Puddle Jumping into Paradise
Getting to the Conrad Maldives is a little bit of an adventure to say the least. It's not like your typical Caribbean vacation where you get a direct flight and then take some sort of bus transfer to the resort.
The Maldives is composed of hundreds of specks in the Indian Ocean. And when I say specks, we're talking about beautiful small islands that then form what are known as atoll's. There are a total of 26 atolls that form the Republic of the Maldives that came to be as tips of a massive submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean.
The largest of these is an island called Malé. Yes that's with a “é”. At first, I was pronouncing this as “Male” but I quickly got corrected there. Male is the capital and this is where all the international planes land and where all of you will be starting your journey if you head to the Maldives.
Oh and one more thing before I begin, weeks before our trip, reps from the Conrad Maldives emailed us to ask about our flight details. Through this, they're able to figure out which seaplane to put you on. I was a bit nervous at first there'd be some sort of mix up but the Conrad was very good at sorting the details out. I would just say that if they don't ask you before you head out that you e-mail them.
Arrival in Male via Singapore Air
We definitely took a round-about way to get to the Maldives. Most people from North America will go through Europe or the Middle East before transferring down to the Maldives. I've heard of folks going through Istanbul, Doha (Qatar), and London. For us however, we thought we'd make a bit of a mini-Asia trip out of this and taking advantage of being able to fly standby.
As a result, we first spent a week in Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, I used my Aeroplan points to get a flight from Hong Kong to Male, Maldives via Singapore. Since I thought it'd be cool to do a short layover in Singapore, we picked a connecting flight that would allow us 20 hours in Singapore.
After a whirlwind tour of Singapore, we caught SQ462 flight from Singapore to Male. The flight itself was just over 4 hours and just like our flight into Singapore, I was thoroughly impressed with Singapore Air's level of service. The grooming on these flight attendants was meticulous and detailed. Even my girlfriend was impressed. Their entertainment system included larger screens than what we're used to with Air Canada.
Their service directors were also very involved throughout the flight. I think I had gotten some chocolate onto my white shirt on that flight which promptly melted. I didn't even notice at this point but the gentleman pointed it out for me and immediately went to the back to bring me a wet towel to try to get it off. Like all Asia flights, we got an meal in between that came with a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar. Oh and when you first get on the plane, including economy got hot towels. Seating wise, the leg room was also quite spacious and comfortable.
Transfer to Seaplane Terminal
Once you land in Malé and you exit out into the concourse, the first thing you'll look for is a guy holding a “Conrad Maldives” sign. You say hello and tell him the name on the reservation which he'll cross check with his list. After that, he walked us over to the Trans Maldivian which was literally right around the corner. Here, they weighed our check-in and carry-on luggage. The official limit for check-ins is 25 kg and carry-ons is 5 kg. Every kg over is $5 USD + 8% taxes. If you don't watch your weight, they can easily charge the heck out of you.
Now the 25 kg for carry-ons is pretty standard but for an airline to strictly enforce carry-on weight is not so standard. Good thing we were ready for this as I made sure we weighed our carry-on in Singapore using a doohickey like this. Despite that, I knew I was slightly over weight and the smart thing I did was I purposely pulled out my camera to take photos so it wasn't included in the weighing. The check-in's get stickered and pulled away while the carry-on's also get a sticker (with weight labelled on them) that you get to take with you. The Trans Maldivian guys then tell you to get on a bus just to the right of the counter. Once the bus is filled up with all the folks that landed with your flight or other planes and staying with the Conrad Maldives, we took a quick 15 minute bus ride from the airport to seaplane terminal.
Off the bus, we are led into the seaplane terminal which is small but was impressed with how clean and modern it was. After a quick ride up the elevator to the second floor, through a lounge reception area and to the right, we were led straight to the Conrad Lounge where we were given a quick tour of the space.
The lounge was spaciously laid out with these awesome leather couches that easily could be mistaken for a mattress if the back was laid down. There was access to a balcony and some lounge chairs/tables out there if you wanted to do that. There was a buffet table of food reminiscent of what you'd normal find at airline lounges and at the back was also a small massage area.
Once we settled down on our lounger couch, we grabbed some food from the buffet which consisted of a few small sandwiches, croissants, muffins, donuts and the like. They also offered free 10 minute massages but the other large group that came in with us hogged it the entire time.
A Conrad rep approached us soon after to take some of the check-in paperwork which required us to give them our passports and a credit card. I then had to sign a few standard check-in papers and also had to sign for the $5800 USD hold that was going to be placed on my credit card.
The time flew by really quickly as I thought we would have at least an hour here but they were able to put us on a seaplane pretty quickly. The one hiccup that did occur was that because of weight considerations, they weren't going to be able to put Chantelle's luggage on our flight. We definitely appreciated the heads up though it was disappointing they couldn't come together but they explained that they'd deliver the bags ASAP to us once the next flight landed. There honestly wasn't much of a choice and signed a piece of paper for acknowledgement and acceptance of the situation. We finished our food, took a few photos on the balcony and were then ushered out of the lounge. We must've been in the lounge. for no more than 40 minutes.
From the lounge, we took the elevator back down and were escorted into a small waiting room with a row of chairs on both sides. There were already a few folks sitting there and my guess is that this is where most people wait for their seaplanes if they don't have lounge access.
I literally sat down for 30 seconds before they said our plane was ready to go. The boarding gate room had a door that led straight out to the dock. We walked out and around the corner to our seaplane. The captain, co-pilot and third crew member were outside doing some final checks as we were escorted up into the seaplane. As we were doing that we did have to give them our carry on bags which they stashed in the bag of the plane. Our check-in luggage was already in the plane at this time and in strapped tightly. We were also handed earplugs and a small bottle of water.
The first thing you'll notice after grabbing your seat is, “man it's freakin' hot!” but after a quick debriefing from the third crew member, the captain roars up the twin propellers and two mini fans to the left and the right start doing their thing.
What I loved about the whole experience was how chill and laid back everyone was. It was fascinating to see the pilot and co-pilot operating all the switches, dials, yoke and thrust all in the comfort of a short sleeve shirt and flip flops. Must be pretty awesome.
The take off portion of the ride was surprisingly very smooth. I was expecting to feel more of the current. It was definitely louder than your normal passenger jet but I didn't really think the earplugs were necessary. And once we were in the air, there was a nice breeze going through the cabin in combination with the mini fans going.
And then of course there's the view. It's actually pretty hard to get a nice clean shot without the pontoons, engine, wing or propeller getting in the way but if you frame it properly and you have a fast enough shutter, you might be able to grab a few shots. We also purposely sat in the first row on the right side to catch our approach into the Conrad but it happened so quickly!
Arrival at the Conrad Maldives
Although we had a few passengers at other resorts, lucky for us, the Conrad Maldives was the first stop. Total flight time was roughly 30 minutes.
It was a smooth touch down to Rangali Island. Just like takeoff, our landing was smooth as butter. I thought we'd definitely feel the jolt of the plane making contact with water but there was barely anything at all. Before I knew it, we were making our approach to the dock area between the two islands.
Once we were docked, we filed out to get out of the plane and were greeted with a line of Conrad island hosts which was a nice sight to see.
Off the dock and onto the main bridge platform, an island host approached us and asked if I was William. She introduced herself as Aika, a Japanese island host and ushered us into the Arrival/Departure lounge as they unloaded the carry-on and check-in bags. From there things moved pretty quickly. We explained to her our bag situation and after that we walked with her to the main reception on the big island.
The check-in process itself was actually very quick and smooth as most of the paperwork had already been done at the seaplane lounge. Aika invited us to sit in one of the chairs by the lounge and while we were waiting for her to double check some of the documentation we had signed at the lounge, another Conrad rep came by with 2 fresh coconuts which was nice and refreshing because it was pretty hot in the middle of the afternoon. Aika then came back with a folder full of information which she went through. There was definitely a bit of a push towards making bookings because she made it sound like if we didn't, restaurants might book out. We politely told her we'd do some research and get back to her on the bookings.
From that point, we were ready to go and she walked us to our room, the king beach villa.
Tips & Tricks
- Remember that the Conrad Maldives is an hour ahead of the standard Maldivian time zone.
- Be mindful of the carry-on restrictions for your seaplane flight (25kg for check-in and 5kg for carry-on). Don't be caught unawares. They are very strict about this and is enforced. If you're slightly over weight like I was, as you're being ushered to the Trans Maldivian counter, pull out whatever is giving you the extra weight and stash it in your pocket or hold things like your camera in your hand.
- At first I thought I had screwed up with the $5800 hold. The Conrad rep explained it as something where they deduct the full $5800 amount off the credit card initially and then refund the difference (if there is any). However when I checked out, I found out that this wasn't the case. They just charged the exact amount on the credit card. There was no refund business. I was worried because I was using a Canadian credit card for this and you know you get screwed on foreign transactions when a refund takes place because the original transaction has an additional % in the exchange rate but on refund, they do it at the bank rate which is less of course. In any case, no worries here.
- When flying into the Conrad, a tip is to sit in the first row if possible and on the right side as you'll see Rangali Island come up on that side although it only shows up for a brief second before turning in head on.
- Also note that when you take your seat on the seaplane, you won't have access to your carry on bags so make sure you have your camera and things on you.
Check out the prices for the Conrad Maldives for when you want to go.