A look inside the world's first underwater villa: The Muraka at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Overwater villas in the Maldives are nothing new, but how about underwater villas?
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is home to not one, but two underwater structures: the Ithaa underwater restaurant, and The Muraka, a two-level residence where the master bedroom is 16 feet below sea level.
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The Muraka villa, opened in 2018, has three bedrooms, a living area, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a gym with an on-call fitness trainer and outdoor space. The villa, almost 6,000 square feet in size, has underwater and above-sea levels. It can accommodate up to 10 guests and also comes with 24-hour private butler service, a private chef, on-site security and private jet skis. Arrival is by private seaplane at a private dock followed by a private speedboat pickup. If you haven't noticed yet, privacy is a theme with the Muraka.
Designed by a team of architects, including Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki who designed the interior, the villa was actually built in Singapore and then shipped to the Maldives.
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"Muraka" means coral in the local language, and that's what inspired the villa, which happens to be built over a coral reef. You can adopt a coral to support reef restoration, which will be planted near The Muraka by divers.
How much does it cost?
It costs a minimum of $40,000 (plus taxes and fees) per night to stay in The Muraka and, unfortunately, the villa isn't available on points. However, if you happen to have a few million points just sitting there, keep an eye on the Hilton Honors Experiences platform, which recently offered a “Make the Maldives Your Playground” experience which included a four-night stay in the Sunset Water Villa at the Conrad Maldives. That package included a full day of play in The Muraka. Almost 50 people bid on the stay. The winner bid 2.9 million Hilton Honors points, enough to get you 30 nights in a standard room at the Conrad Maldives.
Hilton is planning to offer a package to guests for around $10,000 which will allow you an abbreviated stay at The Muraka: arrive in the afternoon, stay overnight and leave just after breakfast. Although you won't get all the extras, like the private chef, private seaplane or security, and although it's still expensive, it's significantly more affordable than the regular booking to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Staff explained this to me as if it were the budget option, saying that if a bachelor party of 10 were already staying at the resort, for just $1,000 per person they could have one night in the villa. Bachelors, start saving.
If a stay at The Muraka isn't feasible any time soon, you can at least combat the winter blues by enjoying some photos and videos of the suite, which I was able to briefly tour during my recent stay at the Conrad.
Inside The Muraka
The upstairs area is home to the master suite with an enormous bed, as well as a giant bathroom with a soaking tub that looks out over the ocean.
Another bedroom upstairs is ideal for children or friends, with two double beds and its own bathroom. There's also a third bedroom, which could be great for the nanny, in-laws or whomever else you're traveling with.
The wow factor is off the charts. Everything is sleek, made of marble and stunning.
A large wall of glass opens up to a spacious deck with hammocks, sofas, daybeds, a dining area and loungers -- and a private infinity pool, of course.
You can jump from the deck into the beautiful turquoise water.
The living room is also perfect for entertaining, with a dining room and a large bar.
Another deck off the dining room (known as the sunset balcony because it faces west) is also a fun place to hang out.
The villa is set far off from the island and the rest of the resort. No one can see you -- you're really in the middle of the ocean. You're encouraged to take your shoes off and put on the slippers that are provided near the front door. You certainly don't want to scratch up that marble with your flip-flops!
A spiral staircase connects the floors -- or you can take your personal elevator. I'd suggest the elevator as there are a lot of stairs. When the elevator door opens, you see blue and only blue -- a 180-degree-curved underwater dome made of 135mm-thick acrylic. I was told it is able to withstand a tsunami! This is when it all hits you -- you're underwater, and it's just as amazing as you might imagine.
The hallway is striking, made entirely of glass. The bathroom is to the left, and it's pretty impressive to have a toilet and shower that looks out into the sea with fish swimming by.
The bedroom area is just as incredible. The king bed is comfortable, and past the bedroom is a small observation area with chairs where you can relax and admire this very special scenery. There's an automated shade on a track so you can darken the room -- or if you feel strange sleeping with all those fish looking at you.
The interior design of the bedroom is simple, allowing you to focus on the underwater world around you.
And don't worry about the glass getting dirty -- once a day, scuba divers scrub the entire underwater structure. Now that's excellent housekeeping! No aquarium gunk or foggy glass at The Muraka.
The villa also has extras like a fully stocked gym and laundry machines, so you literally never have to leave The Muraka until it's time for your vacation to end.
Although $50,000 is likely beyond the budget of the average traveler, an alternative is having lunch or dinner at Ithaa, the resort's underwater restaurant. Fixed-price lunch menus at the restaurant start at $200 per person and dinner menus run close to $400. Although this isn't cheap, it sure beats $40,000+ for The Muraka.
Or, you can always opt for a regular stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, where you can find beach villa award availability for 95,000 Hilton points per night.
All photos are by Tom Grahsler except for the feature image from the Conrad Maldives.