Conrad Maldives: The Arrival Experience

Getting to Rangali Island from Velana International Airport (MLE) can truly be said to be an experience in itself.

Conrad Maldives: Trip Planning
The Arrival Experience
Beach Villa vs. Water Villa
Dining & Activities

Our 4½h flight from SIN was as uneventful as you might imagine (perhaps happily so). After landing in MLE and clearing immigration, we wandered out into the public area of the airport looking for Conrad’s arrivals counter.

Image from Male Airport Guide

Turns out that wasn’t really necessary – apparently there was a greeter who had been waiting for us, but perhaps we had cleared immigration too quickly #briskwalkinghelps and he’d missed us emerging from customs.

The whole transfer process from MLE to the actual property is actually taken care of by the hotel. Other than letting them know the details of your inbound flight (and paying an additional US$526++ per pax upon check out), there’s really nothing much you need to do – everything will be sorted out for you.

This journey began with a private vehicle to ferry us to the seaplane terminal.

The Conrad Lounge

Depending on your luck (and seaplane schedule) you might be in for a bit of a wait. Thankfully, the property operates a lounge at the seaplane terminal that’s complimentary for guests on arrival.

(It used to be free for Diamond guests on departure as well, but those days are long over. Since it’s chargeable at US$50-85 per pax, I guess the Priority Pass option at MLE might be more attractive for the return journey.)

For an area designed to entertain guests while waiting for their seaplane transfer, it’s pretty spiffy. Upon arriving, we were invited to enjoy the facilities and just wait for an announcement telling us when it was time to go.

Reception desk at entrance
Corridor leading to the main area
Main seating area
Window-side seating

While most of the seating comes in the form of huge recliners, there are other areas within the lounge you can access with more specialised functions. You can even get a complimentary 10-minute neck or shoulder massage – be sure to ask about it if it’s not offered!

Children’s play area
Outdoor viewing area
Massage area

There’s also food to be taken – there’s quite a lot of light bites, but nothing particularly memorable. Don’t expect to have a good meal here…

Snacks and drinks on display
Cold cuts and salad

If there’s enough time and you’d like to freshen up before going on to the island, there are even shower facilities you can make use of.

Combined toilet/shower cubicle

Leaving on a Seaplane (DHC-6 Twin Otter)

The lounge was rather empty while we were there, so we were rather surprised to hear the boarding announcement less than an hour after we’d arrived. Turns out, guests from different resorts often go onto the same plane – think of it like the matching that is done with GrabShare/uberPOOL.

So after a mass safety briefing (i.e. we watched safety videos on small TV screens), we proceeded to board our planes.

Seaplane dock
Our seaplane, ready for boarding

I don’t actually know that much about the world of seaplanes, so I’ll let this handy page from the in-flight magazine (yes, they had those) explain more about the DHC-6 Twin Otters:

The 19-seater is not the usual Milelion J or F experience. It’s actually pretty cramped and stuffy; if window seats are your thing, do your best to board early – couples might even want to split up and take the solo seats.

View from the front
View from the rear – that little ceiling-mounted fan at the front is possibly the only thing keeping the air circulating

There’s no real barrier between the passengers and the cockpit, so you’re free to observe the instrument panel and what the pilots are doing, if you so desire.

Conveniently allowing you to check if your pilots are sleeping on the job

I’m not sure if barefoot flying is the traditional Maldivian way to fly, but at least one of our pilots appeared to be an adherent of the practice.

Flying like a boss

All in all, the intimate setting within the small aircraft helped to focus our attention on the surroundings throughout take-off, the actual journey and landing (although this could simply be due to the lack of other options to distract ourselves with such as in-flight entertainment systems or free-flow champagne).

I won’t lie – it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience, but if it’s your first time on a seaplane, it’s probably a rather interesting one!

Propeller view as seen from second row from the front
Flying over one of many atolls
Seaplane docked at Conrad Maldives arrival area

As it turned out, Conrad Maldives was the first stop on the journey, so about half an hour later we happily disembarked from the seaplane.

Checking In

Everything is pretty much taken care of for you at this point – porters help to settle the luggage after you get off the plane.

The pontoon where guests disembark and luggage is unloaded

We were then ushered to what I’ll just label, for lack of a better term, the arrival/departure hut, where there’s a small lounge as well.

The arrival/departure hut; obviously its official name
Arrival/departure lounge entrance
Sneak preview (or final glimpses) of paradise
Oh hey, self-service Nespresso

Some guests got to go onto buggies; we were invited to follow our island host for a short walk to the main reception area instead – I’m guessing we could have waited for a buggy if we preferred, but given the backlog I think walking was definitely the faster option.

The resort’s mode of vehicular transportation
The journey towards paradise begins with a single step
Conrad Maldives reception area

The whole reception area (and indeed, many of their indoor areas in general) was decked out in that whole island theme, with outdoor furniture (indoors!) and fine sand lining the floors.

Conrad Maldives concierge desk

After everything was settled, we were presented with the standard welcome letter listing out our benefits as an elite Hilton member (slightly different from what is listed on the website – we did get everything listed on the site, so I find it odd they don’t list them on the welcome letter as well).

Diamond benefits, circa March 2018
Complimentary 15-minute massage… when you pay for a 60+ min experience

…and from there, we proceeded to our room at last!

The Departure Journey

I won’t really go into this in much detail since it’s pretty much the same experience in reverse:

  • Check-out
  • Wait for seaplane at arrival/departure lounge
  • Take seaplane back to MLE (possibly with stops along the way)
  • No complimentary use of Conrad Lounge;  consider Priority Pass option
  • Vehicular transport back to MLE

In our case, we actually made it to MLE in the nick of time due to the rather late seaplane we had been put on. Not the most pleasant of experiences – I don’t know if it would actually have made a difference, but if you’re worried about making the connection I’d suggest being more proactive about asking about it!

Next up: Beach Villa vs. Water Villa

In the next post, I’ll review the actual accommodation (the Beach Villa and Water Villa that are available as standard award redemptions) and see what those Hilton points can get you. Stay tuned!

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Louis Tan
Louis Tan
Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to avoid flying long-haul economy. He previously travelled with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stood in for him in vacation photos. Griffles is mostly busy with entertaining a toddler these days, but still manages to continues amusing (and confusing) air stewardesses, hotel staff (and just about everybody else) all around the world.

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Thanks Louis, great post.