NIYAMA’s 50 Shades of Blue
View from our beach. All Photos taken by NHYM 2016 Copyright. Except the Tiger Shark.
NIYAMA is a cool, understated, luxury hotel with a modern feel to it, with great original restaurants, a superb kids club and great personal touches like the in-room complimentary popcorn and island-made ice-cream.
Rating: *****5 star luxury
We landed in Male after surviving our flight from London (where we spotted Jemima Khan in Business Class and a ‘Lady Goldsmith’ sign waiting for her at Male airport), and were whisked away to the local Maldivian seaplane ‘terminal’ where we waited for our sea plane:
View from Seaplane. NHYM 2016.
The views of the lagoons and atolls from above where stunning and the seaplane was a novelty for my children – and my husband – who had never been on one.
Powdery Beach on Chill. NHYM 2016.
After being welcomed by our Thakuru, Vlad (our butler/personal assistant/concierge and driver all rolled into one), we were driven off for a tour of the hotel in a buggy. The hotel is set on two islands, ‘CHILL’ (for adults/older children), and ‘PLAY’ (for younger families), and is run by Per Aquum who also own Huvafen Fushi and Desert Palm in Dubai. ‘Chill’ opened in 2012 and ‘Play’ opened only just over a year ago, when they decided to cater to families. It has a high hip factor with an underwater club ‘Glow Party’ and DJs on Saturdays and fun touches like an ice-cream bar and complimentary popcorn.
Our room keys; there were lots of cool and hip touches to the hotel. NHYM 2016.
It tries to be different and original, bold and unique, which it succeeds in doing.
Bananas and Bicycles in front of our room. NHYM 2016.
When we arrived to our beach hut, we were welcomed by banana trees and bicycles. This would be one of three ways of transportation; barefoot, bicycles or buggies.
Island Path. NHYM 2016.
There is something wonderfully freeing about walking around barefoot on an island and chose to walk barefoot most of the time. The kids loved the buggy, so we often opted for it for longer rides.
Welcome to Paradise. NHYM 2016.
The room was everything you would hope for in a place like this; sea-facing, big enough for a whole family of 2 adults and 2 young children, modern yet welcoming, and had the biggest fridge I have ever seen in a hotel.
Popcorn Machine! NHYM 2016.
The complimentary popcorn and in-room, island-made ice-cream was of course a big hit for the children.
The bathroom in itself was quite spectacular with a pond/pool and banana trees. As soon as we arrived, the kids jumped out of their clothes and into the bathroom pool.
View from our Room. NHYM 2016.
On arrival, we were welcomed by a bottle of Moet, a fresh fruit platter and welcome canapés. Every day, we had a new fresh fruit platter and milk cartons for the kids delivered to our room. Despite the modern amenities, the room still retained Maldivian charm with its thatched roofs and a Dhoni-inspired swing.
Our beautiful Beach Hut. NHYM 2016.
View from our room. NHYM 2016.
This is what I call a proper sea view room…
Beach hut with pool. NHYM 2016.
General Manager’s Drinks at the 3 Bedroom Beach Pavillion. NHYM 2016.
The crowd was understated cool; Wayfarer and Aviator Raybans, black rimmed glasses, Missoni style kaftans and lovely gay couples were seen around. There is less bling here than at the One & Only (am thinking of the Russian oligarch’s wife dining on her own with a bodyguard lurking around at the Japanese restaurant of One & Only and the Hedge Funders discussing their private jets or lack thereof), and is dominated by Northern Europeans while we are there. Germans are plentiful, as are Danes, Swedes and Brits. There are also quite a few young Chinese honeymooners and Christina the Marketing Manager tells me that their number 1 demographic is Chinese. The Russians have stayed away recently due to the crumbling Rouble but the Europeans have been replacing them.
It is actually a really nice crowd, everyone was very friendly and nice, and sartorially superior. There are no cheesy T-shirts and Birkenstocks here; polo shirts of Phuket, Mustique and Club 55 are more like it. One teenage girl is sporting a Club 55 bracelet, so I know where she will be this summer.
The food was overall very good, although quite expensive, so we were quite glad to have been on a half board option. Food is complimentary for kids, which is always a nice touch. The breakfast buffet, which is particularly important to me and indication of the entire catering, was stellar. There was everything you could ask for without being too over the top; from congee to gluten free, smoothies to huevos rancheros, crepes and waffles, stir fries to curry, and all the tropical fruit you could ask for; dragon fruit, mango, lychee, rambutan, jack fruit, papaya, guava, melon…
A fruitarian Paradise. NHYM 2016.
The restaurants in NIYAMA deserve a special accolade for originality;
Edge Overwater gourmet dining was only accessible by boat.
Subsix underwater restaurant was a fun, once-in-a-lifetime-experience, with nemo entertaining the girls while we savoured our Wagyu beef (only open at lunch time).
Every Saturday and Wednesday night, Subsix turns into a nightclub where they have infamous ‘Glow Parties.’
Nest, an Asian restaurant set in the treetops, had South East Asian cuisine with Teppanyaki downstairs in a jungle/rainforest setting. This quickly became our children’s favourite restaurant.
Tribal, an African and South American restaurant, was excellent, dishing up tribal African dishes and Argentinian steaks. A must try.
Pool and view from BLU. NHYM 2016.
BLU is the main restaurant on PLAY island which served a delicious breakfast buffet in the sand and a casual Mediterranean/European lunch. This is the view we had every morning and the child-friendly pool that we used most of the time.
View from Epicure. NHYM 2016.
Epicure was the main restaurant on ‘CHILL,’ and is the biggest restaurant of them all, which was a ‘no reservations’ restaurant. Reservations are needed to all the other restaurants, so be sure to plan in advance. They were all very popular and were booked up one or two days in advance.
Weather Station and Dune Restaurant/Bar.
Dune Restaurant/Bar was next to Epicure, serving lunch and Cocktails.
Also a big hit with the kids was the ice-cream bar and deli that offered snacks and sandwiches throughout the day.
The service was 5 star as expected at this level of hotel; nothing was too much, everyone was smiling and friendly, always willing to help. Our Thakuru managed everything from check-in, restaurant reservations, driving our buggy, to sorting out Disney movies for the girls. The local staff were wonderful as were the African staff at Tribal, who were very knowledgeable and friendly. Occasionally we had to wait a little for the buggy rides, but most of the time we could flag a kind buggy-driver to take us to our destination. Checkout was a little haphazard and slow, but perhaps Island-life is a little more laid-back than what we are used to.
Outside the perfect, pristine, powdery sand beaches, there was plenty to do on the island if you chose to. The water sports centre was fully stocked with paddle boards, jet skis, para-sailing and surf boards. There were fishing trips, dolphin cruises, the Spa, Zumba, Yoga, meditation etc.. etc… etc… I didn’t manage time for the spa but did manage three dives.
Photo of a tiger shark courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2016.
As an avid and 20 year veteran scuba diver with 200+ dives, I am pretty particular about my diving and I am a fair weather diver. This atoll isn’t known to offer the best diving in the Maldives, but I was still very happy; I still saw lots of white tip reef sharks, turtles, schools of rainbow coloured fish and lots of eagle rays. We also saw the local pod of dolphins on our way to a dive site but the highlight was encountering a tiger shark, my first one ever, which was so enthrallingly exciting. I was in complete shark heaven, which may seem strange to you, but there is very little in life that makes me this happy…
Scott Dunn Explorer’s Kid’s Club
Of course one of the main reasons for coming to NIYAMA was to try out the Scott Dunn Explorer’s Kids Club, which I had heard was one notch above any of other Kids Club. It is complimentary for those over 3 years old, but does take children as young as 1 y.o. It only opened 1 year ago when the island ‘Play’ was opened and is operated by Scott Dunn, meaning that Nikki, the director was recruited and trained by Scott Dunn. Nikki told me that there were over 60 children at the hotel, and the Dolphin cruise recruited 18 kids! That is an excellent turn out and shows that they are really engaging the kids. What was nice at the hotel was that even though there were so many kids, you couldn’t really see or hear them. The children were all beautifully dressed and well mannered, looking like they just stepped out of a White Company photo shoot.
Kids Club Thatched Hut and Playground. NHYM 2016.
The Kids Club was divided in age groups, with one hatched hut for the under 5s and one thatched hut for the over 5s, but with activities for 4 age groups: 12mo-2ys, 3-4, 5-7, 7-12 years.
Water Playground, with new friends. NHYM 2016.
The Under 5s Kids Club was very impressive with tons of activities from making arts and crafts masks, valentine’s cards, drawing and creating treasure hunts to playing in the water playground and going to the beach to make sandcastles.
5-12 years old kids club. NHYM 2016.
The 5-12 age range group really stood out for their well thought out and enticing activities; dolphin cruises, snorkelling, kayaking, coral conservation programmes with a marine biologist and a lecture at Subsix underwater restaurant. Every day, at 5pm they would take the kids swimming in one of the pools, led by Adam the Kids Club manager. My daughter’s highlight was the dolphin cruise when she spotted dozens of spinner dolphins playfully dancing around the boat.
Kids Club Dolphin Cruise. NHYM 2016.
Kids Outdoor Theatre. NHYM 2016.
For older children over 12 years old, there was an entire ‘Active’ area with a pool table, ping pong table, video games, simulators and more that seemed busy every night.
This is a hip, 5 star, Robinson-Crusoe, ultra-luxe hotel that caters perfectly to couples and families, providing top-notch luxury service and amenities. It was everything we could have hoped for and stood out with special touches and details. Of course there was the odd hiccup, but in true 5 star style, it is how it is dealt with that matters, and this hotel manages to live up to its award winning accolades. Kids are definitely welcome with complimentary food and an extensive Kids Club schedule, even the teens love it. The only very slight negatives would be the less abundant marine life around the island compared to other islands and a slightly longer travel time with the seaplane, but the hotel was faultless and we had a great time and can only recommend it very highly. We met another family of Notting Hillers while on the island and it was already their second time there, which shows you that if you try it once, you will want to go again. As my daughter stated as fact the day we were leaving, ‘We’re coming back next year!’
Thank you Scott Dunn for organising this wonderful trip!! I paid for this trip with a few perks from Scott Dunn, but it was organised professionally and efficiently from A-Z by them.
Our ‘beach.’ NHYM 2016.