x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Hotel review: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, spread across two private islands, has an underwater restaurant and an overwater spa. We check in

The bridge that connects the two islands at Conrad Maldives.
The bridge that connects the two islands at Conrad Maldives.

The welcome

Conrad staff collect me in a van at Malé airport and take me to the resort’s nearby lounge, where I wait for the seaplane. After an awe-filled 30-minute ride south over the Maldivian atolls, I land at a dock in the middle of a long pedestrian bridge that connects the resort’s two islands. I’m taken by golf cart to my villa.

The neighbourhood

Located on the south-west end of Ari Atoll, the resort is a world of its own. The big island, ­Rangalifinolhu, has the main reception area, spa and pools; beach villas (set in private gardens); most of the restaurants; and a watersports centre. Rangali, the smaller island, is home to most of the water villas (on stilts); the overwater spa with a glass floor; and a few more restaurants.

A beach villa at Conrad Maldives.
A beach villa at Conrad Maldives

The room

My deluxe beach villa has a thatched roof, but from inside, it’s all modern luxe, with 12-foot-high glass windows from floor to ceiling that open out onto a tropical garden. There’s a plunge pool and direct access to a semi-private beach, and my OTT favourite: a courtyard with a fountain, an outdoor shower and a dramatic elevated bath pavilion. I like its originality as compared to the deluxe water villa, where I spend the following night. This quintessential ­Maldivian cabana sits on stilts over the water, with its own plunge pool and stairs from the sundeck into the ocean. Both are equipped with Nespresso machines, flashlights, adapters and umbrellas.

The service

Friendly and accommodating, particularly in the restaurants. Villa service can be slow, which sometimes happens when staff travel by golf cart, but the resort is busy and it shows.

The scene

You won’t feel alone among honeymooners here, because there are plenty of groups, mainly families, including some from our region. The main island’s common areas are busy, particularly at the children’s pool and watersports centre, while there’s a quieter, more-mature crowd on the smaller island. It’s shoes-off everywhere, even in restaurants, which adds to the relaxing island vibe. If you tire of island life, daily excursions such as snorkelling and sunset cruises can be arranged, from US$80 to $170 (Dh294 to Dh624) per person. Or you can get a free show by waiting on the bridge at night for the manta rays to come out to play.

Conrad Maldives' underwater restaurant Ithaa.
Conrad Maldives' underwater restaurant Ithaa

The food

Take your pick from 12 restaurants and bars, including the most visually remarkable, Ithaa, the Maldives’ first all-glass undersea restaurant, offering a pre-arranged set menu; my personal favourite, the Sunset Grill, an overwater open-air bungalow from which you can watch fish glide by in the lit-up water while eating fresh Maldivian lobster ($62 [Dh228]); Ufaa by Chinese celebrity chef Jereme Leung, for dim sum and beef noodle soup ($29 [Dh107]); and the Koko Grill for beachside Japanese food. A decent international breakfast buffet is served in the all-day restaurants, Atoll Market on the big island and Vilu on the small; and shisha is available at The Quiet Zone beach lounge.

Conrad Maldives' Spa Retreat.
Conrad Maldives' Spa Retreat.

Loved

The Spa Retreat’s Maldivian indigenous treatment ($190 [Dh698]), which was like a hammam, but with a coconut scrub and massage using heated coconut sticks.

Hated

I had to fiddle a lot with the electrics in both my rooms, including the lights, blinds and stereo.

The verdict

A resort deserving of its popularity, offering enough diversity for a long stay.

The bottom line

Beach villas at Conrad ­Maldives Rangali Island (www.conradmaldives.com) cost from $622 (Dh2,285); water villas cost from $745 (Dh2,736), both including taxes and breakfast. Seaplane transfers cost $500 (Dh1,836.50) return.