A gem of an island in southern Maldives, COMO Maalifushi has emerged as one of our favourite resorts for 2023. It’s an especially good choice for families.
Mohammed Sobah is the first Maldivian General Manager of an international brand hotel in the Maldives.
We asked him about his homeland, his travel recommendations and his own resort, COMO Maalifushi.
How has the Maldives changed over the last 20 years?
I started at COMO Cocoa Island in 2002. Back then the Maldives was about bed and beach.
Now a Maldives holiday is driven by experiences. You can find anything and everything here.
You can go anywhere and have a beach. The Maldives is about the experiences guests can take away with them.
We are friendly in the Maldives, everybody is humble. So the service culture has always been here. But in the past a guest requested something. Now there’s a much stronger focus on training staff and ensuring staff can predict guests’ needs.
What are your favourite experiences at COMO Maalifushi?
A lot of our guests come for whale sharks. You can snorkel with them at night, an eight-metre animal just a few centimetres away.
This year has been one of our busiest for diving too. We have a great surf wave 25 minutes from the resort as well, so many surfers are staying with us, especially Australians.
At Maalifushi we’re lucky to have our own completely untouched picnic island, just five minutes from the resort.
We can do a sandbank sleepout, where guests can have dinner and also their choice of movie. The whole island is for them and if they want a guard or butler as well we arrange it.
Gastronomy is a journey and culinary experiences are very important for us, from breakfast to dinner. It starts from understanding what guests like.
A first-time visitor might think that because we only have three dining outlets they will be bored with the food. But every night we’re creating something unique for every guest.
COMO Cocoa Island invited two-time world champion kitesurfer to do experiences with guests. Who do you invite?
Astronauts! We arrange a lot of activities for our younger guests.
Last summer we brought the tenth woman to walk in space to COMO Maalifushi. She was doing underwater breathing, building a rocket from recycled materials, space presentations where guests could try real space food.
How many people have met an astronaut? Parents could book to enjoy private dinners with her.
This summer from July 28 to 6 August we will have the first African woman in space. She’s the first Arab woman in space too. Again, the program is mostly focused on educating, inspiring and entertaining younger guests.
What else is new for 2023 at COMO Maalifushi?
We will have a special summer camp from the start of July to the end of August. It’s a very active environment, including water activities like a glass-bottomed kayak. We have yoga for kids too.
Surfing is excellent from May to August and we have two resident surf instructors, with access to six surf spots close to us. Very few resorts in the Maldives offer this.
Later in the year we are inviting a professional mixologist and a Michelin-star chef. There’s always something coming up. Like at our spa, COMO Shambhala Retreat, where we have visiting practitioners.
We don’t have any plans to expand, we like how spacious the island is.
We do a lot of preventative maintenance and this year we’re changing the decks of the villas.
Tell us more about snorkelling and diving at COMO Maalifushi.
We are the only resort on our atoll, far in the south of the Maldives. So we’re the only resort who does diving in this area.
You may have dived in the Maldives before. Now you can dive with hammerheads and tiger sharks in the Maldives. It’s limitless.
Large parts of southern Maldives remain unexplored. There are drift dives, deep dives, nighttime dives, every type of dive and we have exclusivity at the dive sites. We do retreats with professional underwater photographers, so guests can learn underwater photography.
Our overwater villas are directly above the best snorkelling area, from sunrise to sunset it’s right there for guests.
El Nino destroyed about half of the reef in 2016 and I’m happy to say that most of this has now recovered. 90% of the time you go snorkelling at COMO Maalifushi you will see turtles. Even our house reef has resident turtles.
Many people will perceive your remote location as a disadvantage. What advantages does it have?
I believe the further you travel in the Maldives the better it gets. The centre around Male is very densely populated, there are a lot of new resorts.
When you travel further you have a different experience. There is no light pollution. There is no sound pollution.
COMO Maalifushi is more like the Maldives was 15 years ago. You don’t see any boats moving around, you enjoy a completely uninterrupted ocean view, from almost anywhere on the island.
There is a lot of competition in the Maldives, with around 170 resorts. Everyone can choose based on service, brand, price, experience or another factor.
The southern atolls are among the remotest areas in the world where you can find understated luxury.
If you want to repeat the experience of the Maldives ten or 15 years ago, then travel out of the central zone.
Travelling in the Maldives is easier now as well. Seaplane flights are an experience, with the planes going low above the islands and all the colours. People shouldn’t think of a seaplane flight as just travel.
Tell us more about your own story and history in the Maldives?
I’ve been with COMO for over 20 years. I grew up with these resorts.
I joined COMO Cocoa Island in 2002 when COMO took over. I came to Maalifushi when it opened in 2014 and took over a General Manager during the pandemic.
I’m the first GM of an international brand hotel in the Maldives and a lot of friends and colleagues look to me as a role model, it gives them encouragement.
Locals used to think that the top positions were not for locals. This is changing and I like that I can contribute.
I’m married to a German so I spend some of my time in Germany too.
Finally Mohamed, what makes COMO Maalifushi so good for families?
Our villas are very spacious compared to most other resorts. They come with a private pool, not a plunge pool, really a private swimming pool.
With our spacious villas families don’t need to book a second unit. This gives them value for money. We also have larger villas with four bedrooms for bigger families.
Most of our overwater villas are facing the sunset and there’s nothing blocking the view, no boats, no anything. And they’re directly above the reef.
Beach villas have private gardens as well and families with younger kids love these.
Our menus and culinary journeys are not just made for adults. We design them specifically for children too.
At our kids club, Play by COMO, the concept is learning things through play. We don’t turn on the tv or play Playstation. We do activities and connect play with local culture.
Some kids don’t want to detach from their parents. They go to Play by COMO on the first day and then want to spend every hour of their holiday there.
We are a family destination and we see a lot of demand for travel in the summer school holidays, in July and August.
During summer in the Maldives there can be a few minute of rain, which I think is water for the garden!
Your family holiday in COMO Maalifushi?
COMO Maalifushi opened in 2014 although it’s only recently that it’s emerged as one of our favourites at EliteVoyage.
There are over 170 resorts in the Maldives and every year we’re visiting different resorts, to discover what is best for our clients’ diverse interests and holiday styles.
This detailed approach means we have direct relationships with the General Managers of many outstanding resorts all around the world, like Mohamed Sobah at COMO Maalifushi.
These relationships ensure the special requirements and requests of our clients are always met. And we can always deliver something extraordinary for every guest stay.