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From the stables of fashion icon and luxury hotelier Christina Ong, Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives, is in no way, shape or form your typical cookie-cutter island resort. With architecture by Singaporean architect Cheong Yew Kuan and interiors by Kathryn Kng, the boutique property resembles a tidy fleet of permanently docked boats connected by a planked walkway, which (in plan-view) harmoniously follows the natural curve of the slender island.

Inspired by local ‘dhoni’ fishing vessels, the 33 overwater villas’ material palette is restrained & deliberately pared back – when the best adornment is the view itself, everything else seems superfluous. Teak, pine, red meranti timbers, Kajan thatch and white-on-white paneling teamed with the subtlest hint of soft furnishings of sheer voile drapery, tatami mat, and woven tapestries assert just enough texture and local flavor – the result is effortlessly light, fresh and airy.

The rest of the built environments on the island follow a similar design creed. With no structure taller than the highest palm tree (a Maldivian new-build regulation), all feature high rafted ceilings and open-air cross ventilation; the flow from outdoors to indoors feels delightfully seamless. Something else I loved was the playful manner in which the architect sprinkled hammocks, wooden swings for two and bespoke tête-à-tête lounges under canopies of foliage – what a fun way of creating pop-up nature inspired spaces!

The yoga pavilion is raised off the ground and positioned to capture the breeze and views of the sea. The iconic spa COMO Shambhala Retreat is planned around the lush landscape for privacy & seclusion. The restaurant, Ufaa which means ‘happy’ in Maldivian, besides dishing out the most amazing prawn and pomelo salad entrée I’ve ever had, is yet another timeless humble canvas where the views and food take centre stage – how could one not be happy?

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