If, like us, a visit to the Maldives is pretty high up on your bucket list, then you might as well tick off a few other items at the same time. And there’s no better place to do so than at Niyama as Rosie discovers. The magic starts the very moment you arrive at Male International Airport and board a seaplane to the private island, and it just keeps on coming…
If you’ve ever wanted to know the meaning of ‘arriving in style’, take a seaplane over the Maldives. The stretches of glittering blue ocean, scattered with pristine islands covered in lush greenery and white sandy beaches, have to be seen to be believed.
And then you realise that one of them is going to be your home for the next few days, and feel a little giddy with the excitement of it all. So it’s just as well that you’ll be handed a glass of champagne once you step on shore, to help calm you down.
As you take sips from your glass on the arrival deck, you begin to absorb the beauty of it all: the white beaches, the crystal clear waves lapping in, and the odd guest waving at you from a sun lounger, no doubt recognising in your expression the feelings of disbelief they too experienced when they arrived.
You glide seamlessly into a buggy and pass rows of palm trees and secluded sidewalks until you arrive at your suite and are escorted inside by your Thakerar. You can’t quite figure out whether you might have dreamt this experience, and decide it’s probably best to drift off in the cloud-like bed – scattered with rose petals spelling out a welcome message – until you’ve woken from this blissful fantasy.
But when you come back around and pull apart the curtains, it’s still there – the private pool, the direct beach access, the sublime outdoor bathroom – it’s real, it’s all yours, and you can’t quite believe it. Welcome to Niyama Private Islands, quite possibly the definition of paradise.
So what does one do to pass the time in paradise, other than spend one’s time in a permanent state of awe? Niyama has divided its plethora of activities and amenities into two categories across a pair of interconnected islands dedicated to their respective names: ‘Chill’ and ‘Play’.
On ‘Chill’, the Drift Spa awaits with a spa offering far superior to your usual resort menu of massages and facials. Here, visiting practitioners with a broad range of expertise are on hand, whose bespoke treatments are so exceptional that these alone would warrant a visit to the resort. Aim to align the dates of your trip to avail of the services of a master-in-residence who appeals to your interests. For me it was Paulo Fernando, who carried out a ‘nutritional microscopy’ – a live blood analysis illustrating nutritional needs, deficiencies and imbalances. Thanks to his 3-month protocol and follow-up, the ‘holiday glow’ stayed with me even after the tan faded.
Or if your idea of relaxation takes on a more gastronomic bent, there’s nothing quite like taking a boat to a tiny island dedicated to this purpose: a sunset dinner at fine dining restaurant Edge, set half a kilometre out in the ocean and accessible only by boat, might just be one of the most special culinary occasions you’ll ever have. Sip on a signature Niyama home-aged Negroni, the same colour as the stunning sunset over the ocean surrounds, then indulge in delights such as a lobster tasting menu, seafood platters showcasing the region’s best, or perfectly-cooked Wagyu tenderloins.
End your night with a subaquatic cocktail at underwater restaurant and cocktail bar Subsix – just be prepared to share your experience with the resident hawksbill turtles, parrotfish and moray eels swimming past.
Of course no stay would be complete without getting to meet these underwater creatures more intimately. Multiple snorkelling and scuba diving trips run daily, encompassing everything from snorkels with baby sharks to turtles, to reef dives and sunset dolphin watching.
If you’ve relaxed enough, on the ‘Play’ side of things Niyama has got you covered with everything from watersports to fitness classes. The resort is a surfer’s paradise; the only island in the Maldives with surf-able waves that break directly onto the beach, and options for all levels from lessons for beginners through to excursions for the more advanced to explore other surf breaks in the area. Even those who partake in spectator sports are catered for, with a Jamaican-themed Surf Shack bar providing killer rum cocktails, reggae beats and unmistakeably Instagrammable swinging seats overlooking the waves.
If the bicycles provided to get you around the sprawling island complex aren’t enough to satisfy your exercise requirements, the hotel offers everything from morning yoga sessions overlooking the sparkling Indian Ocean to one-on-one Kickboxing training sessions, Aqua Zumba classes in the hotel’s infinity pool, tropical island runs and beach bootcamps.
Having worked up an appetite, there’s no better way to satisfy your hunger than at African fusion restaurant Tribal, whose ‘Big Afrikaner’ involves half a kilo of smoky grilled OP rib kissed with lime wedges, margarita salt and the spice of chipotle, or take your pick from the ‘Braai Vleis’ menu for campfire delights including jerked jumbo prawns and peri peri coconut chicken.
Or if the surfing has got you in the mood for more thrill-seeking, book the teppanyaki table at treehouse restaurant Nest, where chefs juggle knives and fire to prepare avant-garde meals of juicy meats, fresh seafood, and vibrant vegetables. And while you shouldn’t miss the signature dessert of Luwak Coffee Brûlée, a rich cream custard infused with a secret recipe featuring Kopi Luwak essence and accompanied by roasted banana ice cream, there’s always the unlimited supply of complimentary ice cream in your in-room freezer for midnight feasting if you really can’t manage dessert just yet.
There’s only one downside to the joyous journey to and from the resort by seaplane: it unapologetically displays everything you’re leaving behind, making the trip away so much harder. It’s impossible to reconcile yourself with the idea that this will be the last time you look out over the dazzling ocean and white beaches, which is probably why the resort has one of the highest return visitor rates in the Maldives. Those waves are calling me again, and I doubt it’ll be long before I’m back either.