When I was invited to stay in the world’s first underwater hotel room in the Maldives, my first reaction was one of incredulity. Underwater rooms, with walls through which fish can be seen, are, after all, the preserve of Bond villains and oligarchs who spend their nights sleeping on beds made of money (in underwater rooms), not style journalists such as me. My second reaction, therefore, was a resounding “Yes!”
Situated on Rangali Island, which is owned by Conrad Hotel & Resorts and sits within the Alif Dhaal Atoll at the southern end of the Maldives archipelago, the villa that houses the underwater room goes by the name of The Muraka. Where all the other – positively pedestrian by comparison – beach- and ocean-front villas at the resort are set close to the main spit of land, The Muraka is a low-slung, iceberg of a building that unfurls at the end of a long jetty a good half a kilometre out into the Indian Ocean. (The only clue that the villa contains an underwater element is a submarine-esque escape hatch that pops out of the ocean, like Nessie’s head, to the left of the main structure.)
Topside, The Muraka is everything you’d expect from a five-figures-a-night luxury villa – there’s a gym, there’s a chef, there’s a swimming pool and specially commissioned modern art – but it’s downstairs, beneath the waves, where the magic of The Muraka really happens.
Accessed by either a private elevator or a wood-clad spiral staircase, the underwater suite is built directly on the seabed and, in addition to featuring a walk-in wardrobe and an excellently stocked minibar, it comes complete with transparent walls and ceiling, which means guests are treated to a jaw-dropping 270-degree view of the surrounding reef.
The thing is, sleeping in a see-through room in a coral-filled part of the sea, where diving is inevitably an attractive pastime, comes with its challenges. For instance, every time I went to the loo – the seat of which faces out into said reef – a barracuda would come and stare at me. Every. Single. Time. What’s more, there were several instances where wetsuit-clad cleaners came to scour the windows mid-morning – not ideal if you and your partner are late risers, so to speak.
The etiquette of staying in The Muraka, then, is all about vigilance and planning. For example, the Maldivian water tends to be murkier in the afternoon, so this is the time to shower. And if you’re remotely claustrophobic? You’re probably best sleeping in the master bedroom upstairs – the sunrises are second to none and there’s not a predatory ray-finned fish in sight.