Cora Cora Maldives: Notes from a small island
A relative new-comer to the Maldives, Cora Cora may be small, but its offering is mighty
Raa Maamigili in the Raa Atoll, otherwise known as Cora Cora Maldives, may be small but it is perfectly formed. Stretching over just 95x235 metres, the island packs a mighty punch in terms of its charm and guest offerings.
As my seaplane descends on my arrival day, I catch a glimpse of an extensive welcoming party waving enthusiastically from the dock - a snapshot that would set the tone for the rest of my stay. Even though I was flying solo, I never felt lonely once.
The resort’s motto is ‘Freedom Time’, one which I embraced wholeheartedly during my stay. After day one, my shoes had been completely discarded and I was using my hairbrush only sparingly. You can go absolutely everywhere barefoot, even for dinner, and there’s no need for dressing up, unless you are so inclined.
While here, I am hosted in one of the resort's iconic overwater villas, which has all the perks you’d expect; a cloud-like bed which I immediately sink into and sleep off my jet-lag, a large splendidly tiled shower, a deep bath with ocean views, and decking with steps leading down into an impossibly cerulean sea.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot an amply stocked mini-bar with red, white and rose wine, beer, soft drinks, juice and water. There’s also crisps, jelly beans, chocolate and nuts to snack on, plus coffee and tea. The coffee's hand-roasted on the island, so even what you brew yourself in your room is really fresh, and all of this is replenished every single day and is fully complimentary.
Along with shampoo, conditioner, hand and body wash, I’m delighted to see toothpaste and a toothbrush are also included; it’s rare to get toothpaste provided without having to ask, even in high end hotels. There’s also a handy little loofah, soft and airy robes, tissues, and a shaving kit. It feels like they’ve thought of everything.
For more self-care, the Moksha Spa is a haven of tranquillity, emanating sweet herbal fragrances and so quiet, aside from the gently tinkling music, that you can hear a pin drop. I visited here three times in total, the first time for a herbal compression workshop with the aptly named Focus. Together we fill linen cloths with a mixture of herbs and oils, wrapping the bundles tightly. She then shows me how to heat them and then knead them against the skin for beneficial massage and aromatherapy effects. She kindly tells me that my compress is better than hers.
My second visit is for my 45-minute complimentary massage, which is available to all guests who book for four nights or more, with a wonderful therapist named Putri. She enthuses that her passion is healing and taking care of people, which is evident in how relaxed I feel after my time with her. I’m so impressed that I came back for an hour-long signature herbal compression massage, luckily not using the one I made earlier.
All the treatment rooms are in overwater villas, making them serene and giving a sense of being away from everything and everyone. A panel of glass on the floor, strategically-placed where your face sits on the massage table, means you can watch fish and other sea life dart, feed and frolic among the coral.
There’s also a chance to enrich your mind, at the on-site museum. Over 400 artefacts from corners of the globe, from China to the Middle East, have been excavated on this tiny piece of land. But rather than throwing them away or shipping them off the island, each has been lovingly displayed, or stored in a safe room which can be accessed by anyone especially interested, with guided tours on request.
A broad-smiled and exceptionally knowledgeable Maldivian, Wifag, runs the tours. His knowledge of the artefacts, and the history of the region in general, is nothing short of encyclopaedic. He shows me Chinese porcelain, the eponymous Duth onion flask after which the museum is named, and even an old HMV gramophone, complete with a 1960’s vinyl.
Wifag also shows me two excavated ceremonial bathing pools, the foundations of a mosque, and headstones from an Islamic graveyard- all unearthed on the island. It’s remarkable just how much history there is here, and Wifag makes it all sound interesting through his indefatigable enthusiasm.
The food is impeccable, whether it’s Thai cuisine at the all-female run Ginger Moon, specialty pizzas cooked in a pizza oven shipped all the way from Rome at Acquapazzam, or delicacies inspired by the spice route at Middle Eastern eatery Tazäa.
My highlight is the Tepanyaki evening, part tasting experience, part show. Chef Pindi plays with three-feet high flames, creates words and objects formed by the rice while cooking, and chats to the guests. He even lets me come behind the counter and try cooking (I was rubbish, but he offered me a job nonetheless). Gourmet sushi is followed by crab and seaweed salad, followed by teriyaki chicken, ponzu pork, rice and miso soup, then juicy chunks of beef, and topped off with caramelised banana and vanilla ice cream.
A close second is the sunset cruise on a vibrantly painted traditional Maldivian boat, complete with champagne and warm hors d'oeuvres served onboard. There’s a chance to spot the dolphins who live in the surrounding waters, especially if you climb up onto the roof and camp out there.
However, my favourite thing about the resort - by far - was the people. I was delighted to see the staff genuinely getting on with each other, bantering with the guests and looking like they were enjoying themselves. There was Bilal, who worked at My Coffee bar and loved to joke around; Sisi the DJ whose infectious personality I warmed to immediately, or Nadin the sales manager who challenged me to table football after I boasted about my skill level. These are just a few of the staff who welcomed me warmly and made my stay feel special.
As my seaplane departs, the welcoming party has assembled once again. They wave furiously until we are out of sight, and I wave back hoping they can see me, but knowing I’m probably just a tiny dot already. My trip has come full circle and I feel richer - in culture, in connections, and in myself - than when I arrived.
The Maldives offers a plethora of resorts, all luxurious or enticing in their own ways, so that it can seem an overwhelming task to commit your precious holiday time to just one. But this little teardrop-shaped gem shows how one small thing can create big waves. As the famous quote from the Wachowski sisters’ epic Cloud Atlas goes, “what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?".
Prices for a seven-night stay at Cora Cora Maldives start from £3,194 per person based on two adults sharing on an all-inclusive basis. This includes Qatar Airways return flights from London Heathrow to Malé, seaplane transfers, and accommodation in a Lagoon Villa.