The ultimate beach holiday is out there and it can be found at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Words Catherine Hales
There’s no such thing as the perfect holiday. What may seem like a dream for one person might be a nightmare for others: for instance, the thought of camping interspersed with bouts of hiking or cycling sounds like a kind of elaborate torture to me in the same way that lying on a beach for seven days with a book and a cocktail may seem incredibly dull to others. Equally, for some, traipsing around cathedrals and historic town centres, guide book in hand, is infinitely more appealing than a remote villa nestled in the hills, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Despite this, I challenge almost anyone not to enjoy a week spent in the Maldives.
Getting to the islands, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka, is an adventure in itself. The initial flight is a relatively painless 11 hours and the Emirates service is exceptional throughout. We set down in Malé, the capital city, but this is a mere pitstop for us and we are soon ushered to a jetty where our seaplane awaits. Seeing it there, bobbing on the current, is a genuine thrill. The flight is fleeting and spent craning to catch the first glimpse of the island below.
Barefoot luxury is not a new concept but it is rarely executed so well as at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Our seaplane sets down in the middle of the wooden walkway that straddles the ocean between the two islands covered by the sprawling resort. We are greeted with cold towels and smiles, before being led to our villas – Conrad Maldives doesn’t do mere rooms. Guests to the islands can choose between Beach Villas and Water Villas, both of which are characterised by effortlessly chic design, favouring open spaces framed by wooden beams and easy-going island vibes throughout. The beach villas are aptly named. Guests can wander through large French windows down to their own little section of sand, complete with personal sun lounger and parasol. A short distance across the sea on the other island, the water villas look exactly like every image of the Maldives you’ve ever lusted over.
The revelation however, is that those pictures had not been photoshopped: at least in the case of Conrad Maldives the cabin on stilts protruding from the azure water under a cloudless sky is exactly the same in reality. Each one comes equipped with a deck and a little pool facing out towards the open sea. I must admit that my pool remained mostly unused, as I preferred to amble down the deck’s stairs into the waiting sea.
Activities abound on the island, with a snorkelling safari at the top of my list. Lucky divers can expect to see sea turtles, dolphins and over 1,000 different species of fish, due to the abundance of reefs. For my part, I was desperate to catch a glimpse of a whale shark, which, to my intense delight, happened on my fourth day, after two false alarms and a highly stressful moment where everyone tried to jump off the boat at once. For those adventurous types not content with diving, there is the opportunity to try flyboarding. This is a type of aquatic jetpack that shoots you into the air and allows you to hover before dropping into the sea.
The rest of the stay is a blur of massages in the overwater spa, truly exceptional food from each of the 12 restaurants and bars peppering the islands (Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one highlight, as is the lobster dinner on the beach) and sun-drenched hours spent recharging my mental batteries so depleted by London life. On my last night, my stay is made by seeing a giant ray, drifting to and fro under the walkway, playing in the underwater lights.
My challenge stands: committed sun worshippers will find white sands; adventure seekers can snorkel and dive; foodies will be sated, nature buffs overwhelmed and, although cultural offerings are scarce, the sheer beauty of the surroundings is enough to inspire and awe. And nowhere does it better than Conrad.