Where in the world?
The Maldives, with its hat trick of white sands, blue skies and unreal waters, will always feel a wonderful world away from home: so, why not plump for a ‘two-in-one’ kind of resort? The Conrad Maldives is a twin-island; dual personality ocean idyll located in the South Ari atoll that occupies both the equally beautiful Rangali and Rangali Finolhu, islands. Needless to say, it is picture perfect. Not sure we appeared anything close to nonchalant, on arriving here!
After a near ten-hour flight from the UK to the capital of the Maldives, Malé, and a hassle-free, quick stop at the Conrad lounge (where we took up the offer of massages and a buffet), we boarded our 30-minute seaplane flight to the resort. En route, we took in our first, long-awaited, glimpse of those strangely familiar Maldivian atolls, able to make out deep-sea areas and the brighter blues of the resort’s house reef.
First impressions are good, then?
Yes, but don’t just take my ‘Maldives-first-timer’ word for it: the returning rate of guests is huge – around 50%, at any given time, have been here at least once before. A couple on our seaplane were taking their 14th trip. Even the majority of staff has been working there for nearly ten years or more.
On arrival were allocated a ‘thakuru’, or, personal butler. Having someone at our beck and call took a little getting used to, but wow, do we miss him now! You can call your thakuru to hitch a ride on a golf buggy. We didn’t call much, however, mainly preferring to walk off our food – there’s no hurry, here. Barefoot island life is fantastic, and encouraged, but do take flip-flops with you everywhere. The 500-metre footbridge between the islands gets very hot in that midday sun!
What are the rooms like?
It seems to me that guests to the Maldives are firmly in one of two camps: beach or water villa. As a couple visiting for the first time, we couldn’t imagine anything other than sleeping over water. To our mind, if you don’t stay in an overwater villa, then did you even really go to the Maldives? Each to their own, but this really does seem to be the mindset of most first time visitors, with beach villas tending to be more popular with families and regulars. Gosh, wouldn’t you love to be considered a Maldives ‘regular’? Anyway, an overwater villa stay is surely a bucket list experience, and your honeymoon is a great reason to tick it off.
All suites look over the lagoon, which is so brilliantly blue that your relatives are sure to go an interesting shade of green when you Facetime them; ours did! We stayed in a Spa Retreat overwater villa. These suites (all dark wood and turquoise cushions – a Pinterest and Instagrammers dream) are seriously HUGE: 1,614 square foot, huge. Each villa is completely private, with its own steps down into the lagoon. Each has a dressing room with a shower and bathroom with uninterrupted views, and in-villa bridge (!) to your very own separate couple’s massage room, which is bigger than the average London flat. Yes, that’s right, you can arrange for spa staff to come to your villa for treatments in the comfort of your own pad. See, I told you it was Paradise.
What is there to eat?
Lots of resorts in the Maldives have weird and wonderful restaurant offerings, to stand out among the crowd. You may have heard of the Conrad Maldives resort in part due to loads of publicity surrounding its submerged restaurant Ithaa, (meaning ‘mother of pearl’), which, when it opened in 2005, was the world’s first underwater restaurant. It sits 16-feet below the sea, in one of the busiest parts of the reef, with inquisitive clownfish blinking wide-eyed at you from their coral home, and sharks eyeing up your canapés, as you wine and dine.
Lots of the dishes are also pretty exotic, as well as using plenty of local produce. Think, all manner of curries, fresh seafood by the barrel load, including lobster and sushi dishes, as well Wagyu beef, Mediterranean fare and sharing platters. We loved catching the manned guest boat, which runs back and forth between the two islands and main restaurants.
Dining here never becomes boring. With so much choice, you can eat somewhere different every night for a week. We gave the under-the-stars Japanese cooking at Koko Grill, which is on the beach, a good go. Twelve courses of experiential dining later, including dishes like abalone sea snails cooked up in front of you by famed visiting chefs, and you’ll certainly walk away with stories to tell. Just make sure you (and your other half) like Japanese food…
Our favourite restaurants were either the beach BBQ (total toes-in-sand type affair) or the Sunset Grill, which sits on stilts, hovering over Ithaa. It specialises in fish dishes, so we ordered the catch of the day, which was the local blue fin Jackfish. A special experience, perfect for honeymoon, would be the sommelier-led gourmet dining at the 20,000 bottle strong Wine Cellar restaurant, which also hosts cheese and wine, and fondue nights – we were so very sad to have missed out on that one! Wherever you dine, you’ll be dreaming of the food here (coconut shrimp, for me) for months to come.
Is there a spa?
There’s not one, but two (one each, perhaps?) spas, at Conrad Maldives. If you can pop your snorkel and camera down for long enough to visit and get changed into your spa robe, the smaller, tranquil Overwater Spa will reward you with the chance to spend time gazing at the fish below while you are massaged, since the floor is glass.
We personally loved the Spa Retreat, which offers Elemis massages, body wraps and facials over nine treatment rooms. The Maldivian Indigenous treatment involves both a thorough scrub and a massage, so that’s a great place to start. You can book couple’s treatments, where you are in the same room, although if your partner is (like mine) a snorer, I wouldn’t recommend it!
The sublime lunch at Mandhoo, the resort’s spa (and I’d say, most scenic) restaurant, serves up incredibly delicious organic produce under the themes, energise, detoxify, relax and fortify. Meat, fish and vegetable dishes are served so fresh and deliciously spiced that you don’t miss the addition of heavy carbohydrate-loaded side dishes.
All the menus at the resort are on an iPad, (how wonderfully modern?), so you can browse through easily, and there are lots of pictures of the dishes to help you decide. Additionally, if you are at Mandhoo at 130pm, the restaurant staff does a spot of daily reef shark feeding, and will tie your underwater camera to a rod and film the experience for you. They also serve a daily afternoon tea, open to all guests.
How can we make the most of our stay?
On your first morning, I’d say the best idea is to set off barefoot to explore. It’s a great chance to unwind, get your bearings and have some alone time together, post all of that high pitched wedding fever. Then, you could head for the adults-only beach bar and pier, complete with an infinity pool and sundeck.
However, don’t think that all the Maldives has to offer is a great place to sunbathe and sun worship. It would be well worth checking out the cleverly curated lists of activities online at stayinspired.com, before you go, where there are ideas for one, three and five hour island experiences. When you find one you like, you can, if you need to book it, contact the concierge to organise a particular activity into your trip. Et voila! Perhaps the most enjoyable part of ‘wedmin’: deciding which of the watersports activities to do when.
Is the sea life good?
You can book snorkelling and diving trips specifically to try to spot a whale shark – the key word here being ‘try’. It isn’t guaranteed. Unfortunately, we didn’t see one on this trip, but we did see plenty of turtles, fish, starfish, sharks and even a few manta rays. Make sure you pack your underwater camera and learn how to use it before you go. Additionally, there’s a large pool, (which children are allowed round, but we hardly saw any and most stick to the beach), and lots of watersport equipment, including a ‘jet pack’ for the more adventurous!
We took the group sunset dolphin cruise. Toasting a glass of Ruinart champagne aboard a yacht that was sailing into the sunset was beautiful enough, but soon, we were surrounded by what felt like hundreds of spinner dolphins, racing along with us. There are 23 species of whales and dolphins across the Maldives. So, here’s hoping you get to see one or two, at least!
Chill out time
Most days, we would head back to our villa in the late afternoon to enjoy a glass of wine in our Jacuzzi, or snorkel in the lagoon hoping to see a manta gliding by, before watching the sun set: talk about starting married life the right way!
In truth, as newlyweds, there are lots of luxurious resorts in the Maldives all vying for your attention. The very fact that you are considering a visit for your honeymoon is a wise one: relaxation and beautiful vistas have surely never been so intertwined. However, what Conrad Maldives can uniquely offer, alongside its beautiful accommodation and restaurants, is luxury combined with a welcome feeling. The staff members are treasured, here, and they pass those good vibes on to their guests. Sun burn? I mentioned mine in passing and found freshly cut aloe vera in our room. Drop your sunglasses into the deep lagoon? Yes, I did, and the staff sent a diving team straight out to fetch them back. Nothing is too much trouble.
They also have a beaming guest track record. You too could be one of those honeymooning guests who returns regularly for their anniversary, and then later with their children. Or, perhaps you’ll just keep coming back for cocktails in the adults-only infinity pool? Hey, we like your style. But, for now, your biggest decision can be sunset villa or spa retreat villa? Or why not split your stay between both beach and water villas, or, across both islands? Hey, it’s Paradise – anything goes.
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island, Maldives. Beach villas currently start from £536 per room per night and over water villas start from £660 per room per night, and both rates include breakfast, exclusive of taxes, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island