Whilst I’ve previously gushed over the amazing atmosphere at Koh Samui airport (very close to another favourite Conrad property of mine), the seaplane dock at MLE takes the whole holiday airport concept to another level!
Everywhere you look there are excited people smiling, laughing and taking pictures. Everybody is dressed for the sunny weather, including the pilots and ground crews who sport a uniform of flip flops and shorts alongside their short sleeved shirts.
Our Conrad host walked us to the edge of the dock and offered to take a picture for us before sending us on our way.
Ready for action
The seating on the seaplanes isn’t pre-allocated, you just find a seat wherever you can. Given the size of the propellers and having seen how they streak through otherwise amazing looking pictures, my strategy was to hang back and get a seat as far back as possible.
Definitely the least comfortable plane I’ve been on… ever. The seat pitch is extremely tight. It was also outrageously hot until we got airborne and some cold air started flowing through the vents. Nevertheless, this is probably one of the most awesome plane journeys I’ve ever experienced.
I was sat in the passenger seat nearest the back. Behind me was this jumpseat for the third member of the cabin crew.
Views of MLE airport during our ascent.
One of the most unique looking places on the planet. Like something out of a dream. Every square inch of space in the Maldivian capital is taken up by white buildings.
Given that the cabin is not pressurised, cruising altitude is low enough for you to make out every little detail of the multi hued ocean paradise beneath you.
High rollers. I love how the views from the plane are perfectly matched to what you see in Google maps. Every atoll is a submerged crescent mountain with only the smallest peak poking its way above the ocean surface.
On this particular journey we made a stop at another resort within the Southern Ari Atoll – Diamonds Athurga. This meant that we were lucky enough to experience two take offs and landings on the water, on a single a trip!
The guests at this resort don’t have access to a seaplane jetty. Instead they are collected at this floating pontoon by speedboat.
A real contrast to the enormous expanse of the Conrad, Diamonds Athurga is typical of the tiny island resorts dotted around the Maldives.
Rocking our yellow earbuds to block out that unrelenting whine of the propellers. Next time I’m bringing some Bose QCs!
A couple of minutes after our second take-off, the Conrad Maldives came into view. The bottom left island houses the majority of the staff quarters, it is connected via a long bridge to the main island, where the Beach Villas, Deluxe Beach Villas and Retreat Water Villas are located. On the top left is the quiet island (Rangali island), home to the remaining overwater villas. That square blob on the bridge connecting the main island and the quiet island is the seaplane dock.
A smiling row of island hosts came to greet us at the seaplane dock.
The seaplane lounge at the Conrad Maldives is very well appointed with plenty of outdoor seating in the shade…
…as well as an air conditioned indoor facility. We were taken here by the duty manager whilst the other guests were left outside. I assume this was related to our Hilton Diamond status…
…but was too busy enjoying a tropical iced smoothie to ask. The Duty manager let us know that we had been assigned Beach Villa 208 : an end unit on the reef side, as per our request. He told us that the resort was at 99% capacity but he would do whatever possible to upgrade us later on in our stay. He then apologised profusely saying that it was ‘rush hour’ so there was currently a five minute wait for a buggy to the main reception area.
We told him not to worry, we thought we could make it to the end of the bridge on foot.
At this point we just started staring at our surroundings, open mouthed, like a pair of particularly unresponsive fish. This main island beach area faces the quiet island and the bridge – the beach villas here are as bad as it gets in terms of rooms here. Oh the humanity.
To the right, as we faced the reception, was the Sunset Bar and Grill’s beach, home to the iconic fallen palm tree.
Kamara heads into the reception building.
The main reception area is quite built up and was my least favourite part of the whole resort. The gift shops, buffet restaurants and main pool didn’t feel exclusive or luxurious at all. I guess this comes with the territory when you have a resort this large.
Definitely more of a three star hotel feel here. Albeit one with sand in the lobby.
Our check in was carried out very quickly and efficiently. I was informed that my credit card would be blocked for $500 per day, which I understand is the average spend here. At this point we were introduced to our island host Naeem who had a buggy waiting for us, ready to take us to our villa.
One of the locals waiting to greet us on the shore by our villa.
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