For the last few years Hilton’s presence in the Maldives has been centered on Rangali Island, which is now actually three islands, connected by boardwalk, that together constitute Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The 151 thatched-roof villas are set on, and over-water off, two of these islands (the third is where most of the team, and all hotel ‘functions’, or back-of-house, are found. In November 2018, however, a new phenomenon alighted, a flat-roofed white structure set off one of the inter-island boardwalks. This, says the gal, is Muraka (‘coral’), the $15-million two-floor, above-and-below-water suite, designed by Maldives’ top architect Ahmed Saleem with the help of engineer Mike J. Murphy, and Japanese interior designer Yuji Yamazaki.
Enter the 550 sq m top floor, which has an additional 135 sq m of deck, and you have a white-walled theatre looking out at a significant private pool and decking: here you have dining for eight, two main bedrooms and sleeping areas, also, for butler or maid, and security, plus a jolly good little Technogym. Go down in an elevator, or take 45 spiral wood steps down, deep into the ocean. The lower level, 101.54 sq m total, is living with the fish: here, the double bedroom, bathroom and living room have a five-inch thick curved acrylic walls and ceiling that look out and up at the continuous kaleidoscope of Indian Ocean marine life (for $50,000 a night you also get all food and drinks, including your choice of wines, plus lots of other perks too).
Fishing, actual fishing, is among the myriad of activities offered to anyone staying throughout this entire resort – choose five hours’ tuna fishing for $1,500, or two hours’ evening fishing for $90: by contrast, putting your offspring at Majaa (sic) kids’ club, which is free. Actually there is so much that is complimentary at this very thoughtful resort. Simply walking the lengths of the two main islands is a happy experience. At sunset, you might see an area of beach reserved for private dining, as above – the hotel has 12 restaurants and bars, plus dining privately, wherever. I love the way, when walking daytime, there is, every now and again, a break in the mature greenery that allows you to look through to overwater villas. I have already used the word thoughtful, so let me explain. As the video below shows, overwater pool Villa 313, named Kanbula (‘my favourite daughter’) has easy-see, easy-use essentials, plus such sometimes-needed etceteras as an iPad, an iPhone charger, an adaptor, and fly spray – and the room service door knob form is stylishly in a linen holder, with a pen.
There was no time to try room service. I ate splendidly at Vilu, five minutes’ quick hike from my home. It has seating inside, in air-conditioned areas, outdoors on a deck or outdoors on the beach. At dinner, I really enjoyed my fish of the day, tea-smoked salmon, with, in this heat, Cloudy Bay 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. At breakfast, as I watched the dhow that shuttles guests who do not want to walk or be buggied around the lagoon that separates the islands, I devoured my plate of papaya, and the multi-grain toast, with Bonne Maman preserves, was outstanding – one neighbour, obviously one of the many honeymooners, seemed to be eating oysters Rockefeller. There is, by the way, a white tent for wedding ceremonies, and apparently GM Stefano Ruzza, away at the moment, has been known to officiate: not infrequently couples just staying here on holiday decide on the spur of the moment. It is this kind of luxury hotel… NOW SEE, IN ORDER, THE UPPER LEVEL OF MURAKA, VILLA 313, AND A SEAPLANE LEAVING THE RESORT