Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is now taking bookings for what is believed to be the world’s first undersea villa for stays starting in November.
The villa, named The Muraka (coral in Dhivehi), is a step ahead of other such accommodations – say Atlantis The Palm in Dubai, which is an aquarium-style underwater room, or The Manta Resort in Zanzibar, which features just a double-bed in the undersea level – in that its undersea area is a 105m2 suite featuring a king-size bedroom, living area, bathroom and spiral staircase that leads to the upper level.
The upper level, which is above-sea, features two additional bedrooms and bathrooms, powder room, gym, butler’s quarter, private security quarters, integrated living room, kitchen, bar and dining, and an infinity pool. The entire two-level residence is 650m2 in area and can accommodate nine guests. It costs US$15 million to develop.
Hilton’s APAC vice president for operations, luxury and lifestyle, Daniel Welk, would not give a rate although there were reports of a night costing as deep – we mean steep – as US$50,000.
“It’s about personalisation and hyper exclusivity, not about price but an experience that cannot be replicated. The rate really depends on the depth of the personalisation,” said Welk, in an interview at ILTM Asia Pacific in Singapore recently.
He added: “We’ve been humbled by the reaction to The Muraka. We’re seeing a lot of enquiries from the resort’s repeat guests and, outside of that, from people all around the world who love the Maldives and return year after year. For them, especially the millennials and instagramers, it’s something new, kind of bragging rights but I believe this isn’t a gimmick. The thought of sleeping under the sea is quite revolutionary. This isn’t an aquarium. You’re fully submersed in the ocean, with 180-degree panoramic views of the ocean.”
The villa is about 650m offshore and seven metres deep, where visibility “is typically good”, he said.
Architect and designer Ahmed Saleem, director of Crown Company, a local Maldivian firm that owns the hotel, envisioned The Muraka 13 years ago when he built Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at Conrad Rangali, according to Welk.
“We’re fortunate to have an owner who is as pioneering as Crown, whom we’ve worked with for 20 years. We were the first international brand to enter the Maldives, first as Hilton Rangali, which became Conrad Rangali, the first hotel to build overwater on stilts, and the first to launch the undersea restaurant 13 years ago,” he said.
“Ithaa did wonders for the Maldives as a destination and we’re continuing the spirit of revolutionising the travel experience with The Muraka.”
The first undersea residence, along with the first ice rink in the Maldives by Jumeirah Vittaveli and the first undersea art museum by Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, are among a new wave of innovations introduced by luxury chains in the Maldives, although the fate of Fairmont’s undersea sculptures is still uncertain at press time.