Chances are, you’ve heard of The Muraka by now. The world’s first underwater villa, priced from US$50,000 a night (no, that’s not a typo), quickly shot to the top of every luxury traveller’s bucket list after it was announced in early 2018, trumping all other accommodation types in the Maldives including the most luxurious overwater villas.
Since opening in November, only a select few have been able to experience underwater living at The Muraka and we were privileged to be one of them. Here’s what it’s like to sleep under the sea:
The Muraka is part of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, which is located in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives about 100 kilometres from Male International Airport. Guests can arrive by seaplane, which takes about 30 minutes, or by domestic flight (20 mins) and speedboat transfer (30 mins).
Tatler tip: Try to arrive early enough in the day to catch the private seaplane; the domestic transfers aren't very comfortable and often delayed.
Check-in can be done at the hotel’s main reception or directly at The Muraka, which is connected to the main island of the Conrad Maldives by jetty. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the hotel general manager and given a tour of the sprawling property by our resident butler, Fazeel.
The tour was much-needed—on the top floor, you'll find two spacious bedrooms (one with an ocean-facing tub, bathroom and shower, and the other with twin beds), walk-in closets, living room with a built-in bar, private kitchen and dining room. There's also not one but two terraces; the sunrise-facing deck has four daybeds and an infinity pool, while the sunrise-facing deck is fitted with comfy lounge chairs.
For entertainment, there’s a huge flat-screen television mounted to the wall and connected to Apple TV, Netflix via iPad, and Bose sound system. With so many rooms and corresponding digital controls for the temperature, lights and curtains, it was certainly helpful to have each one pointed out.
Fazeel then proceeded to take us underwater. Going through a set of double doors, you can either take the elevator (yes, there’s an elevator) or walk down a spiral staircase.
We chose the latter for our first trip down and were greeted by a giant pufferfish hovering outside the full-length window at the bottom of the stairs. It would become a familiar face during our stay as it hung out on the other side of the window and gave us #sideeyefordays.
Upon entering the underwater bedroom, we found that it was surprisingly bright for being five metres underwater. It was also very quiet with just the swooshing sounds of the ocean waves as a constant. Passing by the bathroom on the left and walk-in closet on the right, we finally entered The Muraka's underwater bedroom and panoramic viewing theatre at the end of the tunnel.
Besides the usual room tour, Fazeel pointed out the location of the emergency exit (a ladder that can be pulled down from the viewing theatre’s ceiling that leads you to the surface) and panic button (hidden behind a small black cover in the hallway that can be used in case of emergencies). We were reassured that there are technicians who monitor the oxygen levels underwater at all times, and who’d be alerted immediately if anything was off the mark.
Tatler tip: There’s also an iPhone by the bed that has the butler on speed dial, so you never have to feel completely alone. Plus, the Wi-Fi connection is surprisingly strong, even underwater.
THE MURAKA BY NIGHT
So what was it like to sleep underwater? It's quite dark as expected, but The Muraka is illuminated with a unique lighting system that you can control by the bedside. Choose from purple, blue, pink or green hues—the lights are embedded in the nearby rocks and on the outside of The Muraka that light up the schools of fish that swim near.
Going to the bathroom is quite an intimate experience since all that separates you from the sea are full-length windows (from the toilet and the shower). If you’re shy, there’s always the option of going upstairs. The walk-in closet also has a full-length window, giving you that feeling of being completely immersed under the sea.
Blackout curtains are available in the bedroom to shield out the light (and fish), but we highly advise against doing so so you can wake up naturally by sunlight.
With the rhythmic sound of the waves crashing and mesmerising view of the fish, we had no trouble drifting off to sleep. In fact, we enjoyed one of the most restful nights of sleep we’ve ever had at The Muraka.
PRIVATE CHEFS AND INSTAGRAM BUTLERS
A stay at The Muraka comes with private butler service and a private chef (whom you can fly over from any Conrad property in the world). Having taken our order the night before, we enjoyed a full breakfast spread of yogurt, granola, egg whites, toast, fresh fruit, green juice and coffee served in the dining room. The chef can basically make anything you want and serve it to you at The Muraka.
As for the butlers—not only are they there to take care of your every need, they’re also trained at taking Instagram pictures (a very important role these days, we can all agree). The #InstagramButler concept was pioneered by the Conrad Maldives, after all, and you can be sure that you’ll be taking plenty of pics at The Muraka.
Is it safe?
The Muraka is very safe and built with the same engineering as the world’s first underwater restaurant, Ithaa, which is also located in the Conrad Maldives. There’s no sense of danger, since the oxygen levels are monitored closely at all times and the upper level of the villa is accessible at any time.
Can you swim outside of The Muraka?
Only strong swimmers (who are staying at The Muraka) will be allowed to swim outside of the private viewing theatre. For everyone else including regular hotel guests, it’s off limits. However, you can swim in the ocean just off the private terrace on both sides.
How many people can stay at The Muraka?
The Muraka can sleep up to nine people in its three bedrooms, making it a great choice for family or group travel.
Discover more at conradmaldives.com