There’s no doubt that the geographical concept of the Maldives is easier to comprehend 5,000 feet in the air. Aboard a Maldivian Air Taxi, the “bare foot pilots” navigate their way from island to island, flying over vast expanses of luminescent ocean dotted with millenia-old land formations. It takes approximately 30 million years to form an atoll, a beautiful yet mysterious land formation not to be confused with an island. Due to their remote location in warm tropical waters, each play host to up to 300 species of coral and a plethora of other marine life. Combine this with first-class resort service and award-winning cuisine and you’ve got the perfect vacation for lovers of the aquatic kind.
The name “Maldives” is said to translate to “the Island Kingdom” which best describes this Indian Ocean hideaway. Located approximately 435 miles from Sri Lanka, it houses a series of resorts, each accessible by seaplane — the perfect way to start your luxurious getaway. From five-star, far-flung hideaways such as the Beach House, The Waldorf Astoria Collection to the more budget-friendly Hilton’s Iru Fushi Resort & Spa, there is something for everyone.
The Conrad Rangali Island Maldives Hotel, located roughly 40 minutes by seaplane from the mainland, is one of the more established (and larger) resorts in the Maldives. Situated on two private islands, it boasts beachfront access to unspoilt reefs and abundant sea life. Here you can swim with whale sharks and dine on locally caught lobster paired with some of the world’s finest drops. Best described as “bare foot luxury,” the Conrad allows visitors a chance to kick their heels off — quite literally (the breakfast buffet features an all-sand floor) in the pursuit of indulgence. With 50 water front, 79 beach and 21 spa villas to choose from, the hardest thing you’ll have to do is decide the degree of luxury you can handle.
The Deluxe Beach Villas provide a wonderful, private oasis. Nestled in the dense, tropical undergrowth, the swept-sand path leads you to your own secluded hideaway. Although your neighbors are not far away, each villa is surrounded by tropical gardens and masterful landscaping to make you feel like the king (or queen) of your own castle. At the gated entrance, don’t be surprised if you find the occasional hermit crab waiting to welcome you home, next to the obligatory terracotta pot filled with fresh water and wooden ladle ready to wash the sand off your liberated feet. Once inside, the high-fenced interior features a number of jaw-dropping additions, the first of which is your own frangipani-filled fountain bubbling peacefully outside your glass walled villa. Take a few steps to your right and you’ll discover the bath pavilion with outdoor tub big enough for a family of four. Cotton wraps hang in the breeze, a bamboo ladder plays host to fluffy white towels, soothing bath salts call your name. But there is so much to see, you’ll find yourself having to schedule the many luxuries on offer.
An outdoor shower stands at the entrance of your open bathroom (yes, this is a place where you’ll want to keep the “do not disturb” sign securely fastened). Once inside, white linens and wooden fixtures greet you warmly. A Nespresso machine is on hand for that scrumptious coffee intake while a walk-in wardrobe delicately houses those unsightly suitcases.
The villas have been designed so that you can open the walls up to the elements, perfect on a balmy day (not that great when it rains, so think twice when it comes to holidaying in Monsoon Season). But the goods don’t stop there. Walking through to the back of the property several outdoor chairs await, in front of your own private plunge pool. A few short steps away, a barely visible garden path leads you directly to your own beach access, complete with hammock hung from two picture-perfect coconut trees. There you can swim or snorkel right out onto the reef. It’s everything you could need — with food a phone call away.
But for those wanting more, yes I know who you are, the over-water spa villas provide the ultimate in pampering. Perfect for two, they have their own treatment rooms built in so you’ll never have to trudge to your treatment again. On stilts over the ocean with water-view baths, each spa-villa-stay includes two treatments per day with delicious, healthy cuisine being served steps away at Mandhoo Spa Restaurant. Of course, if you get sick of your picturesque surroundings, you can always switch it up and head over to Island Number Two where the over-water spa will let you view the wildlife from your glass-bottomed treatment room while being pampered — now that’s the sort of multi- tasking we should all be doing!
All in all, the resort boasts seven restaurants, three bars, two spas, a two-story gym, endless water sports, complimentary high-speed internet access and the world’s only aquarium-style restaurant. For those of you still not convinced, try this one on for size: The Sunset Water Villas (of which there are only two) stand in a secluded part of the lagoon and include their own private butler, glass-floored living room, rotating bed, pool (in the ocean) and personal jet boat. Now that’s impressive. For a country built upon the remnants of prehistoric tectonic plate movements, the Maldives certainly know how to pamper in true 21st Century style. — ANGELA GILLTRAP