Going to the Maldives was by far the best travel experience Brennan and I have ever had. Every single part of our time on this island amazed us.
We arrived by sea plane to the island’s dock. We were greeted with coconut water to drink and taken to our overwater bungalow on a golf cart by our personal host, Naeem.
The Conrad Maldives is situated over 2 separate islands, connected by a long boardwalk bridge (where the sea plane dock is). Our villa was on the smaller island, with a view of the sunset. The main island has a large reef, several restaurants, more villas, and the dive shop.
To access our villa, you had to walk out on these boardwalks. It wasn’t very far, but it was beautiful to be able to look into the water each time we came or went from the villa to see the ocean life.
Before we arrived, we had looked at the weather at Rangali Island and saw they were expecting rain for the time we were there. Brennan said that it was similar to Florida-rain usually meant an hour or two in the afternoon and nice weather the rest of the day. Unfortunately, that was not the case when we first arrived. The wind and rain was extreme. It pelted the windows and made it hard to walk straight on the boardwalk. But, our room was amazing and it was a great place to be stuck inside. Our villa was complete with a large bed, comfortable couch, huge bathroom, and a deck with a table, loungers, and infinity pool.
Eventually the rain slacked off enough for us to venture outside and we headed to the main island to check out the reef and snorkel. It was amazing-probably the greatest quantity and variety of ocean life we have ever seen. We were able to snorkel for around an hour before the rain started again. We headed back into the villa for the evening and ordered room service for dinner.
The original reason we wanted to come to the Maldives was to snorkel with whale sharks. Since this was our original idea for the trip, we had booked an excursion through the dive shop before we arrived. Each morning we were there, we would check in with them around 7:30AM to see if the excursion could go out with the weather. Our excursion was canceled the first morning because of the wind, waves, and rain. It was very disappointing.
We went and had breakfast at Vilu, the restaurant with the “small” breakfast buffet-it was excellent! The view wasn’t too bad either.
We got back to our villa after breakfast and this was our view from the deck. It was pretty amazing to see all the colors of dark blue, but it also meant the rain was coming. We were able to stay outside until the rain came.
After the rain died down in the afternoon, we saw this shark out our bathroom window! It was the first wildlife we had seen from our room, so it was very exciting.
Brennan grabbed his snorkel and goggles and tried to go find the shark. He was having some issues with his mask fogging up, so he had to test it out in the pool before heading out in the ocean.
It’s hard to tell in this picture, but past where Brennan is swimming, there is only ocean. It looked like the water went on forever. The wind was really strong, but he was determined to find the shark or ray that we had seen. I don’t think he ever saw it, but he did get to do some impressive swimming! He swam from the back of our villa (we had stairs you could walk down into the ocean), around the side, and to the beach by the boardwalk.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the only snorkeling we got to do. We were able to find some breaks in the rain to go over to the main island and snorkel in the house reef.
On our second morning at breakfast, the manager of one of the restaurants, Cozi, asked if we would like to see the Wine Cellar. We said yes (always say yes!) and he told us this was the first underground wine cellar in the Maldives, with the largest collection of wines. There is a special meal here once a week and it is many courses with wine pairings. The whole room was beautiful, but the wine bottles spelling “Conrad” on the back wall made it extra special.
After breakfast, we found another break in the rain and took a golf cart over to the main island for more snorkeling. Even though we saw other people at breakfast and occasionally walking around, the beach was empty. It felt like we were on our own private island.
The snorkeling here is excellent, the best Brennan or I have ever done. We saw small sharks, many varieties of fish, stingrays, eels, and so many different kinds of coral. It felt like an endless amount of things to look at all around us.
When we had left for the beach earlier in the day, Brennan’s hat was pulled off his head and fell into the water near the bungalows. He thought he could come back later to grab it-unfortunately, it wasn’t there when he snorkeled to try and find it later. Hopefully, it’s making a nice home for some fish at the bottom of the ocean somewhere!
Every afternoon, the Vilu restaurant (where we had breakfast) hosted a “Diamond Happy Hour”. We were able to go have small canapés and drinks. Each day was something different to try, as well as a specialty cocktail and mock tail. Everything was excellent; it was a great way to sit and enjoy the view from a different spot.
Everywhere you looked, there were so many different colors of blue. I don’t know how many times we looked at each other and said some version of “I can’t believe the water is this clear!”. The beaches were so white and had fine grain sand. Everything was just as beautiful as you see in these pictures and it felt like a dream to be there.
One unique feature we saw on the smaller island was this coconut grove. Each plant had a sign, recognizing someone who has become a lifetime Diamond Hilton Honors member. Maybe someday, we’ll get our own plant!
Even though it was rainy and windy enough to cancel our whale shark tour in the mornings (3 mornings in a row!), the sun did come out and we took advantage of it! We had this small infinity pool at our room, so it was great to pop outside when it was nice. I spent a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and working on Duolingo for Spanish. Brennan continued all his online work, with a lot of time laying in the sun listening to podcasts too. It was so nice to see blue skies and feel the sun (with lots and lots of sunscreen!).
These 2 pictures were taken less than 1.5 hours apart. When we left to go to the happy hour, the sky was blue, we were having a great time. It was great the whole time we were there and we had a beautiful view. We could see the sky getting darker, so we headed back to our room. It was about a 10 minute walk. By the time we made it to the boardwalk, we were soaked. Every part of us was drenched from the rain and it was hard to see because the wind blew the rain into my eyes. The weather turned quickly so many times!
An hour later, the rain cleared up and we were left with an amazing view of the sunset!
This picture is from our 4th morning. At this point, the whale shark excursion had been canceled 3 times before. I woke up in the middle of the night because the rain was so loud hitting against the windows and doors. I thought there was absolutely no way we were going out on the excursion this morning.
Then, we got the call that the excursion was going! We were shocked. We had to hurry to get our things together and get over to the dive shop on the main island to check in.
I wish we had more pictures from this day, because it was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had. But, we were able to live in the moment without trying to get the perfect picture. We checked in to the excursion at the dive shop and Natalia, the marine biologist on staff, gave us a presentation to teach us about whale sharks. They are the largest known fish species. They are not dangerous to humans; we are dangerous to them because boats can hit them. They are filter feeders and mostly live deep in the water, until they go near the surface to warm up. Each whale shark has a unique pattern that is used to identify them. Most whale sharks in the Maldives are juvenile males-they are around 4 meters (about 12 feet) long usually. They get up to 33 feet long. Natalia let us know that it was not guaranteed that we would see any whale sharks, but that the excursions all go to the same area and as soon as one boat sees a whale shark, they radio all the other boats to let them know where to go.
We boarded the boat and were warned it would be a little bumpy on the hour trip out to the area where the whale sharks were usually seen. I was very glad we did not eat breakfast because I had to focus on the horizon and tell myself to keep calm as we rode through the bumpy waves.
We made it to the area and a whale shark was quickly spotted. It felt like a tv show-someone shouting “Get ready!” and all of us hustling to put on our fins, masks, and jump into the water. We did it and were able to see a sea turtle, but missed the whale shark. We hopped back in the boat and then the whale shark was spotted again. We jumped back in, swam over, and saw it! It was huge, but very calm as it swam through the water below us. Seeing this giant creature in the wild was magical. It was amazing to swim along and watch it, then for it to swim down into the depth of the water and disappear.
We swam over and got back in the boat. After a few minutes, a different whale shark was spotted! We jumped in and started swimming over to where it was. This one was much closer-I could have reached out and touched it if I had tried. Brennan and I swam for about 45 minutes along the surface of the water with the shark. Because this shark was close to the surface for so long, many, many boats had time to get there and there was a huge group of people (probably 40 or so) swimming around it. You had to keep moving or you would get stuck in the group and run into people. I have not felt that level of motivation to work hard physically in a long time. It was so amazing to get to study the shark up close, as it moved through the water. Eventually, the whale shark had enough of being near the surface and decided to dive back down deep into the water. When I got back in the boat, Natalia told us that it was highly unusual for a whale shark to stay surfaced for that long. She estimated that we were in the water for 45 minutes. It was such an adrenaline rush to be that close to a huge wild animal and pushing myself to swim to keep up with it. It was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had.
We decided as a group (there was another couple and a family of 4 with us) to head back to the hotel. Natalia told us we had likely already seen the best whale shark we would see and it would just get more crowded from there. So, we headed back, prepared for the water to be more rough as we were going against the wind. Thankfully, I felt like the trip back was quicker and smoother than I was expecting. Before we knew it, we were back at the resort.
When we got back, the weather was beautiful. It felt like we turned a corner-blue skies, puffy clouds, and lots of sunshine. We spent the afternoon enjoying our pool and relaxing after our eventful morning.
The sunset was incredible again Monday night. We enjoyed it from our back deck. Every few minutes there would be a new color to see. It was beautiful.
We decided to go to the main island to have dinner at the large restaurant. We sat outside, in the sand with lanterns hung in the tree around us. For most of our time there, no one else was sitting outside, so it felt like we were on our own private island again. It was a perfect end to an incredible day.
We were originally supposed to leave on Tuesday. On Saturday, because we were experiencing such poor weather and it looked like things would be clear enough to do the whale sharks if we stayed a bit longer, we decided to stay for another day. This also worked out better with our departing flights that we changed while we were in the Maldives (a story for the next post).
I happened to wake up early (around 5:15) and glanced outside. When I saw these colors, I knew I had to stay awake and watch the sun rise. I woke Brennan up and we walked out to the beach near the bungalow. We were able to watch the sky change colors as the sun came up over the next hour. We also saw several eagle rays and reef sharks close to the shore. They were very active, splashing along the surface. We were the only people around-no one else was visible to us until the very end of the sunrise. It was a magical experience.
These are the eagle rays (we think)! They were amazing to watch glide through the water.
Every time I saw a creature in the water, I got excited. These were just a few we were able to get in pictures.
Everything about this resort was impressive and blew us away. We've been to a lot of amazing hotels and had so many cool experiences, but this topped them all.
The breakfast restaurant had a sand floor and the largest breakfast buffet I have ever seen. There were 4 different sections, all full of various foods already prepared and that could be specially ordered. There was a room full of cold things, like yogurt, fruit, ice cream, made to order juice, and salads. As you can see from my plate below, there really was a little bit of everything. It was all delicious, maybe the best fruit I have ever eaten. All of this would be amazing anywhere, but then you remember you are on a small strip of sand in the middle of the Indian Ocean and it becomes even more impressive.
The resort is meticulously maintained, with all the sand being raked frequently, pristine pools, seating, and an abundance of staff available to help with anything you may need. The views are incredible any way you look. We would frequently walk around and see no one else in many of the areas. While the hotel was not at full occupancy, I'm sure there would be plenty of space and it would feel very private even if it was at capacity.
The Conrad Maldives is famous for an underwater restaurant and residence.
On the left is the underwater restaurant, Ithaa. It was the first underwater restaurant in the world. We did not chose to eat here, since the menu looked a little fancy for our taste. We were happy to experience the sea life through snorkeling in the reef instead of eating beside a window to look at them.
On the right is the private residence, The Muraka. It has an underwater bedroom, as well as part of the residence above water. We joked that it looked a little bit like a trailer out in the water, but I'm very confident it would be an incredible place to stay. Staying there starts at $10,000/night.
One fun thing we were able to do on Tuesday because the weather was nicer was ride on this boat! From the main island to the smaller island where we stayed, they had this shuttle boat. We were able to go up on the top and have a great view as we traveled between the two islands. It gave us another chance to look at all the colors of blue present in the water.
We did more snorkeling on Tuesday. It was very hot with the sun out and little cloud cover, but also easier to see down into the water and explore the reef. Brennan and I stayed together this day and made it out to the drop off where the water got much deeper. We were able to see some species of fish neither of us had seen up to this point. Every time we went out, there was something new to see.
Our room attendant had told Brennan he had a surprise for us early in the day on Tuesday, but that we needed to leave the room for him to get it ready. When we got back from snorkeling, this was waiting for us. He was so creative in making this special for us, just because he could. It was so fun to be surprised with these pieces of art on the bed and in the bathtub!
I was so sad to wake up on Wednesday and know it was our last day. We had a great breakfast, spent some time outside, and packed up our things. We went to check out and they let us know we had time for one more happy hour before the sea plane came. One of the golf cart attendants took us over to the happy hour, where we enjoyed more drinks and snacks and took our last pictures.
We were picked up in the golf cart from the Happy Hour, shuttled over to the sea plane dock, and took more photos. I've never been more sad to see a plane than I was when our sea plane pulled up.
We had the best 6 nights at Conrad Maldives. I would not hesitate to go back again or recommend anyone else go. It was beautiful, the people were wonderful, and the experience was unparalleled. Brennan and I have already talked about how we can make our way back to this hotel. In a year of special trips, we will never forget this experience.
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.