Greetings from the Conrad Rangali in the sunny island Nation of the Maldives.
The scenery is simply stunning. If you have a chance to visit, I encourage it, but without this forewarning: it’s a boring place if you’re not into beach bumming, snorkeling, diving, or your significant other.
If your budget is limitless, however the resort has plenty of activities for you and you’ll find your stay zipping by. If you’re into learning about Maldivian culture or nightlife, you won’t find that here. The island comprises pretty much of tourist and hotel staff.
My sole driver for visiting was to make use of my recently acquired open water certification. I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dive in the world-renowned waters.
All four nights at the Conrad Rangali were paid for with Hilton Honors points. Even though the accommodations were free nights, however, the food and activities were all extra charges and it wasn’t cheap by ANY stretch of the imagination.
My first sign of this being expensive was at check-in. Normally, any hotel wants a credit card to keep on file for incidentals. The Conrad wanted to charge $2,000 USD for food and activities that I was going to incur.
I initially thought $2,000 was too much, so I had them charge $1,000. Looking back on it, $1,000 was too low of figure given the round trip seaplane transfer was $500 bucks alone, which would leave $500 for food and activities. Nevertheless it was the first time a hotel wanted to charge me pre-emptively for food and activities.
After staying there I can see why they did that. Cheeseburgers run $35, cocktails start from $17 so you can imagine how expensive other food and drink items can be.
Needles to say with the scuba diving, I easily consumed through the remaining $500 pre-authorized at check-in.
MY STRATEGY FOR EATING CHEAP AT THE CONRAD
Everyone jokes about bringing another suitcase just for food when they go to the Maldives. I don’t know how many folks actually execute the idea, but that was part of my plan.
I knew I would get one good solid meal because Hilton Gold members and higher get free breakfast at either the Vilu restaurant or Atoll Market. I went with the latter because it was buffet style and offered more variety.
The morning before dives, I ate pretty light from the buffet as I didn’t want a full stomach before diving nor did I want to be completely stuffed.
After returning from the diving, I paid the exorbitant price for a late lunch. There was no way around it – I was hungry and the resort had highly priced food. I equate it to stadium like venue; you’re sitting through a baseball game, you get hungry and end up spending $6 for a hot dog. Sure, I agree some of the cost is attributable to the transport cost to get the goods to the island, but you have to remember this is also a luxury resort catering to the affluent or folks splurging on their honeymoon.
So with the extortion like prices, I only bought one meal per day. For the times I felt hungry, I made way by consuming almonds and protein shakes. I wasn’t there on my honeymoon. I purely wanted to take advantages of diving so I made that my priority.
It’s also helpful to note that some activities do provide snacks like drinks, tea, fruit, and even sandwiches. My dive boat had all the with the exception of sandwiches. So you can squeeze a little bit of food from the activities if you’re penny pinching.
The dives were phenomenal. My first dive was an orientation out dive in the lagoon to see if I was competent in clearing and recovering my mouthpiece. This is required for all guests wishing to dive.
Afterwards, we explored the lagoon area a bit. The visibility wasn’t that great – about 3 meters at most. On another note, this lagoon is the same lagoon where the Undersea Restaurant resides and based on what I saw from the dive, I don’t think the view from the restaurant is worth it.
I borrowed my cousin’s Go Pro camera and was playing around with in the Lagoon. It takes while to learn when the camera takes pictures and getting comfortable with pressing the buttons while strapped to my wrist.
The next morning, we were headed out to two thila’s, which are failed islands kind of of like table tops just below the surface that didn’t quite make it to the surface.
The thila’s provide a reef like environment for marine life. Around these thila’s are various marine life not just limited to fish. I even saw some rays and sharks!
Due to the lack of familiarity with the Go Pro Camera, I failed to charge it thinking the battery extra battery pack would be sufficient for the previous days lagoon dive and the following dives. But I was wrong. Disappointed.
I missed some prime opportunities to snap pictures of a leopard shark as we hovered past one on the sea floor. I really wish I had my Go Pro Camera fully charged and ready to go!
The next day’s dive didn’t prove to be as exciting as the first day’s dive. It figures since I had my Go Pro camera fully charged. I think the highlight of that day’s dive was seeing some moray eels and some sharks off in the distance nothing like the previous day’s dive.
My instructor for both day’s dives were Annick. She was great at spotting marine life. I don’t know whether there’s universally accepted hand signals for pointing out different marine life, but Annick did a great job to communicate that with us during our dives. An open hand on her head to make like a fin meant a shark. While something like a mouth motion with her hand represented a moray eel.
Additionally, she was informative during the pre-dive when she briefed us on what the route/plan was on exploring a particular reef.
The rest of the boat crew was great. The captain driving the boat was great at maneuvering the boat when we surfaced from our dive so there was minimal effort on our part to make our way to the boat.
I spent around $100 USD per each dive. The cost consisted of the rental equipment, the boat ride, and guide. The orientation dives was included in the cost as long as I went on subsequent dives. I managed to get five dives total – One orientation dive and two dives in the morning for two consecutive days.
I really want to return with better diving skills. Another instructor Joe accompanied us, but he had two other clients with Advanced Open Water certs, which allowed them to dive deeper than I was allowed.(with a basic open water cert, I’m capped at 20 meters).
The dive resort did make the push for me to get my Advanced Open Water cert because there would only be an incremental cost from the dives I purchased. I was reluctant because I knew I could get the cert cheaper else where and avoid the already marked up price PLUS 10% service fee + 8% GST added to essentially everything you buy.
THE LAST DAY
There’s a strict restriction on diving when you’re flying 24 hours after you dive. With that said, the last day for me was spent swimming in their pool, walking around the island(which you can do in about 20 minutes), and writing some postcards. Yes, the days are that uneventful that I listed writing postcards as one activity.
On my departure, I was really looking forward to the seaplane ride. I strongly feel that’s part of the experience of visiting the Maldives – the scenic view from the sky. If you ever arrived late at night, rather than taking a speedboat transfer to your island resort, my advice is to spend the extra time and money and stay overnight in the capital city so that you’ll get to experience the seaplane ride.
I’ll write up another post about the hotel room itself at the Conrad Rangali.