The Resort; from ease getting around to overall appearance:
- The overall aesthetic seems typical. To me it appears slightly dated, as the colours seemed almost expected however it’s still beautifully designed and more importantly, well-taken care off. I wish though that they would refurbish the entire resort to look like the Villas which are modern, with cleaner lines and more neutral colours. In keeping with the island theme, the entire resort walkways are in sand. By Day 2, we were mostly out of sandals and walking barefoot. I can imagine this being slightly problematic in the rainy season (and I can’t imagine walking in mud). Decks are positioned along the way but most of the walking is over sand. The seating in the ‘foyer’ is plentiful and there are large beds to relax if your flight has come in earlier and you are waiting to check into your room.
- The Resort is split into 2 areas with a bridge walkway connecting the two. The one side is mainly for families and the other, which is a quieter part of the island, is reserved for adults only. I really think that this is a wonderful idea and makes the Resort more accessible overall without any silly restrictions. Kids are welcome to run along the beach or play without being asked to be quiet in the pool, or in the communal areas and if you prefer some downtime without the children, you can simply walk over to the other side. The Pool is conveniently located within view of one of the restaurants which is quite convenient if you want to have a swim, but still have lunch during that time.
- The actual property is massive. I would suggest reserving a full afternoon, perhaps on the second day of your stay, just to walk around and see the different types of accommodation (it’s easy to get an understanding if you look at the Resort plan) and to work out which is a safer side to swim on for kids. Some areas are slightly more rough than the side that we were on, so it’s best to avoid that beach altogether if you have very young children. Please ask the Hotel when booking to recommend any rooms around the beach by Room 109. The water was so still with hardly any waves. It was also the perfect spot to watch the Seaplanes land and watch the boats set sail. We managed to get lost a few times, so a walk around with a proper map is a help. Also familiarize yourself with the positioning of the Masjid.
- We were also positioned quite close to the main dining area. Remember to request this, even if you’re staying at any other resort, as it becomes tedious to walk long distances daily to get to the eating areas. There are so many dining options, but I’ll discuss this further down this article. The main areas of entertainment/dining/kids clubs are located or bunched together so it’s quick and easy to get from one to the other and everything is mainly located at the main entrance or main area of the resort alongside where the watersports are.
- There is nothing really that is off-limits at the resort. Kids are welcomed in all areas (on the family side), and able to use any non-motorised equipment. The Resort itself is safe with staff positioned in all areas to assist. They are not obtrusive though, you always have your privacy if needed.
Accommodation: The Garden Villas
We were 2 adults and 4 children traveling. We needed to take 2 Villas (from a safety perspective but actually 1 would have been ideal for us as they are so spacious and our children are still fairly young).
- Each Villa appears to be a small house. There is a wonderful walkway leading up to the main door (from the beach end and the main entrance on the other side). Our Villas were inter-leading, so we could access each others Villas without having to go outside. The space is the main feature of these rooms, I think this is what made our stay even more pleasurable (remember, this is one holiday that you really want to make sure that you book nicer accommodation for the very reason that you will never leave the Resort). One of the first things that you notice (aside from the space) is how modern and minimalistic the design is. I really loved the overall look of the Villas and I would definitely recommend these rooms if you have kids or traveling with extended family. We opted for the Standard Garden Villas (not the Deluxe with the Pool) because that is what guaranteed us a complimentary stay. In addition, I was slightly nervous to book a room with a pool as my twins are still really young and I wanted to avoid having to run after them every time they went outside. If you are traveling with 1 (or 2 small children) there is a single bed located adjacent to the main bed. This is surrounded by curtains which draw (so you can draw them for added privacy). My twins slept on this bed while the 2 older kids slept on the main bed in their Villa. Because of the space and size allocated to this Villa, you never feel as if you are in each others way. Having 2 Villas possibly could have also made the space seem even that much larger.
- Both Villas had an outdoor shower and bathtub (no indoor shower or bathtub). It could either be very romantic or it could be a complete disaster! There is no alternative when it rains, or is slightly chilly, so you need to plan your showers, which isn’t always the case or possible. I also liked that we were able to put up a little washing line which which could hang up our washing to air (and sun) dry outdoors without interfering with any aesthetics. You are able to block out the windows from inside the room, but it’s not completely private if you have smaller children who could possibly walk in on you. There are complimentary bath and body products available for you to use during your stay, but be careful as the containers are all ceramic and my kids broke 2 during our stay (fortunately these were not charged for). I really loved the products that were supplied and I hardly used any of my own bath products that I had taken with. The bathroom features a double basin and because of it’s placement in the room, feels almost as if it’s outdoors. This opens into the outdoor shower and the bathtub. The bathtub is really romantic in the evening and candles and bath salts are supplied.
- The back entrance opens up into the small garden which has a very short pathway directly on to the beach. There are also loungers in the balcony before the walkway which you could relax on if you’re not in the mood to lay in the sun. Before you get onto the main verandah, a large container or pot of water with a large spoon filled with water is to wash your feet or rinse off any sand on your legs before entering your Villa. This was one of the best features of the Villa for me as I really dislike walking on sand in a room. I used to place the bath mat from the bathroom at the entrance of the room just to wipe off our feet. There is a small table and 2 loungers on the beach with your room number written on it. It’s very private and the kids really found it very convenient to run out of our room and directly onto the sand.
- Other notable features of this room has to include the electronics; the curtains, blinds and electricals are all operated by a built-in device on the wall adjacent to the bed. In addition, the beverage station was fitted with a coffee machine (for use with pods) and the ice bucket was replenished daily even if we had never used ice for the day. Small cartons of milk were supplied which I found really nice rather than having to use the little portions that are usually supplied in hotel rooms. Bottled water is also complimentary.
- Something which is often overlooked but worth mentioning is the closet area. I really liked that we had a close-up closet area which helped to hide away the luggage and the ironing board when it wasn’t in use. I unpacked most of our clothing when we arrived into the cupboards so everything was neatly tucked away. This was also easier for the kids to find things if necessary. In the cupboard was a wicker bag that we could use during our stay. This was so convenient and deserves a mention here. It’s not necessary to pack your own beach bag as the one supplied is large enough to keep most of your daily essentials.
The Food; What did we eat while we were there and what did we take with:
As a guest, if I’m paying high hotel rates, I have a right to expect high standards of hospitality. Resorts are often known to offer guests an ‘all-inclusive’ package and for 6/7 days, you’re forced to eat at the buffet. One of the largest let-downs being a Muslim traveller is getting to a destination only to find myself searching for Halaal or Vegetarian food. Conrad Maldives did not offer a full-board meal plan. The Half-Board option was available but I found the overall rate too high. Instead we opted to have breakfast which was part of our room rate and a late lunch at the main restaurant daily. There are just so many options and we were never bored with the selection. This option suited us because our children were usually very hungry after swimming and it was midway to dinnertime and sometimes an hour passed lunch. There were no formalities; they didn’t need to dress up or wipe down and often jumped back into the pool or played in the sand directly after. Seating was either inside or out depending on the weather and the kids were free to run around if they wanted to or even fall asleep on the massive chairs (which they did most of the time!) while we listened to the live music. The menu was extensive, catering for most nationalities with the Indian and Italian cuisine being the most suited to us. I found the portion sizes too large after ordering on the first day. My twins usually shared an adult meal and my other two kids usually ate the kids meal or had some left overs on their adult meal. The food was exceptionally good and we enjoyed every meal with no complaints! The great thing is that if you opted to eat here everyday of your trip, as opposed to buffet dining or the restaurants that require a reservation, you would have something daily that would interest you. For a family of 6, you can expect to pay between $110 to $140 per meal, including drinks. We took away the left-overs because 2 out of the 3 times, my kids get hungry again later on. All food is Halaal as Maldives is a 100% Muslim-inhabited country.
Being a HH Diamond member came with some dining perks. We were offered a complimentary Afternoon Tea everyday. Once we and the children were comfortable with being left at the Kids Club during that hour, we would enjoy some quiet time alone. The selection was just enough for a light snack (in fact the sandwiches were more like a light lunch). Aside from the snacks and pastry, the view was magnificent! It’s just the perfect amount of food to tidy you until dinner time.
We can all agree that no one passes up on a great deal at happy hour. The Sand Bar became our usual spot for Sunset mocktails and dinner. I love that the kids also get a grown-up treat and received a jug of any non-alcoholic mocktail (at 50% off the usual price). All drinks at the Conrad are 50% off during 5pm to 7pm, including mocktails and soft drinks. (And if you’re a South African traveler, you’d understand how far this stretches your Rand). Let’s discuss this view! The tables are set on the sand, just meters from the sea. Usually, a can of Soda is priced at $7 a can! We took some of our own drinks with and we would usually have this in our room (ice is supplied daily), or take it out to the beach with us. We would normally buy drinks at the restaurant.
My previous article detailed the snacks that we packed from SA. We had our children traveling with us and wanted to maximise on the late mornings as much as we were able to. I packed boxes of cereal purchased from Yummy in Mayfair and small cartons of milk. They would help themselves to the cereal in the morning when they woke up (I took disposable bowls and spoons). The 2 packs lasted us the full 5 days. I felt cheap at first to pack that many things, but I appreciated it so much when we were there! A good consideration is to pack items that are in tins of boxes to avoid them crumbling up. There isn’t a grocery store on the island, so you need to remember the eating needs of your family and pack accordingly. I also took biscuits which the kids enjoyed with hot chocolate every afternoon.
To many people, Maldives is an unreachable dream. Even though my articles are mainly centered around luxury travel, you can limit what you spend if you are able to plan properly and bring what you’re able to from home. On average, if you take your own snacks with, you can save up to $40 a day on just snacks, and slightly more if you take your own drinks with. Remember to pack it suitably to avoid it messing your clothes, make it easily accessible if you need to take it out at airport security and do not take any Pork items into the country (if you are non-Muslim and reading this article). Another item that I overlooked was tuna; John West sachets of tuna (the ones with the flavouring) is a lovely mid-afternoon snack with crackers.
No scuba gear necessary.
Dining at Ithaa takes sea-to-table dining to new highs or lows. Introducing the world first undersea restaurant with 360 degree panoramic views of the ocean.
Seating is limited and exclusive with only 11 guests accepted for drinks. Lunch and dinner are also dining options but we were invited to experience the restaurant over drinks and canapès (essentially juice for non-alcoholic guests). The minimalist setting, slightly present music, and the location make for a memorable experience in Maldives.
- Make a booking when you arrive. Even though our experience was complimentary, we weren’t able to get the day that we requested as they were already full.
- The experience itself is brief (if opting for canapes). We were likely down for around 45 minute in total.
- We were presented only one small snack (we thought it would be either a full buffet set-up or a selection of small plates brought to the table). So don’t go hungry. Essentially, if you time it correctly, opt for the earlier slot in the day so you go straight from breakfast. In that way, the single canape is just sufficient to snack on as you watch the fish.
- If possible, suggest to the other guests that each person gets pictures of the whole room before everyone rushes in to be seated. I suggested that and everyone was really glad that I did! We all got really good pictures of the entire space without any interference from the background.
- Where possible, try to be quiet and appreciate the actual experience. Some guests couldn’t settle down and that actually ruined the whole experience for us. I would have loved to stay on without them there just to listen to how serene it could be without any chatting. Sadly because of the language barriers, even mentioning this to them would have made no difference. What could have been one of our best moments in Maldives was ruined by noisy and disrespectful guests.
The Kids Club
- When it comes to family travel, one of the most important considerations that we often tend to overlook are the activity facilities for children. By thinking that your kids are ‘off to the beach to play in one massive sandpit’ you’re mistaken. This vacation had taught me to appreciate and be more aware of looking into a resort with proper facilities for my children before proceeding to book. We all need a bit of a break from full-time parenting (no judgements allowed here) and that break is more welcomed when we’re on holiday.
When we checked in at the Conrad Maldives, our Butler presented us with a daily schedule for the kids club. I have 4 kids who all have similiar interests. We discussed each activity with our kids to see what interested each of them the most. Aside from the hourly activities, there are books, toys, games and outdoor playgyms for the kids to use. I definitely suggest making contact with your Resort ahead of arriving and ask for the schedules to be emailed to you so you can get an idea of whether the Kids Club will be suitable for your child.
- Checking them in and collecting them is done securely with a register. There are always 3 or more staff at the facility, one being female. The staff are friendly and I’ve never had an experience where I didn’t trust them with my children. I would also pop in to check in on them, and they were always busy with the assistant, or playing happily with something. They would always inquire whether the kids had sunscreen on and had eaten before coming in. They never had any meals at the Kids Club, so I can’t write about whether they provide this service or not.
- My kids have said that this has been their most memorable holiday and that they ‘wish everywhere had a kids club like this’. They painted their own pirate t-shirts, went on a pirate cruise and did a treasure hunt! This was a welcomed break for Mohamed and I to enjoy our Afternoon tea or continue our breakfast at leisure. In addition, each child received a backpack, a cap and a t-shirt. There is no fee to sign up.
Activities at the Resort:
- Non-motorised watersports, snorkeling gear and life jackets are for complimentary usage during your stay. We didn’t know that we could keep the snorkeling gear and assumed that we needed to rent it as we wanted to use it. Remember to check with your Resort as it makes it easier if you’re able to keep it with you during the duration of your stay. Paddle boats seat 2 and 4 and kids are allowed on as passengers (and if their feet reach the paddles, they can cycle too).
- Many resorts have Boardgames that can be used by guests. Simply ask any member of staff to assist you.
- If you have younger children who are happy to utilise the services of the Kids Club, all of the daytime activities are complimentary. Kids are not charged extra to go out on the boat for snorkeling provided it is done with the Kids club. Remember to check the schedule and plan accordingly.
- A full break down of activities that are charged for will be supplied by your Butler. Remember to make your bookings as I’m sure they get fully booked during the peak season.
- I recommend walking around the Resort on our first day just to familiarise yourself with what activities are available and especially to see all the parts of the Island.
The Spa Retreat
When you come to the near-end of your vacation, one of the best ways to fully relax is to be polished and pampered to perfection at your Resorts Spa.
I visited the spa towards the end of our stay and it was a wonderful experience. Whilst I feel that the Spas in SA fare far better in terms of luxury and offering, one must be accepting and cognisant that for a destination spa, in the middle of the ocean, it ticks the right amount of boxes when it comes to luxury and relaxation.
The treatment rooms are all located on stilts in water. You can see, smell and hear the ocean below. It’s all very sensory.
The therapist was not overly friendly; I prefer to make minimal conversation when I’m at a Spa. She was pleasant and checked on me twice during the massage, only to ask if the pressure was suitable.
The massage lasted for 90 minutes and the highlight for me had to be the final ‘twist’ that she did on my back. I just found myself saying yes, and the next thing I knew, she was on the bed twisting my body into an almost paranormal state – it was fantastic! I don’t usually like the back-breaking/twisting things because I’ve often left feeling sore but my body was very grateful for it after! Even if you book the shortest massage or treatment, do it just to experience how wonderful it is to be massaged out in the ocean with the waves gently crashing beneath you.
A typical day at Conrad Maldives (for travel with 4 young children)
07.30am Kids usually wake up and help themselves to cereal with milk that we’ve brought with us on our trip.
08.00am until 09.30am They play in the room until we’re ready to leave for breakfast.
09.30am until 11.00am The kids join us for breakfast and once they’re done (which is usually quickly) I check them in at the Kids Club. There is usually an activity that starts on the hour or half-hour so we make sure that we check the schedule in the morning to make their chosen activity on time. Mohamed and I enjoy the rest of the time having breakfast until they’re done and ready to be collected. This is usually around 11.30am.
12.00pm until 3pm The kids opt for whether they prefer beach or pool options. They often start at the Pool and then decide to go on the paddle boats after. On the days that they opt out of going to the pool, we mainly spent this time on the beach directly outside of our Villa. We hired snorkelling gear from the Dive shop that we could use during the duration of our stay. My old 2 children managed to perfect putting it on and were brave enouhg to go quite far out by themselves. The twins were slightly more conservative and decided to chase reef sharks or play in the water instead. They’re not tired yet, so we make the most of the prime time in the sun before they check in at the Kids Club so Mohamed and I can enjoy our complimentary Afternoon Tea scheduled between 3.00pm until 5.00pm. We would normally only go for an hour and then fetch the kids immediately after. By this time, they’re likely tired and we either go back to the Villa or directly to the restaurant for an early dinner. During this time, they have already had snacks and drinks in-between even though lunch was skipped.
5.00pm until 7.00pm We settle down for dinner and listen to the live entertainment. More often than not, one of the twins usually falls asleep on the couch while we sit and watch the sunset. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the day and it’s a shame to spend it indoors. If they’re still up for a walk, we would either walk along the shoreline or head back to the hotel for a shower and bedtime.
Even though there are plenty of scheduled water activities available, I found it really pricey to go out for a family of 6 and because it was weather dependent, we might have never been able to see fish if we went out snorkeling. I think if we were there for a longer time or if our children were older, it might have made more sense to do at least one watersport during our stay.