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Travel review: Paradise Cora Cora Maldives should be prescribed on NHS

The all-inclusive Maldives resort’s motto is "it's freedom time" - and I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

'It's freedom time'. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.
'It's freedom time'. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

After a difficult and stressful couple of years on a personal level, I really needed a holiday – but I could never have dreamed of one quite like Cora Cora Maldives.

The all-inclusive Maldives resort’s motto is “it’s freedom time” – and I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

When you’re on Cora Cora Maldives, your normal, everyday, 9-5 problems don’t exist anymore – you’re free.

The stunning view from one of the lagoon villa terraces. Image: Cora Cora Maldives

As I lay on the terrace of my lagoon villa, overlooking crystal-clear waters with a slight breeze perfectly balancing the 30+ degree heat, I found myself completely relaxed and at peace for the first time in years.

But let’s start from the beginning.

After a long day of travelling, we checked into a lounge to freshen up before a seaplane took us the 45-minute flight to Cora Cora Maldives.

It was my first time on a seaplane and I was glued to the window as we passed over island after island of tropical paradises peaking above the coral-filled brilliant blue sea.

The arrival jetty. Image: Cora Cora Maldives

When we arrived – with a surprisingly smooth water landing – the staff at Cora Cora Maldives lined the jetty to greet us with warm smiles, flowery necklaces and cold, damp towels to cool us down.

I never got that when I used to go on holiday to Blackpool Pleasure Beach as a kid.

Instagrammable island. Image: Cora Cora Maldives

I had to be careful not to trip over my jaw as I took in the stunning, lush island while we strolled to the reception area where staff introduced themselves properly and offered us refreshing cold drinks while our bags were placed in our villas.

Our “freedom coach”, Hunt, invited us all to join a WhatsApp group where we could contact him for any questions, assistance or requests throughout our stay.

The island feels much more spacious than it looks. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

The island feels a lot bigger than it looks in pictures, and doesn’t feel cluttered despite so much being packed in.

As well as 100 guest villas, there are four restaurants, a watersports centre, a spa, gym, heritage museum, games area, swimming pool and kids play area, not to mention wide, dusty paths winding through lush trees and plant life, and irresistible white sandy beaches.

The air-conditioned gym is well-equipped. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

After a short walk to my over-water lagoon villa, we had the afternoon to relax and settle in.

Lagoon villa interior. Cora Cora Maldives

The immaculate accommodation consisted of a huge king-size bed, sofa and coffee table complete with fruit bowl, snacks and an ice bucket with champagne and a welcome note.

The bed and sofa looked directly out on to a sun-bathed terrace with steps leading down right into the water, which was teeming with colourful fish.

Lagoon villa interior. Cora Cora Maldives

An enormous walk-in shower (you’ll need it with the heat) and a free-standing bathtub completed the bathroom, with a raiseable blind allowing you to take in the ocean scenery while you soak.

Soon it was dinner time and – as a life-long vegan – I’ve grown to be apprehensive about meals out, particularly on holiday, as you can never be sure how adaptable and accommodating chefs and waiting staff will be.

I’d even packed some emergency butteries in my suitcase just in case, but I needn’t have worried.

Italian restaurant Acquapazza,. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

Cora Cora Maldives boasts four individual restaurants, all of which had extensive and tantalising menus with items clearly marked for all sorts of dietary requirements.

The staff were knowledgeable and helpful, discussing options with me, offering to tweak dishes to make them vegan and never making me feel like I was causing a hassle.

Tazaa hosts a breakfast buffet with a seemingly endless array of options, from fresh fruit and cereal, to all manner of breads and cakes with chefs ready and waiting to cook you up pancakes, waffles and the like.

Tazaa. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

After 11.30am, the restaurant offers Levantine, Southern Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, with a Maldivian cuisine and dance evening on Thursdays.

Acquapazza is Cora Cora Maldives’ Italian restaurant and beach club. Here, staff easily amended pizza and pasta dishes to make them vegan for me.

We also spent most evenings at Acquapazza, enjoying cocktails on the sand while resident deejay, DJ C Soul, provided the soundtrack and barman/magician Shelton entertained us with tricks.

A cold beer in the evening was the perfect way to relax. Image: DC Thomson

Ginger Moon, the island’s Asian dining venue, felt like the most extravagant restaurant and boasted an all-female team of chefs.

Japanese-themed restaurant Teien was one of my favourites and most vegan-friendly, with a whole section of their menu dedicated to plant-based sushi. I ordered the lot.

Vegan sushi. Image: DC Thomson

The all-inclusive nature of the resort added to the freedom aspect and meant you could order as much as you wanted of whatever you wanted.

There was no shortage of drinks offerings, from familiar western beers like Carlsberg and Budweiser to wines and champagne to exotic cocktails and mocktails.

We were treated to a cocktail-making class where we learned how to make a Freedom Found and even came up with our own.

Mixing it up at he cocktail class. Image: DC Thomson

I invented the ‘Fit Like’. I can’t remember what on earth I put in it – so it must have been good.

One of my favourite aspects of Cora Cora Maldives was seeing the local wildlife, with huge fruit bats that could put up a fight against an Aberdeen seagull everywhere.

Coral is a stunning sight beneath the crystal-clear water. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

Geckos were also a common sight, dashing across paths and up trees, and crabs could be found chilling on rocks by the water.

There were even two rabbits which had been introduced to the island.

More species of fish than I knew existed were packed into the ocean like, erm, sardines, and seemed totally unfazed by our proximity to them while snorkelling.

Snorkelling and diving are great ways to enjoy the sea life. Image: Cora Cora Maldives

We were unlucky in that we didn’t spot any sea turtles, manta rays or dolphins during our trip, but we did see a shark on a few occasions swinging past our villas for a nosey.

While the sun and scorching temperatures are a key attraction of the Maldives, we were also treated to a spectacular lightening storm on our first night.

Lightning made for a spectacular show on our first night. Image: DC Thomson

On the clear nights we saw spectacular sunsets followed by the kind of starry skies I’ve rarely seen, living in a city centre.

Although you could quite easily spend the entire day relaxing on the beach, there are plenty of activities and excursions to keep you busy.

We went on a fascinating tour of the nearby Tsunami Ghost Island – abandoned after the Indian Ocean Earthquake disaster in 2004 – and learned more about the history of the region at Cora Cora Maldives’ own museum.

The Dutch Onion museum. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

Other excursions include boat trips to see dolphins and sea turtles, all manner of watersports, art classes, gift shops, pool and table tennis, yoga and sound healing.

There’s no shortage of water sports available to try. Cora Cora Maldives
Art classes are available for all ages and abilities. Image: DC Thomson
Sound healing session was incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating. Image: DC Thomson

Cora Cora Maldives also boasts the Moksha spa and wellbeing centre.

I’m not sure how I managed the first 30-something years of my life without a massage, but I simply didn’t know it was possible to be so relaxed.

Moksha. Image: Cora Cora Maldives.

Julie the masseuse is a miracle worker. She was able to undo the tension and stress of years of watching Aberdeen FC try to play football.

Speaking of football, while we were there, Cora Cora Maldives’ five-a-side team was playing in the final of a competition against all the other islands – and won 6-2.

Champions. Image: DC Thomson

The match was being played on a different island but was beamed back to Cora Cora Maldives and shown on a big screen for guests and staff alike to gather and cheer the lads on.

The next day, the staff had a victory parade with the trophy and let us pose with it for pictures.

Champions. Image: DC Thomson

For me, one of the biggest stand-outs of Cora Cora Maldives was the staff.

Each and every employee at Cora Cora Maldives has a tangible sense of pride in the island.

They love it and are passionate about making it the best place it can possibly be and making sure you enjoy your stay there.

It feels like you’re visiting friends.

Travel Facts

A stay at Cora Cora Maldives’ paradise island can be booked via coracoraresorts.com
A Monday-Friday, four-night stay from July 1-5 2024 will cost £2,977.41, including taxes and seaplane transfers for two adults from Male and a luxury Lagoon Villa.
Other packages with differing prices are available and some activities require booking and additional payment. Return flights from Edinburgh to Male, via Doha, are £1,408.68 per person with Qatar Airways, leaving on Sunday June 30.

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