The sandy path winds through a tangle of jungle, a riot of birdsong coming from the treetops, the occasional swoosh as a fruit bat glides overhead. A bike leans against a palm tree, snorkels poking out from the basket on the handlebars. A heron stands on the shore gazing contemplatively across the implausibly blue waters. Frangipani scents the hot, heavy air. The scene is a veritable tickbox of every imaginable tropical travel cliché and yet it is dazzlingly, thrillingly real.
This, then, is the Maldives—that fairy-tale destination whose name alone invites an intake of breath, synonymous with once-in-a-lifetime holidays. But with more than 1,000 islands, the country is home to a dizzying array of places to stay, from barefoot retreats to bells-and-whistles resorts. So, how to choose?
As one of the first resorts to open in the Maldives, more than 25 years ago, Conrad Rangali Island is a preferred choice for many, with an impressively high percentage of returning guests. The features that people now take for granted in the Maldives originated here: the first in-room glass floor, the first underwater restaurant, the first undersea residence. But, crucially, not only does Conrad know the Maldives inside and out, it also cares deeply about the island nation’s precarious state, investing heavily not just in innovations to delight its guests, but in initiatives to limit its impact on one of the world’s most fragile environments.
The Maldives is a long way from anywhere but Conrad has installed a chic lounge at the airport, where you can refresh yourself with cold towels, chilled drinks and nibbles while waiting for your transfer. The South Ari Atoll, a 30-minute seaplane ride from Malé, is where whale sharks and manta rays hang out year-round, making it a major draw for those chasing bucket-list wildlife