Flight Review: Trans Maldivian Airways Seaplane from Male to Rangali Island
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On my trip down to the Maldives earlier this month, I had a bit of a long itinerary in order to arrive there. I had redeemed 60,000 United miles and $24.20 to fly EVA Royal Laurel business class from JFK to Taipei and had a short layover there before taking another 4.5-hour flight on EVA to Singapore (also on the 777-300ER, though a regional one equipped with angled lie-flat seats), before continuing from there on Singapore Airlines to Male International Airport after an 8.5-hour layover.
When I finally got to Male, I spent a night at the Hulhule Island Hotel before taking a seaplane to the more opulent Conrad on Rangali Island, where I stayed thanks to pre-devaluation Hilton points and also two free nights from the sign-up bonus on the Citi Hilton Reserve card.Getting to the Conrad is part of the experience, and there is nothing like arriving in style! Seaplane is the only way to the resort and was planned via email by the hotel's reservation agent, with tickets costing $507.60 per person roundtrip (!). Using miles to get there certainly takes the sting out of those prices- my one-way trip NYC to Male using United miles was 60,000 miles and $24 in business class.The 90 km (55 mile) plane trip only takes 30 minutes and runs from 6 am to 4 pm (if you arrive to Male after that time you need to stay the night there) but despite the VIP entrance, it is not for the fainthearted.
When we arrived back at Male Airport after a rejuvenating night at the Hulhule, we got a warm welcome from a representative from Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort who guided us the the chic airport lounge, which is exclusive to Conrad guests, before taking off from a special Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane terminal. There is no alcohol, but there was a nice spread of breakfast items, fruit and soft drinks. There was also a massage area to get a 15 minute complimentary massage, but our plane announced boarding just as I sat down to receive my massage.
As I was in the midst of a multi-destination trip, I was worried about overpacking for such a small plane. The luggage allowance is 25 kg (55 pounds) per person plus 5 kg of hand luggage and the maximum weight is 32 kg (70 pounds) per piece of luggage.
The flight to the Conrad was a breeze- a smooth climb out over Male and then an easy 30 minute flight to Rangali. There were a couple moments of like bumpiness, but overall I thought it was a smooth ride. It did get a little bit hot and it was loud, so I'd recommend bringing headphones or taking advantage of the earplugs in the lounge. I was mesmerized the whole time by the crystal blue water so my face was glued to the window- here's a shot of our takeoff and stunning views from the sky.
Our flight back to Male wasn't as smooth- it was raining and the seas were bumpy. Not only that, we have to pick up passengers at another resort, so there were two takeoffs and landings.
Overall, the hotel staff made these transfers painless and everything was arranged for us in advance. Although the transfers are a bit pricey for such a quick island hop, it's worth it to be able to experience such a unique and truly beautiful destination.