In order for you to appreciate the full awesomeness of the Maldives, I’d like to introduce a guest blogger:
Silvia has lived on 2 continents and has visited almost 70 countries. She enjoys horseback riding, reading and any beach related activities… and she’s my lovely wife.
GTHQ Jaunt Journal – Hotel: Conrad Rangali Island Resort – Rangali, South Ari Atoll, Maldives
Location: Rangali, South Ari Atoll, Maldives – 40 minute flight from Male, Maldives
If somebody were to ask me where I spent my most relaxing vacation, I would have to answer: The Maldives, at the 6-star Conrad Rangali Island Resort to be exact. This is a Hilton Category 10 property (between 70K and 95K points/night). A week of bliss and relaxation!
We arrived at the airport in Male after taking our First & Business Class Etihad flights (reviews to follow soon). We were greeted by Conrad staff which helped us with our bags and took us to check in for the 40 min seaplane flight that is required to get to the Conrad. We then went on a 5 minute drive to the sea plane terminal and we were escorted to the Conrad lounge since we had a 2 hour wait. There are drinks and food as well as some lounging areas inside and out to help pass the time. While waiting the staff gets your contact, passport and credit card information to get a head start in the check in process. I have to add that you can get a 10 minute free back massage at the lounge which I truly appreciated. It really gets your vacation off into the proper relaxing mood until your flight is ready.
The Experience After a smooth 40 minute sea plane flight, we stepped out into a dock area with a small reception area. The resort is split into two islands separated by a long bridge. The island on the left is an adults only island while the larger island on the right is the main island. We met our Conrad host, Niyaz, who started to immediately take care of us. A refreshing towel was handed out and the luggage was already on the way to the room.
Our host took us to the reception area to finish the check in process and served us coconut water from a fresh cut coconut. He explained to us everything we needed to know and gave us his direct line to reach him at anytime for any questions. We also got a booklet called “Your Holiday Planner” with all the excursions, events, special dinner schedule, evening entertainment and fitness timetable. The staff is not only friendly, polite and professional, but also really sociable. They took time to chat with us at anytime and were open and replied to all sorts of questions from how will the weather be to what kind of benefits the company provides for the staff and how do they deal with living on an island far away from their families. The service does not feel forced and the staff is well trained and execute exceptionally. I even had some food intolerance which I informed them about when we first arrived and they made sure to make the necessary changes in menus. They speak about 30 different languages and it seems that the majority of guests were Asian (Chinese and Japanese mostly) and Russian. Also we really appreciated the fact that on the last day of our vacation, they let us stay in our villa until 4pm since our flight to Male was scheduled at 5.15pm.
We had reserved a King Beach Villa which was just perfect and situated only 20 steps from turquoise blue water and fine white sand. The room measures about 150 sqm (1615 sqft). In order to explain the layout of the villa, it is best to think of it as three main areas. The first is found upon entering into the villa, where you can find a corner with a mini bar and a Nespresso machine. Coffee and fresh water was complimentary and the staff provides quite a lot of water. Every evening a bottle of water is placed on both sides of the bed and also fresh fruits are served daily. This area also has a large closet which contains life jackets, a safe, slippers and bathrobes. To the left is also found the two lavatories and a large open wall that has large sliding doors that close.
This opening leads to the second main area which is the fountain courtyard with the secluded open-air garden-bathroom with a thatched-roof bathing pavilion featuring an oversized bathtub, shower and romantic mood lighting. This area is surrounded by large walls to maintain privacy. The shower comes out from of one of the walls and is well placed over Saltillo tiles. The bath can fit 4 people easily. It is kind of cool taking a shower even in the rain since the temperatures are mild year-round. Toiletries are by Aromatherapy Associates. Since a picture is worth a thousand words…
The third area is the master bedroom which was equipped with a modern flat screen satellite TV. The bed itself was extremely comfortable with 3 different choices of pillows. The toilet was inside the main room chamber and was separated by sliding doors. There is also a couch and office desk in case you are inclined to work 😉 Not on this trip! You can also find a coffee table, CD stereo with iPod connectors and DVD player. The rooms are cleaned impeccably and the housekeeping staff takes care of any special requests. Upon arrival we had a bottle of rosé and a variety of fruits since we are Hilton HHonors Gold members. The room has glass walls and opens onto a terrace with wooden sun loungers and a small private garden that leads to the beach. Beach towels are also available in the room.
Outside of the villa there is a small box that acts as a mailbox where any kind of dinner reservations and booked activities are placed for confirmation. Also, there are vases with water in the front and in the back of the villa to wash your feet before enter.
The Property and Activities
The islands are small enough to be secluded or large enough to enjoy the wildlife surrounding the islands.
Additionally the resort provides many activities: from snorkeling, renting a speed boat, paddle boat, jet skiing, diving, rent a private yacht, etc. One that I would really recommend doing is the Whale Shark Snorkeling Excursion. It’s a bit pricy at about USD$200/person but you contribute to the whale shark conservation program and you will have a great and unique experience. We were a bit unfortunate the day we went on the whale shark cruise it took us more than 1.5h to find it and another 30 people were swimming with us. However, being able to see the largest fish in the sea was an amazing experience.
Some activities like jet ski’s and yacht rental are booked at the water sports center near the main bridge. For some snorkel and diving excursions, you have to book these kinds of activities at the Sub Aqua Dive Center which is contracted by the Conrad Resort. The diving center is just a 2 minute walk from the reception area.
We took the time to snorkel around both islands but there is one recommended snorkeling area close to apartment number 225 which is basically an alley between corals that takes you gradually into the deep blue where sometimes you can encounter black tipped sharks, turtles, manta rays and a huge variety of fish. The corals are not as colorful as in other parts of the world, but the fish are amazing!
If you would like to cross to the other island you can have a nice walk on the bridge where at night you will see giant rays or take the shuttle boat which goes and comes back every 10 minutes or so. For the brave one, they can swim to the other island. There is no restriction to swim or snorkel anywhere around the islands but it is recommended to stay away from strong currents if you are not a strong swimmer. There are life jackets for beginner or mediocre swimmers with little experience.
Management also arranges a cocktail reception every Tuesday evening to meet with clients. There are also other activities like a Maldivian bodu beru show, live music, star gazing cinema under the stars, sundowner cocktails, DJ nights and many, many happy hours 😉
At the Conrad Maldives you can find any kind of food you want since there is a selection from Asian, European, Indian and of course Maldivian food. The Conrad has 7 different restaurants and 4 bars to choose from but most restaurants that have set menus require a reservation. You will definitely pay quite a steep price for almost any dining option (set menus from $75-320/person) and keep in mind that there is an 18% additional tax and service charge.
We tried out the following restaurants:
– Ithaa Underwater Restaurant: Gastronomically delicious! There was a special evening set up due to a Wine Representative named Stefano Leon (Antinori Wines) who was hosting the evening. We enjoyed a 6 course dinner in a fantastic environment – 8m/27ft under sea level – so it’s basically like being in a big aquarium surrounded by a variety of fish and sharks. The different wines were amazing and they were presented with interesting explanations and humor. The chef respected my desire to eat gluten free and lactose free so I had a special plate for every course and the size of the portion was really satisfying. Just look at the menu and wine pairings below. (Price: $320/person without drinks) This is a pricey dining option but should not be missed.
– Atoll restaurant: Maldivian Night – A Maldivian buffet dining experience with many dishes. You can find fish, meat, different salads and of course delicious desserts. This type of dining is prepared on Mondays. (Price: $115/person without drinks)
– Sunset Grill: Here you can find set menus or à la carte. The choice is not great but the food is really good. We tried the special fish of the day and some desserts. Judging by the name of the restaurant you can guess what the view is.
– Cheese & Wine Bar: if you want to have a cheese & wine experience, that’s the place, but we also wanted to check out the Cheese Fondue! Even if I am Swiss I had to try it and I can say that it was amazingly tasty!!! (Price: $75/person without drinks)
– Atoll restaurant: Buffet – 6 different zones which covered different styles of food – Italian, Indian, Japanese, Maldivian, American, Asian, fresh seafood and lots of desserts. You can find fish, meat, different salads and of course delicious desserts. This type of dining is prepared on Mondays. (Price: $125/person without drinks)
In case you would like to have a more wallet friendly food experience you can dine at Rangali Bar where they serve food a la carte almost 24h a day.
Breakfast was included due to our Gold status and it was served in 2 different places. One is on the main island at the Atoll Market and the other on the island across at the Vilu Restaurant. The first is a buffet and the second is a à la carte breakfast. We only ate the Atoll Market because it had such a great variety of food and the fresh pressed juices were amazing. You can even create your personal juice mixes which they make in front of you. If you prefer tea or coffee they will provide it to you in a second.
In the end this was an authentic and amazing vacation! Thank you honey!!!
The Excellent: You didn’t read the review!? Everything! Normal Cost: $9000 USD – Our Cost: $0 + 225K Hilton points
The Bad: Too far away from home for a weekend trip and food is quite expensive. Most activities have to be booked in advance and if you don’t cancel 24h before the appointment you will be charged.
The Ugly: What’s that??? PS: Don’t forget to take sunblock with you!