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On The Luxury Trail: Three Summer Escapes to Book Now

Coco Privé_Main Pool_promoThe Maldives Island That’s Unlike the Others

You’ve probably seen the Maldives already, even if only in magazines and on websites. You may have actually visited. Felt pretty special, right? But there are lots of places in the Maldives that can give you roughly the same thing, while for those who can afford it, there is one place that’s a true exclusive-use private island. Coco Privé Kuda Hithi.

Designed for the type of people who want the whole island to themselves, and are prepared to pay for that privilege, Coco Privé feels like flying in a private jet after years of flying first class. It was great before, but this is a whole new experience. The Palm Residence is the daddy of rooms in the Maldives. Designed by award-winning architect Guz Wilkinson, it feels like being in a stylish Hollywood home, but with a view of the Indian Ocean. There’s a plunge pool on the balcony and a Jacuzzi on the other for loafing about in maximum style, but you really notice the difference when you go downstairs to the dining room.

The palm residence bedroom

The Palm Residence bedroom.

There’s no restaurant here, just your dining area and 24-hour meals, all prepared by your own private chef. You want a sandwich at 4am? Sure. There are no menus, you just let the staff know what you’d like. There’s no reception because it’s not a hotel or resort, but if you pick up a phone, your call will be answered within three rings.

Likewise, the spa treatments by your personal therapist don’t need to be booked, space permitting. The massage table is set up there on the sand. After all, it’s not like strangers are going to be wandering past.

If you want to do something water-based, the in-house marine biologist can take you to meet the resident sea turtles, or out to swim with manta rays if it’s the right time of the year. And you have unlimited diving experiences and use of equipment, because it’s just you here. Unless, of course, you invite your family and friends.

Coco Prive is set on a privet Maldivian island

Coco Privé Kuda Hithi is set on a private Maldivian island.

The 1.4 hectare island can sleep 12, with five other villas with twin or double beds and big living rooms opening out on to pool decking. Or, as many guests do, they can be for your bodyguards. European and Middle Eastern royalty, Hollywood stars, and a stream of high-flying billionaires have all made this their place to unwind because it’s as bespoke as you’re going to find. There’s a story about a guest from the US who insisted on his exercise bike being sent on ahead. Of course, there are really good exercise bikes in the gym, but he wanted his one. Coco Privé arranged for his heavy exercise bike to be flown the 15 000km, picked up at the airport, and taken over by boat. It was then unwrapped, given a clean, and put in the gym just in case he felt like having a cycle on his own exercise bike. He didn’t. But the point is, the request was made and completed without a fuss because that’s what the very best places can do. And that’s true modern luxury.

Being at Coco Privé feels like a scene from a sci-fi film where the protagonist seems to be in a near-perfect place, only for it to be revealed that he’s actually on a space ship wearing a virtual reality headset. But this is real, and it feels unlike anything else in the Maldives.

Words: Matt Pomroy

The loft-style suites at Singita Lebombo

The loft-style suites at Singita Lebombo.

Where The Safari Comes to You

A nice hotel should leave you feeling grateful you lead a life where you are privileged to spend a few days surrounded by splendor. But a truly nice hotel shouldn’t leave you feeling grateful. Instead, it should anticipate your whims so far in advance that it doesn’t even occur to you to feel grateful; it should recalibrate your barometers of entitlement and warp your sense of self so completely it’s as if “sumptuous repose” is the only condition you have ever known. I’m talking about a class of hotel so luxurious it soars beyond opulence into an alternate dimension where magnificence is casual, where a breezy staff (more like your loving family who work for you) renders your daily tasks so indescribably easy, the previous days of your life feel like a poorly remembered bad dream, where the skin-softening bath crystals are gratis, unlimited, and silently replenished. Singita Lebombo is one such establishment, and they also have archery lessons.

Singtia Lebombo

Twice-daily game drives bring you up close and personal with the wildlife.

Hidden among mountains inside South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Lebombo is a classic safari camp with an exhilarating design. Your room, built into cliffs and running on hushed solar power, is an airy, glass-walled cube that floats over the N’wanetsi River. By day, roaming elephants treat the waterway as an open cafe; after sundown, they’re replaced by hippos that bellow into the black night. Don’t want to hear hippos bellowing into the black night? Shut yourself up inside your glass palace. Otherwise, slip under the crisp sheets of your outdoor bed.

Your schedule at Lebombo is that of a better person who leads a more rewarding life. By 6.30am, you’re inside an open-air Land Rover. Your guide drives you alongside zebras and wildebeests and herd after herd of impalas, the hot-supermodel versions of deer. You’re watching the BBC program Planet Earth in real time – plus, you can interrupt the narrator with inane questions. You return to the lodge in time for a monkey to steal your bread at lunch. “Stop!” you say. “I love bread!” the monkey does not say while managing voraciously to convey that message. (More warm focaccia appears at your table.) Afterward, try a midday soak in your bathtub, which is wide, deep, and shaped like an eggshell that has been inspired by the concept of peace. (Don’t worry about stripping; each glass suite is located clear of other guests. You might make eye contact with a nude giraffe, as the tub faces the river.)

Singita Lebombo

The luxury open-air bathroom.

By mid-afternoon, you’re back in the Rover, hustling to locate a leopard, and even though you’ve been here only a day, your mind is so warped that you feel like you really deserve to see her. Great news: You do see her! Everything here is easy and perfect. After dinner under the stars, a friendly staff member escorts you back to your room because an elephant is lumbering around your wooden walkway. While you were out, your suite has been filled with flickering candles – just another way for the staff to show that they love you and trust you with fire. You collapse into the bed (festooned, in your absence, with silk cobwebs of mosquito netting) to recover from your hectic day, although in fact all you accomplished was gorging yourself on an impressive number of gourmet dishes and being driven around in an exciting way. Tomorrow, you’ll wake with the birds and do it again. For a supernatural few days, you’ll forget that living so well isn’t normal – the magic trick of a luxurious vacation.

Words: Caity Weaver

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The Once-in-a-Lifetime Hotel You Get to Experience Five Times


One of the hilltop lodges of Amankora.

If ever a hotel could be said to be “transporting,” it is the Amankora in Bhutan. It moves with you. It is a kind of caravansary, like history’s first inns, where weary travelers along the Silk Road or on some endless desert trek through Persia could stop and recuperate for a spell. The Amankora updates this conceit by way of wanderlust: it is really five lodges strung throughout this remote Himalayan country, and a proper stay involves wending your way to each of them. In so doing, you see more of a landscape you could never get enough of.

It’s transporting, too, because the experience of being in Bhutan is not so much otherworldly as othermindly; a clearing of the brain and a lifting of the spirit that make home feel like the samsara you left behind. Everything here points to the skies, from the monasteries that cling impossibly and sometimes impassably to the mountains, to the brightly colored prayer flags that locals string throughout the hills and forests, wishing for something but never quite desiring it. (Your Buddhist tour guide will quietly inform you that desire is the source of all suffering.)


One of the suites at Thimphu Lodge.

Aiding in the brain-clearing: Bhutan remains almost defiantly analog – you will see occasional cell phones, but no one cares what your new Galaxy S9 can do. The country was virtually closed to international travel until 1974, and even now severely limits tourist visas.


Bumthang Lodge.

There isn’t anything to do except visit glorious monasteries (the interiors as vivid as a Hockney painting), hike over the mountains, and mutter “Holy moly – that’s beautiful” again and again. That, and to keep coming back to the Amankora, where they like to organize: Would you like a whitewater rafting expedition? A Bhutanese barbecue? A plunge in an outdoor hot-stone bath? You will do all three, ending up under the stars in that bath, somehow motionless and transported at the same time. Because this is the place just beyond the desire you knew.

Words: Jim Nelson

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Originally printed in the Vogue Man Arabia Spring/Summer 2018 issue.

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