November 12, 2011 - 17:16 - Neil Merrett
October 27, 2011 - 16:32 - Volunteer Maldives
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