Lead Conrad

Conrad Rangali Island

I have just returned from 5 days at the stunning yet unassuming Conrad Rangali Island, Maldives.

 

I had heard a lot about this property over the years but I went with no expectations at all as every time I visit the Maldives I always go with an open mind. Yes every resort is stunning as its surrounded by crystal blue ocean and white powdery beaches so they are all beautiful, however some resorts can hook you on service, dining options, a unique selling point, great marine life and house reefs, dive sites and of course the rooms. I am going to break my review down into segments as I honestly believe The Conrad Maldives offers all this and more – there’s no surprise that most of its guests are repeaters as they have the instant feeling of being back at home every time they step on the island.

NOT ONE BUT TWO ISLANDS

 

Just a 30 minute sea plane from Male International Airport, you arrive at Conrad Rangali, Maldives jetty which connects to two islands. Rangalifinolhu Island is more for families and is the heart of the resort or you can stay in the adult only hideaway on Rangali Island.

 

Rangalifinolhu is home to a mix of water villas and beach villas, the spa, the shopping boulevard, dive centre and water sports centre plus a mixture of the dining experiences. Plus you will find a large swimming pool next to the beach.

 

Rangali Island is more of a quieter island, home to just water villas, a couple of restaurants and bars plus the infinity pool. This would be a perfect island to host a small wedding with 50 rooms you could even take it privately. This island will now close until the 1st November as all the water villas are being renovated and they are building a new over water spa which is going to add an exciting new element to a fantastic location.

 

To get from one island to another you can take the Dhoni boat, which takes a couple of minutes otherwise simply enjoy the walk. One day I went via paddleboard, which was fun!!

 

 

VILLAS

 

Rangalifinolhu Island offers 1 and 2 bedroom water villas with and without a private swimming pool. The two bedrooms are very spacious with a large bathroom in the centre separating the rooms and a living area. The beach villas are available in 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms.

The deluxe 1 bedroom villa is stunning and extremely spacious for a family with young children. They include a large outdoor relaxing area with day bed and rattan swing plus an outdoor shower which is accessible from the bathroom..

The bathroom includes all modern amenities such as a powerful rain shower and an intelligent toilet!!!  From the bedroom you can access the pool and private beach.

 

You can watch the room tour here: https://youtu.be/_oJgAt2PgVM

 

The 2 bedroom beach villa is the same layout except in place of the relaxing area by the out door shower, this has been designed into another bedroom– again great for families but not ideal for 2 couples. They also have interconnecting beach villas too.

 

As I mentioned before, Rangali Island will actually be closed until  1st November as all the water villas are being renovated. I have seen the mock up rooms and they are lovely and will offer 1 and 2 bedroom villas with and without pool. There will also be 2 three bedroom water villas with pools that are very spacious and private as they sit on the edge of a private jetty.

 

 

THE MURAKA – The world’s first undersea residence

 

This has to be the most modern and unique 3 bedroom, two level luxury residence in the world, let alone the Maldives! One of the bedrooms is submerged under the sea offering the best seat to watch your own underwater theater and a truly unique visual experience.

 

As you walk down the jetty towards The Muraka which is located out into the sea away from the island this incredible modern white building starts to take form.

 

As you enter its open plan with floor to ceiling windows around the entire back of the residence. The living space with a large dining area and kitchen bar brings the out doors in with sliding doors which open up onto a large deck with a huge comfortable seating area, infinity swimming pool and lots of space to jump directly into the ocean.

On the first floor is a king bedroom with an incredibly large bathroom with a stunning bath perfectly placed to offer the most delightful views of the ocean. There’s a twin bedroom perfect for kids, a gym and for large families traveling with staff there’s a separate wing for them to relax and feel comfortable.

 

To get to the master bedroom you can take the spiral staircase or the elevator which takes you below sea level. Once the lift doors open you walk directly into the master bedroom which provides 180 degree curved acrylic dome from floor to ceiling windows offering the most incredible front row seat to an under water theatre.

As I lay on the bed I was in awe of what was in front of me. The small sharks and schools of fish would swim past along with the odd large fish who looked like he was staring right at you.

At the far end of the roof there are two comfortable chairs facing outwards and the opposite end of the room is a walk in wardrobe and a wash room with double sinks, complete with Aesop products. Being in this room there’s wasn’t one moment that you don’t have a view of the marine life, it’s truly an incredible experience.  The hardest decision to make while staying in The Muraka is which seat to sit on and what view to admire.

 

You can watch my room tour here: https://youtu.be/jG-eglLPus0

 

 

DINING DELIGHTS

 

For the size of this island there is so much choice for dining along with unique experiences. There are 12 world class restaurants all serving totally different cuisines, from an authentic Chinese restaurant by acclaimed chef Jeremy Leung, an underground wine cellar, an underwater restaurant, Teppanyaki table on the beach and more.  I’m not one for dining at the same restaurant every night , so this really is a foodies paradise.  You also have a choice of two breakfast restaurants to also shake things up!

 

ITHAA underwater restaurant. A fine dining experience 5 meters under the sea with 180 degree panoramic views. Relax with a glass in hand as you watch the marine life swimming past you as the sunlight reflects on the coral.

 

Lunch is a 4 course fine dining delight and dinner is 6 courses all being specially designed to leave you feeling light and satisfied.  It’s a small restaurant approx. 14 people at a time and you can book it exclusively for breakfast/lunch and dinner.

Chef cooked us a wonderful array of dishes for lunch – mine were all served without fish and shell fish:

 

Dill infused salmon

Beet, caper mayo, pistachio

 

Foie gras touchon

Pecan granola, poached rhubarb, fried shallots

 

Miso & truffle marinated black cod OR Wagyu beef

Green pea, edamame bean, snow pea, crisp noodles, onion sauce

 

Yuzu set mousse

Passion fruit, pineapple and butter milk

 

 

UFAA BY JEREMY LEUNG

Ufaa is an innovative Chinese culinary concept by celebrity chef Jeremy Leung that showcases authentic experiences which highlight the iconic flavours from the distinctive cultures and provinces across China. The restaurant presents various dining options including fresh hand- made noodles and dim sum, premium hotpot with Chef Leung’s signature broth and top quality produce.

MANDHOO SPA RESTAURANT

This was one of my favorites as it sits on stilts in the lagoon, this open-air over-water restaurant is the best kept dining secret on the island. The menu has been specially prepared to energize, nourish, detoxify, relax and fortify the body utilizing organic produce, some grown on the island grounds and imported from around the world. The chefs cooking techniques pay special attention to specific tastes, temperature, level of moisture and density as they all affect the mind and body in different ways.

THE WINE CELLAR

Located two meters underground and featuring up to 20,000 bottles of wine and up to1,400 labels – the most in the Maldives, The Wine Cellar is the setting for degustation dinners hosted by the island’s head chef and chief sommelier, who skillfully match a five-course menu with up to eight hand-picked wines. 12 guests sit at the purposely-designed table with the chief sommelier and are guided on an interactive journey through the old and new world wine regions, presented on personal video screens. The menu changes each time, allowing chef to show- case the best seasonal ingredients available.

THE CHEESE & WINE BAR

Home to over 100 of the world’s best cheeses which have been carefully selected by the Cheese Master, The Cheese and Wine Bar, is the Maldives’ one and only purposely designed cheese and wine bar. The Cheese and Wine Bar plays host to informal wine and cheese tastings as well as regular fondue and tapas evenings. Guests will feel the subtle texture of black volcanic sand imported from New Zealand between their toes as they are welcomed, whether for a cheese platter for dinner or simply a glass of wine, before or after dinner.

VILU Restaurant and Bar

Vilu Restaurant is dedicated to the art of food and wine pairing. Located on the edge of the lagoon, Vilu is an open air restaurant that showcases the resort’s extensive wine selection that has been expertly matched to the contemporary Mediterranean inspired cuisine on offer.

KOKO GRILL  

Located on the beach, Koko Grill Restaurant is an intimate and lively dining experience. Watch flames dance on the open teppenkayi grill as chef prepares up to 10 courses of Japanese cuisine under the stars.

RANGALI BAR

              Sits on the edge of the main pool, the sand-floored bar provides extensive lunch and dinner menus alongside contemporary cocktails, regular live music and events. Open for lunch and dinner from 10 am until late.

THE QUIET ZONE

An open-air tented lounge on the beach, located on Rangali Island. For adults only, The Quiet Zone features comfy daybeds, a fully stocked bar and a lunch and dinner men

ATOLL MARKET

             The resort’s only buffet restaurant with eight show kitchens featuring Asian, Italian, Japanese, Indian, a Grill, the Deli, a bakery and desserts, Atoll market provides a culinary tour of the world under one roof. Open for breakfast and dinner.

LOBSTERS AND CHAMPAGNE ON THE BEACH

Enjoy an unforgettable occasion with a bountiful seafood feast featuring lobsters and shell fish caught off the resort’s shores, accompanied by Champagne and served in an idyllic beach setting. Advance reservations are essential.

SUNSET BAR AND GRILL

Set on stilts 50-metres out to sea above a coral reef, the open-air restaurant showcases the country’s fresh seafood and imported meats prepared simply alongside a carefully crafted wine list.

 

 

MARINE LIFE

 

I have been to the Maldives 8 times and never have I seen so many Manta Rays so close by. Every evening they would come swimming close to the jetty as they are attracted by the lights. They would elegantly glide through the water turning upside down with their mouths wide open to feed on plankton. I watched in awe of how majestic and giant these creatures are.

Another amazing creature you can also spot close to the resort is the Whale Shark the largest fish in the ocean. The whale shark which is a shark not a whale is easy to spot not just from its size but also as part of its body is covered in white spots. They are totally harmless hence why snorkelers and divers can swim next to them as they swim slowly opening their large mouth to feed on plankton.  

Boat trips are available every day in order to swim with the whale sharks. We went out one morning and unfortunately for me, we didn’t see any, which I was gutted about as at many other resorts in the Maldives people can wait for hours to see these beautiful creatures and here they are so close to us but that day they must have been swimming too deep for us to find. I will be going back to the resort to try my luck next time. However we did see many spinner dolphins putting on a display spinning next to the boat even the babies were performing.

There are also 42 dive sites close to the resort so dive lovers have enough options to keep them busy for weeks.

Along with the underwater restaurant and The Muraka private residence were you can watch sting rays and black tip sharks darting past the windows this island is the closest I have got to seeing so much marine life without getting wet.

 

The team on the island are very protective of the sea life around the resort and with good reason. They are always on hand to answer any questions and they politely ask people to refrain from trying to feed the Manta Rays and other sea life.

 

 

THE SPA RETREAT

 

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is home to two unique spa experiences, The Spa Retreat on Rangalifinolhu Island and The Over-Water Spa on Rangali Island.

100 meters off of the tip of Rangalifinolhu Island, The Spa Retreat offers a holistic and locally inspired experience which is aimed at relaxing the mind, body and soul.  

The overwater spa on Rangali Island comprises of four thatched-roof treatment rooms set on stilts over the Indian Ocean. Three of these treatment rooms have glass floors, providing entrancing views of the coral reef below, whilst a secluded serenity deck with open-air Jacuzzi provides the perfect finale to the spa rituals on offer.

 

MAJAA Explorers Hub

 

Majaa Explorers Hub offers children a fun filled entertainment schedule packed with activities and themed daily programs. Little explorer favorites include the Pirate Cruises, Coral Education and Little Chef Workshops.

They are also developing a teenagers clubs for days when you just need to be out of the sun and chill.

Kids aged 10+ can learn how to snorkel and dive with their experienced PADI accredited dive team.

The island offers every water sport you can think of and all non motorized activities like paddle boarding, kayaking and pedalos are complimentary.

SERVICE

I have to be honest I haven’t been to a resort in the Maldives where the service wasn’t excellent and the staff were not polite and friendly. I spent a lot of time with the management team and I was surprised how all staff addressed each other by their names – that’s a lot of peoples names to remember!!

 

ROUND UP

If you’re a diver this is the resort for you!

If you’re a foodie this is the culinary experience you have been waiting for!

 

 

The Conrad Maldives website is currently being updated, so don’t let it put you off as it gives a false reflection of the property, have a look at my photos below and visit their Instagram page @conrad_maldives

 

Before arriving on the island why not download the MARUHABA App which includes all the restaurants menus, island map, activities etc. See the QR code below.

 

Maldives’ regulars who have not tried the Conrad need to put this resort next on their list while for Maldives newbies this resort is literally the best way to experience all the different wonders that make Maldives truly magical! 

Watch our full video on this link: https://youtu.be/uDnpKpGo6G0

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Constance Halaveli Lead

Constance Halaveli

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www.constancehotels.com

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Amilla Fushi Lead

Amilla Fushi

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Blog post

Stunning Sri Lanka

The last year has been a tough year for the world over, with so much sadness and loss and for people who have not been able to see their loved ones.

In Dubai we are fortunate to live in a country that was proactive from the start and one of the first countries to offer the Covid 19 vaccine. I am lucky to be fully vaccinated now which offers that extra layer of protection and reassurance. However on a personal note my business, being in travel has sadly struggled as the travel industry took a massive hit, but the good news is that since August 2020 bookings started to come in when air corridors opened and more people felt comfortable to travel, especially to destinations such as Maldives and Seychelles.

 

Many people are in desperate need of a little escapism so when my partners at Resplendent Ceylon asked me to arrange a ladies trip to Sri Lanka I jumped at the opportunity. I have visited Sri Lanka 5 times before as a couple and with my family and I have a deep respect and admiration for the Sri Lankan people who have over the years shown such resiliency and strength and I for one will always support the country especially as tourism is a significant part of the country’s economy.

It always surprises me why Sri Lanka is under rated as a holiday destination, but I do hope reading this article will encourage many of my readers to visit this magical place, with its diverse experiences from tropical beaches, jungle safari and vast green mountain regions that one can enjoy while staying in luxury properties.

 

Resplendent Ceylon comprises of three unique properties and is a member of luxury hospitality brand Relais & Chateaux and I'm happy to say that I have experienced all three of their Sri Lankan hotels each so diverse in their location yet their unique signature style and service binds them together and stands out.

 

 

Wild Coast Tented Lodge rests on a secluded beach on the edge of Yala National Park offering a raw safari experience while staying in luxury cocoons that blend in with the coastal environment.

 

Cape Weligama sits on a cliff edge 40 meters above the Indian Ocean with large villas set in private clusters set in beautifully manicured gardens.

 

Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort, perched at an altitude of 1250 meters in Sri Lanka’s panoramic Ceylon tea region.

 

You can find my review of Wild Coast Tented lodge here:

http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2019/07/29/luxury-tented-safari-lodge-in-sri-lanka/

 

 

For this ladies trip we visited Cape Weligama and Ceylon Tea Trails for a week's worth of total relaxation and grounding.

 

Arriving in Sri Lanka during a pandemic could make you feel seriously anxious but let me reassure you that the Sri Lankan government have done such an amazing job protecting its people resulting in a death toll of only approx. 400 to date with most of the capital Colombo already vaccinated. In Feb 2021 Sri Lanka finally opened its borders to international guests.

All tourists have to apply for a visit visa (website below) and you must include a hotel reservation number from a Grade 1 government listed resort within the application. A negative PCR test is required 96 hours before entering the country and during a 7 days stay you will requested to take 2 PCR tests on the property and in 14 days you will require to have three.

 

Walking through the airport was rather quiet but one thing that was visible was that all staff where wearing PCP clothing and all suit cases were sanitized.

Our first resort was Cape Weligama which was a three hour drive, however the quicker option is taking the sea plane to any of the three Resplendent properties but sadly they were not operating during our stay due to lack of tourists.

 

Arriving at Cape Weligama brought back memories of when I was there with my family in 2019. The perfectly manicured grounds welcome you the moment you walk towards your room. 39 villas are set in small clusters within 12 stunning manicured grounds all with their own swimming pool. For one bedrooms the villas are extremely generous in size with huge bathrooms including free standing oval shaped baths. The suites come with a living room which can be made into additional beds for families.  You will notice throughout all Resplendent properties the bathrooms are beautiful providing baths that are uniquely positioned in order to provide you with stunning views.

 

The adults only crescent shaped infinity pool is what dreams are literally made off.  The views go on for miles where the blue pool water meets the ocean which meets the sky. To get to the beach 40 meters below you have to walk through the trees and down the side of the cliff where you will find a couple of hidden look out spots which offer beautiful views and little pieces of serenity.

Wherever in the property that you decide to take the weight of your feet to relax, the resort offers so many great viewing spots, remember if you visit the spa their viewing deck is awesome!

 

On our first evening the hotel had laid out a cliff top dining experience as the sun was setting, sitting with a glass in my hand, the cool air breeze, the sky changing in colour and views that went on for miles, simply reminded me just how the little things in life can be the most magical to which we have to be grateful for.

 

 

The next morning we woke early to go whale watching on a private yacht that was arranged by the hotel which had been government approved. This was a new experience for me which I was excited for, however it just wasn’t our day as a few hours at sea and not one whale had graced us with his presence. And believe me my head was close to the water more than I cared to have liked – catch my drift!!!

 

That night we ate in the main restaurant enjoying a wonderful spread of Sri Lankan cuisine.  Even though there is a menu on hand, nothing is too much to ask for – in fact the chief chef loved requests and was more than happy to show off his wonderful culinary skills. Being a member of Relais & Chateaux, food is a huge part of the hospitality experience and I find that Sri Lankan food is so clean and fresh, not leaving you bloated and uncomfortable.

 

The next day we were heading to Ceylon Tea Trails which is a 5 hour drive or again this is where you can enjoy the sea plane. I would highly recommend booking this, not just to cut down the transit time but to see Sri Lanka from a birds eye view.

 

To break up the journey we visited Udawalawe Elephant Transfer Home located within Udawalawe National park. The Elephant Transit Home is associated with the Born Free Foundation. This is home to over 100 orphaned or sick elephants who are fed and cared for until they are strong enough to be returned to the wild. The centre allows you to visit at the feeding times of 06:00, 09:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 18:00. From behind a barrier you can watch the elephants ambling along behind a keeper, where they will be fed milk through plastic hoses. It was so sweet watching the babies run as fast as they can while trumpeting to get their milk.  The first three baby elephants that came running out reminded me of my three kids at home running to be first in the kitchen – it was so sweet to watch. (And No I still wasn’t missing them!)

 

The remainder of the journey up to Ceylon Tea region is through narrow roads winding up the mountain, with views that just kept getting better and better. On one side you could spot the hard working female tea pickers plucking away in the tea plantations which are contoured along the slopes. The ladies are wearing brightly coloured sacks on their backs in order to store the ‘two leaves and a bud” which are later taken to the factories to be dried. (I will explain the meaning of two leaves and a bud in a minute!)

 

We finally see the sign for ‘Tientsin Bungalow’  which was going to be our home over the next 5 days. We drive up the narrow path and as we eagerly jump out the car we are instantly entered into an English country garden. It’s so beautiful and reminded me of the UK countryside with the most stunning colonial bungalow in the middle of the lawn. The sun was starting to set and within minutes the sky had changed to a beautiful pink and purple colour. Before arriving I thought I knew what to expect but I can honestly say it wasn’t what was right in front of me – what I was seeing was no less than utter, exuisite natural beauty.

 

We are welcomed by a team of staff (again all wearing pcp clothing) standing on the terrace next to a table which was laid out with late afternoon tea and drinks. We are invited to explore our home, which was exclusively ours with 6 bedrooms, and shared large living room, dining room and a snooker table room.

 

With jazz music softly playing in the living room and drinks on ice you automatically felt at home, but where was I exactly, this wasn’t what I had pictured, yet from the moment I walked into the property, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay.

The interior is designed with a colonial charm with each bedroom having a four poster bed, a fire place with logs ready to light and two grand chairs in front of it. The Resplendent signature style was so prevalent in the bathrooms with the free standing sleigh baths perfectly positioned next to glass doors or large windows which would open up into your own private garden showcasing the tea plantations and mountain region beautifully.

 

Back outside within the grounds is a large swimming pool and Jacuzzi, tennis courts and even a private garden for croquet.

 

Your days at Ceylon Tea Trails are simply designed for relaxation, socializing and dining. The Chief Chef takes great pride in providing a culinary experience as he will make anything your heart desires with three courses for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Booking at the Ceylon Tea Trails is an all inclusive experience which includes alcoholic drinks, afternoon teas etc. Even though I didn’t seem to stop eating I never felt bloated or uncomfortable which I put down to the food being so clean, organic and fresh.

Dining can be set up anywhere within the grounds so we enjoyed a picnic in the garden, breakfast at the pool and dinner on the terrace.

 

Ceylon Tea Trails comprises of 5 bungalows which are spread out across the valley:

Castleragh Bungalow – Built in the 1925 at an altitude of 1,120 meters- 5 bedrooms

 

Dunkeld Bungalow – Built in 1925 at an altitude of 1,230 meters – 5 bedrooms

 

Norwood Bungalow – Built in 1950 at an altitude of 1270 meters – 6 bedrooms

 

Summerville Bungalow- Built in 1923 at an altitude of 1118 meters – 5 bedrooms

 

Tientsin Bungalow - Built in 1988 at an altitude of 1320 meters – 6 bedrooms

 

You can enjoy mountain biking, kayaking and wonderful hikes and trails which you can start from any of the properties' front doors. 

 

We enjoyed an early morning hike in the tea plantations with our guide who explained more about the tea pickers and collecting “two leaves and a bud”.

Sri Lanka is one of only a few countries where tea is still plucked by hand, from bushes planted along the contours of the slopes. A highly skilled workforce, predominantly women, moves along rows of bushes, stripping two leaves and a bud from each plant and often covering over 10k a day. The leaves are immediately carried to the nearby factories where they are dried, processed and packed into crates ready for transportation.

 

Due to the current restrictions we couldn’t visit the tea factory so Bernard who I believe has 53 years experience in tea gave us a tea demonstration at the bungalow.

Dilamh Tea is sold all over the world and was founded in 1988 by Mr Merrill J Fernando which he named the brand after his two sons, with one of the sons, Malik Fernando owning the Resplendent Brand – so tea really does run through the family's veins.

 

We wanted to visit Dunkeld Bungalow as the view was very different over looking the reservoir with an infinity pool. It was great to see another option of bungalow even though they all differ in size and the grounds/views all have the same feel and signature Resplendent touch.

 

This is a property I would highly recommend to families or a group of friends. It’s a place where you can take life at your own pace, enjoy each others company, be at one with nature adding as much activities as you like and even more so with the current pandemic, it’s the perfect venue to social distance offering total privacy.

 

I would like to thank the entire team at Resplendent for their wonderful hospitality and excellent service. Until next time!!

 

Watch the video of our stay: https://youtu.be/Te0guZInGng

 

Sri Lankan Airlines currently flies twice a week – Saturdays and Tuesdays from Dubai Terminal 3

To apply for your visa visit click here: https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US

 

You must include in the visa application a reservation number provided by your hotel booking

A negative PCR test required 96 hours before travel


For the respective protocols, You can also visit 

https://www.srilanka.travel/helloagain/

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
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About Us

As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.

I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.

Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!

Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.

Happy Travels

Love Dani

PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)

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