Rachel Westall experienced five-star, desert island luxury at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Located in the South Ari Atoll, renowned for its marine life and coral gardens, the resort is spread over two islands: one, the blissfully peaceful adult only island; the other slightly more buzzy, welcoming families; both stunningly beautiful and connected via a 500m wooden bridge – the first of its kind in the Maldives!
Getting there couldn't be easier with BA flying direct from London Heathrow! Once you land in Malé, you can rest in the Conrad Lounge to cool off with a refreshing juice, bite to eat and even a shower if you so wish before you embark on your seaplane for a 30-minute breathtaking flight to your home for the duration of your honeymoon. And home it is. The resort's friendliness is not to be taken for granted, expect warm smiles, relaxed vibes and no stuffiness often associated with such glamorous resorts.
AN ISLAND OF FIRSTS!
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island boasts the nation’s first underground wine cellar, first below sea level bedroom in The Muraka (with the first underwater elevator in the Maldives!), first dedicated cheese bar and the first to open an authentic Chinese restaurant in the Maldives, Ufaa – to name a few of its innovations. It’s only right to be the first destination to experience as a married couple. Goosebumps, right?
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
I was fortunate to stay in one of the sunset water villas complete with a private plunge infinity pool allowing you to watch the sky turn from the brightest blue to blazon orange with a glass of bubbles in hand. Utter indulgence. If staying over the water is not your thing, the opposing side of the island offers fabulously chic beach villas with private pool just steps away from the turquoise waters that you've only ever seen on postcards.
Maldives offers worldclass snorkelling and diving opportunities. On the Rangali Island's house reef, I was lucky enough to spot a manta ray, baby black fin sharks, who have kept to the shallows to learn to feed and grow, parrot fish, turtles, reef sharks and shoals of colourful fish imitating a scene from Finding Nemo!
If this isn't enough, the resort offers an excellent range of water sports and boasts a PADI 5* dive centre. I was lucky enough to enjoy a champagne sunset cruise where we viewed joyful spinner dolphins playing gleefully in the waves; as well as our search for the magnificent whale shark which, like us, enjoys bathing in these warm, tropical waters.
A FOODIES' PARADISE
Foodies are in for a treat with 12 restaurants to sample. Wake up to room service or enjoy breakfast at Vilu, the à la carte establishment offering dishes from smashed avocado with sourdough to eggs benedict to sensational pancakes for those with a sweet tooth, or head over to the very relaxed Atoll Market, the resort's only buffet restaurant. Here you can sample many international cuisines, everything from sushi to freshly made omelettes and help yourself to a smoothie pressed-to-order or a fruit platter from the cold room.
Another first, dine below deck at fine-dining restaurant, Ithaa. Here, I was lucky enough to enjoy a set menu which consisted of silky dill-infused salmon, foie gras torchon, and miso and truffle marinated black cod fillet, all beautifully paired with a sensational Sauvignon Blanc – all this whilst watching reef sharks gliding past the surrounding glass walls.
As well as these choices, there's Ufaa by Jereme Leung, where you can sample handmade noodles and dim sum; and the island's health restaurant, Mandhoo – expect freshly caught seafood, lobster and fragrant flavours aplenty.
It's safe to say the staff at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island will do everything to make your stay one to remember whether you'd like to experience private dining beneath the stars on your veranda listening to the sea lap around your stilted accommodation; or a private beach dinner, just you, your love and the powder white sand beneath your feet.
For total relaxation, a visit to one of the island's two spas is a must. I indulged in a 90-minute session entitled Mindful Bliss. Watching the fish beneath through the glass-bottomed treatment room, my therapist began the ritual to restore harmony and balance. She started with the most fabulous back massage, followed by a mini facial using clear quartz crystal wands and finished with the entrancing effect of fragrant coconut oil being gently poured on my forehead and hairline (often known as your Third-Eye Chakra). My hair has never felt so nourished following this invigorating hair and scalp massage.
Eco-conscious travel is all the rage and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is certainly getting involved in the promise to go green. You'd be hard pushed to find a single-use plastic in the resort as bamboo options (even your key card) are being introduced at every opportunity. Furthermore, and I was so excited to be a part of this, in 2017 the resort launched a coral regeneration programme, which aims to protect the surrounding reefs. With a complex eco-system and more than 10,000 species in the Maldives, the programme includes a coral nursery and a coral adoption programme for guests to partake in. The super-friendly dive team and I took to the waters to replant baby coral to flourish in their new home and hopefully thrive and grow. In six months' time they'll update me on my coral's progress! Watch this space...
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Bond. The name's Bond. No this isn't a new film location of an upcoming James Bond movie, it's The Muraka - a first-of-its-kind, luxury two-level residence with a master bedroom submerged some 16ft below sea level in the Indian Ocean. If money's no problem, then honeymoon like Paris Hilton and go for it!
There's so much more to say, but I'll leave you to find out the rest for yourselves. Do indulge, it's worth it. To book, visit the website: www.conradmaldives.com