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Underwater living at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Luxury resort Conrad Maldives Ranglali Island has installed Muraka, a stunning underwater villa, on the ocean bed. Carolynne Dear flew in for a sleepover with the fish.

A gently lapping Indian Ocean and a blue, blue pool are the things that dreams are made of.

It was quite an invitation. A request to fly out to the Maldives and enjoy a stay at what has twice been voted the best hotel in the world.

I didn't take much persuading and a five-hour flight from Hong Kong later I was lying flat-out on an icing sugar beach, contemplating the gelato-hued waters of the Indian Ocean.

But the reason behind the invitation was not just to sample this stunning resort, it was to pay a visit to Muraka, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island's brand new two-level underwater residence that sits five feet below sea level on the ocean bed.

Ocean dreaming - Muraka boasts an underwater bedroom.

Muraka is next-level luxury, it's the world’s first underwater villa hotel and is absolutely stunning. I was whisked along the jetty at the end of which Muraka sits by golf buggy and welcomed inside. The above-water part of the villa includes an open-plan living space that spills through floor-to-ceiling glass doors onto a large deck boasting an infinity pool and hot tub. East-facing, it's the perfect spot to watch dawn each morning as the sun rises over the sparkling Indian Ocean. And of course the deck at the front of the property has been strategically positioned to catch the sunset, freshly mixed cocktail in-hand.

However, the best was yet to come. Following the spiral staircase down (there is also an elevator) I found myself in the stunning master bedroom, surrounded by fish. The villa has had time to bed down since it was floated into position a year ago and is now a part of the underwater ecosystem. Divers plunge twice a day to clean the windows as the reef makes the interloper home.

Initial fears about claustrophobia dissipated as soon as I entered the lower level and I felt perfectly comfortable in the oxygen-controlled, air-conditioned bedroom. The soft, snowy-white bed, it turned out, was the perfect place from which to conduct an underwater exploration. And despite remaining dry and unencumbered by diving gear, that lovely underwater feeling of peace and other-worldliness washed over me.

Muraka's underwater master bedroom.

Constructing Muraka was no mean feat. The 600-tonne villa structure was built in Singapore before being shipped to the Maldives where the it took a full two years to build before it was dropped into place and tethered to the seabed using concrete piles.

Existing coral was carefully removed before the arrival of Muraka, and replaced around the structure once it was successfully in situ. The resort’s on-site marine biologists are now kept busy ensuring the structure enhances rather than impedes the surrounding reef. As part of the resort’s reef conservation programme, visitors can ‘adopt’ a coral and have it placed on the Muraka reef.

The submerged suite includes floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the bathroom and in the bedroom. The glass - in this instance acrylic - curves overhead for 180 degree views. And if all this marine activity is playing havoc with your sleep, there are remote control black-out curtains; perhaps even fish deserve a little privacy, after all.

The three-bed villa comes with a private 24-hour butler and chef, private jet skis and on-call fitness trainer. During my stay, I sipped on signature cocktails and enjoyed incredible Maldivian-inspired dishes. (The delicious menu means the fitness trainer might not be such a bad idea). If you’re looking for a trip away from the crowds, holidays don’t come much more private than this.

Overwater villa's on Rangali's neighbour, Finolhu Island.

However, at US$50,000 per night, Muraka may not be within everyone's reach. But this doesn’t mean to say you can’t enjoy the resort on a more modest budget.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, located in the Alifu Dhaalu Atoll and a 45-minute seaplane ride north of the international airport at Male, has been on the receiving end of the accolade ‘Best Hotel in the World’ not once, but twice. It has even featured on Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The luxurious villas and suites are dotted across the two islands that make up the resort; the two-bedroom deluxe beach villas are perfect for families, with ample space for two adults and two children. If you're holidaying as a larger group, the beach suites sleep six and include two private plunge pools and a private island host.

And even if you aren't bedding down in Muraka, you can still enjoy an underwater experience at the resort’s underwater restaurant, Ithaa. Breakfast involved plates of pastries and a la carte hot dishes and plenty of glasses of bubbles amongst the bubbles. The established reef hosts a plethora of corals and fish and again I was lucky enough to see a couple of turtles glide past as I tucked into my pain au chocolat.

Carefree days at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.

If you’re travelling with children, the resort launched a new-look kids’ club in late 2019. The Majaa Explorers Hub is open daily and is complimentary for children over the age of three years. Daily activities are supervised by the experienced team and babysitting for littlies is available with 24-hours notice. There is an extra-charge for selected activities, such as motorised water sports.

For older children, ocean watersports include catamaran sailing, glass-floored boat trips, kayaking, jet skiing and water skiing, paddle boarding and wake-boarding, wind-surfing, scooter snorkelling and X-Jetpacking and X-Jetblading. The on-site dive centre offers bubble-making courses for youngsters, adventure diver certification courses, day and night dives and open water entry-level and advanced certifications. I also enjoyed a fun evening on a dolphin-viewing sailing trip.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Asia Family Traveller.

Asia Family Traveller was a guest of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


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