Fresh-faced Niyama Private Islands Maldives offers a chilled-out take on tropical-island luxury (in fact, its spread out over two isles), teaming top-class dining, seductive beach bars (including a submerged party pad) and city-smart boutiques with a laid-back, kick-your-shoes-off vibe. If the endless Indian Ocean views don't take your breath away, the speedboating, scuba diving and sports simulation rooms will.
Double rooms from £861.28 ($1,126), including tax at 23.2 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $6.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include buffet breakfast and selected minibar snacks, including popcorn, nuts, crisps and ice-cream.
Pampering is down to a fine art at Lime, the hotel's polished day spa. Positioned on the water's edge, the retreat features a relaxation area with steam room, two plunge pools, a juice bar and eight serene treatment spaces. Plans are also in the works for a couple's sanctuary in the jungle.
At the hotel
Dive centre, day spa, gym with personal trainer, guest lounge and library, Active games room, three boutiques, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: minibar and deli, flatscreen TV, iPod dock with preloaded iPod, CD/DVD player, Ren toiletries, loofahs.
Our favourite rooms
Set on a wide stretch of sand on the prime, sunset-flaunting side of the island, the Beach Pool Villas are our top pick – Number 14 is smack-bang in the middle of things, so it's perfect for people watching. Villas One to Four are tucked back from the beach for added privacy, though guests do wander past on route to the pool.
Stretching out in front of Epicure eatery, the main infinity pool is surrounded by a lounger-topped, parasol-shaded terrace. An elevated, shallow tier is ideal for family-friendly splashing.
Leave your snorkel at home, as the Active centre can kit you out. You could almost do without shoes, too, as most of the restaurants encourage barefoot, sandy-toed dining. Mellow beach wear, floaty dresses and crisp cotton should take up most of your suitcase.
To get your fix of under-the-sea scenes, book a berth on the hotel's speedboat, which ferries guests out to the house reef daily at 2pm.
Children are welcome. Cots are free and extra beds are available (free for 2-11; $244 for over-12s). Kids' club Play is free and open to children of all ages, but children under two need adult supervision or a babysitter (from US$20 an hour plus tax).
At Epicure, bag one of the tables at the end of the terrace for under-the-stars dining, or ask your thakuru (personal butler) to book one of the intimate tables at the edge at Tribal.
Barefoot dining is encouraged at all restaurants, except Edge, where sexy sandals should do the trick. Throughout, easy-going resort wear is the way to roll.
African-accented Tribal restaurant channels 'modern campsite dining', with a fire pit, torches, sandy floor, jungle canopy and barbecue turning out tasty grilled meat and seafood. Casual all-day eatery Epicure offers breakfasts and bountiful buffets, with ever-changing cuisine themes, from Spice Route to Maldivian Mas Bazaar. A five-minute speedboat ride away, Edge is the resort's flashy fine-diner. Nest sits amid the treetops, where guests can enjoy a teppenyaki experience, and on the Play island, Blu serves up family meals.
Perched above Epicure, white-hot Farenheit Bar has an ocean-view terrace topped with sleek white couches, day-beds and low-slung tables. Inside, black bucket seats with scarlet cushions are grouped around small lamp-lit tables for two. Down by the beach, thatch-roofed Dune bar serves snacks and cocktails of every persuasion. Per Aquum Niyama's prime drinking spot sits below sea level, 500 metres offshore. Guests are whisked to Subsix by speedboat, then reach the underwater den (the first of its kind) down a three-storey staircae. Mirrored floors and abstract chandeliers add a surreal sheen to the entranceway, and when inside guests are seated in anenome-inspired chairs under thousands of ceiling-strung capiz shells. The weekly Glow Party and DJ nights are well attended, as are wine-tastings and marine biologist talks, but the wow-worthy views of parrot fish, moray eels and other exotic marine life are far more eyecatching than any dance-floor goings-on.
The kitchen calls it quits at 10.30pm.
Available around the clock, the Dine In menu delivers an array of breakfasts, meals and midnight snacks. Follow up a private dinner on your deck with a movie and a bowl of DIY popcorn.
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
Niyama Private Islands Maldives is located in the Dhaalu Atoll, a 30-minute seaplane flight from capital Malé.
Fly direct into Malé International Airport on Hulhumalé island from London, Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok; call our Smith24 team to book your flights. Once you touch down in Malé, the hotel will greet you and transfer you to the Trans Maldivian Air terminal, where you can kick back in the private lounge before the 30-minute seaplane ride to Niyama (return shared seaplane transfers cost US$560 per person; transfers for Smiths aged 11 and under are half price). Flights only operate during daylight, so if you reach Malé after 3.30pm, you'll have to bunk there for the night. Alternatively, take a 20-minute domestic flight from Malé International Airport to Dhaalu Airport, followed by a 10-minute speedboat transfer to Niyama (round-trip transfers cost US$360 per adult, subject to 12 per cent GST, and US$180 for kids up to 11 years old. Full, non-refundable payment for seaplane and domestic transfers is required when booking; let Smith24 know your flight times at least three days prior to arrival to arrange transfers.
Worth getting out of bed for
Water babes will be in their element here. The Float centre is the go-to place for PADI dives (including tailor-made courses for juniors), deep-sea fishing jaunts and a slew of sports in and on the water, including parasailing, waterskiing, jetskiing, snorkelling, kayaking and windsurfing. Catamaran sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing lessons are available, if you want to brush up on your skills or are keen to try something new.
Young Smiths and the young at heart will go gaga over Active, the hotel's top-gear games room. Strewn with cherry-red beanbags, the super-charged space is home to a pingpong table, darts, foosball, and a TV station with Xbox and PlayStation. Sure to set mouths agape are two high-tech simulation rooms with giant screens, where you can 'play' golf, basketball and hockey.
For a more sedate retreat, bright and breezy lounge the Lair is just the ticket, offering cosy couches, DVDs, books and magazines for absent-minded flipping, two iMacs, a TV and a fridge loaded with free refreshments.
If you like your pampering with a twist, slip into Lime Spa for tempting treatments using a cocktail of natural, locally sourced products. Stay tuned for details of the two jungle sanctuaries, exclusive garden-fringed suites for couples.
Are you one of those folks who need a retail fix, even when you are kicking back on a tropical isle? Shop for fine jewellery at Orifini, snap up designer beachwear and sunglasses from Prada and Bulgari at Essence fashion boutique, and buy those take-home treats at the nifty gift shop, which stocks souvenirs, postcards and toiletries.
You're a captive audience on this paradisiacal isle – short of boarding a seaplane, you're out of reach of any other hotels, restaurants and bars. Lucky, then, that Per Aquum Niyama has such a stellar selection of eateries.
I'm usually like a wound-up Duracell bunny on vacation, intent on flapping around and seeing and doing absolutely everything on offer, only to return home needing a holiday to recover from my holiday. I’m not sure what’s in the air, water or exquisite cuisine at Niyama Private Islands Maldives, but it achieved a feat my friends and family wouldn’t believe possible: it washed a sense of stillness over me.
For someone who doesn’t walk but sprints, and who turns even meditation into a competition, this is significant. It happens instantaneously and jetlag can’t be blamed – the flight from Dubai is just over four hours with a one-hour time difference. Mr Smith turns to incredulously watch me sauntering through the lush, landscaped jungle as opposed to stomping off miles ahead of him. During our stay, this stroll would descend into a ramble, before becoming a full-blown waddle.
After a dramatic 50-minute seaplane transfer hovering over bird- and reptilian-shaped atolls that appear to belong in an entirely different universe, we’re whizzed away by our thakuru (an indigenous and nicer way of saying ‘butler’) to a magnificent breakfast spread in Niyama’s breezy all-day dining restaurant, Epicure. Mr Smith makes a tacit agreement then and there to embrace the Atkins diet (with a couple of hash browns thrown in for good measure) and tucks into crispy bacon and fluffy scrambled eggs. Taking one look at the freshly baked breads, patisseries and an entire station devoted to the finest charcuterie and cheeses, I dispense of my clean, gluten-free living and tuck into warm pancakes with honey dripping from the comb and spicy salami, aged prosciutto and sharp pecorino. The hotel admirably caters to its upwardly mobile Chinese and Korean clientele and we watch in amazement as couples dressed in perfectly coordinated outfits pile fruit, sushi, dim sum, noodles, stew, croissants, poached eggs and banana bread onto the same plate.
We’ve been upgraded from a Deluxe Water Studio to a Pavilion – score! – but there’s a mix up and a delay as a result. Though there are worse places to be stranded – the restaurant opens onto an infinity pool that in turn stretches out to the cerulean sea – we’re eager to get rid of our eau de airplane odour and hit the beach. It’s worth the wait. Situated on the island’s private crest, our pavilion is jaw-droppingly sensational. It is also so huge that I surreptitiously look behind me to check if anyone else is joining us. Sticking to the resort’s ethos of attracting an in-vogue set – Niyama, does, after all, boast Subsix, the world’s first underwater club – the decor is both soothing and stimulating.
Though the modern design comes straight from the pages of a glossy magazine, it’s far from sterile. The overwater villas have accents of turquoise and ultramarine, with authentic touches including coffee tables fashioned from reclaimed wood, 3D art installations and circular chandeliers in the bathroom that look like huge hunks of coral. Also in the palatial marble bathroom, with its family sized tub and a rain shower that takes you outdoors so you can shower with the fish, are my favourite Ren bath products and a nifty towel rail that looks like a ladder.
The control panel for the curtains and the iPad containing an A–Z directory and hotel news updates are contrived with the PlayStation 4 generation in mind. Surprisingly it’s me – and not the man regularly sucked into a parallel online universe – that manages to decode the curtains.
Our expansive deck with its plunge pool and Jacuzzi perched over the translucent lagoon stretches out invitingly before us. With not a soul about for miles, the ocean is our oyster. We can’t wait to dive in and are instantly greeted by baby blacktip reef sharks, their dorsal fins poking up through the water. We’d be treated to several sightings of these during our stay, along with maize-coloured butterfly fish, stripy angel fish, curvaceous banner fish, spotted clown coris and digital-print Picasso triggerfish.
Post-swim, as we sip Nespressos and snack on free cassava crisps and warm popcorn courtesy of our in-room air popper, our thakura delivers a letter from the general manager inviting us on a sunset cruise as an apology for our room delay. We’re so blissed out we’d already forgotten, but we’re not going to miss out on sailing on a traditional Maldivian dhoni. The bottlenose dolphins are evidently aware we haven’t paid for our seats (a snug oversized beanbag) and don’t play ball, but there are plenty of flying fish, along with chilled bubbly, to keep us content as the apricot sun slips into the sea.
Dinner is a truly local affair with a barbecue and cooking stations set up on the beach dishing up delicate lobster, spicy fish wrapped in banana leaves and creamy Maldivian curries. The following night we opt for a South American and South African feast at Tribal. Tucked away in the jungle with egg-shaped art installation pods in which to sit, it’s a magical setting with brilliantly executed food – the mixed asado and the beef cheek potjie kos are particularly enticing. Earlier we’d squeezed in a visit to the deli – a fabulous concept – where superb sandwiches and smoothies are served.
There’s a gym with a view but my kit remains in my suitcase and I help myself to another on-the-house ice cream instead. We do enjoy some leisurely ping-pong and pool and embarrass ourselves playing simulator games, but mostly we loll about like spoiled teenagers. Still, we know couples that have visited the Maldives and not once left their rooms, so we don’t feel too bad. That said, not even my newfound idleness is going to stop Mr Smith from getting his morning meat fix.
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