Where is it?
Flung far out in the southern reaches of the Maldives’ Ari Atoll, the resort is about 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé. It has a wonderfully secluded, Robinson Crusoe feel – situated on the edge of a steep ‘drop-off’ there’s nothing but a vast expanse of ocean between here and Somalia. As such, it’s easy to spot sharks, turtles and rays gliding through the glassy waters from the comfort of your own private terrace.
Think castaway luxe – rustic wooden walkways, diaphanous fabrics and palm-thatch villas. As part of the resort’s recent overhaul, 50 overwater villas have been revamped, some of the restaurants have been updated and the overwater spa – where you can have a full body massage with a view of anemones and pipefish – has been fully refreshed. The new blend of natural woods, muted sun umbrellas and pops of burnt orange and seafoam make for a haven of unbridled, sand-between-your-toes chic.
Food & Drink
Now this is where the resort truly excels. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistent food offering in the archipelago. There are twelve restaurants and lounges on-site, from comprehensive buffet breakfast joint Atoll Market to the Maldives’ first undersea dining option, Ithaa. But the stand-outs have to be the al fresco Koko Grill – where all seats face forward and skilled chefs prepare Indian Ocean Tuna Tataki and Maldivian Reef Lobster right before your eyes – and Mandhoo Spa Restaurant, where you can eat healthy but satisfying dishes such as Grilled Job Fish with Curried Cauliflower and Black Angus Beef Tartar with Cured Egg Yolk just centimetres from the sea. Heaven.
The resort is split into two private islands connected by a 500m footbridge. The main hub, buzzy Rangali-Finolhu Island, welcomes children and families, while the blissfully quiet, adults-only Rangali is beyond peaceful, with only the sound of your neighbour descending their wooden steps into the bath-warm sea and the occasional putter of a seaplane propellor to disturb you. There are infinity pools on each island (unsurprisingly, the larger family pool can get a tad busy), and two spas – the Japanese-inspired Spa Retreat with a comprehensive menu of Ayurvedic treatments, massages, facials and hair care, and the overwater spa, where there are fewer options focusing on holistic rituals using ISUN products.
There’s plenty here to keep itchy feet busy, from coral planting and kayaking to paddle boarding (if you’re lucky you might spot graceful manta rays swooping through the water). Or you could simply stroll around the island, keeping your eyes peeled for the fruit bats that swoop from tree-to-tree, resident herons ‘George’ and ‘Georgette’, and the crabs who pop their eyes up like periscopes from the shallows.
A trip out onto the ocean with marine biologist Natalia and ‘whale shark whisperer’ Mohamed allows you to snorkel with the world’s biggest fish. These southern outer reefs are famous for whale shark sightings, and there’s something otherworldly about sharing the water with these gentle giants. Best of all, the Conrad Maldives boats head out into whale shark territory much earlier than any of the surrounding properties, meaning you’ll likely get an elysian hour or so alone with the creatures before the flippered-up crowds descend.
The Over-Water Villas are on the petite end of the scale for the Maldives, but you’ll find everything you need in these thatched beauties, including floor-to-ceiling windows, private plunge pools and a comparatively large bathroom with a freestanding tub. Opt for a sunset view room and you can end each day with a glass of Champagne as the sky turns blazing amber. If money is no object, the views from the Two Bedroom Grand Water Villas are to-die for (nothing but sea in every direction), while the Beachfront Villas, sheltered by private gardens, are best for privacy. Or you could choose the $10,000-a-night, James Bond-esque Muraka – the world’s first undersea villa – where you can brush your teeth with a view of the dories and sleep lulled by whoosh of turtles sculling their way past your bed.
Top notch food and drink and unfettered marine life sightings.
From £405 per night for a Beach Villa; conradmaldives.com. Carrier (0161 492 1358, carrier.co.uk) offers seven nights from £9,705 per person, based on two sharing a Premier Water Villa with Private Pool on a bed and breakfast basis, including flights.